Summary: Jesus: 1. Saw the crowds. 2. Had compassion. 3. Called to his disciples.
The story goes that Mark Twain loved to go fishing, but he hated to catch fish. The problem was he went fishing to relax, and catching fish ruined his relaxation, since he had to take the fish off the hook and do something with it. When he wanted to relax by doing nothing, people thought he was lazy, but if he went fishing he could relax all he wanted. People would see him sitting by the river bank and they would say, “Look, he’s fishing, don’t bother him.” So Mark Twain had the perfect solution: he would take a fishing pole, line, and a bobber, but he wouldn’t put a hook on the end. He would cast the bobber in the water and lay back on the bank. That way he could relax all he wanted and he would be bothered neither by man nor fish.
Mark Twain is like a lot of Christians I know. They have their pole in the water, but there is no hook on the end. They are not fishing; they are relaxing. Do you think this is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”? (Matthew 4:19). There have been so many people come to our church because they say, “We are here because this is a church that is reaching out to the community.” They want to be identified with a church that is serious about making a difference for the kingdom in the community where they live, but they never become a part of any of the ministries of the church. They don’t become a part of the outreach ministries personally. They have a bobber floating on the water, but they have no hook.
Jesus said, “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 9:37-38). If it was true then, it is true now. So often we are just glad that we are safe that we forget that there are others in danger who need us to become those who reach out. George E. Sweazy warned, “The law of any church is, and always will be, evangelize or fossilize.” The Bible puts it this way, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
I want to divide the scripture we have read today into the three “he” statements: 1) He saw the crowds. 2) He had compassion. 3) He called to his disciples. I believe that if we follow the example of Jesus by truly seeing the crowds and having compassion, it will solve the problem of needing workers in the harvest field.
The first thing Jesus did was: He saw the crowds. When you really see the needs of people, you will want to help them, if you are a person who has been born from above. You can’t help it. The Bible says that Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching and preaching about the good news of the kingdom, and healing. He became overwhelmed with human need. He saw the people and their problems because he went where they were and allowed them to crowd around him. This is not a god who sits on a golden throne above the clouds and goes, “tsk, tsk.” No, this is the God who comes to us in order to put his face in our face. He sees because he is here. Someone can tell you about the needs of people here in Mount Vernon, but until you begin to put your face in the face of a person who is in need, you will not see the reality that is all around you. You have to go to where people are. You have to rub shoulders with them, smell their sweat, cry with them and wipe their tears, feel their frustration and experience their feelings of helplessness. You can’t “see the crowds” until you have interacted with the people who make up the crowds.
There is a moving scene in the movie Dr. Zhivago where the Comrade General is talking with Tanya about a traumatic experience in her childhood. He asks her, “How did you come to be lost?” She replies, “Well, I was just lost.” But he persists and asks again, “No, how did you come to be lost?” Tanya doesn’t want to say, but finally gives another cursory explanation: “I was just lost. My father and I were running through the city and it was on fire. The revolution had come and we were trying to escape and I was lost.” The Comrade General kept pressing: “How did you come to be lost?” She still didn’t want to say, but finally blurted out: “We were running through the city and my father let go of my hand and I was lost.” Then she added plaintively, “He let go.” This is what she didn’t want to say. The Comrade General said, “This is what I’ve been trying to tell you, Tanya. Komarov was not your real father. Zhivago is your real father and I can promise you, Tanya, that if this man had been there, your real father, he would never have let go of your hand.”