35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.
36 When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were troubled and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into his harvest.”
10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to himself and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James the son of Zebedee and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Do not go among the Gentiles, and do not enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick. Raise the dead. Cleanse lepers. Drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.Matthew 9:35-10:8
These days you’ve been thinking about our country. What would you list as the top three things our country needs: God. Health. Peace. Those are good ones but let me ask two important questions to dig down a little deeper:
- How do you feel about the current state of our nation?
- What is it do you think our nation needs most?
I’m not really interested in your answers, but I do want you to see if your answers line up with how Jesus would answer these questions. When Jesus sees our nation what does he feel about the state of our nation? And What does he think our nations needs the most? The answer to these questions is in Matt 9 & 10 before us today.
Jesus has been going all over Palestine for about 2 years and talking to lots of people and saw lots of problems. He saw governments that were too powerful and oppressive and needed to be shrunk. He also people who wanted more power in government to curb crime and abuse. He saw wealth like he’d not seen since Solomon. Yet, concentrated among a few people—along the trade routes, gathering taxes, while everyone else struggled. Jesus saw a country that was flocked with immigrants from three continents. Some were nervous, some were prejudiced and violent. Jesus saw religion everywhere. There were Roman temples, Greek shrines and thousands of Jews who had a synagogue in their own village. Sound familiar? Substitute American for Palestine and Jesus could be talking about us!
As Jesus saw his nation, so he sees our nation—what does he feel about the state of America? What does he think our nation needs the most? Better leaders, better laws, more laws or less laws? These things are important, but when you focus on those things, you are looking at the symptoms and not the disease that infects a nation. Jesus looks at all nations and deals with the disease. “36 When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them,” Jesus had compassion—this is more than sympathy. Compassion means you feel something so strongly you have to do something about it. Let’s listen to the one who understands politics better than Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, or Trump. Jesus knows our country better than anyone—even better than a veteran who laid down his life for the country. Matthew 9 & 10 teaches us what Jesus feels and thinks America needs most:
Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom—What our Country Needs!
Jesus looked at Palestine and saw a very religious territory in the Roman Empire. They had Pharisees, Sadducees, Teachers of the Law, Rabbis with Synagogues on every corner. Why was everyone flocking to Jesus? His ministry was different. “35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.” The land was filled with religious teachers that promoted a law performance-based religion. Follow these steps to a better life, or for a better marriage do A, B, C, and D. Jesus would talk about those things, but he would also talk to those who had a lousy marriage—for instance the woman everyone thought should be stoned for being caught committing adultery. Jesus told those who had no guilt about their marriage or life to throw the first stone. Then he spoke law and gospel to the woman. He forgave her and then called her not to sin anymore. Jesus’ ministry was different. He proclaimed law and gospel. Then there were those who also based their religions on no law—the Epicureans. They said you can do whatever you wish because the flesh counts for nothing, and only the spirit matters. So, do it if it feels good! Jesus was different. He didn’t preach permissive love—to do whatever you want, but transforming love. That the Holy Spirit transforms you from sinner to saint through the gospel—to leave sin behind and live a more noble life. Before Jesus there were all sorts of ministry, but not law and gospel ministry. Jesus came and proclaimed the gospel! How different!
Jesus looks at Palestine, “36 When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were troubled and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.” Think about that. Lots of ministry and religions end up hurting the people. They leave them harassed and helpless. Because performance-based religion does one of two things. Crushes you because you haven’t become the perfect husband, father, neighbor or employee your set out to become. Or you are crushed by self-righteousness—that you’re pretty good and will get to heaven, that is, until you are helpless on judgment day without the holiness God requires to enter heaven. You take one step forward and two steps falling backward from holiness if you’re trying to enter heaven on your own merits. Jesus looks at the nations and sees ministry without true compassion—like sheep without a shepherd, that needed to hear about God’s kingdom of law and gospel.
