Matthew 9:35-38 - Extraordinary People

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

The essential mission of the church is evangelization. Whenever I use the word “church” I usually refer to the body of believers, but today I am speaking about the establishments that we belong to. There are several things the church needs to do, but the essential mission is the salvation of souls. If you, who are listening to this reflection, understand this and take this mission seriously, we can make a huge difference to the world around us. How? This very brief passage that we just read contains five principles that we can follow. What are they?

Principle #1: “Don’t stay in. Go out!” We heard that “Jesus went about all the cities and villages.” Although Jesus welcomed those who came to him, he never stuck around in one place waiting for people to do this. The early Church followed in his footsteps, sending missionaries out by the thousands to some of the remotest parts of the world with the good news. These days, however, with very few people graduating from its seminaries, it finds it difficult to support its flock, much less send its pastors out to remote corners of the world. But this mission is not the exclusive domain of its pastors; it is ours too. 

Principle #2: “Meet people where they are at!” We read Jesus went about “teaching in their synagogues”. He went to existing places of worship, using the people’s existing set of beliefs to bring them to a knowledge of the gospel truth. We often find Jesus saying, “You have heard it said,” indicating he knew their belief system, before adding, “But I say to you,” bringing them to the fullness of the truth. We find Paul following this principle when he stood in front of the Areopagus — the high court of Athens — and preached to the people there. His method is very educational so please do read about it in Acts 17:22-34.

Principle #3: “Repentance is key!” We also read that “Jesus cured every disease and sickness”. Sin is the primary root of sickness. Consequently, the antidote to sickness is the cessation of sin. This cannot happen without repentance, which is also a requisite of baptism. Jesus began his ministry with a call to repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”, he said (Matthew 4:17). 

Principle #4: “Compassion is the motivation!” We also read that “Jesus had compassion for the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. Very often Jesus forsook his own needs for privacy and solitude to be with the people because his heart went out to them. If a missionary does not have a heart of compassion he is in it for the wrong reasons because he needs to care for the people he talks to. He has to care about their pain, about their loneliness, about their sickness, but most of all he has to care about their eternal salvation. 

Principle #5: “This is the Lord’s work!” Finally, we read what Jesus told his apostles: “The harvest is plentiful,” he said, “but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”. The world’s population is currently 7.7 billion people, most of whom don’t know Christ. This includes those who profess to be Christians. We need thousands of harvesters in the field if we are to make a difference to the world. But this is the Lord’s work and we need to pray to him to send out the laborers. 

My personal prayer is that you be one of them. You might believe you are ordinary, but God believes you can be extraordinary.

May the Spirit be with you.