Updated: Sep 19, 2020
Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 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 pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
There is good news! For many, the last six months have been challenging, discouraging, times of doubt, and frustration. We have seen and felt the very devastating effects of a global pandemic. Amid this pandemic, racial injustices and tensions have again been exposed. A hidden sickness that has long resided just under the surface. Light has come on the horrific abuse of children in our culture. A disease that remains a plague praying on the innocence of others. With all that we have seen and felt in the last six months, there are so many unanswered questions.
Part of the questions come from tension. There is a very real tension in our world. A tension that is not easy to answer. If Jesus is King and Lord (and He is) if He has established His kingdom (and He has), then why do we still see and experience tension; tension between this present darkness and God's good kingdom?
Come and See
In (Matthew 9) Jesus calls Matthew from his vocation of tax collection and says to him, "follow me" (ref. Matt. 9:9). What is it that Jesus desires for Matthew to see? What is it that He desires for Matthew and others to learn? Just after Jesus calls Matthew, the gospel of Matthew shifts to a scene of Jesus reclining at the table with tax collectors and sinners. The Teacher (Jesus) is questioned as to why He would be associating with such people. As Matthew's narrative continues, we are introduced to Jesus' ministry. He goes about healing many people. A woman healed from bleeding, a young girl restored to life, two blind men receive their sight, and a mute man made to speak. What is it that Jesus wants Matthew and others to come and see? Amid the darkness, God's kingdom has come! It's not easy to explain. It's not a comfortable tension. But there is good news! God's kingdom is here, it is present, and it has broken in through the darkness.
Sheep Without A Shepherd
As crowds gathered around Jesus, He was deeply stirred with compassion for them. Harassed and helpless in the darkness, Jesus sees the crowds as a people without direction, like sheep without a shepherd. What did Jesus desire Matthew, as well as others, to see? Why did He want them to follow Him? He wanted them to see God's goodness, God's generosity, God's healing, and restoration. He wanted them to see the Shepherd, who had come to lead out of the darkness.
What Is Our Prayer
I have not answered the problem of the tension we experience or the question that arises from the tension. It is a difficult question and one that I don't know I can fully answer. However, part of the answer, I believe, can be found in Jesus' request. Jesus said, "…pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." What is our prayer? What is our response? Jesus wanted His followers to see God's good kingdom. He wanted them to see the Shepherd's presence, who came into the tension to lead out of the darkness. As we live in the tension, we experience the effects of the darkness. The tension is present, but the good news of God's kingdom has come. Perhaps part of the answer comes in how we respond to Jesus' request. Are we sharing what Jesus wanted others to see? Let us share the good news of God's good kingdom.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Download this article