Matthew 9:35-37 segues between Jesus healing and restoring the multitudes and commissioning of His 12 apostles. The author recounted the narrative of the harvest saying:
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.(36) But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. (37) Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
Jesus couldn’t help but view the multitudes around Him through the lens of mission. He saw a great and plentiful spiritual harvest ready to reap, yet few laborers. The Lord of the Harvest, Jesus—God incarnated in flesh, was calling disciples to multiplication as missionary laborers in the field. That same call applies to us today. It’s a clarion call. In the Old Testament, it signaled impending danger or the arrival of a king. Leaders, the King will come again soon! The urgency of the hour requires the heralding of the trumpet message for the arrival of King Jesus for us to hear.
Jesus already made the call to His disciples to labor in the harvest. As His very disciples we too must go work in the harvest. Let me recount three key qualities we need as laborers from the model Jesus left us: zeal, compassion, and cost.
- Zeal. Jesus did not wait for the people to come to Him, He went into “all the cities and villages.” Even when not welcomed, He never overlooked even the slightest village. Everywhere He went in His earthly ministry, He taught, He preached, and He healed all kinds of sicknesses. Today is the day; we don’t know about tomorrow. In John 4:35 after Jesus ministered to the woman at the well He told His disciples, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” Now is the time. We must metaphorically speak to the woman at the well and stay two days with the Samaritans who have not received the presence of the Word. Do we have the same zeal for others’ salvation?
- Compassion. Scripture says He was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes. Their needs touched His heart. The New Testament includes five different words for compassion, but of them only one describes a divine meaning recorded of Christ toward the multitudes and individual sufferers–Compassion in Greek transilterates to splagchnizomai, originating from the stem word for bowels or intestines. The Hebrews regarded inner parts as the seat of the tenderer affections with deep-felt emotions. In the context of the Gospels, whenever Jesus felt compassion for someone or a mass of people, it surged from within Him to meet the needs of people and He acted upon it, He provided food, raised the dead, delivered the demon-possessed, healed the sick, and taught those like sheep without a shepherd. Can we labor with a surge of compassion to the multitudes? The hungry, thirsty, impoverished, sick, and imprisoned?
- Cost. Laboring in the harvest field comes with a cost. Laborers help prepare for the harvest, souls brought to repentance and faith. Harvest has two meanings. Generally, In Matt 9:35-39, it referred to Israel’s regathering The harvest also indicates the close of ages . We live in the closing age of the Church. The sickle will be put to the harvest. The second coming of the Son of Man as the Righteous Judge will come sooner rather than later. Laboring comes with a cost. The Bible and early church records indicated the apostles, to the exclusion of Judas, died because they refused to deny their faith in Christ. The current world climate has become increasingly more hostile to Christians. We too will face it. Can we stand against the cost of laboring in the field?
Jesus said in John 20:21 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” He has equipped us supernaturally with all power and authority in His name. Leaders, we comprise part of the sent Church–Sent to the harvest.
Jan Paron, PhD
September 10, 2020