Matthew 9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming 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. 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.”
When we visited Wales and Scotland, we saw far more sheep in the fields and on the hillsides than we had seen in our whole lives. These sheep were well cared for. Fencing, shepherds and sheepdogs were quite effective at preventing them from wandering off the property and becoming lost sheep.
But the photos below, from the UK, show what happens when a sheep does wander off the range. So helpless! Strong shepherding hands come to the rescue! I can understand a few sheep escaping through a whole in their fence in the left photo, but don’t ask me how that sheep at the right managed to get stranded on top of a roof! But isn’t that sheep a lot like us when we mess up? We think, “I know I slipped through God’s fence, but how did I ever end up in this position?!”
Often, when today’s Harvest Field passage of scripture is taught, you only hear about the last two verses. There’s a danger in doing this, though. The last 2 verses used alone can be used to put you on a guilt trip. It goes something like this : “If you don’t tell them about Jesus, their blood is on your hands !” Then the person I talk to becomes more of an object to assuage my guilt than someone I deeply love and care for.
That is why I would suggest looking at all 4 of these verses together. Jesus had it in the right order. He saw the disease, saw the sickness, saw how messed up people were. Seeing all this struggle and need, then Jesus calls “Please! I need people to help these poor souls.”
Jesus is not proclaiming only the good news of once saved always saved, but the good news of entering God’s kingdom. What a heart Jesus had for these people, and he invites us to share the same heart.
These people really are like sheep without a shepherd. So, the good news of the kingdom must include care for them, not only in eternity but now, too. In the Lord’s prayer, we are praying that the Kingdom comes on earth just as it is in heaven.
Jesus does rescue our soul for eternity but he radically impacts our day to day life for the rest of our lives on earth. Isn’t that what the whole good news of the kingdom really means for us and for those we want to invite in?