Gracefully Truthful


Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
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Read His Words Before Ours!

Matthew 9:35-38

35 Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

The Original Intent

1) What is the “good news of the kingdom” Jesus preached? (verse 35)

Jesus Christ was the Son of the living God (Matthew 6:13-20), Emmanuel (God With Us, Isaiah 7:14), Messiah (John 4:25-26), and King (Zechariah 9:9). Fully God, wrapped fully in flesh, came to earth to bridge the gap sin had caused between created beings and their Creator God. Promised from the moment the Lord God dealt with the introduction of sin in the garden of Eden, the Saviour had been prophesied to God’s chosen family over and over throughout all of time. Every part of Jewish history pointed toward the fulfillment of promise and prophecy.

The “good news of the kingdom” that Jesus would one day preach in person was echoed in every page of Scripture. From that initial curse of Satan and promise that the woman’s offspring would crush him beneath His divine heel (Genesis 3:14-15), to the law delivered to Moses on the mountaintop (Exodus 20-24; 31-35), to the sign of Jonah and his three days in the belly of the great fish (Jonah 1:9-2:10), and countless other types and historical arrows pointing straight to the promised Saviour: Jesus Christ.

The good news of the kingdom Jesus preached was that the promise was indeed fulfilled; their long awaited Saviour had come, and Jesus was He! The law served its intended purpose: to illustrate what sin was, show the holiness of God and the utter un-holiness of people, and demonstrate their desperate need for a Saviour.

They didn’t need to keep trying to save themselves by their own merit, or by tiptoeing their way around countless additional rules manufactured by people and tacked on to God’s law. Just as promised in the moment the serpent was sentenced, Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:13-20) in the way that human beings never would (Romans 3:21-26), and He did it perfectly.

The Everyday Application

1) What is the “good news of the kingdom” Jesus preached? (verse 35)

As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, it can be embarrassing to admit that the simplicity of the gospel, or the “good news of the kingdom” can be challenging to easily share. When I consider the overarching story of the Gospel written through every page, chapter and book of the Bible, sometimes my words get jumbled. It all seems too big, too wonderful, too miraculous to share in simple terms. But the Holy Spirit is faithful to remind me that the reality of the wonderful mystery of the gospel is simple enough for a child to understand and rich enough to change every aspect in my life, and the lives of all people, if they choose to receive it.

When there is an opportunity to share the gospel, the Holy Spirit will work with us to communicate the good news; we can bring glory to God by sharing the gospel with believers, too. We all need to hear and preach the good news, daily! The good news of the kingdom is this: there is a holy, righteous God, and we can have a personal relationship with Him because of His Son, Jesus Christ. Because of His Word, the Bible, I know I can never do enough, be enough, say enough or give enough to earn my salvation or pay the price for my sins. (Ephesians 2:4)

There is no list of rules or behaviors I can follow to prove my holiness, or right the wrongs I’ve committed. I am a sinner, and I know this because God’s law shows me what sin is. But Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, came to earth as a man. He lived a perfect, sinless life, then laid down His life when He was crucified on a cross to pay the price for my sins and the sins of all people, was buried in a tomb and was resurrected to bodily life three days later. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father, and He also lives through me because I have put all my trust in Him.

This good news changes everything about my life, because it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20-21

The Original Intent

2) What is the significance of “sheep without a shepherd,” and why did Jesus feel compassion for the crowds of people? (verse 36)

The reference of crowds of people being compared to sheep without a shepherd would not have been lost on the original readers of Matthew’s gospel. Shepherding was common in that region and age, and the characteristics of sheep would have been inferred and understood easily.

Jesus, and those with Him, knew that sheep are completely dependent upon their shepherd for survival. They knew a shepherd provides for his sheep in every way, from caring for the sheep’s wool and ensuring there are no pests or infestations, to maintaining the sheep’s hooves and ensuring they are able to move without injury or interference. A shepherd leads his sheep to pastures with suitable grazing, protects his flock from predators, and goes after sheep that wander off.

Sheep have strong flocking tendencies, and if one sheep begins to wander, the rest will follow…even if the wandering sheep falls into a ravine or off a cliff. This is why it is so important for the shepherd to retrieve the wayward sheep; it is for that sheep’s safety, but it is also to prevent the rest of the flock from following their fellow sheep into danger.

