Summary: June 16, 2002 -- FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST -- Proper 6 Matthew 9:35--10:8 Color: Green Title: “Becoming psychically conscious of our state of surrender is a life-long challenge, a life-long discipline.”
June 16, 2002 -- FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST -- Proper 6
Title: “Becoming psychically conscious of our state of surrender is a life-long challenge, a life-long discipline.”
The Harvest Is Great, the Laborers Few
35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
The Twelve Apostles10 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. The Mission of the Twelve 5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ’The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
In a major speech to his disciples Jesus prepares them to participate in his own mission, giving them his own power to preach, to heal and to exorcise.
In chapters five to seven, Matthew has mainly presented Jesus as a preacher and teacher of the kingdom, as a Messiah of the word. In chapter eight to nine, he primarily presents him as a healer and exorcist, a Messiah of the deed. After recognizing the great need people have for both message and miracle and the need for additional help to meet this need in chapter nine verses thirty-five to thirty-eight, Jesus delivers a discourse in chapter ten, on the proper missionary behavior and attitudes before sending out “the twelve apostles” to do in his name, that is, to preach and to heal and exorcise, he reserves “teaching” for after the resurrection, what he himself does in his Father’s name. Jesus shares the authority given him by his Father with his disciples.
Side bar, Most of the material found in chapter ten, except for vv. 5-8, 16b, and 40-41, is found also in Mark and or Luke but in different contexts.
Jesus emphasizes the sense of urgency missionaries are to have and the tolerance for suffering, deprivation and even persecution.
Verses thirty-five to thirty-eight provide both a summary of chapters five to nine and an introduction to chapter ten.
In verse thirty-six, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In the Old Testament the only motivation for what God does what he does, did what he did, for his people and all people was his mercy. In other words, that is just the way God is. Here Matthew records the same motivation prompted Jesus’ behavior. The word used here, Greek esplagchniste, literally means “had a gut reaction.” It comes from the Greek word for “bowels, guts, entrails.” It was used metaphorically, if not graphically, to express the emotion of pity or sympathy. However, in the New Testament it is used either only of Jesus himself or by Jesus in three parables- Matthew 18: 27; Luke 10: 33; 15: 20- as a vivid synonym for “mercy.” As such, it is God’s kind of mercy, not just feeling but a preliminary motivation for action to soon follow. Thus, while it describes a human emotion, it refers to much more, namely, a divine trait. The word, then, for all its emotional freight, refers not to human pity so much as divine compassion for troubled people.
Because they were harassed and helpless: Coupled with “the crowds,” these descriptions capture the human condition as Jesus would see and summarize it. True, Jesus performed healings and exorcisms on individuals, but he also took a global view of the human condition. It moved him inwardly to act outwardly, to make a difference. The imagery here is that of shepherdless sheep wounded and torn either by hostile animals or by natural obstacles, like thornbushes.
Like sheep without a shepherd: This is an expression from the Old Testament to describe the people of God Number 27: 17; 1Kings 22: 17; 2Chron. 18: 16; Ezek. 34:5 Zech. 10: 2, especially when they lacked proper political or spiritual leadership. It is a particularly apt metaphor, for sheep are really defenseless animals. Without a shepherd they are vulnerable to attack. Even absent predators, who may be hirelings, bad shepherds, they are not good foragers. They need a shepherd to lead them to green pastures and beside still waters Psalm 23. Goats manage very well on their own, but not sheep. This shepherdless sheep or sheep with an unscrupulous shepherd are in great danger and lack any resources to escape from it. When applied to people the imagery says that they need a savior.