Newtown Bible Church

A Compassionate Call to Evangelism (Matthew 9:35-38)

I have been eager to get back into Matthew and particularly this passage, as we think of our purpose for us here, the priorities that set our agenda as a church, and as we seek to have God’s perspective and be faithful to God’s purpose for us as His people.


READ: Matthew 9:35-38.


2 components of Jesus’ Ministry that should set our agenda and compel us to prayer and action (1) The Priorities of Jesus’ Ministry; (2) The Perspective of Jesus’ Ministry 


I. The Priorities of Jesus’ Ministry

  •  (35) “And Jesus went around all the cities and regions teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the kingdom of God, and healing every disease and every sickness” - Matthew is now providing a 2nd summary of Jesus ministry and preparing us for a new record of His ministry. 1st was in 4:23, followed by an extensive record of His teaching. Now the focus is going to shift to the commissioning of the 12. 
    • However, to encapsulate this transition Matthew first lays out the priorities of Jesus mission and so the mission of the church.  


A. Teaching about the Kingdom  (Revelation)

  •  “Teaching” - a primary activity of Jesus. The term means simply: “To provide instruction” and it was the core of His earthly ministry (Matt. 4:23; 5:2;  11:1; 13:54; 22:16; 26:55; Lk. 21:37; *John 18:20). The most expanded record of Jesus’s teaching ministry is found in the Sermon.  
  • It had overwhelming affects on the people. It was with authority (7:29), wisdom (13:54); all in contrast to the Pharisees (6:1f [22:16]; 7:28-29; 15:9; 23:1-3) 
  •  in their synagogues” - His first mission was to the covenant people of God; He was first their Messiah (*10:5-7; 15:24). (Also, PAUL: Rom. 1:17“to the Jew first and also the Greek.”; Acts 13:14, 43; 14:1; 17:1; etc).
  •  “synagogues” - most likely developed during the period of the captivity, when the people were displaced from their land and the temple. They were the backbone of religious education throughout the land. 
    • A synagogue was formed wherever there were at least 10 Jewish men and were, therefore, plenteous and scattered throughout the land. The main components of a synagogue service included prayer, reading of Scripture (OT), and then an exposition given by either one of the regular attenders, or a visiting Rabbi, or honored guest. Jesus took full advantage (Lk. 4:14-21).
    • The Pharisees were the primary teachers of the Law and central to the life of the synagogue (Matt. 23:6-7 “chief seats in the synagogues”). They love the honor; Jesus exposed their hypocrisy, therefore they hated Him (Matt. 12)


B. Preaching the Gospel of Grace (Proclamation)

  •  “Preaching the good news [gospel] of the Kingdom”  - Teaching emphasizes the systematic unfolding of truth; preaching emphasizes the idea of proclamation; that of a herald of the king. Here He preached the gospel of the kingdom. 
  •  “good news of the kingdom” -Namely that the King of the kingdom was here (3:2; 4:17; 10:7).  It was good news because He came to “save His people from their sins” (1:21) “to seek and to save the lost.” It was the good news of salvation to His people. 
    • So, He came teaching and preaching, which He would latter command and instruct His disciples to carry on (28:20). And not just the disciples, but also in His instructions to the church (2 Tim. 3:15-4:2). In other words, His priorities are to be the church’s priorities; the priorities of NBC. His Word is foundational.
  • The third priority, however, is unique to Christ, the apostles, and early church. 

C. Healing to point to the Atonement (Authentication) 

  • “healing all their diseases and sicknesses” - this is repeatedly mentioned as a significant factor in the Lord’s ministry. It is hard to imagine the sheer number of people the Lord must have healed. Josephus notes that there were 204 cities (not including unwalled villages), each with approx. 15k people, bringing the possible total number of people around Galilee to around 3 million. Among this group, disease was essentially banished during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. 
  • This is not a reproducible ministry of the church today [listen to message on 8:14-17]); won’t rehash that, but will just highlight 2 key points: 
    • 1) Authenticated His Person as the God-Man. John 5:36 “The works which the Father has given Me to accomplish - the very works I do - testify about Me that the Father has sent Me.”  In 11:1-6 [Turn To], they are the proof to John’s disciples. And so also His ability to forgive sin (9:1-8). Also of the early church until Scripture was written (Heb. 2:4)
    • 2) Foreshadowed His atonement (*cf. 8:16-17). Sickness and death are result of sin and because Jesus would destroy sin and all its work including death, the healing ministry and ministry of raising the dead all looked forward to that future kingdom wherein sin is forever removed and the fruit of sin is experienced no more (Rev. 21 “no more tears … death”). Demonstrates already / not yet aspect kingdom. 

