This week we celebrate our nation’s independence. I am reminded of those that took the bold step of taking on a global superpower by signing the Declaration of Independence. I am also reminded at the costs that many of the signers paid as a result. Yet, it was their belief that led the process of freedom that we now enjoy. I am reminded of the need for boldness in Jesus’ followers to share the life changing message of Jesus with those in our lives.
This past Sunday guest speaker Missionary Mike Gustafson reminded us that the Opportunity for the Gospel even exists today. “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.”” (Matthew 9:35–38) It is another relevant passage from God’s Word to us.
The middle of the passage (verse 36) that speaks of Jesus’s compassion for the harassed and helpless, reminds us that we live in a world filled with hurting people. This was true in Jesus’ time in the land of Palestine and it has been true in every generation of humanity. The problem is the life with a relationship with Jesus is hard. It is hard because those without Jesus (and those that are now living for Jesus) have a faulty understanding that man has a broken nature. We are not innately good but have a natural propensity to serve ourselves. Our nature leads to choices that hurt others and ourselves. I want to remind us that Jesus sees the need, but he also has compassion and took action. The ultimate action would be sacrificing His perfect life to pay the penalty for our sin. The solution is that those who accept Him are transformed with a new nature with a capacity to be genuinely selfless and other-centered.
The first part of our passage reminds us that this is what motivated Jesus to take the message of the Gospel to others. It is a pure demonstration of love that would culminate with His death on a cross. It reminds me that Jesus’ followers need to be intentional about bringing the message of Jesus to others. The genius of God’s design for reaching humanity is one person at a time. The people whose lives have been changed by grace now become the ones who share what Jesus has done with first-hand experience. It is a powerful message coupled with the testimony of a transformed life! God still calls His followers to go city to city. He is also calling many to bring the message to our family, friends and coworkers.
The last verse of our passage is the most exciting. We are reminded that the “harvest is plentiful…” Why did Jesus need to state this? He needed to state it because we look at externals which is deceiving. Jesus wants us to get a glimpse of the broken hearts. We all have covered the hurt with superficial words and actions when inside we are really dying. The danger of looking at the externals is that we think everyone is OK, when if we knew the truth, they are not. They may not know it but the answers that they are looking for are only found in a relationship with Jesus.
This describes my condition before I came to know Christ. The externals portrayed a person that had it all together but the reality was just the opposite. A believing classmate listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, in spite of the conflict with his senses focused on the externals to invite me to church.
So I leave us with this challenge for this week. Let’s keep our inner ear open to an opportunity that God has for us to live out the Gospel!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson