Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35–38)
This week in our text we aren’t focusing on one particular miracle, as in past weeks, but rather we’ll look at one of the broad statements about Jesus’ ministry. As we see in Matthew’s gospel, he has come to teach, proclaim, and heal, his ministry fueled by his great compassion on the crowds who clamor to hear him speak and to receive his healing touch. The word in the Greek for compassion indicates a deep feeling in the gut, so strongly does Jesus feel for his people.
Jesus longs to be their shepherd, a common picture in the Old Testament of God to his people. In doing so Jesus will provide protection and sustenance, meeting their voiced and unvoiced needs. He then changes the metaphor to another familiar one from the Hebrew Scriptures, telling his disciples that the harvest is ripe but more workers are needed.
What is our role? One is prayer – “ask the Lord of the harvest.” So often we put prayer low on our list of priorities, sometimes by default due to the busyness of life. But for some amazing and mysterious reason, God wants to hear us cry out to him, and he acts on those prayers. As Lord Alfred Tennyson said, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
What would intentional prayer look like for you this week? Is someone coming to mind even as you read this, for whom you should pray and perhaps fast? Maybe you could turn on a timer to signal the hours, then pause for a moment and pray for that person. God delights in the cries of his people, however we choose to make them.
For reflection: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” St. Francis of Assisi