Year A: Proper 6/Trinity 3 - Matthew 9:35-10:8

Matthew 9:35 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." 10:1 He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.



In Chapters 5-7 Matthew records the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. 7: 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Jesus is established as a teacher with authority from God.

In Chapters 8 & 9 Jesus is shown as having authority to forgive sins, heal the sick, expel demons, and raise the dead. Last week in Chapter 9 we saw how Jesus called Matthew, mixed with sinners, cured a sick woman, and raised a dead girl.

In 9:8 after Jesus had healed a paralytic Matthew writes, 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

This is what Jesus means when he says the kingdom, or rule of God is near. God's rule is found in the person and ministry of Jesus who undid the effects of sin. When sin came into the world it unleashed sickness, death, and the devil and his followers.

Jesus shows that God has broken into human history by his deeds. He tells of this by his teaching and preaching. The two go together. They demand a response.

We saw earlier how the crowd were filled with awe, verse 8. in contrast the Pharisees were jealous and claimed that Jesus power came from Satan, verse 34.

What motivated Jesus to minister ?

Two things. Need and opportunity.

Need. Verse 36 says that the crowd were like a sheep without a shepherd. Jesus had compassion, the word refers to a gut reaction. Israel's leaders are often unfavourably compared to shepherds in scripture. They are usually portrayed as being in leadership for their own gain. Yet Jesus cares for his sheep who have no spiritual guidance and protection without him.

Opportunity. In verse 37 Jesus describes people like a ripe harvest ready to be picked. Elsewhere in Scripture harvest is often used to describe the coming judgement of God but this is not the case here. However, there is a sense of urgency. Any farmer knows the importance of moving quickly and decisively when the harvest is ripe.

Story of 2 shoe salesman sent to a remote island where there is no shoe shop. One comes back soon saying that there is no chance as the islanders had never seen a shoe before. The other salesman phoned asking for a large shipment of shoes saying that there was a terrific opportunity because every foot on the island was bare !

What would we be like ? Look for the need and the opportunity, not at obstacles !

In verse 38 Jesus tells the disciples to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers in the harvest field.

We all need to pray that God will send Christians to tell his good news to others. We should also be prepared to be the answer to that prayer. The 12 disciples were because Jesus then proceeds to send them out.

He calls them 'apostles' for the first time, verse 2. This comes from "apostellos" which means "I send".

Having established Jesus' authority to teach, exorcise, heal, and raise the dead, Matthew records this authority being passed on to the apostles by Jesus. This is part of Jesus' 'on the job' training for the disciples. First they saw Jesus doing these things. Now it is their turn. This would have been good practice for their own ministries after Pentecost.

When they go out here, and when they went out after Pentecost the disciples were ministering with Jesus' authority. They did not have the power themselves to heal the sick, raise the dead and convert people. This all came from Jesus. They were representing Jesus.

Such a mission requires an absolute and bold trust in Jesus' ability and willingness to carry out these tasks. Today Jesus calls us to exercise a radical faith that he can and will heal the sick, raise the dead, and convert people.

Jesus and the apostles were able to do these miracles because there are times in salvation history when God's power is shown to back up the ministry of an individual, such as Jesus, Elijah or Moses. At other times we can still see glimpses of God's power. For example in answers to prayer for healing. Now God may not answer every prayer for healing. We do not know why he answers some prayers and not others. But we can rejoice when we see answers to prayer.

Jesus sent the disciples first of all to the lost sheep of Israel, verse 6. This was all part of God's plan of salvation. First Jesus would be sent to God's chosen people the Israelites. He would, at times minister in other Gentile and Samaritan locations but primarily he came for the Jews. They would have to reject him and, after his death, resurrection and ascension the gospel would them be preached in Samaria and the ends of the earth, as Jesus told his disciples in Chapter 28.

Today the good news of Jesus is for everyone. Jew, Samaritans, Gentiles, male and female, rich and poor, short and tall, thin and fat !

How should we respond today ?

With thankfulness that God sent Jesus.

Romans 5:8, ' But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.'

While we were still sinners we were cut off from him. God has made the first move in sending Jesus and choosing us to be his followers.

Pray that God will send workers into the fields that are white with harvest. Pray that he will give us the compassion and the opportunities to show and share his love in a world full of people wandering around without spiritual guidance or protection.

We need to have the confidence that Jesus can and will answer our prayers when we pray for the sick, demon possessed, even the dead.