II. The Perspective of Jesus Mission

A. Compassion for the lost 

  • (36) “Seeing the crowds He felt compassion” - An amazing response! Jesus’ life was hectic, busy, almost no rest; and rest He planed was often frustrated. It is precisely at this point that most of us express irritation, frustration, annoyance, or some other form of anger; but not Jesus. 
    • It is not that He did not need rest, but the deepest expression of His heart was love, not self interest.Therefore, He saw the crowds and their spiritual condition aroused in Him a sense of compassion. 
    • The term literally speaks of the bowels (cf. Acts 1:18 [noun]); often refers to a feeling of deep emotion (where we sense / feel the emotion). 
  • (1) Jesus has intense emotions. He was not some emotionless, detached figure, He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; both His own and those of His creatures and His people. He grieved over the pain of death (John 11:35); the hard heartedness and destruction of people for their sin (*Lk. 19:41); the physical suffering of others (14:14). 
  • This shows the profound depth of the nature of God. 
    • In other text it speaks of God’s anger toward the wicked (Ps. 7:11; Lk. 12:49 “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled;” Rom 2:5 “storing up wrath; Rom. 9 “vessels of destruction,”; in other places “God so loved the world,” “Father forgive them,” “seek and save the lost,” and here Christ’s compassion perfectly reflects the heart of God.
  • This is not new, God has always had compassion on His people; it is not mean God of OT and nice Jesus of NT! Remember, He is the God-Man, the “Image of the invisible God,” therefore, His compassion is God’s compassion. (Ps. 51:1 [relation to sin]; 69:16 [distress]; 72:13 [physically needy]; 106:46 [suffering from consequences of sin). 
    • Jesus has already displayed compassion throughout His ministry of teaching, preaching, healing; demonstrated with the leper, centurion, Peter’s mother-in-law, demoniacs, paralytic, Levi, ruler’s daughter, Samaritan woman, blind men. 
  • Three significant instances of this are found in the parables, each bringing out a nuanced reflection of the heart of Christ. 
    • 1) Speaks of the attitude of the king in forgiveness (Matt. 18:27); 2) The Samaritan toward the beaten traveler (Lk. 10:33); 3) The Father toward his repentant son (Lk. 15:20).  
  • (2) The reason for His compassion: “Because they were troubled and cast down like sheep without a shepherd” - (a) Spiritually destitute. Ultimately, it was the condition of man’s sinfulness that aroused the greatest affection from the Savior. Notice first that He is primarily concerned about their spiritual condition. It is not that He does not care about their physical condition, but that is secondary to the primary mission of their eternal souls (souls with bodies / or bodies with souls)
    • These are primarily Israelites, God’s covenant people, yet dejected and distressed. God is the Shepherd of His people and it grieves Him to see them lost, in danger, and wandering in a spiritual wasteland. 
  • “troubled” - idea of harassment, being “put out,”; Here it would refer to their spiritual unrest and unsettledness. “down cast” - basic idea of thrown down, or cast down. 
    • The picture is of being spiritually dejected, without direction, guidance, hope; living in darkness and ignorance away from a relationship with their God; wandering aimlessly. 
  • (b) Failure of false shepherds. Sheep are dumb, dirty, and defenseless and they need a shepherd; someone to lead them. Pharisee rather leading, burdened (23:4)
    • Those who should have been their shepherds and teachers had failed and were themselves against God and part of the problem (cf. 5:20; 7:15-20; 9:11-13). Those entrusted with the care of God’s people were in fact the very instruments sealing their demise and deception  *(Ezek. 34:1f [TURN TO])
    • So it was at the time of Christ. Their hearts were far from God (15:6); they were hypocrites who were making sons of hell (23:1f); they were tools in the hands of Satan (John 8:48); who would ultimately be the instruments of murdering the Shepherd of Israel (cf. Zech 13:7; Matt 26:31, 57-59, 67-68)
  • (c) Heart of a True Shepherd. God’s shepherds are to feed God’s people God’s Word Jesus demonstrates the heart of a true Shepherd (*2:6). He is the One God promised (Ezek. 34:23-24; John 10:11; Matt. 11:28)
    • Jesus, the Holy One of God, the eternal Son of God felt compassion. His heart broke for them; He would soon suffer the curse of the Law for some of them; He would soon cry out in agony as He bore the weight of the penalty of sin for some of them. 
  • How opposite from the self-righteous look down on them with an air and attitude of superiority. Matthew 9:11; Lk. 18:11; *John 9:34). The Christlike look with compassion at their spiritual lostness, the havoc sin and worked in their life, and desire to sacrifice self, self-comfort to reach them with the message of God’s grace, and longs for them to be reconciled to God. 
    • Who are you the most like? Who am I the most like? What do I, you, feel when you see the lost, the un-Christian, the profane? How do you view your boss, co-workers, people you seen on the news, meet in the store, etc. We sometimes look out over the masses of people and see enemies, sinners, problems, annoyances, bums; we criticize, judge, condemn, distance ourselves - Jesus looked out over the masses and felt compassion, because He saw people who were lost, separated from God, enslaved to their sin, deceived and He longed to reach them, help them, serve them. 
  • Our sin is just as heinous; apart from God’s grace, would be in the same position or worse. We were those sheep without a Shepherd; if we now know the shepherd then we have only His mercy and compassion on us to credit (1 Tim 1)
    • Our attitude displays our understanding of the gospel. A superficial understanding of the gospel (of God, ourselves, and Christ) produces the self-righteous attitude. A genuine and mature understanding of the gospel produces compassion, brokenness, and a desire to take action with the gospel for their sake and the glory of God. 
  • 1st perspective is to have a heart of compassion. 2nd … 

