Sheep Without a Shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38)

2016-week-37This week’s devotional was written by Ethan Thomas. Ethan is a graduate from Crossroads Bible College, where he received a B.S. in Biblical Counseling and a B.S. in Management & Ethics. He is happily married to his wife, Grace. He currently leads worship and is actively involved in other ministries at Tri-County Bible Church in Rensselaer, Indiana.

This past June, my wife and I had the opportunity to go to Indonesia. Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and home to the world’s largest Muslim population. One evening, we had supper overlooking the city of Luwuk. The missionary with us said that out of all the people in the city of Luwuk (80,000), roughly one to two hundred are believers. We were looking at a city spiritually lost and without hope. It was overwhelming to see so many people and to think of them never hearing the gospel or not believing it.

Matthew 9:35-38 really summarizes what we felt that night in Indonesia. The Word of the Lord says, “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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for 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 laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” [1]

This passage of scripture sets up what some people view as Jesus’ second major ‘sermon’ in the book of Matthew (chapter 10). The focus of this ‘sermon’ is on missions. Verse 35 gives the backdrop that leads up to this teaching.  Everywhere Jesus went there were people who desperately needed a Savior. As Jesus traveled throughout the country, His disciples were with Him, observing and listening to all that He taught. Verse 36 illustrates how much of a need there is for the gospel. Depending on your Bible translation, the people in verse 36 are described as helpless, troubled, weary, and sheep without a shepherd. They are spiritually lost. The same can be said of anyone who has not placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

Verses 37 and 38 illustrate the need for believers to share the gospel and make disciples. Warren Wiersbe comments on these verses by saying, “He (Jesus) requested that His disciples pray that God would provide the needed workers. It was not long before the disciples themselves were involved in the ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing (see Matt. 10). In the same way, when we pray as He commanded, we will see what He saw, feel what He felt, and do what He did.[2]” God changes our hearts as we faithfully pray, seeking to adhere to His will for our lives.

We have a tendency to read theses verses in the context of praying for other people to be sent and not ourselves. The Great Commission is a command to EVERY believer to share the gospel and be the light of Jesus wherever they are. In the book Radical, David Platt states, “We have taken this command and reduced it to a calling – something only a few people receive (72-73).” If we pray to be used and sent by God, it can drastically change our lives. For our focus will not be fixed on earthly things but on eternal things. Jesus Christ has already completed and finished the work. It is up to us to share the gospel.

Reflection Questions:

  • Are you praying for opportunities to share the gospel where you are?
  • Have you been praying earnestly for laborers to be sent out into the harvest?
  • When was the last time you spoke to someone with the purpose of bringing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?
  • When was the last time you contributed to the development of another person’s spiritual maturity by participating in an act of discipleship?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 9:35–38.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), Mt 9:35–38.

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