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. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 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.” And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Today we begin
A blessed Fathers’ Day to all of our Dads. We thank the Lord for all Fathers who reflect the love of our Heavenly Father. We thank the Lord for our own dads, for giving us life and being there for us. We even thank the Lord for some dads who weren’t that good at being dads, and with Jesus’ forgiveness, thank Him anyhow. We will have a prayer for all of our dads a bit later in the service.
Now, to our text.
Compassion. It’s a compound word that literally means, “to suffer with.” In the Greek it means to “have the bowels yearn”, as the bowels were thought to be the seat of emotion in ancient times. And it is what Jesus had for these people.
The Prophet Isaiah records these words about the Messianic Age:
They were sheep without a shepherd. And Jesus has compassion on them because He is a Shepherd; the Good Shepherd. And His sole mission was to come to seek and to save the lost sheep of the House of Israel.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.
This is exactly what we see Jesus doing in the Ninth Chapter of Matthew leading up to our text. He heals a paralytic. He calls Matthew, the Tax Collector to be a disciple. He raises Jairus’ daughter from death. He restores sight to two blind men. He opens the mouth of a mute man. He combats the Pharisees’ charge that He “casts out demons by the prince of demons.” He goes throughout all the cities and villages and taught in their synagogues proclaiming the Gospel and healing every disease and every affliction. All of these things show clearly that the Messianic age had dawned on earth. The promise to Eve is fulfilled; Her seed has now come to crush the head of the devil for us.
Jesus had compassion upon them because they really were lost; lost in the Biblical sense of the Word. Unsaved, no hope, no heaven.
Now Jesus sees the crowd He has compassion on them. The English meaning of that compound word means to “suffer with”. In Greek it means to feel sympathy or pity. What Jesus sees moves Him to take action. Comparing them to sheep, He sees them to be harassed and helpless.
Just as the Father sought out Adam and Eve after their disobedience, this Good Shepherd, through His compassion for them, comes precisely to them to bestow His grace. To save them. They once were lost, but now, as Jesus comes to them, they now are found.
THIS is the harvest of which our Lord speaks. Those without a Shepherd
Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” And these lost sheep are the harvest.
So are you.
Left to our own devices we could never change our condition. When you are lost, you walk in circles— like a kid in a store that gets separated from his mother, or a Scout deep in the woods who is separated from his patrol. The more one moves, the more lost he becomes.
We are like that spiritually. Sin has separated us from God. And so we wander aimlessly away from Him. The more we wander, the deeper into the forest of sin and death we go. There comes a time when we give up on hope. Deeper and deeper into sin we go. If only we could find the way out.
God tells us you cannot find your way out. Despair sets in. The woods get deeper.
You see yourself as lost. But Jesus sees you as a part of the Harvest. He has compassion on you. He comes to you. Imagine being lost in the woods and seeing someone standing there who knew you were there, who knew you were lost. And He gives you His hand and rescues you.
That’s what Salvation is. A rescue. Jesus comes after you. Hunts you down. and saves you.
It’s a big harvest. The woods of sin and death encompass the world. But those who are out there, Jesus’ rescue team, the workers in the harvest are few.
So Jesus does two things. First, He tells the people to “Ask the Lord of the harvest… to send out workers into His harvest field.” Pray that the Lord would expand those who are called by Jesus to seek and to save the lost.
Second, He calls His disciples. Hard men, tough men, uneducated men, but men whom He had found wandering in the woods of the world, who knew that their only salvation was in Him. The very First workers in the Harvest Field.
Jesus doesn’t just call them. He gives them authority.
There is a difference between power and authority. Power, in the illicit sense, is something that people take upon themselves. Terrorists have power. But they don’t have authority. Authority must be given to you from someone who has more authority than you. It implies responsibility. It demands accountability. A police officer does not work with power. He works with authority, given to him by the Police Department, which, in turn is responsible to the government, which is responsible ultimately to God.
Jesus gives authority to the disciples. They are working under Him. They are doing His bidding, His teaching, His cleansing. They go forth with His power, not their own. Their charge: Drive out demons and heal every disease and sickness. No one but God can do these things. But Jesus gives them the ability to work on God’s behalf to bring in the harvest.
He tells them:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.
At this point, Jesus’ sole focus is on the Sheep of the House of Israel. That circle will expand after His resurrection and right before His ascension when He commands them to “make disciples of all nations.” But for now, stay away from the Gentiles. And then do the works of God among them that they may no longer be lost.
All this to seek and to save the lost. They now bear Jesus to the world. They go into the woods where the lost are encamped, and with Jesus’ own words, they save them by leading them to their Shepherd that they never knew they had.
God still answers the prayer that He send forth workers into His harvest field. He gives us the Holy Ministry. Pastors who are called to go into the woods where there are the lost and bring them in. Pastors who are called by God to do what no man can do and proclaim sinners forgiven for Christ’s sake.
Of the Good Shepherd they are to proclaim His Saving Gospel:
“What punishment so strange is suffered yonder! The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander; The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him, who would not know Him.”
Pastors who are called, as Peter was, after He had denied Jesus, to “feed my sheep”
To His Disciples, and to the Church He declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, as you Go, make disciples of all nations....” He passes on that authority to you and me. And along with that authority comes the very power of God. The Holy Spirit takes your words, your actions, your love for others and turns these into means of salvation, for the Spirit dwells in His Word that we speak.
These disciples would be nomads, even as Jesus was. They would go from town to town seeking and saving the lost. They relied on the hospitality of others. They had no money, so Inns were out. Those who received the word welcomed them. “Let your peace come upon the house that is worthy.” But if those in a city resisted the word of God spoken by the disciples, Jesus speaks harsh words:
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Rejecting this Heavenly Word spoken by earthly men would cause eternal damnation. One begins to see the power of the Word here. It is scary. How could the Lord give such authority to the Church?
By backing it up with His blood. This is not some movement, some new teaching. This is the bought and paid for salvation of all of the lost sheep— Israel and otherwise— you and me— the very power of God unto salvation for all who believe.
Finally in our text, Jesus informs the disciples that there will be a lot of door slamming going on. There will be persecution:
Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Before they would die, they would all understand this perfectly. Every last one of the disciples, except John, were martyred because they knocked on doors. Every last one of them were persecuted mercilessly for their confession of Jesus. Surely, if they were not called and sent by Jesus, with His authority, they wouldn’t have chosen this life. But they heeded the Lord’s call.
Jesus gives them tremendous hope. For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus gives us that very same hope. As Martin Luther penned for us, “take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won. The Kingdom ours remaineth.”
So pray that the Lord continues to send out laborers into the harvest field. For those who are younger, consider becoming a Lutheran pastor or teacher or missionary or entering into some form of Church Work. A lot of people are still lost in the woods of sin and death.
And if you can’t, continue to pray for the Harvest. Step up your giving, “With your tithes and with your bounties you can do what God demands, you can be like faithful Aaron, holding up the Prophets hands.
And then, as Peter declares, “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”