Category Archives: Matthew

Matthew 9:35-38

Praying for mission

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

Context

Our church has set aside the next fortnight to heighten our work on spreading the gospel and calling people to return to God through Christ. In this week’s study, we will look at a short account from Matthew on spreading the gospel which will hopefully lead to praying for the week ahead.

In this passage in Matthew, Jesus, who began to gather his disciples in chapter 4 and tell them to be fishers of men, has been drawing in many people through his teaching and healing. While the disciples have been following Jesus and learning by watching, they are about to be sent out on their own to fish for men (chapter 10 following).

Observation

“Jesus went…proclaiming the good news of the kingdom…” This first sentence is echoing Matthew 4:23. Jesus is doing what he did from the beginning of his ministry. While he healed diseases and sicknesses, Jesus proclaimed the good news. By proclaimed, he declared, taught, and announced publicly. The good news is literally the gospel and the gospel is the good news about the kingdom. This is, of course, God’s kingdom. In Matt 3:2 he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The first good news about the Kingdom is that it has come near and it is not too late to repent. This is the primary message of the good news – it is good that the Kingdom has come near. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as for those who are poor in spirit and who thirst and hunger for righteousness. The Kingdom of God is open to those who seek it!

“When he saw the crowds…” People were flocking to see Jesus. He not only had a message that they wanted but he had the ministry of healing. Note that this healing ministry, though not undesirable, is by and large limited to Jesus and his disciples (see 10:1).

“…harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Perhaps harassed and helpless is related to the physical needs but it is more likely related to their spiritual needs because of the sheep metaphore. They need leadership into the kingdom of heaven. They are being pushed this way and that with no direction. They need to be shown the way.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” This is no longer a metaphor of shepherding but of reaping a crop. In Jesus’ message he sees that it’s harvesting time. It’s not time to plant or wait but to bring in the fruit. There is work to be done and the shortage is in the workers department, not in the fruitful crop.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” God (the Lord) is the farmer here. His field. His crop. His work has come to the moment of harvesting. What he needs is labourers to go and reap. The prayer of Jesus is not for the lost souls. He has compassion on them. The prayer request is for workers to step up and collect what is waiting to be collected. Are there prayers in the bible that ask for people to be saved? Even if there are, aren’t there far more prayers directed to Christians to go, to minister, to be God’s ambassadors, to be bold and to raise up?

Meaning

Jesus has called the disciples and taught them about the kingdom of heaven. He has modelled to them what it is like to announce the good news that God’s kingdom is ready to receive people who repent and desire it. Jesus expresses the need for more workers to do what Jesus is doing. His desire is for us to pray for more workers.

Application

  • Pray for workers for the harvest. The week of mission is upon us and we need to pray for the following:
    • The clear announcement that Jesus is Lord.
    • The clear announcement that Jesus saves.
    • That our church community will want more people to join us.
    • That our church community will proactively and boldly speak to others about their trust in Jesus.
    • Thank God that we have good news to tell.
    • Thank God that this is his mission and that he is the Lord of the harvest who wants this work to prosper.
    • Thank God for the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • Thank God for one another and pray for one another for specific ideas and plans for mission.
    • Ask God to grow his kingdom through us.

Prayer of the Week

Father, please raise up more workers for the harvest and may we see fruit in your mission. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.