When Jesus saw the crowds of people, He recognized their humanity, their confusion, and their hopelessness. The Good Shepherd knew that without faithful shepherding, the people were vulnerable and in danger of falling prey to false teaching and a false Gospel. (John 10:11-18)

The Everyday Application

2) What is the significance of “sheep without a shepherd,” and why did Jesus feel compassion for the crowds of people? (verse 36)

Shepherding may not be common in our culture, but it doesn’t require much to look around and recognize the hopelessness, fear, and dejection our peers without Christ feel, does it? Can you imagine navigating a devastating loss, terminal diagnosis, broken marriage, financial ruin, or other earth-shattering life change apart from your Good Shepherd?

Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the mindset that I am self-sufficient and capable of handling the different valleys and challenges life brings my way, but the reality is that we are called to live our lives completely dependent upon Christ for all things. Christ is my provider (Philippians 4:19), my shelter (Psalm 27:5), my protector (1 John 5:18-19). He brings me back when I wander and keeps me from following others who go astray. Day by day, he provides exactly what I need. By the same token, I can trust him to care for His flock when other believers (myself included!) wander astray.

We are called to live in willing responsibility to one another in godly community and hold ourselves accountable to the word of God and each other, but I mustn’t forget the Lord of the harvest is also the Good Shepherd. He sees and knows every need; He alone provides for each one. He knows exactly where His sheep are at all times and He can be trusted for their care, just as I trust Him for mine. 

The Original Intent

3) Why did Jesus tell His disciples to “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest”? (verse 38)

Throughout His time with the disciples and ministering to people, Jesus repeatedly pointed to God as the one who orchestrated all things. Jesus was fully God, yet Jesus told His disciples He only did what He saw His Father doing. (John 5:19-23) Here, He again pointed to God the Father as Lord of all. In this case, Jesus wasn’t referring to a harvest of wheat, but to a “harvest” of people who were ready to receive the good news of the kingdom. (Matthew 13:24-30)

His words “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” made several points clear. First, He stated God the Father was the Lord of the harvest. No person could step outside the sovereign rule and reign of the Lord God, even the exact places they lived were under His sovereignty from generation to generation. (Acts 17:26) Promise and prophecy after promise and prophecy, all fulfilled. All pointing to Jesus as Messiah, all perfectly fulfilled in spite of human fallacy and sin by the hand of God alone.

Next, He rightly pointed to God as the only one capable of sending out Gospel-spreaders who would deliver the good news of the kingdom and point a lost and weary people to their true Savior. The commissioning of faithful workers could only come from God Himself. He had prepared the circumstances, He had prepared the people, and He had prepared their Savior. Only He could send out partners who would labor in His field to bring in His harvest.

Last, Jesus affirmed the harvest was God’s alone. No self-righteous additions to God’s law had brought about this turn of events. No devoted Pharisees or Sadducees could claim the ripe hearts of the crowds as the fruit of their labor. This harvest was first and only God’s.

The Everyday Application

3) Why did Jesus tell His disciples to “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest”? (verse 38)

Jesus only ever did what He saw Father God doing, and He knew it was time to commission the disciples to go and preach the gospel. Jesus exemplified a lifestyle of constant prayer, and He knew God desires for people to partner with Him in prayer. There have been times I have stumbled with getting caught up in the temptation to fixate on my personal “calling” or purpose and have missed accepting the invitation to pray for opportunities to partner with God’s purpose.

It’s not a sin to desire to operate in a certain sphere or field, but when we place such an emphasis on our individual role, it is only a stone’s throw to slip into elevating self over our Savior. As a believer, I trust God will fulfill His ultimate will through my life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t invitations He extends that I sometimes overlook or ignore. Ultimately, God’s purpose is clear: to spread the good news of His kingdom to all the world and teach new believers to obey Him in everyday life.

He fulfills this through His Church, the family of believers operating together in cooperation with him to further His kingdom and point everyone to Jesus Christ. We can and should partner with Father God in the same way: by praying that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into His harvest!

When we pray in agreement with His will, we can trust that He will fulfill His purpose through us and make us ready workers in his field!

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