Friday, April 17, 2009
Matthew 9:35 “THE GREAT COMMISSION”
35 Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their • synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
When we think of the great commission we think usually about those commanding words of the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel, those words that reach the pinnacle of the message of Easter Sunday;
Matthew 28:16 The 11 disciples travelled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
“All authority!” It is because He is Lord, and He is risen from the dead to prove He is Lord, that He has all authority to command you and me and the church as a whole.
The Authority of Jesus Establishes the Priority of the Church. Jesus has authority over the church. depends upon the decisions and actions of each specific congregation.
The Authority of Jesus Provides the Ability of the Church. power by which a church can function as a church. Human strength, abilities, and resources alone cannot sustain the work of the church. Is the church charting its course in response to institutional principles of success, suggestions for good public relations, or data devised to assure popularity? How much does the church depend upon God?
The Authority of Jesus Shapes the Identity of the Church. “they worshiped him, but some doubted.” sheer humanity of the people Jesus chose to do his work. strugglers, doubters, and failures in the crowd. But Jesus was not put off by this reality. Weaknesses, mistakes, and even sins were rejected as disqualifications for ministry. The identity of people on mission is shaped by the authority of Jesus.
The Authority of Jesus Demands Activity by the Church. God calls the church to be a people on mission. Not just a people, but a people on mission. Obedience to “The Great Commission” is not an option for people earnestly desiring to live and function as a church. The authority of Jesus shapes the very identity of the church, even its priorities, power, and ministry.
Brothers, we are not journey guides, self-help gurus, positive thinkers, entertainers, comedians, or liberal or conservative commentators, parroting the wisdom of the world. We are gospel preachers, Jesus-intoxicated heralds! Any theology that does not compel you to plead with men to be reconciled with God is a theology not worth having. Any preaching that does expect the living and powerful Word of God to produce results and usher in conversions is preaching that should be retired to the graveyard where it rightfully belongs. Missions is not a ministry of the church, it is at the heart of the church’s identity and essence. The local church is to be ground zero for the missio dei. Here is the “spiritual outpost” for the invasion of enemy territory as we reclaim lost ground for its rightful owner King Jesus. –Daniel Akin President of SEBTS April 15th 2009.
But how do we get the motivation to do what He has commanded us!
The Authority of Jesus Establishes the Priority of the Church and Demands Activity by the Church. But where is the motivation to come from?
A group of senior citizens was sitting around talking about their ailments.
"My arms are so weak I can hardly hold this cup of coffee," said one.
"Yes, I know. My cataracts are so bad I can't even see my coffee," replied another.
"It has gotten to where I cannot hear anything anymore," said one in the loudest voice of the group.
"I can't turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck," said a fourth, to which several nodded weakly in agreement. "My blood pressure pills make me dizzy," claimed another. Finally one man summed it up for the group: "I guess that's the price we pay for getting old. But thank the Lord we can all still drive!"
It all has to do with motivation doesn’t it?
The Compassion of Jesus Motivates Us Over The Slowness Of the Heart
For many months, everywhere Jesus went, He was followed by large crowds. If He got in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee, they would either follow in other boats or run around the shore and meet Him on the other side. They followed Him from town to town and even house to house. Jesus, rather than becoming angry with them saw their real needs. Their needs went way beyond a crippled body, blind eyes, deaf ears, and paralysis. He saw that as a result of their sin, they were spiritually blind and had spirits that were dead to God. The text says that He was moved with compassion for them. This Greek word translated “compassion” is a strong word. It is actually from the word for intestines or bowels. When this word is used figuratively (as it is here), it refers to the seat of strong emotions. We usually use the heart as the seat of our emotions, but the Jews centred the emotions in the stomach. As you know, intense emotions affect our stomach and intestinal tract. When we are emotionally torn up, we can’t eat and our stomach churns. We say, “This thing just ripped my guts out”. That was where the word for compassion came from. We know that emotional distress over time can cause or certainly make worse things like ulcers and colitis. We also see His compassion in Matthew 14:14 (NKJV) “And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.” Throughout the history of Christianity, we see that those who were greatly used by God were men and women of deep compassion. We see the compassion of the Apostle Paul in his gut wrenching words about his fellow Jews who had rejected their Messiah. Romans 9:1-3 (NKJV) “1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh”. Again he says in Romans 10:1 (NKJV) “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” The great British Pastor of London of the 1870’s Charles Spurgeon was deeply motivated with this same compassion as he worked with hurting and lost people. “I long for your salvation most vehemently. I would say anything and say it any way, if I could but win you to immediate faith in the Lord Jesus. The desire is so strong upon me that should I not succeed on this occasion, I will try again. And if, unhappily, I should fail again, I will continue at the work as long as you live and I am able to reach you. I will go before God in secret, lay your case before Him, and beg Him to interpose. We cannot let you be damned! It is dreadful. We cannot stand by and see you lost”. On another occasion he said, “Love your fellowmen, and cry about them if you cannot bring them to Christ. If you cannot save them, you can weep over them. If you cannot give them a drop of cold water in hell, you can give them your hearts tears while they are still in this body”. This compassion that characterized our Lord and all of His servants mightily used by Him is unique to Christianity. Hinduism as a religious system knows nothing of true heart felt compassion. The caste system prevents anyone from even touching someone of another caste. Because of their belief in karma and reincarnation, helping the sick and dying only delays the process of endless reincarnations. Islam has a history and lots of current examples of atrocities to other Muslims as well as infidels. Good deeds in Buddhism are not out of compassion, but to increase ones own chances to move up in the next life after their reincarnation.
