“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” - Matthew 9:35-38
Jesus was not a person to stay in one place. He didn’t sit in an office waiting for people to find him. He traveled constantly during his brief three year ministry to all the cities and villages teaching the good news of the kingdom of God and curing people of their diseases. At the Riggs Union Church and the Sturgeon United Methodist Church we are in the midst of a sermon series called “Exploring the Kingdom of God.” We are studying the verses in the gospel of Matthew that teach about God’s kingdom. It has been an exciting and enlightening journey so far.
So what is this “good news of the kingdom” that Jesus is proclaiming. The good news begins with an awareness that God is here and God is near. God is actively seeking us. God understands our human limitations and struggles and diseases. God sees us clearly and God loves us completely. When Jesus looked upon the crowds of people his first response was not to judge them or condemn them in any way. Another human being might have looked upon the harassed and helpless crowd and thought, “what a pathetic bunch of losers. I am glad I’m not like them.”
But not Jesus! His first response is to have compassion. This compassion gives us a beautiful window into the heart of God. God does not rush to condemn or judge. God rushes to heal and to love. God seeks us out to set us free from the bondage of sin, to heal the diseases of body, heart and mind that would trap us in darkness and fear. The good news of the kingdom assures us that a loving shepherd is right beside us, filling our being with light and protecting us from evil.
Jesus tells his disciples that God’s harvest is ready. God’s grace has been at work in the world preparing hearts and souls to be brought into loving relationship with God. God needs laborers to establish those relationships. Jesus says, “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.” He wants us to know that God’s harvest always begins with prayer. We cannot assume that we have the authority to help with the harvest until God gives it to us. We do not know who God will choose to do the work, but we are all encouraged to pray for those laborers. If we feel called to be a laborer in God’s harvest then we must first pray that God would find us worthy. So pray and don’t stop.
Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Is it possible that the laborers are few because the work is so challenging? It is so much easier to wait for people to find us, but working God’s harvest means that we must go out build relationships with people we do not know. Laborers in God’s harvest can experience rejection and personal deprivation at times. But they receive a life overflowing with the knowledge and love of God. They experience life as Jesus lived it, in partnership and friendship with the creator of the universe. What an awesome privilege it is!