So, we look at our nation and would like to call it a godly country for we have steeples in every city. Jesus says that means nothing. The veneer of religion can hurt people more than help them. A truly compassionate ministry proclaims all of God’s Word. “37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into his harvest.” This is a common scene in the Bible. On Judgment Day there will be wheat and weeds, believers and unbelievers. We need more wheat! Think about this. When Jesus looked at Palestine he saw a population of about 500,000 people. If he would see Dallas county he would see 5 million people! The world’s population in Jesus’ day was about 300 million, today about 8 billion! If the harvest was plentiful then, how about now? We need compassionate ministry more abundantly now. We might even think we’re living in a desperate situation. So, Jesus says, “Therefore pray.” We know prayer is an important point in the Bible. Jesus tells us to pray for the harvest and to pray earnestly. Pray that churches would teach God’s Word in its truth and purity. Pray for the work of our Synod, to open up more missions, that the Lord lead the hearts of men and women to be pastors and teachers. Pray for the gospel to come into neighborhoods like yours so they can enjoy the company of heaven with you some day. Pray earnestly!
“37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into his harvest.” 10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to himself and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness.” Jesus pointed to the situations, told them to pray, and then called them to have authority to go and work. This isn’t complicated! Jesus wants us to have abundant compassion for people, to see them, pray about it, and then deal with it. If you see someone in need and compassionately pray for them, isn’t the logical conclusion that God can use you to fulfill that prayer? You pray for ministry—for gospel preaching pastors and teachers. Isn’t the logical conclusion to your prayer for you to encourage them and support them? If you pray and do nothing, then what is your prayer really worth? If you pray for evangelism efforts, but you don’t participate in them, how much weight do your prayers really have? If you pray for a neighbor to know Jesus, but you’re the only one in your neighborhood offering that prayer, then you are the one in your neighborhood to offer Jesus to them. We need compassionate ministry.
I know the excuses: “I can’t talk about Jesus because I’m not good enough.” Matthew was a tax collector, Peter was a fisherman, Judas was the betrayer and Jesus used them to share the gospel. You don’t need to be perfect and I’m exhibit A, and if Pastor Ledermann was here he would be Exhibit B, And Joel is on his way to Austin, and he’s exhibit C. Actually knowing what a sinner you are doesn’t make the work more difficult, but it makes it easier. Because when we go to people we don’t go with a self-righteous attitude. We go as equals. My life would be a train wreck if it were not for the intervention of Jesus Christ—what he’s done for me! We need increasingly compassionate ministry! Don’t tell me you don’t know enough or you’re not smart enough. Most of the disciples listed in Matthew had not achieved an elementary education, followed Jesus for two years, and were sent out by Jesus to do mission work. You know what sin is. You know what grace is. “If you cannot speak like angels, if you cannot preach like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus. You can say he died for all!” (CW 573). 3rd excuse. Professionals should do this. We give offerings so you pastors can be witnesses on our behalf. That’s a perfectly logical approach if the harvest is small. I can canvass about 40 houses a week, or about 2,000 homes a year. But, how can I canvass 75,000 homes in Garland? We need an increasing abundantly ministry.
So where are we going to start? “5 Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Do not go among the Gentiles, and do not enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is not racial statement. Jesus was not saying he didn’t want the Gentiles to hear the gospel. Later one Jesus would do lots of ministry with them. He is saying that we can start with those we know. You start out witnessing to low hanging fruit—friends, family and people you know and will listen to you. We need increasing abundant ministry. If you’re not actively sharing your faith it needs to change. It needs to change. But, if you’re starting out you don’t have to tap someone on the shoulder at Walmart, you don’t have to debate with a scientist, but go to those you know and start with them. America needs compassionate ministry based on the gospel of the kindom. This ministry also needs to be a
Properly balanced Ministry
Jesus told them to preach this message: “7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ 8 Heal the sick. Raise the dead. Cleanse lepers. Drive out demons.” Jesus points to two things in order to have a properly balanced ministry: Proclaim the gospel for their spiritual needs, and also pay attention to their physical needs. Only this type of ministry is really well received. Some churches focus on doing things like feeding the homeless, helping the poor. But, they focus so much on that, that proclaiming Jesus becomes a secondary consideration. Yes, social work is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but if you feed the body and not the soul, you haven’t loved them as Jesus did. However, the other danger is to proclaim the gospel without a heart for their social needs. Some might say, “We shared the gospel with them, what more can they ask of us? Meeting people where they have emotional, mental, social and physical needs builds bridges to talk about Jesus.
