Help wanted ads are always in the paper. They begin with a description of the job, summarize what the boss is looking for in an employee, give an overview of the work, and call the person to action. Jesus in a similar manner is describes the situation, gives a solution to the problem, and calls the hearers to action. I am going to give you Jesus’ plan for reaching the world with the Gospel. And then I am going to share with you a dangerous prayer at the end that will force us to step out of our comfort zone.
The Forsaken Flock
Verse 35, “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.”
What did He notice? The people were like sheep without a shepherd. I could devote an entire sermon to this one verse identifying 100’s of connections to the old testament.
Abel, son of Adam, was a shepherd. Abraham in Genesis 21 was a shepherd with many herds of sheep. Jacob was a shepherd, and Joseph was a shepherd. Moses, as the deliverer of Israel, was a shepherd and so was David. Sheep without a shepherd reminds us of the sacrificial Passover Lamb, David’s dependence upon the shepherd in psalm 23. Ezekiel 37 talks about the messianic covenant with Israel being like a shepherd with his sheep. Micah speaks about God gathering a remnant of Israel like a shepherd gathers his sheep.
As the shepherd, Jesus stares intensely. This is not a casual glance. He noticed those around him. How many times have you driven to work and passed people without noticing they are there? How often do you walk through the grocery aisles, sit in airports, or eat at restaurants and not look at the crowds that pass you by. We can become immune to the countless people headed to a Christless eternity. Why? Because we see people all the time. We are calloused to the lostness in our community.
But not Jesus. Jesus has just returned from a multi-city preaching crusade. In addition to preaching, He came in contact with every disease, abnormality, and illness known to man. He healed those with birth defects and deformities. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and hope to the hopeless. Picture the lines of people in every city waiting to see Jesus. The most challenging part of ministry is the emotional drain from a long day of ministering. Imagine hearing problems from people you love at the same time. Whether it’s an email, phone call, or text message. It could be about a surgery, injury, death, or funeral service. They come unexpectedly at inopportune times. Jesus must have been exhausted. The text says that He saw the crowds and had compassion on them. This word describes being moved in your innermost parts.
Before we realize the mission that Jesus is calling us to, we must care for the people around us.
It’s easy to get our priorities mixed up. One day Hudson Taylor was traveling on a Chinese ship from Shanghai to Ningpo. He had been witnessing to a man named Peter who rejected the Gospel but was under deep conviction. In the course of events, Peter fell overboard, but no one made any effort to save him. Taylor sprang to the mast, let down the sail, and jumped overboard in hopes of finding his friend. But no one on board joined Taylor in his frantic search.
Taylor saw a fishing boat nearby and yelled to them to help, but they wouldn’t do it without money. “Come,” he cried as hope revived, “ come and drag over this spot. A man is drowning ! ” “It is not convenient,” they replied. “Don’t talk of convenience ! Quickly come, or it will be too late.” “We are busy fishing. ”Never mind your fishin ! Come-only come at once! I will pay you well.“ ”How much will you give us ?“ ”Five dollars!“ ”That’s too little!“ they shouted across the water. ”We will not come for less than thirty dollars.“ ”But I have not so much with me, I will give you all I’ve got.“ ”and how much may that be ? “Oh, I don’t know. About fourteen dollars.”
After bartering for every penny that Taylor had, the fishermen stopped their fishing and began to look for Peter. In less than a minute of dragging their net, they found him, but it was too late. They were too busy fishing to care about saving a drowning man.
Consumed with ourselves, our preferences, our desires, our wants, our needs, our comforts, and our convience, we can respond the same way to people drowning in their depravity around us.
I know this analogy breaks down. Are we too busy with our jobs and other activities to take the time to rescue those who are perishing without Christ? We should have the same compassion for the lost in the world, and we must be willing to do whatever it takes to share the same good news that we have been so fortunate to hear.
The Exhortation To Pray
Verse 37, “then He said to his disciples, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
In these 2 verses, Jesus identifies the missionary problem.
Condition Of field
Jesus changes metaphors from a shepherd and sheep to a field and farmers. He pictures a farmer with crops ready to be picked but not enough people to pick them.
Jesus says, “the harvest is plentiful.” he doesn’t say the fields are wide open or the opportunity is great. He says, “the fruit is ready to be picked.”
Notice Jesus said, “laborers” not watchers or onlookers. We minimize this verse to address only those going into world missions or the pastorate. But there is a real sense that every believer is a worker in the field. He doesn’t say ministers are few or the pastors are few. He says, “laborers.” men and women who have tasted salvation, filled with the holy spirit, and empowered for ministry.
Why don’t we have more workers in the fields? It’s work. Working in the field is hard work. There is not much glamor in working in the field. Not many people know that you’re in the field. Your schedule, your time, your desires, and your priorities are rearranged.
Notice who the owner of the field is and the initiator of the harvest? God. He owns the field and brings the harvest. 1 Cor. 3:6, “I planted, apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
We can’t lose because we are working in God’s field. We just need to participate.
