Matthew 9:35-37 is a beautiful passage that gives us a snapshot of Jesus’s ministry and his interpretation of events surrounding himself and the disciples. In it he is healing every sickness and disease. I can imagine the days had been long, filled with needy people in desperate situations. While healing, he is also teaching about the coming kingdom of God, which he happens to be ushering in through the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (Isaiah 35:5,6). Most would see this long, hard, busy, arduous work as a hassle I’m sure. Jesus saw things differently.
To Jesus these people are not a means to an end. He didn’t come to be comfortable or to be recognized. He came to save and serve (Mark 10:45). And among these people he sees danger. The people are helplessly under attack. And because of this Jesus isn’t annoyed by them but is moved to compassion.
He has compassion on the crowds because not only are they vulnerable but they are unaware. Unaware of what you ask? I think many things. They are oblivious to their sin, satan, and most importantly… their guilty stance before a holy and just God that will punish their sin to the uttermost. And so Jesus has compassion. He calls them, “Sheep without a shepherd”.
After Matthew pulls back the curtain to show us the compassion of Jesus because of the danger he sees, things shift. Jesus has a conversation with his disciples, who I’m sure are just as unaware of the situation as everyone else, and lets them in on a little secret. “Boys we have a big problem here. Do you see that big field over there ripe for the harvest?” Their heads nod. “Where are all the workers”? Without a clue, they have no response.
You see, Jesus was operating on another level. He saw the physical as everyone else did. The diseases. The sicknesses. The pain and suffering. But he also saw the spiritual and every act that appealed to the physical was always to get to the spiritual. Jesus knew that their physical sickness was not their biggest problem. More than anything, they needed to be made right with God.
And he tells the disciples this to help them start seeing the spiritual as well. There is a problem. People need help. They are lost. And the worst part about it, there is nobody to help them. The harvest is PLENTIFUL, Jesus says. But sadly, the workers are few. The problem isn’t an overabundance of help. The problem isn’t a lack of harvest. The problem is the harvest is TOO GREAT. And the workers to bring in the harvest are nowhere to be found.
To hear it more clearly, the problem isn’t that people are not curious about God. The problem isn’t that they are perfectly content and satisfied by their sin. The problem isn’t that there are too many people helping others know Jesus and how to have peace with God. Too many people, according to Jesus, genuinely want to know peace and joy and happiness beyond themselves and there is NOBODY to tell them and show them. Or not nearly enough. Not enough people to help them read their Bible and pray and tell others. Not enough.
The Unexpected Answer
But that was only half of what Jesus tells his dudes. He continues after he shows them the problem, to give a solution. What is the solution? Pray and Ask. Pray to God and ask him for laborers to be sent all over to the ripe harvest. Petition God to raise up laborers and send them all over. This is unexpected because I anticipated a call to action. To get to work. Pick up that sickle and start hacking. But no. The answer Jesus gives his disciples is a more humbling one… to simply pray. This is humbling because the answer is more about God than it is about us.
But to be clear, Jesus doesn’t just say to pray, but to petition and ask. To ask with compassion. To ask with urgency. When you see the problem and you beg God to move, how long can you just ask? At what point I wonder, do you begin to become the solution and answer to your own prayer? But now it isn’t out of duty or self-reliance. Now it comes from compassion and humility and dependence. What a beautiful thing.
The Work Isn’t Done
That is all well and great, you may be thinking, but what does that have to do with college students and the Navs at K-State?
Well, the harvest is still plentiful and the workers are still few. The problem persists. There is work still to be done. Jesus’s last exhortation occurs in Matthew 28:18-20, which I would encourage you to read if you haven’t. Because it is the final command of Jesus, it is known as the great commission. In it Jesus gives the marching orders to his disciples/followers that is still being carried out today. The command is impossibly hard but clear: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”
Nations isn’t so much geographic boarders but rather it means “ethne” or “people groups”. There is a lot that could be said about this but here are just two things
1) Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 the end will not come until the gospel is proclaimed to all ethne. All people groups will be represented in heaven, just go look at Revelation 7 to see this. The gospel WILL be proclaimed to ALL nations. This is what every single ministry and local church should be working to accomplish… the salvation of people from all languages, tribes, and nations.
2) One minor hiccup however is that there are roughly 7,ooo unreached people groups in the world today making up roughly 3,000,000,000 souls (from Joshua Project). Let. That. Sink. In. And to be unreached means that you have zero access to the gospel. Not one person in their language or culture can tell them that God made this world and loves them so much he sent his Son to die for them. They have nobody. I cry as I even type that and you should too. Talk about a plentiful harvest with no laborers.
God Can Use Your Life
That is where we are at today, 2,000+ years after Jesus spoke those words in Matthew. There is clearly work still to be done.
Our prayer is for God to use your life to make an impact on those 7,000 people groups with one to one personal discipleship and evangelism. He can multiply your life to impact hundreds, thousands, and millions of people that extends to salvation for unreached people groups. He can do this through you investing deeply in one person each year.
Everything we do on campus is to help send out students to be agents of redemption in the world and to personally engage with the great commission wherever they go.