Pity the Sheperdless Sheep

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It’s one things to say, God use me. It’s another thing altogether to say, “Lord, I will labor for you in this great harvest of souls.”
Keep that on your mind as we work through our passage.
Look with me at...
Matthew 9:35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
The three points I’m going to give you are more like guideposts to help you navigate the passage. I trust that by doing this, the Holy Spirit will speak to you, convict you, and burden you the way He sees fit.
The first guidepost we see is...
The scope of the mission
In Matthew 4 we saw something very similar just before the sermon on the mount was given.
Matthew 4:23-24 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them.
Matthew records this at the beginning of the sermon. Now, after Jesus has displayed His Kingdom authority by healing and changing the lives of individuals, he’s about to send out his Disciples as Apostles for the very first time.
Do you see the scope?
Look again...
Cities, villages, synagogues...
Teaching, proclaiming, and healing every disease and affliction he comes in contact with.
Cities and villages would be the places were people sleep and where they work. The busy centers, and the quiet dwellings. Jesus went throughout many, and as he went, one things we know He did, was proclaim.
This is a herald, someone bringing an open proclamation. And in this case, it was the Gospel, the GOOD NEWS of the Kingdom.
There’s a time to herald the news. There are times when you and I are just supposed to tell the news that Jesus is King, that he came, and does, and rose again to conquer sin, death, and satan, and leave there because it’s just good news. There’s no need to carry this message with doubt and fear, but with boldness and confidence.
Because the scope of the mission is broad, the message must go out by means of preaching, and proclaiming, both from the Pulpit, and as we go.
Jesus taught in the synagogues. The scope of this mission is not so broad that it denies the intimate setting of gathering together. Jesus was not opposed to the synagogue. He wasn’t trying to shut down organized religion. He would pass from city to village, and when there was a synagogue, he would enter in and teach.
The word Synagogue means “to gather in, and assemble.” Buildings are not necessary in order to gather and assemble for worship, but they sure are helpful. God instructed Isreal to make buildings, tents, structures, and temples that would associate with gathering, worship, and fellowship. The Jewish Synagogue was a place of fellowship, and worship, and the reading and teaching of the Word of God. What better place to bring the news of the Kingdom of God, than to those places who should have been most ready to receive it.
The Gospel is needed out there. The Gospel is needed in here. The scope of Christ’s mission included both.
Does your life include both?
Don’t let the scope of your mission be limited to one or the other.
We should be open to opportunities, even seeking them out at times, to proclaim the news of the Kingdom to others.
And when we gather together, whether this building or another, we come gladly, expectantly, joyfully wanting to hear the teaching of the Word of God, and be reminded of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
For Jesus, this included healing every disease and affliction along the way. But you we need to keep in mind that times of condensed sings and wonders always accompanied a new work of God. We should not expect that our ministry will look exactly like his. God does still heal, and desires us to pray for that healing with faith, but the great mission of the church is not to physically heal the nations, it’s to make bring the gospel to the nations as we make new disciples of Christ.
The scope of the Kingdom mission is broad.
But there must be the right motivation for the mission. Matthew tells us what Christ’s motivation was and is in Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd
2. The motivation of the mission
Are you naturally a compassionate person?
Are you selectively compassionate?
When one of your children get hurt due to some unforeseen circumstance, can you go to them, pity them, and give them what they need in the moment?
Now, what if they got hurt, but it was while doing something that you have instructed them not to do a thousand times…literally, ONE THOUSAND TIMES…how us your compassion level in that moment? I’m sure we’re all a little different.
Notice what the text says...
He saw the crowds.
It begins there. We have to open our eyes. If we don’t seem them, we will not have compassion on them. It’s interesting that there can exist a people who have been rescued by grace, that can have so little interest in the rescue of others.
Fear, lack of preparation, or knowledge, and so many other excuses keep us from speaking, but what about seeing the crowds the way Jesus does? This is a unique glimpse into the heart of Jesus. Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, sees lost sinners as sheep without a shepherd.