Commission To Pray
Jesus catches us off guard. We would expect him to say, “since we don’t have enough workers, go beg people to serve or preach better sermons, or put a subcommittee together to evaluate the problem, or organize more events, or add more programs.” No.
Pray. Not just pray, but pray earnestly. We have so much ministry to do, but not enough laborers. Jesus gives the disciples the mission of praying. Prayer is the simplest of all things. Any believer, anywhere can pray. And yet the simplicity makes it difficult to do. Since God is the land owner, it makes sense to appeal to Him to send workers.
I want to speak to our faithful senior saints who are listening. You may not be able to go overseas and share the Gospel. You may not be able to serve in the preschool or teach Sunday Bible study, but you can pray. You may not even be able to leave your home. But God can still use you. He is not finished with you. There is ministry to do. You can pray for God to raise up workers within our church and around the world to serve, share and go to the hard places with the Gospel.
Prayer precedes everything. We pray before we preach. We pray before we worship. We pray before we evangelize. We pray before we disciple. We pray then we plan. We pray then we go. You never mature beyond prayer in the Christian life. Be careful when you pray. God may answer your prayers.
Many years ago a well-known pastor named Dr. Legters was walking down the street with $50 in his pocket. He met a missionary home on furlough who said, “Dr. Legters, I think it’s providential that we met. We’re having an urgent prayer meeting at the church and we’d love to have you join us.” Dr. Legters was a somewhat brusque man and before they went to prayer he said, “Let’s not pray out of ignorance. Let’s pray out of intelligence. What exactly do you need?” the missionary replied, “we have an urgent financial need for $50.” Dr. Legters said, “fine, let’s pray.”
They prayed in a circle and when they got through one missionary said, “O don’t feel that we’ve really laid hold of the Lord in this. Let’s pray some more.” so, they prayed around the circle the second time. The third time around, Dr. Legters said, God spoke to him. He said, “Legters, what about the $50 in your pocket?” so he stopped a woman in the middle of her prayer and said, “Hold on! God answered your prayer.” he pulled out the $50 and laid it on the table. He stood before the congregation and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is a dangerous thing to pray!”
If you pray for workers for the harvest, God may tap you on the shoulder and ask, “What about you? Will you be a worker in My harvest?”
The Expectation To Participate
Jesus doesn’t wait for the disciples to feel ready to go out. He doesn’t wait for prayer requests to get answered. He says, “you guys are going to go.” these are ones He just instructed to pray. Oh, and while you’re praying, I need you to go. Look at Matthew 10. There are some things you don’t need to wait on from God on: evangelizing the lost, making disciples, shepherding your family, and going to the nations. Should I participate: every time it’s yes.
On another occasion, Jesus sends 70 out. Turn to Luke 10:1, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to go.” The NKJV uses the number 70. It’s a variance in the text.
2 Things Worth Noting:
- Scholars agree that the sending of the 70 is in reference to the 70 gentile nations of the world that were listed in Genesis 10. This was a foreshadowing of what was to come. The good news will be for the world, not just the lost sheep of Israel.
- Beside the 12, no one else is named. They remain anonymous to this day. Some of the mightiest men and committed women of God are those you will never know this side of heaven. They serve behind the scenes. They will never pastor a large church, write books, speak at conferences, or gain the attention of the Christian world. But God knows them.
Don’t let anonymity overshadow your significance in the Kingdom. Would you still do what you do if no one knew you did it? These men played a crucial part in advancing the message of the Kingdom and noone knows who they were. This is one of the most liberating verses in the Bible. There is no pressure. God is the one who owns the field and initiates the harvest. We are not called to save, but to pray and participate. Sometimes participation requires for us to do things we are not used to. Someone once summed up the American church: “Everyone wants progress. No one wants change.” We want to progress in reaching the world, but we don’t want anything to change.
Pastor Ray Prichard said it well: “Change propels us out of our comfort zone. Change forces us out of our ruts. Change destabilizes our routine. Change challenges our priorities. Change disrupts our plans. Change causes us to ask new questions and seek new answers to old questions. Change introduces us to whole new set of problems. Change opens the door to exciting opportunities. Change stretches us in ways we don’t want to be stretched. Change upsets the apple cart. Change kicks us out of the recliner. Change rearranges our daily schedule.” change is necessary for growth. ”
I want to end the sermon by suggesting a simple prayer that will challenge and stretch us. Ramesh Richard, a professor at Dallas Seminary, sent out a dangerous prayer to believers after the tsunami devastated the coastline of the Indian ocean. It’s only 1 sentence: “Lord, do things we’re not used to.”
There is a harvest out there that is waiting to be reached. Who is willing to do whatever it takes? Even if it means being uncomfortable for a season? Who is willing to put we over me to reach lost people with the Gospel? Pray this prayer with me: Lord, I know that you have gone before us to prepare the fields for a harvest. Our success is not based on our ability but our availability to be used by you. Thank you for allowing me to partner with you to bring the message of hope to a world that desperately needs it.