Today in our study of Matthew’s gospel, we enter into a new phase of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. In the end of the ninth chapter, Jesus surveyed the multitudes and with compassion His heart was broken. The religious leaders that should have given the people wise counsel from God’s word had instead perverted God’s message and had left them in hopelessness burdened down with legalism. Jesus compared this to a flock of sheep that was scattered and left defenseless because there was no shepherd to guide them.
Looking again at the multitudes, He turned to His disciples and said, “The harvest truly is plenteous but the labourers are few” (9:38). Up to this point, Jesus was the main proponent of the gospel. He had visited all of the towns and villages of Galilee crisscrossing the sea numerous times to reach as many people as possible (9:35). But this was not to be His perpetual ministry because He came to the world to die for sin, and in a short time He would go to Jerusalem to be crucified. This meant that in the time He had left the ministry must change. The numbers of doomed unconverted sinners was too great for one person to reach, and even if He could do it all alone, the ministry would die with Him unless others were enlisted to carry it forward.
In verse 38, He told the disciples to pray that laborers would be found that would carry on the gospel ministry. Little did the disciples know how this prayer would forever change their lives! The ones that were told to pray would become the ones the Lord would send into the harvest. When they prayed, God would begin to burden their hearts for lost souls and they would respond with, “Here am I, send me.” In the tenth chapter, the transformation of ministry is made and the disciples go through their training course that would eventually cause them to turn the world upside down with the gospel (Acts 17:6).
This is the same response that God is seeking from the church today. Every member of our church has lost friends and family members. Our Wednesday night prayer page has a section devoted to the salvation needs of our loved ones, and each week I encourage you to pray that someone would go to these people and God would open their hearts to receive the gospel of Christ. If you earnestly pray for this, you will soon discover the person who must go is you. And further, God will extend the burden to others outside your circle.
In these next few weeks, our study in Matthew will concentrate on evangelism. We teach through the Bible verse by verse and since this subject is where the text takes us, we will approach it with all the same vigor and enthusiasm as we do other doctrines. Evangelism is the lifeblood of the church. We must have our compassion for souls revitalized so that we see the world headed for the harvest of judgment. Who will give them the gospel? Will it be you?
Pastor V. Mark Smith