What happens when we have a properly balanced ministry that reaches out with the gospel while attending to their social needs? We create the cup into which we can pour the love of Jesus. Here’s what I mean. When Christians use their resources to help others for no other reason than because Jesus loves us so much and they have a need, others will look at us and wonder what makes us tick? Then Christians get to say, “We have a Savior who has given us a kingdom that will last forever, or in the words of my father-in-law, ‘I’m the richest person in the world because I have treasures in heaven!’” We get to live in perfect peace, free to use all our resources to help those in need knowing God will take care of us.
This is the properly balanced ministry America needs. I know there will be pushback from some who say, “I pay my taxes and the government is supposed to take of these social issues.” Yes, I would agree that today’s government has taken on more responsibility than before. It is no secret that our government spends gobs of money on education because so many think that government is responsible to teach our children. Yes, they should teach them math, science, history and reading. But, morality and sexual behavior—and even government’s take on sexuality and morality doesn’t belong in the classroom that teaches our children. Some even have come to the conclusion that raising children is not our responsibility anymore. I don’t think so. When God says, “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov 22:6), or he says, “Be kind to lepers” (Eph 4:32), I don’t think he’s talking to governments. We need a properly balanced ministry.
Secondly, students of history have noticed the decline of church in America in the past century. Compare church attendance to 100 years ago and today you’ll discover that fewer people go to church today. There are many reasons for the decline of church attendance—logistics, distrust of religious organizations, too busy or too lazy. But, tucked away in their reasons don’t you think people sense hypocrisy in the church who talks all about love and forgiveness, but then don’t love others by helping them or forgiving them? Jesus tells us to conduct a balanced ministry. Yes, care about souls, but care about social problems, too.
How? Here at Divine Peace we have Small Groups. We have people who will volunteer to teach Kingdom Kids, Ladies Bible Study, Bible on Tap, Men’s breakfast, but what about a group to is willing to go out into our community and help other physically, socially, or even economically? It’s what America needs—a balanced ministry of gospel and social help.
Jesus also teaches us about being properly motivated because it’s a natural question in our minds to ask, “Why should I do all this?” Answers vary: So that our nation will turn into a perfect place to live? So that we can feel good about helping out others? If these are our reasons we will fall flat and get worn out quickly. Jesus’ motivation speech goes much deeper: “Freely you have received; freely give.” If ministry is simply about following instructions, then it will be a burden to you. People will see through it and it will become unproductive. If ministry is about building a perfect neighborhood without any crime, you’ll become quickly disappointed. There is only one way to have properly motivated ministry: “Freely you have received; freely give.”
Compare what Jesus’ sees that we need to what’s wrong in America today. What are your attitudes? Our country is going to hell in a hen basket? We need more Patriotism? That’s not the solution, I would argue that’s the problem! The solution is what St Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am,” (1 Cor 15:10). Why wasn’t I born in a pagan country or 3rd world country? The grace of God. Why am I not a drunk? Why am I not an abusive person? The grace of God. Why do I know Jesus? Why am I not afraid to die? I’m not more upright than any other person. But, I have been freely given the grace of God to make me look like a saint in God’s eyes. Freely given. That is what you are.
So “freely give.” Be motivated by God’s grace to you and share that grace with people, for that is what America needs. Yes, who we elect is important. Our laws are important. The economy is important. But, our focus is not on those things for they are only symptoms of the real problem. America needs real ministry. Go ahead, picture in your mind a country where everyone calls themselves Christians and does compassionate, abundant, balanced and motivated ministry because we all heading to an eternal kingdom which frees everyone to use all they have to serve their neighbor. Imagine a county where people are so influenced by the grace of God that they don’t look down on anyone. What would it be like? It would be the greatest country on earth. It has nothing to do who’s running it, what the laws are, what people have done or are doing. If you want America to be great, then listen to what Jesus feels and thinks America needs. American Needs you. It needs you to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom with compassion and balance. Amen.