B. Concerned about the workers (37) 

  • “He said to His disciples” - because they are the one’s who would be entrusted with the message; they would be His mouth, hands, and heart to a lost and dying world. “disciples” is best taken to refer to the larger group and not simply the 12.  
    • Jesus is soon to depart, but His slaves are left in the world to continue to bear the message through which He will call His elect home (2 Tim. 2:10)
  • (a) See the potential. “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” - He now changes the metaphor to that of the “harvest.” Some see this as a reference to judgement, and the term “harvest” is often used that way (3:12; 13:30, 40-43; Rev. 14), but that is not how the Lord is using here (context is important, Jesus sometimes changed meaning of metaphors in different context [i.e. 13:33; 16:63 “leaven”]
    • Here it is not harvest-time, but harvest-crop. In other words, there are many of God’s people, whose hearts are even now being prepared to respond to the message of Christ and be brought into the kingdom *John 4:35 [Turn To])
  • (b) Sense the need. “Workers are few” - There are yet a host of God’s people yet to come into the kingdom, but through whom will they hear the call? As a Man, Jesus was only One Person and He saw few conversions during His time. His mission was to accomplish the grounds of salvation (=atonement); He left it to us to do the greater work of bringing in the harvest. (cf. John 14:12). Not talking about miracles, but ministry. 
    • The Lord departed from this world with only a handful of followers, Peter would stand up and proclaim Christ on the day of Pentecost and over 3,000 souls would be gathered into God’s barn (Acts 2). As the early church continued to spread and proclaim the church grew, the harvest came in (Acts 5:39; 6:7; 11:21, 12:24; 19:20)
    • There are a hearts being prepared by the Spirit of God, right now in Newtown, Danbury, Bethel, Naugatuck, Southbury, Monroe, and beyond who are ready to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and be brought out of darkness into the kingdom of light. In the words of Rom. 10 “How will they hear without a preacher?” 
    • God’s workers are you an me; this is not simply some missionary text to go to far off lands, it is a summons for all of us to speak to your neighbor, co-workers, family members, and all those the Lord sovereignly places in your life. We are God’s mouth; we are His messengers; we are His workers.
  • How do you view your life? Your job? The people you meet throughout the day? Are they simply people to provide a service, or are they divine appointment whom the Lord has given you opportunity to speak of Christ? It is very short sighted, spiritually immature, and superficial to see people no more than the uniform they are wearing, or the job they are performing? 
  • We must ask God not only to take the theology and make it simmer; take hold of our hearts, our conversations, our lives individually and as a church.

