Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV)
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.”
1.noun- a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
2.verb (used with object) -strong desire to alleviate the suffering
Friends, for the next several weeks we will focus on the concept of compassion. Defined as sympathy for the misfortunate, compassion is a key characteristic of Jesus’ ministry. Here, in Matthew 9:35-38, we see Jesus overcome with compassion for multitudes of people, presumably at the end of a day in which Jesus already has performed some of his most famous healings:
– the woman with the issue of blood
– the man on mat, brought in through a roof
– raising of Jarius’ daughter
– the exorcism of the demonic man at Gerasa
Yet, despite an overwhelming day of activity, Jesus still has enough compassion left within him to deeply care for the crowds before him. At this point, Jesus instructs his disciples to be workers. More importantly, they are sent as workers of compassion, healing, and caring who are told to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give”(Matthew 10:8).
If free and unending compassion were required of the original disciples, then it’s probably required of modern day disciples. We, who call ourselves Christian, must be workers of compassion, healing, and caring also. This type of discipleship requires us to recognize social and political policies that deny compassion to the misfortunate. It requires a level of spiritual maturity that uses Jesus’ example of compassion, not human standards of judgement, deservedness, or various forms of eligibility. Like Jesus, we live in a world where crowds of people are hurting. As his disciples, we must ask ourselves: What am I doing to alleviate any stranger’s suffering?