Archive for April, 2012

Matthew 9:35-38

Out in the Streets!

 

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I have written. It has been a whirlwind of events with seminary, work, and a huge but blessed Love Invades project that was a couple of months in the making. Basically, I had no time or made no time to write for enjoyment. It’s time to get back on the bike now. I have got about a three week break before summer session begins. Hopefully, with all the things that God has been doing in me through the Holy Spirit maybe will shine through compared to my last posts on Matthew. May God bless you and me as we ride this bike again!

 

When we left off Jesus had given sight to two blind men who demonstrated faith in Him as the Son of David, the promised Messiah. The irony was clear that two blind men could see that Jesus was the Messiah but the Pharisees who had their sight could not. Here we come to the end of Chapter 9. It is a fitting ending to the story about this part of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. Now we move onto Matthew 9: 35-38, here we read the following:

 

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.”

 

I don’t know about you but as I mature in my walk with my Lord, I begin to see what I call the synchronicity of God. What do I mean by that? God seems to put Bible verses, events in life, people saying certain things all together at the same time to drive a point home to you. Ever experienced that? That is certainly the case with today’s text. God has put this passage together with the fact that Elena and I are in the process of preparing for a mission trip to Haiti with a team from Lifesong Church. Yesterday, we were putting together our donor letter to be sent to key people in our lives about contribution to cost of our mission trip. I saw the synchronicity of this passage with what was going on our lives. It kind of makes you say, “Whoa!”  Let’s look at the synchronicity of God! Right now, I bet that song by the Police is playing in your head! LOL A flashback to the eighties! While we are there, let’s plant another song in your head from the 80’s! Bruce Springsteen double album, The River, contained a song that I loved. It was called “Out in the Streets”… Although the words to the song have little to do with today’s Scripture passage, the title certainly does. Let’s see how…

 

First, this passage is a reminder that Jesus devoted himself to reaching people everywhere – where they lived, worked and played. In Verse 35, we see that it says this in effect as “…Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom…” Jesus did not stay in one local synagogue and expect people to come to him. He went out into the world. Being the Son of God he could have made people come to him. But he didn’t. He got out in the streets and ministered to people where they were. Jesus was on the go. Behind all ministry is the thrust into new and perhaps uncomfortable places.

 

For example, it would be much easier to sit down and play computer games or watch some movie than reach out to others in need. It is easier to sit in your life group and say you have had fellowship rather than have your life group adopt a single mom and help her make ends meet more than just one time. It is easier to giveaway groceries as a one time and say I have shown the love of Christ rather than make it your ministry. It is easier to for a church to contribute money as part of their budget to a denominational-wide missions board rather than take the initiative as a church to do something about needs on its own. It is easier to contribute to that budget at your church than take your vacation time to go on a mission trip to Haiti. Hey, I am no saint here. I am talking about myself. I am almost 50 years old and THIS is my first mission trip? This is my first time going out in the streets to further the kingdom of God like Jesus did? Of this I am ashamed. This is the very message of our church. Lifesong is a church that challenges your to take the message to the streets…in our Jerusalem (locally), our Samaria (regionally), our “ends of the earth (internationally). We have our example, Jesus was in the streets. He went to the cities and villages. Yet for 40 something years I felt satisfied to sit inside the four walls of my church not going, not doing, not seeing, not putting myself out, not going out in the streets!

 

Second, this scripture passage tells us that Jesus’ motivation is compassion. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them. Jesus knew that people needed what he brought them, both the message of the kingdom and physical healing; he came for our good, not his own (John 3:16-17). It is to our own hurt when we do not serve the Lord (Jeremiah 2:13). We see from Matthew that Jesus had compassion on them because they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus cared about these people in Galilee because he went out and saw. Jesus healed there suffering because he touched people. He didn’t do it remotely. He got his sandals dirty. The only way that we can as Christ-followers can have compassion for others is to go out there, beyond our church walls, beyond the front doors of our houses, beyond the coziness of our personalized cubicles at work. How do you know, how do I know of the pain and suffering in this world. We engage the world around us. We build relationships. We intentionally get to know people we don’t know. We intentionally show compassion to them. We live lives as examples of Christ. We show mercy and forgiveness to people that have wronged us. That blows people’s minds and draws them to you. We get out in the streets. We get our hands dirty. Again, I am talking to myself here as much as anyone reading this. I have sat on the sidelines for far too long because (baby crying in the background) it is not comfortable. I don’t speak of Jesus to non-believers because it is not comfortable. It ain’t comfortable to be a true Christ follower and never will be. I must get that through my head and so should you. Loving others for which we may get absolutely no return out of it, loving others for which we may get no accodolades or pats on the back, is not comfortable and never will be. We have our example, Jesus was out in the streets…showing compassion…loving.

 

Third, this passage directly shows that Jesus wants multiplication because more workers are needed to complete the task. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, Jesus says. The term Jesus uses for workers here recurs in 10:10, indicating that the workers Jesus wished to send forth into the harvest were his own disciples. He trains us in our life with him so we can reach the world for him, making other disciples who in turn can carry on the work (28:19). The use of the harvest image was used intentionally here by Jesus to express urgency. It was a potent image to the agricultural society in which he carried out his earthly ministry. We have lost some of the impact of this point even in the South now. Most of us are no longer farming. In farming, there is an ideal but small window to collect the year’s harvest of crops. If not harvested at the proper time, it is lost forever as a spoiled, rotting crop.

 

The only hope for taking Jesus’ message to all people is in Christians’ multiplying their labors by training disciples to continue and expand the work. If just one of us could win to Christ a few people a year and train them to do the same, all other factors being equal (which they are not), the results of that seed over two or three decades would be billions of people won to Christ. We each have different gifts and callings, but to the extent that we share our Lord’s values and commitment to his cause, we will devote our time, energy, wealth and other resources to the task of reaching this world with the message of the kingdom and practical demonstrations of its power. Or we can just go to church on Sunday, get emotional at the beautiful and powerful music, be challenged with a spirit-filled sermon, and go home thinking that we are spiritual people and not do anything else the rest of the week to expand the kingdom of God. Or we can save the world with Christ one person at a time. We show the fruit of the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. We live lives that draw attention to Christ. We develop relationships. We show love and compassion in the face of hatred to draw people unto Christ. We continue the multiplication. Eternity is as stake.

 

Finally, Jesus summons us to pray for more workers for the harvest. We pray for those reach out to others here at home, regionally and internationally. After praying through it, Christians may find themselves burdened for specific people and perhaps may seek ways to minister to people right here at home. Maybe, it’s your neighbor that you don’t know. Maybe it’s your coworker that makes your blood boil or the sad person that you pass by everyday but never speak to.

 

And, who knows, in the end God may call some of us who pray to go, just as in chapter 10 Jesus sends those who shared his burden in prayer in 9:38. It won’t be easy. It never will be. It’s not easy for me and it’s not easy for you. But, it’s not about us. It is about Jesus and opening people’s eyes to the glorious eternity that awaits them if they give up being their own god and worship the one true God who gave his Son to us, the Son who gave his life as a ransom for our sin. But, you and I must get out in the streets, feel the pain of our neighbors, feel the pain of our world. We must have compassion as Jesus did. We must walk with others….out in the street!