Pray for Compassionate Laborers

Why is the clinic in Karamojo called Akisyon A Yesu Clinic? It means the Compassion of Jesus Clinic. In Matthew 9:35–38 you see the compassion that Jesus exhibits.

See Christ’s Messianic compassion. The crowds are harassed and helpless. The location apparently continues to be Galilee. His ministry includes teaching, preaching the good news, and performing miracles of healing. The crowds which followed him were weary and scattered. Some may have come simply out of curiosity. Others came with a desperate need for healing, either for themselves or their loved ones. (That illness was a result of the curse.) Still others came to listen to the good news he proclaimed. Their spiritual condition reflected on their leaders. The scribes, Pharisees, and priests should have been serving as shepherds, leading the people to the Messiah. Instead, they attribute his work to Satan, verse 34, an antagonism that would culminate in their crucifying him. The leaders belonged under the denunciation of Ezekiel 34. You live in a world with a similar hopelessness. The materialism and hedonism of western culture leaves people without roots. See the people around you as your Lord saw the crowds in his day.

Jesus responds as the Messianic Shepherd. Matthew is telling you more than simply that Jesus felt sorry for the people. He sees the people in the light of the Old Testament prophecies that speak of the Lord gathering and caring for his people in place of the unfaithful shepherds. Jesus focuses his work on the lost people. That emphasis continues in the commands to his disciples, 10:6. A number of years ago many churches stopped saying much about sin, repentance, and faith. Instead they proclaimed what was called a “social gospel.” They focused on trying to eradicate poverty, drunkenness, suffering, etc., but neglected the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. Some temporal needs may have been met, but the deepest needs of sinners were left untouched. In reaction, some Evangelical churches focused almost entirely on preaching and witnessing, neglecting trying to meet very practical needs. The church needs to reflect the balance that Jesus shows. Pity may include a feeling of sorrow over someone else’s suffering. But compassion involves more. Compassion comes alongside. It meets the need. Appreciate the breadth and balance of the work of the Messiah in Isaiah 61. Jesus is moved by compassion as he sees the crowds. Included are people suffering from disease and other afflictions. But also present are those who are hungry for the good news of the kingdom.

Pray for workers. Recognize that the harvest is plentiful. Jesus changes his imagery from shepherding to farming. Be aware of the harvest. Often the harvest imagery refers to the final judgment, when the Lord and his angels separate the crop from the weeds, see Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43. Here, with human beings involved in the harvest, the setting is the present. Yet, “the future harvest is being accomplished where Christ proclaims the word of God with authority,” H. Ridderbos. The selection of the seven in Acts 6 and Paul’s instructions about ordaining deacons shows the balance Jesus showed continuing in the church after the ascension of the Lord. The ministry of the Word and prayer continued, but so did the distribution of food to the needy. The entire work of the church, but especially the work of the deacons, needs to be characterized by the compassion of Jesus. Notice how urgent the need is. The numbers are great. There are many lost sheep. Fields lie ready for reaping. As with earthly harvests, time is crucial. They day will come when there will be no more working in the fields. Appreciate that urgency today, in your neighborhood.

Ask the Lord of the harvest for workers. Notice whose work this is. Jesus sees the harassed and helpless people like sheep without a shepherd. He doesn’t tell the disciples to plan for ministry, to go to seminary, to get some quality training as deacons, though all of those may be good things and may well be things that some of you can and should do. The most important thing to do, the thing which each Christian can do, is to pray. “By prayer we reach Him without whom work and money are alike in vain. We obtain the aid of the Holy Ghost.–Money can pay agents. Universities can give learning. Congregations may elect. Bishops may ordain. But the Holy Ghost alone can make minsters of the Gospel, and raise up lay workmen in the spiritual harvest, who need not be ashamed. Never, never may we forget that if we would do good to the world, our first duty is to pray!” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol. 1, pages 93–94). The work of proclaiming the good news, the work of bringing in God’s harvest, must start with prayer and be bathed in it. Whatever your situation you can pray. Use the prayer calendar, Telenews, and Home Missions Today. Pray for those around you. Pray for open hearts, for finances, for men and women to go, for children to grow up with a heart for missions. Be careful. When you pray, the Lord of the harvest may include you as part of the answer! Jesus makes a connection between his work and that of his disciples. The command to pray is followed immediately by the calling of the 12 and sending them out to proclaim the good news. The work of the 12, and the continuing work of the church today, is a reflection of the compassion of the Good Shepherd. There is only one Shepherd, but he calls you to work with him.

God has brought his kingdom near. The presence of the King is the free gift you have received—so give freely! Jesus sends the twelve to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. Jesus himself had been proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, Matthew 9:35. Now he commissions the twelve to go throughout Galilee with the same good news. Their designation as apostles or “sent ones,” Matthew 10:2, emphasizes their function. This commissioning anticipates the Great[er] Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Matthew emphasizes their commissioning, which is described in detail. He does not report in detail on their work or their return. The kingdom is near because the King has come! The heart of their message is that the kingdom is near, matthew 10:7. It is near, not just in the sense that prophecy is being fulfilled, or that the time is growing short, but it is near because the promised Messianic King has finally come. The miracles to be worked by the twelve reflect the healing, renewing work of the Messiah. His coming is the result of God’s undeserved, unearned favor. Israel had become presumptuous, assuming that because they were the people chosen by God, they deserved his favor. That attitude runs counter to the grace prophesied in Isaiah 55:1. You have receive freely many different things from God’s hand. Do enumerate them. Do thank God for them. But never forget that the ultimate free gift God has given is his own Son, your Savior. God’s good news touches all of life. In addition to the formal proclamation of the good news, the twelve were to perform miracles of healing, casting out demons, and even raising the dead. (Some of this continued after the death and resurrection of Christ.) God’s saving work encompasses the whole person. Where the good news is proclaimed, the effects of the curse are reduced in anticipation of the final triumph. However, the heart of their work is the proclamation of the good news. The message focuses on the King. Jesus calls his disciples to sacrificial service, in this case going out without supplies or funds, simply depending on the response of those who believe. Apparently Jesus is not giving a detailed blueprint for all evangelism, see Luke 22:35-38; Acts 13:1-3; and Philippians 4:16. Rather, some aspects of this commissioning are specific to the this situation, Matthew 10:5.

Be both wise and gentle as you live in a God-rejecting world. Rejection brings judgment. The good news brings about reaction. In many cases that is positive. But some refuse to submit to the King. You need to be both wise and gentle as you live in a God-rejecting world, verse 16. A blessing that does not belong returns (verse13), rather than working in an automatic, magical way. The dust shaking, verse 14, visibly symbolized the unbelieving community as one that was to be the recipient of God’s judgment.

Reflect the peace which God has freely given you. The greeting is further described as “your peace resting” on the recipients, v.13. This is not just a casual use of Shalom, but the richest use possible of the word peace. “Their [the twelve] having been ‘sent’ by Jesus stamps their blessing, not simply as a wish, but characterizes it as a gift which is either accepted or rejected. Their mission makes manifest those who shall go free on the judgment day; it gathers together the true sheep of the house of Israel.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p.371). The kingdom is near only because God establishes peace through the sending of his Son. (Notice how the emphasis on a free gift in Isaiah 55:1 moves on to describing the Messiah, Isaiah 55:3–5, and then culminates in the resulting hymn of peace and joy, Isaiah 55:12–13.) The miracles worked by the twelve reflect the peace that the King brings. The church’s work of compassionate help in a sin-cursed world images the same.

You are God’s assembled people because his compassion has reached out to you. You have freely received God great gift of peace. Freely give that in the neighborhood, the country, and the world in which you live. And, above all, pray to the Lord of harvest for workers.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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