Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38 – 10:1, 5-8 CEB
For this sermon, I was led to take a different approach, and I hope that you can learn from it. I am going to walk through the passage you have just heard and highlighted three main points. You might even want to write them down so that you can think about them later. We are going to learn how Jesus prepared His disciples – that’s you and me too – for ministry. There are three points that I would like to consider. Disciples of Jesus are: (1) compassionate and active; (2) they are not alone, and (3) they are called and empowered for mission.
My first point is this: (1) Disciples of Jesus are compassionate and active. Matthew 9:36 says, “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus recognized the condition of the crowds because He had drawn near to them. He encountered and met the people in their communities and became a part of their lives. This closeness produced knowledge of their needs and opportunities to meet them. Because He was near, He recognized how truly helpless they were, as if they were sheep. Rams can defend themselves against predators, and goats can scramble nimbly across dangerous rocks, but sheep have trouble even foraging for themselves. Sheep require a shepherd to stay alive. Jesus saw this and was moved with compassion. He then preached and taught the good news, healed the sick and the outcast, resuscitated the dead, and delivered those oppressed by demons. Our lesson is this: As disciples of Jesus, we can draw near to the people we are called to serve and listen. In this way, we can identify their needs. Moved by compassion, we can then act.
The second point that I see in this passage is that (2) Jesus never meant for any of us to accomplish His mission alone. We have prayer and each other. “Jesus said to his disciples, “The size of the Harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers” (v. 37).
Jesus knew that humanly speaking, He couldn’t accomplish His mission alone. No one can do this by himself or herself. Aware of the boundaries and limitations of our human condition, Jesus began to teach his disciples how they could join him and get involved in His ministry. Jesus urged his disciples to “plead with the Lord of the harvest to send workers for his harvest” (v. 38). We need to recognize that every ministry must always start with prayer, humbly asking God for His assistance, seeking wisdom, knowledge, discernment. Ask God to let you know your limitations. Ask Him to assist you in showing you how to approach and serve the needy and provide you with the needed resources. Ask Him for companions to help you before you go to the mission field.
The last point that I want to highlight is that (3) Jesus called and sent his disciples, empowering them to accomplish their mission. “Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to throw them out and to heal every disease and every sickness” (Matthew 10:1).
When Jesus saw the crowds, He already had with Him co-workers ready to go to the mission field, the 12 disciples. They were empowered because Jesus had strategically been teaching them. Jesus trained his disciples to serve as He did, to heal those who were sick and deliver people from the dominion of darkness. They were taught and equipped before they were sent to do their mission. We all need to be empowered by good and sound discipleship. It can happen in small groups. And every disciple must pray continually, personal, and in the community asking the Holy Spirit to draw near and help. He is the One who empowers and sends us to take care of a person’s needs.
There’s a beautiful story about Saint Francis of Assisi, who one day informed his brother that he planned to go out to preach in a nearby village. He invited a brother-novice to go along. On their way, they passed an injured man, and Francis promptly stopped, saw to the poor fellow’s needs, and healed his wounds. They went on and soon encountered a beggar who was near starvation. Again, Francis stopped his journey and ministered to the hungry. So, it went through the day: people in need, Francis lovingly caring for them as best he could until the sunset in the sky.
He told his novice brother it was time for them to return to the monastery for evening prayers. But the young man said, “Brother Francis, you said we were coming to town to preach to the people.” Francis smiled. Then he said, “My friend, that’s what we’ve been doing all day.” E. Carver McGriff, Times of Refreshing, CSS Publishing Company.
During this pandemic season, we realize that the mission field is too big for one person. The harvest is big and is before us. We need to always be prepared and still be in mission. Keep in mind that God might call us to share His good news when we don’t expect it, and we can’t do it without His help. Ministry is about sharing God’s love in simple ways with the people we have before us: assisting the sick, bringing justice to the oppressed, helping kids and elders with their needs.
Let’s humbly pray for God to empower us and lead us to do amazing things in our community. Ministry can happen anywhere at any time, so let’s get prepared. You are a disciple of Jesus. This means that you are to be compassionate and active. You are not alone. You are called and empowered by God for His mission.