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.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
This section summarizes Jesus’ activity in chapters 5 through 9. Jesus was teaching, preaching, and healing. It introduces the mission discussed in the next chapter. The Jewish readers recognized the reference back to Ezekiel 34:5-6. Jesus was the true Shepherd. He had concern for His sheep (John 10). He was identified with the “Lord God” of Ezekiel 34:11-16.
The wording of this section lets us know Matthew is not giving a detailed account of all Jesus did. “Jesus went throughout all the cities…” What cities? What order? How long did he stay in each city? Who did He heal? What maladies did He heal? What was the reaction? How was He received? These questions are not answered. Why? Because they are not important to the message Matthew is relating. It is a summary of the events that transition into the next part of Matthew’s Gospel.
We only know that Jesus was busy proclaiming the doctrine of salvation.
As Jesus moved about He noticed the people were confused. They wandered around without direction. This speaks to the incompetence of the scribes and priests. They were in every city. They were there to educate the people. Yet the people were unaware of the scripture. They had no direction. This caused Jesus to have compassion for them.
This raises a question. Is your pastor preaching and teaching scripture? Or is he preaching about how to have a purpose? Does he expound on scripture? Or expound on current events sexuality, raising children, and how to have a happy marriage. There is nothing wrong with learning about these things. But they pale in significance to the importance of scripture. Plus that is not the pastor’s job. He has one job. That job is to open the scripture and expound on the scripture.
Jesus held the priests and scribes in contempt. I fear Jesus has the same contempt on most of the clergy today. And He has the same compassion for the people. They roam around directionless. They do not know the scriptures.
Jesus said the harvest is plentiful. This is a metaphor often used for the end times. The harvest is “plentiful” Many people are ripe and ready to receive the gospel.
The “laborers” are not the angels sent to gather for judgment (13:49). The laborers are the disciples who imitate Jesus. There are not a lot who proclaim the coming of the kingdom (10:7). Note: Jesus does not yet command His disciples to go into the harvest as laborers. But He told them to pray to God to send workers. No one can do the work of God without God calling and equipping them.