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.” —Matthew 9:36–38 (ESV)
Just before today’s devotional text, Matthew’s Gospel summarizes Jesus’ ministry work in this way: “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.” That sounds like a busy schedule! Imagine how many lives Jesus could personally touch over the months and years of his ministry. Many? Yes. A majority? Maybe. Everyone? No. In his humanity, God the Son was not everywhere at once. He appointed 12 disciples and sent them out to minister with Him. He later sent out 72.
In today’s text, Jesus sees the crowds of people and is filled with compassion. Why? They were ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Jesus would be their shepherd. He wanted to lead and guide them. In this context, he says to his disciples that ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few’. In other words, there are so many people ready to come into the kingdom, but too few workers to bring them in. Jesus was not going to do it alone. The twelve wouldn’t either. For this reason, Jesus instructs them—and us—to pray earnestly that the Lord of the harvest would send out laborers into the harvest.
There are billions of people in the world today. The harvest remains plentiful, but the workers are few. First question: are you doing the work of the harvest? Let us work together for the Lord. Second: are you supporting the work of the harvest? Whether volunteering time or donating money and other resources, there are opportunities to further God’s kingdom. And finally, are you praying for more workers? This is the very action Jesus commands us to take.