And this led to His compassion. So we need to tease that out a little. What did he mean that they were like harassed and helpless sheep without a shepherd?
Just think about a time when you’ve witnessed group of people, a family, or children, or a part of our culture and society that is fearful, oppressed, enslaved, and desperate for freedom…there are two things that should come to mind.
1. How can I help them?
2. Who’s leading them?
The Jews in Jesus’s time were not without leaders and guides. The problem was that their leaders and guides were leading them in ways that oppressed them, and could never help them.
Listen to Matthew Henry’s comment on this section… “A basic understanding of first-century Judaism bears this out. The leading council of the Jewish people, the Sanhedrin, consisted of men from two leading Jewish parties who were not sheltering the people from error or feeding them healthy food. One party, the Sadducees, advocated compromise with the Roman Empire, not encouraging the biblical hope for God's deliverance that the prophets taught. The other party, the Pharisees, added to Scripture, focusing on unhealthy, man-made traditions over the life-giving food of the Word of God. Without proper guidance and care, the sheep were malnourished and lost, and the only solution was for Jesus to lead them and feed them.” Matthew Henry
Sheep without a shepherd are people in need of truth and hope that comes from Christ and His Word. If you are without the good guidance and truth of Christ right now, then you are not sheltered from the storm, you are wandering, helpless, and harassed by whatever system of thinking is guiding you.
Before a Christian is a Christian, they are a lost sheep. Thanks be to God he has compassion on us, comes for us, a brings us into His fold.
Couple things to consider about Jesus’s compassion.
1. Jesus was not just feeling bad for them.
We’ve all felt bad for people in their situation, but this word for compassion is not found in classical Greek language. Apparently there was nothing suitable in their language to describe what they saw Jesus doing, so they made one up and it is now strongest word for pity in the Greek language. It’s a pity that moves a person to the deepest depths of their being.
Let’s not try to make this up. Rather, let’s seek the Lord for this, to have the mind of Christ, and if you lack compassion for the lost, ask God to give you this kind of compassion.
Look at a few of the other places this word appears...
The Feeding of the 4000
Matthew 15:32 “Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
The Cleansing of the leper
Mark 1:41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”
When Jesus raises the Widow’s son
Luke 7:13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
And lastly, the parable of the disobedient son
Luke 15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Without this compassion, brothers and sisters, there is no salvation from sin. There is no help for us. There is no redemption or restoration. But Jesus sees, and like children of Israel who’s cries were heard from their slavery in Egypt, our Redeemer came for us, atoned for us, brought us through the red sea where our enemies were drowned.
The scope of the mission is vast and various. The motivation for this mission is the compassion of Jesus for lost sheep, and finally we need to consider
3. The laborers for the mission
Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
After seeing the crowds, and pitying them, who does he turn to?
His disciples… If you are a disciple of Jesus, then you are a co-laborer with Him.
Jesus sheds light on a problem that seems to be what every generation has experiences or felt since this time...
Lot’s of work to do, and few laborers to do it.
For them, it was very clear. Jesus was looking at 12 men and giving them a vision for the future, that for the harvest of souls to be brought it, it’s going to take a movement, not just 12 men in Galilee. It’s going to take laborers everywhere, men, women, children, young and old - from all over the world, but not in their own strength.
Jesus told them to pray - but did not do it in a way that left them without hope. Did you see it? There’s a guarantee of a harvest that includes all of God’s sheep, where none will be lost.
John 6:39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
How comforting that there is a Lord of the Harvest. Jesus is saying, you are my laborers. I’m sending you out. Pray earnestly for more laborers because the harvest is ripe, and the scope of the mission is vast, and there are still sheep without a shepherd.
But we do not pray without hope…because He is the sovereign Lord of the Harvest.
Let me leave you with this…I want us to leave thinking about the goodness of the shepherd.
Ezekiel 34:11-16 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
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