Matthew 9:32-38 New International Version (NIV)
32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”
The Workers Are Few
35 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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Tonight we are finishing a section in Matthew; you see Matthew is divided up into 5 blocks of teaching separated by stories and events that illustrate the block of teaching; this is how Matthew designed his gospel.
Now for the last couple of weeks we have seen who Jesus is by his power over evil, chaos, demonic possession, etc. we have seen Jesus illustrate true religion, and shown that the gospel is the power to bring about this new kingdom paradigm that He has being preaching about.
Matthew ends this block with such an apt response to all that we have seen; he ends this with a call to the church, to the workers, that they might go out! Why? Well it is chaotic out there and Jerusalem (in this case), but also the world needs the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
We will see illustrated here, the chaos of the world without God, the compassion of God in Christ and our responsibility in all this. So let’s dive in. Matthew shows us firstly;
1. The desperate state of those without a shepherd
Matthew has painted for us, quite vividly, the world gone awry, the storm in the sea, and architype of chaos and evil, a demon possessed man, lame people, sick people, death, and as we have read tonight a man demon-possessed so that he could not talk.
Now, there is two ways to view this; the first way is to say these are just the way the world is, it’s a bad, chaotic world out there; deal with it, or complain about it, it doesn’t matter, that is how it is and it will always be like that. Life is bad and then you die.
The other way is to say, life is bad, it is chaotic, but it shouldn’t be! Life should be good, and fair and happy. The problem with this view is that it is overly idealistic and will disappoint you and the problem with the first view is that it is overly pessimistic and will leave you cynical.
So what is the answer? Well the Bible gives us an answer, “In the beginning God created the world… and it was very good.” (Gen 1), So this is a good world, or at least it was supposed to be. The problem came in when man chose to live outside of God, the chose to go their own way and so reaped everything that is not God, chaos, death, sin and pain.
This has been the crisis of existence ever since; we have the idea of perfection, and goodness and peace, but because of sin in the world, we can never get it.
Now, an immature way to look at the world is to say, evil is in the world, the world is bad, because it is full of all those bad people! If we could just fix all those sinners then we would have paradise. This is a half-truth, the world is bad, because, it is full of selfish sinners, the lie is that they are out there. The truth is that the world is bad and evil, because I am bad, I am a sinner, I am the instigator of the chaos I see around me!
All that evil that I am so quick to call out, dwells in my own heart! This is the pain of being human; we spend our lives saying that we can do it on our own, we don’t need God, we don’t need His rules, we know better than Him. Then we blame him when we reap the chaos that we have chosen!
Psalm 14:2-3 says it best when it says;
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if any understand, if any seek God. 3All have turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
Look at what is going on in the world tonight; people waring with each other, people hating each other because they look different, people wanting to kill each other because they have a different political view than each other. The world is tearing itself apart, and the irony of it all is that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE), says that it is someone else’s fault!
We are as Jesus says we are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In other words the evil and danger in the world is circling around us, and we are venerable to it attack, we are defenceless!
I wonder how many of us feel like this tonight! We want to just run away, but where would we run? Where would we escape the chaos of our world?
Well this leads me to the next point tonight, see…
2. The compassion of Christ
In verse 36 it says;
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd…
Literally in the Greek splagch-nizomai which means to be moved within ones bowls for pitty on someone.
Jesus ached for the chaos that he saw people in, and He still does, because that is not how He made this world to be, God made this world to be paradise to be a blessing to us and us a blessing to it. So, for Jesus to see His good world consumed by evil and chaos, must have broken him, to see the people that he created and loved in such pain and suffering must have broken Him in His core, and that is exactly what is being communicated here.
Jesus does not want to leave the world in chaos, and in fact, it already working to reverse and heal the pain of the world.
The beauty of this passage is that Jesus doesn’t just feel out pain, and empathise with us. The beauty is what Jesus does next he sends out the workers, you see, the next portion of Matthew’s gospel is literally Jesus preparing and sending out his disciples to bring the good news to a chaotic, desperate, and dying world.
