Matthew 9:35-38 - And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
The mission of Jesus was the mission of us. He came that people might have life and have it in all its abundance (see John 10:7-11). Jesus had compassion on people, people crowding in upon themselves, people troubled and helpless—like sheep without a shepherd. And He wanted those who followed Him to express the same compassion to others.
The Lord was not just talking about ministers of the Gospel in our text today; although, we need ministers to proclaim the Good News of Christ with compassion in their hearts. He was talking about all of His followers—that they should enter the great harvest field of the world with a heart like His for people who are wandering about, searching, looking for answers beyond what the world supplies.
Remember that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. The Son is reaping a great harvest in this old world of ours through His ministry of compassion exercised by all kinds of people, people like you and me, who have a heart for others, because they have a heart for the Lord.
When you meet someone who is down in the depths or hurting for whatever reason, don't forget that you too may have been in a similar situation in your own life. The harvest of which Jesus speaks comes in many forms. Those who are sick, those who are in trouble, those who are indifferent to God and His love—are all in need of a Christ-connected laborer who shows compassion, not condemnation, and like a shepherd is patient with wandering sheep.
To have compassion on someone else, you need not wallow with him or her in the depths of their misery. While mindful of a person's plight, we don't want to retread their problems and, by so doing, neglect to point them toward Christ, who offers them help they need.
This is the immediacy of the Gospel's balm: helping people right where they are, sick with the knowledge of their own sin, sick unto death where—without Christ—there is no returning. This is the blessing we have to offer as a laborer for Christ. This is the direction Jesus Christ points you: toward the world—toward the world He loves, the world He died for, the world that is our mission field.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we commit to Your care those who are searching for truth. Grant them Your everlasting grace. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From a sermon excerpt by Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. When you see someone down and out, do you mostly feel sorry for them or do you want to help?
2. Jesus saw crowds of people as harassed, helpless, and lost. Do you get a similar sense of people in the world today?
3. Can you name a person or two in your harvest field you can share your faith with?
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