My intention today was to listen to my wonderful husband provide today’s sermon. However, God had other plans unbeknownst to either of us. Last Sunday my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip while on vacation in Florida. John being the compassionate, caring, and empathetic person he is drove to Florida on Sunday night. He wasn’t asked to go; he and I both knew it was the right thing to do. He adjusted his schedule and work to be there for his parents. So, when I saw that the gospel was of Matthew and compassion. I thought I might be able to swing this.
The Gospel of Matthew is showing us who Jesus is and what he has come to do. Verse 35 summarizes what we have seen in the life of Jesus in this gospel. Jesus is going from town to town, preaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and affliction.
Now consider verse 36. “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them.” When Jesus saw the crowds, he was not filled with disgust. When Jesus saw the crowds, his stomach did not turn and his skin did not crawl. When Jesus saw the crowds, he did not do everything he could to avoid them because they were so sinful and so rebellious. Jesus saw the crowds and was filled with compassion.
What did Jesus see when he looked at the crowds? Jesus saw that the people were harassed and helpless. Jesus sees people who are distressed and downcast. What I want us to see that Jesus does not merely look at the sin but looks at the reason for their sinning. They are harassed, distressed, helpless, and lost. Jesus’ solution is the proclaiming of the gospel. The gospel is the only answer that can provide help and hope to the people.
Notice the perspective of Jesus in verse 37. Jesus told his disciples that the harvest is plentiful. He did not look at the people and say that the harvest is scarce because these people are so sinful. Seeing sinful people means that harvest is plentiful. There is a great work that needs to be done. There are so many people who need to hear the gospel so that they can be reconciled to God and have their lives made whole.
So what is the problem? The problem is that the laborers are few (9:37). There is a lot of work but few people who want to do the work. So what should we do? Jesus says first we need to pray for laborers to go into the harvest. Again, notice Jesus’ perspective. Jesus does not say that we need to pray to send laborers into the dark abyss of evil. Jesus looks at the situation as reversible. Go into the field, proclaim the gospel, and bring in the harvest. Jesus says that the problem is not the harvest, but the lack of workers. Jesus does not tell us that we need to huddle up and hide from the darkness. Jesus says that this is the problem. No one wants to get in the field and proclaim the message. The problem is that there is a deep lack of care and compassion for people. We are far too content with our own daily lives and far too content with the size and consistency of the church so that we do not care about telling others the good news. The harvest is plentiful. But there are not workers who care or who have compassion.
After praying for the Lord to send workers into the field, Jesus in chapter 10 selects his twelve disciples and gives them authority to do the work. In other words, do not simply pray for workers to go into the field. Be the answer and go into the field. Jesus does not say that we should just hope and pray for someone to do something. He sends us to go into the field, compassionately teaching the good news so that people will come into the harvest. You will notice that the disciples were given authority to help the world. They were not able to just display power to wow people or to draw attention to themselves. Jesus gives his twelve disciples authority over unclean spirits, and to heal every disease and every affliction. They are going to show compassion to the people as they are proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. The miracles show the compassion of God who has come to help and heal.
What we are going to see is a beautiful, hopeful picture that can be found in Jesus’ mission. Not only this, but this picture of Jesus is going to show us who we are to be and what our mission must be. Jesus looked at sinful people and had compassion. He knew they needed healing. He knew they needed the gospel. He knew that they needed him and the help he could offer. We must see people in the same way. How can we look at sinful people in this way? By remembering that Jesus looked at you this way. We must be grateful that Jesus was not disgusted by our sins. Jesus did not turn away from us because we were worthy of God’s wrath. Jesus was not angry with us but was moved with compassion and came to save us. We need to see that the harvest is abundant. The problem is not with the harvest. The problem is that we lack workers. Pray for workers and be the answer to the prayer. Do not run from the field. Step into the field, tell
people about Jesus, knowing that some will listen and some will not. But some will listen. Some are seeking. Some are looking for something more. the work begins with having care and compassion for people. Without having compassion for the lost, we will never complete the mission we have been assigned.