TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 7-9
“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 this harvest.'” – Matthew 9:35-38
Throughout chapters eight and nine, Jesus delivers numerous people from their leprosy, illness, blindness, and demonic possession. The verses above are Matthew’s closing summary of these events.
Everywhere Jesus went he taught. He taught what Matthew laid out in chapters five through seven. The central point of that teaching was that God loves everyone, even his enemies, and so should we. This is how we can be perfect as the Father is perfect.
As he taught, Jesus proclaimed the gospel, or good news, of the kingdom. The good news was that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. That means that kingdom of heaven had come to earth. It wasn’t a kingdom that you would get to when you die. Jesus was proclaiming that the kingdom was here now. This was good news because if God’s kingdom was at hand, if it was present on the earth, then Satan’s kingdom was leaving.
To demonstrate that the kingdom of heaven was here on earth and that Satan’s kingdom was being destroyed, Jesus healed every disease and every affliction. Jesus was delivering people from their oppression. They were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and Jesus was setting them free. As Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Jesus tells the disciples that this is a harvest that is ready to be reaped. The harvest is plentiful. I have always heard this harvest talked about in regards to the end times, the end of the age, when Jesus returns. But, the context of Jesus’ statement is that the harvest is right now. The people are ready to reaped now. This is what Jesus showed the disciples as he healed every disease and affliction. That was Jesus reaping the harvest.
Why was Jesus able to reap the harvest, to heal every disease and affliction?
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them.”
This particular Greek word for compassion is used just 11 times in the New Testament, all in the gospels. It comes from a root word meaning bowels or inward parts. It therefore reflects a deep and intense feeling.
This word is used as the motivation for the good Samaritan caring for the man on the side of the road and the feeling that moved the father to run to his wayward son who was returning home. But, most of the time this word is used in regards to the deep, intense feeling of compassion that Jesus had prior to performing a great miracle.
In other words, Jesus was able to perform miracles because of this compassion. One Greek dictionary says that this is not an emotion that you take for someone – as in “he took compassion.” Rather, it means that the emotion takes you – as in “he was taken or moved with compassion.” So, Jesus saw how the people were harassed and helpless and was moved deep in his gut in a way that caused him to act for them.
This Greek word is said to cause a visceral feeling of compassion. Visceral means to be felt deep within the body. It means not intellectual but instinctive and unreasoning. It means dealing with crude or elemental emotions.
Therefore, Jesus didn’t look at the crowds and think he was through the problem, trying to come up with a program that would effectively help all of those that were oppressed. He didn’t see these people from afar and reason his way to a solution. Instead, Jesus saw the crowds and experienced the raw, crude, base, earthy pain that the people were experiencing. And, because he felt this, Jesus acted immediately at of his raw emotions to help the people.
So, why do we so few miracles today? Why is there so little harvesting, the healing of every disease and affliction, taking place today?
Jesus says that it is because the laborers are few.
But, I think what that really means is that there few that have compassion the way Jesus had. There are few of us, myself included, that see people hurting and react from our raw, gut level feeling of compassion to help. Instead, we intellectualize the problem and reason how a government, an agency, or a program can take care of the peoples’ needs for us. And, relatively little gets harvested.
So, when Jesus says to pray earnestly for the Lord to send out laborers, I think we should specifically be praying for us to have the compassion that Jesus had. This is the key to harvesting. Compassion is the key to manifesting the kingdom that is at hand through the healing of every disease and affliction.
The harvest is now and it is plentiful for those that have the compassion of Jesus.