“Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”—Matthew 9:38 (NKJV)
Religious people are a funny bunch. Sometimes they’re indifferent. Other times, they’re just mean. The New Testament shows us examples of both—and more importantly, how Jesus went about his business in light of these fickle folks.
For Jesus, showing compassion, healing the sick, and forgiving sin were interchangeable tasks. One task wasn’t any more difficult than the other. So one day when Jesus had a crowd around Him, He forgave a paralyzed man of his sins. The outwardly religious people in the crowd called Jesus a blasphemer for forgiving sins. Why? Because by forgiving sin, Jesus had the audacity to equate Himself with God.
Jesus responded to their accusation with a powerful demonstration of His divine power. He healed the paralyzed man. The newly forgiven and healed man had to be carried to the meeting, but he walked out on his own two feet.
In addition to being called a blasphemer, Jesus also was called the “Friend of Sinners” by the religious group. You see, Jesus invited social outcasts like Matthew, a dishonest tax collector, to join His team of misfit disciples. Jesus welcomed sinners and was indeed a friend to them—because His ministry’s focus was to rescue them!
When Jesus was in town, miracles happened. He restored sight to the blind. He freed the demonically tormented. He gave a voice to the mute. And on several occasions, He raised dead people to life.
But there was always a “religious” person nearby who was quick to say Jesus worked dark deeds under the power of Satan. In fact, the more good work Jesus did, the more the religious demonized Him. And not only did the religious leaders distance themselves from Jesus, but they also separated themselves from the people Jesus came to save.
Matthew made this observation about Jesus: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36 NIV).
In Matthew’s statement, sheep and harvest are words used to describe the crowds. Shepherd and workers describe the ones employed to show compassion to the hurting masses. But while there’s an abundance of sheep, there’s a serious shortage of shepherds.
When Jesus says the shepherds, or workers, are few, He’s not just making an observation. He’s also giving an invitation. You can choose to be like the religious leaders of His day who made it their job to criticize His good deeds. Or you can jump in with both feet and join Jesus in His life-changing work. It’s your choice.