This leads us to our next point and the main thrust of this passage tonight;
3. The Lord of the harvest
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Church, the harvest is plentiful, but, the world needs the workers! And here is the clincher of this passage, the church, with all her problems is the means of the answer to the prayer that Jesus asks his disciples to pray.
Let’s ask an obvious question of this passage? Who are the workers to be sent out here? The obvious answer is the church, those who carry the message of the gospel to a chaotic and desperate world!
Now, I could just say church, go and preach the gospel, be the workers the harvest needs. I could do this, but I want to show you, historically, how the church has been the workers of good news to the world since its inception. I need to tell you this because the story told, the message communicated to us today, is that religion is the greatest enemy of mankind! Look at all the wars fought in the name of religion! Look how oppressive and hypocritical religion is! The best thing we can do is to throw off the shackles of oppressive religion and just love each other!
The problem is that yes churches have been filled with hypocrites, and yes Christian’s fall. The incredible thing is where the church flourishes so does that community and ultimately that nation. As the message of the Gospel goes out into a nation so that nation is freed from the chaos that is natural to all people in all times due to the sinfulness of man.
And as a nation abandons the gospel that brought peace so chaos and evil stream back in. I have read several articles on the sharp rise of demonic possession in Europe at the moment, why because she has abandoned the gospel and the message of Christ, Europe is known as a post-Christian continent.
Greg an myself were talking on Tuesday, at how when his father came to a place there was a number of demonic possessions however, as the gospel when out and as they ministered, so these activities stopped.
The reality is that the message we have, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world, and as we go out and share that unashamedly, as we preach the gospel so people come into the kingdom of God and so chaos leaves.
You see church, there is a pattern in the world, and it is told in Scripture and it has repeated itself over and over and over since Adam and eve sinned. The pattern is this; man choses to go his own way, says he can build a good world on his own, and so God gives him over to that arrogance, then man reaps the chaos of that choice which is scattering, destruction and death.
We see this story play out in the Flood of Genesis, Babel, Egypt, the Book of Judges, the Nation of Israel in 2 Kings, Babylon, and Rome in the book of Revelation. The same story is playing itself out in our world; man saying to God, we don’t need you or your rules, we can build a good world on our own. The problem is that everything outside of God is death, chaos and pain. And, so, the world reaps it in spades, we reap what we sow.
Now it is not hopeless church, although you may think it is; because God is at work in His world, with his workers. It is when man goes his own way and reaps his own chaos that the harvest is most ripe for harvesting!
The question is what is the work of the workers, what are we to do? Well we are to continue the work Jesus started; Jesus went around proclaiming the good news of the kingdom; literally in the Greek the gospel!
Church, do we have the same compassion for the world as Christ did? Well we have the hope that will free people from their chaos, we have hope that will destroy the works of the devil and sin, we have the power to overcome peoples natural hatred for each other and we have the power to bring the goodness of God to all who would hear.
The question is; do you like Paul, believe in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ? I like Paul am not ashamed of it; I believe with all my heart that Jesus came into the world to save sinners! Of which I am the worst. I believe that as we go out into the world and confront them on the source of their pain (their sin) and then present them the hope of their freedom; the gospel of Jesus Christ, so in those people who come into the kingdom the peace of God reigns, so for those people life comes out of chaos, so peace out of destruction, so life comes out of death!
Now, the message of Scripture is clear, we will not build God’s kingdom on this world with our strength, or preaching, but as we preach, as we stand boldly on the Gospel so people come out of the kingdom of darkness, out of the chaos we see all around and they enter into a kingdom that will never end. This is our mission church, this is our work! We are the workers of this harvest.
I hope you are encouraged to take the message of peace that sinners can be welcomed by God if they would believe in what Christ has done for them.
This is our work this is our calling; this is the most important thing in our lives!