“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.” (Matt 9:35-38)
This is one of those “vision” passages that have captured my imagination for quite some time. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was in college and it motivated me to action. As I have grown up in my faith a bit this passage has become that much more powerful in my life.
Jesus is said to have “compassion” for a people who were “harassed and helpless”. This compassion is the sick feeling in your stomach when you know that there is something wrong and you have to do something about it. This is what Jesus felt when he saw these people. He saw that they were helpless. They could not fix what was wrong in their worlds.
What could have been so wrong that they could not possibly fix it themselves? Very simply, they were separated from God the Father, the Lord. Jesus’ heartbreak for these people was because of their separation from his father. He knew that this could be fixed if the message of “repent and believe” would be preached all over the world.
What does Jesus do? He challenges his disciples, those closest to him, physically and relationally, to pray that the Lord would send laborers into his harvest. It is a harvest that is plentiful and assured, it simply needs laborers to bring it in.
What I find most encouraging is that immediately following this command to pray Jesus brings about an answer to this prayer. He sets aside the twelve and sends them out.
He sends them out.
The apostles were sent.
Jesus commands the disciples to pray for laborers and then looks at them and says, “You are the laborers that are to be sent. GO!”
The Antioch Movement is a sending community seeking those far from God.
We are a sent people. We must join the long history of being the answer to this prayer. We pray that God will bring about revival, multiplication, a movement. We are the answer to that prayer.