C. Command for Fervent Gospel Prayer (38) 

  • (1) Make Prayer a Priority: “Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest, that He would send workers into His field- Often we think: “Have more training classes … Recruit more people … preach more about missions.” These are all good, but are secondary. The Lord says to first pray!God has ordained that He work His will through the prayer of His people. Salvation is not a human work, it is a work of God (Matt. 19:25-26; John 1:12-13)
  • Here is a tremendous paradox of sovereignty and responsibility. It is God who sends, it is God’s field, and it is God who gives the result - yet we are to seek Him to do all the above! This is the mystery of prayer and sovereignty: God works His sovereign decree through the instrumentality of the prayers and effort of His people. 
    • I don’t know what God is going to do in this church in the remainder of this year, in the years ahead, if we will see many come to Christ; but I know it will largely be in response to and dependent upon our commitment to prayer. We need individually & as a church to be praying, seeking His face, asking Him to increase our burden for the lost, and supply us with workers in ministry. 
  • “Pray” - a command:“to ask with urgency, with the implication of presumed need.” Cf. Lk 5:12 “Implored”; Lk. 8:38 “begging,”; Lk. 9:38 “beg.”  We are to pray for the world in general (missions), but also for NBC; much to do, opportunities, need workers. 
    • We have much to do as a church, but we need workers (Note: my looking at opportunities, then at least. Much to be thankful, but much to seek God for). We need people, workers; and it is not going to come through our human wisdom, or manipulation, but by a movement of God’s Spirit as we earnestly seek in Him prayer. *Parker is here because of prayer, but we need more. 
  • (2) Trust in God’s Sovereignty: “Lord of the harvest” - “Lord” - speaks of sovereignty, authority. God, here the Father, is the sovereign One, over the harvest. He is the one to whom we appeal. God is the One who gives shepherds to His people (cf. Jer. 3:15f)
    • We, as the church, are swept up into God’s eternal plan of redemption: the Father ordained, the Son accomplished, the Spirit applies, and we deliver the message by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts. 1:8; 2:4).
  • The work of salvation is God’s alone (Eph. 1:3f; John 1:11f), however, He uses human instruments (cf. 2 Tim. 2:10; Rom. 10:5f) to be His mouthpieces (2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Cor. 3:5f)
    • “the harvest” - “ to cut ripe grain and to gather bundles of such grain together.”  Another way to say, “harvest” would be: “Those who are ready to be saved and believe in Christ.” 
    • We do not know who is and who is not God’s elect. God simply calls us to be faithful with the message and then trust Him with the result.
  • “workers into His harvest” - these are those sent to gather the wheat. Who are the workers? In one sense they are: (1) Disciples (10:5-11); (2) those specifically gifted (Eph. 4:11); but by extension the whole church is to play a role; we are all “salt … light” - and called to be faithful witnesses. 
  • As we think about our ministry as a church, as we grow and feast upon God’s Word and are being conformed to the image of His likeness, so we need to be showing that by our desire to evangelize and be His messengers to our community. 
    • We need to be out and involved in our community bringing the message of hope, grace, judgement, salvation, sin, faith, repentance, and eternity to the lost. Everything we do here we will do better in heaven, God intends for us to take this and then go out and be lights in a dark world. We as a church need to be involved in others lives and when we do we get to participate in the joy of seeing the Lord of the harvest bring His own home. 
  • Our heart for the Savior is measured in part, not by our knowledge but by our evangelism. Our sharing of His heart. Our understanding of the gospel can be measured by our heart for the lost. 
  • He is looking at masses of people who will spend eternity in hell; who will live forever outside of the grace of God in Christ. Judgement, horrible judgment is coming, Jesus knows that, but the Divine paradox is this: the One will one day look with wrath is now looking with compassion. Now is the day of salvation, the time of mercy and calling lost sinners to Christ and the infinite grace of God demonstrated and completed at the cross for every believing sinner. 
  • One day He will bring wrath with the Father (Rev. 6); but now His mission was to bear the wrath and bring His people home. And, if you know Christ, you are a part of this harvest; you are one for whom He bore the wrath, and gained your righteousness. 
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