Kingdom activities, compassion, urgency and call
|Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching 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 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matthew9:35-10:1)
On the other hand, some find the focus in verse 38 and 39: The harvest is great, but the workers are few. "So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields." There could not be a more mission-focussed statement. I think we can all agree that the Gospel needs to be proclaimed far and wide.
However, our attention is drawn to what could easily be read as a passing thought sandwiched between the perceived need for power and personnel: Jesus saw that the crowds: "were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
Nothing about the world in which they lived offered security or a sense of peace. The presence of the Roman occupiers certainly didn't help. Neither was there any comfort or guidance to be found in the religious leadership of the day. In a community where care was high on God's agenda, very little could be found.
It seems that as we respond to the call to tell others about Jesus, that power and authority will be trumped by the desperate need in people to know that someone genuinely cares.
As Jesus ministered in great power and glory, it was always with compassion. When he saw them harassed and helpless, floundering without someone to provide real, lasting, spiritual and practical care, he had compassion on them.
Yes, we should pray for needs as we encounter the lost. Yes, we must take the opportunities that present themselves to tell the gospel story. But more than that, it always needs to be done with compassion. And Compassion is rooted in a genuine love for God and our fellow human beings.
May God help us to remember that old adage: "People won't care how much we know (dare we add, how much we pray for them and tell them the gospel), until they know how much we care."
Mike Muller, husband to Louise, Dad to Jethro and Jessica and scuba diving enthusiast, serving at St Kiaran's Presbyterian Church in Fish Hoek, Cape Town.
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