Defenseless Sheep and Full Fields
Matthew 9:35: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The Good News of the Kingdom
Jesus continues to heal every disease and sickness as He preaches the good NEWS of the Kingdom. The Good News is the gospel. The Greek word is “euaggelion”. It means Gospel, Good news, good tidings; We get the word “Evangelism” from it. What is the message of the Gospel.? Remember what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds and told them to share? Luke 2:10-11: “But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior (“soter”, one who saves from judgment) who is Christ the Lord; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.” Matthew 1:21: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." What is the Good News? The King of Heaven has come to die for the sins of everyone who believes. This is the very essence of the Gospel
The good news of the Kingdom excludes all prejudice. Unlike the people of Jesus’ day, there is not one disease that Jesus wouldn’t touch. We have seen how so many sick people were unclean, untouchable to the rest of society, but Jesus turns nobody away who would come to Him for cleansing and forgiveness.
Jesus sets the precedent for the work of the Kingdom in these verses. There is no PERSON who should be left alone, and there should be no PLACE that will be left alone. The Gospel is to be sent to every place. IT is to be proclaimed in towns (polis), the place where a person lives, but also to villages. “Villages” often referred to the place where the laborers slept at night after working in the field all day. Go to the synagogues: Synagogues were the Jewish places of worship and study of God’s Word, but “Synagogue” also means “bringing together, gathering, as of fruits.” It comes from the word “to gather fish.” Bring the Gospel wherever people gather. If you’re gonna pick fruit, go where the fruit trees are. If you’re gonna go fishing, go to where there are fish. If you’re gonna bring the Gospel, bring it wherever there are people.
Jesus preached the Gospel to people, He didn’t only heal. His purpose was to bring redemption, so that is what we preach too: The Gospel of Salvation in Christ. The Greek word is “kâ-rü's-sô”. It has to be proclaimed, published and announced publicly and with formality and gravity. It’s serious business, this spreading of the Gospel. Jesus comes with the ONLY WAY to have sins forgiven and the ONLY WAY to enter His Eternal Heavenly Kingdom.
The Needs of the Kingdom
Jesus wants again uses contemporary pictures or parables to present His Teachings. He sees the crowds of people who are in need and makes an analogy. Matthew describes People without Christ like Sheep without the Good Shepherd.
1. Sheep without a shepherd are in extreme danger by predators. The word used is Harassed, (“Skullo” in the Greek; you can see the word “skull”. ) It means “to strip off the skin, skinned, flay, to rend, mangle to vex, trouble, to give one's self trouble, trouble one's self”. Sheep without a shepherd are without protection and guidance.
The Old Testament leaders of Israel were ruthless and careless shepherds, not faithful to God as hirelings. Israel had been led into spiritual danger and destruction by them.
2. Sheep without a shepherd, and without THE GOOD Shepherd, are, therefore, Helpless: “Rhipto” (hrip'-to) means “to throw, throw down, to cast forward or before, to set down (with the suggestion of haste and want of care), to throw to the ground, prostrate.” Sheep without a shepherd who will save them will be cast down to death instead of being led to safe and green pastures (Ps. 23).
This was one of the issues that God had with most of His shepherds throughout Israelite history. 1 Kings 22:17: "I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, 'These people have no master." Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos screamed the same thing. So did Zechariah and Ezekiel: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock,” it says in Ezekiel 34:8. Zechariah 10:2: “Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.”
God holds leaders responsible for the way in which they lead. Leaders who lead AWAY from the Good Shepherd alone, will be held accountable. The chief priests and scribes told Herod THIS word from God in Matthew 2:6 from Micah and Ezekiel: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel." We have to point people to the GOOD SHEPHERD when we see them as sheep without a shepherd.
3. Sheep without a shepherd need a fervent heart of COMPASSION (splagchnizomai). They need more than physical healing. Jesus was “moved to the heart” on account of the crowds, not because they needed physical healing, but because they needed spiritual healing. He could have healed any of their bodies from His Heaven. He didn’t have to come to Earth to give them physical health. He had to come to earth so that He, Himself, would die for their sins. They needed “HEART-HEALING”.
God’s own heart was moved with so much compassion that He sent Himself in the form of His Son, to die for us. This was not reactionary, but this was plan from the beginning. In John 3:16 speaks of the eternal predestined plan of God before all time: "For God loved the world so much (from HIS HEART) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him with all their hearts, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
4. Jesus comes as THE Good and Godly Shepherd. Who else but the Shepherd sent from Heaven, itself, would have the special care of His Father’s Sheep? Who else but the Good Shepherd sent from God would give His life for the Father’s Sheep? Matthew 20:28: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
John 10:11-17: "I am the good shepherd ; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 "He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 "He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father ; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold ; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice ; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.”
The Harvest and Workers
With such great love by the Good Shepherd, Jesus explains another need of the Kingdom in the next 2 verses. Matthew 9:37: “Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
Jesus goes from his contemporary image of raising sheep to raising agriculture. Jesus knows the end from the beginning and He knows that God is going to produce a worldwide, plenteous and bountiful harvest. Jesus will not die in vain! He will die for those whom the Father has chosen. All of those whom God has chosen will come to the cross in repentance and humility and reap the abundance of Grace which God would provide in Christ.
The challenge is not in the lack of harvest, but rather in the fact that there are few laborers. How could there NOT BE many who would be willing to LABOR for the LORD? Laborers were primarily agricultural workers who used their hands. It would matter little if God would water the crops and cause a tremendous harvest and then you did not have anybody to go out and harvest the crop! There is a huge, worldwide harvest to be gathered from the harvest of the kingdom, but there are a small number who accept the call and the challenge to LABOR for their LORD.
The last reality is that the harvest belongs to God. The laborers are only hirelings, just as many shepherds were “hired hands”. On Sunday, we are going to look at the astounding verse in Romans 11:36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” The harvest is His, so ask the LORD OF THE HARVEST to send out workers. God does the planning, the calling, the saving, and the hiring, but He ALWAYS does it through His Spirit and His Word. He is no doubt doing that right now: convicting by His Word and Spirit…at this moment. God does everything that we CANNOT do, and in response, we do all that He calls us to do, and we do all that we CAN DO.
OUTLINE: “Defenseless Sheep and Full Fields“
I. The Good News of the Kingdom
A. Is the gospel.
B. Excludes all prejudice.
C. Is to be sent to every place.
D. Must be preached.
II. The needs of the Kingdom:
A. People without Christ are like Sheep without the Good Shepherd.
1. They are Harassed and troubled. (“Skullo”- skinned)
2. They are Helpless.
3. They need a heart of compassion.
4. Jesus comes as THE Good and Godly Shepherd.
B. There is a plenteous harvest with few workers. (and Godly Shepherds)
1. God will produce a worldwide, plenteous and bountiful harvest.
2. There are few workers.
3. The harvest belongs to God.