The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said, “We may force our Lord to punish us, but we will never have to force Him to love us”. His love and compassion toward us is the only explanation for the cross and the suffering of Christ in our place. If this compassionate Christ dwells in you, your life will reflect that same type of compassion. 1 Peter 3:8-9 (NKJV) “8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”
The Compassion of Jesus Motivates Us over the State Of The Hordes
What did Jesus see as He looked at the multitudes that dogged Him everywhere he went? Did He see a bunch of self-centred people who were just following Him for the personal benefits they might receive? Well, He certainly knew what was in the heart of men. Did He see them as a bother and a drain on His time? No, He saw down deep to their real need. They were weary and scattered like sheep with no shepherd. Let’s look at some key words and phrases here.
* “weary” – This word means to be harassed or distressed. It is the idea of being mangled by wild beasts (A. T. Robertson). Other translations translate it distressed or harassed.
* “scattered” – This word has the idea of being thrown down prostrate and utterly helpless. Other translations say downcast, helpless, worn out, and fainting.
* “like sheep having no shepherd” – The shepherds (religious leaders) sought their own power and did not care for the people. The shepherds who should have been leading them beside the still waters, making them lie down in green pastures, and leading them in the paths of righteousness were neglecting them, using them, putting heavy loads of legalism on them, and scattering them. The failure of religious leaders is often pictured in the Old Testament as shepherds who are not leading the sheep. An example would be Ezekiel 34:2-4 (NKJV) 2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.’”
Matthew 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicksunder her wings, yet you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Luke 19: 41 As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
The Compassion of Jesus Motivates Us Over The Situation with the Harvest (V37)
Over the years, I have changed my view as to what is meant by the harvest. The traditional interpretation is that it the mass of lost people that need to be “harvested with the presentation of the gospel”. That could be, but as I look at the context and compare Scripture with Scripture, I believe that the harvest is the judgment that is surely coming. The picture of the judgment as a harvest is an oft used one in the Old Testament. Here are just a few examples: Isaiah 17:10-11 (NKJV) “10 Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, And have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, Therefore you will plant pleasant plants And set out foreign seedlings; 11 In the day you will make your plant to grow, And in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; But the harvest will be a heap of ruins In the day of grief and desperate sorrow.” Joel 3:12-14 is speaking of the judgment of God and we read in Joel 3:12-14 (NKJV) 12 "Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. 13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow-- For their wickedness is great." 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” We see this analogy continued into the New Testament. In the parable of the wheat and tares Jesus said in Matthew 13:30 (NKJV) “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" When Jesus later explains that parable, He clearly says that it is referring to judgment (v40-43). We see the analogy of the harvest as judgment in Revelation 14:14-16 (NKJV) “14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." 16 So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.” The context here is clearly the judgment of God. When Jesus said that the harvest was great, He was referring to the great number headed for a final irrevocable judgment. While we realize that God is sovereign in salvation, He has chosen the means of our sharing the gospel (which is the power f God unto salvation according to Romans 1:16) as the means of people being saved and escaping from judgment. We are not emotionless bystanders. We are to be passionate about those headed for the harvest, the judgment. We are to be consumed with getting the gospel to them. Again, to quote Spurgeon, who certainly believed that God was the One who did the saving in His sovereignty, saw that we are to be filled with passion and compassion for the lost. He said, “If sinners will be [condemned], at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for” [Quote Book P67]. We don’t coldly present the gospel just out of obedience and then check that off of our list. There is a heart filled with compassion that sees an awful harvest of judgment coming and the horrors of hell serve to intensify our compassion. Yes, our highest motive in sharing the gospel is the glory of God, but it is not without compassion on those who are lost.
I love what Adrian Rogers once said, Life is too short. Eternity is too long. Souls are too precious. The gospel is too wonderful For us to sleep through it all.
I love Amy Carmichael’s parable of the daisy chains.
The tom-toms thumped straight on all night, and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this:
That I stood on a grassy patch, and at my feet a ravine broke straight down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.
Then I saw forms of people moving toward the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very edge. She lifted her foot for the next step... Then, to my horror, I saw that she was blind. Before I could say anything she was over, and the children with her. Their cries pierced the air as they fell into the inky blackness of the ravine!
Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all walked straight toward the edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.
Then I wondered, with a wonder that was sheer agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I couldn't even yell; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come out.
Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals.
But the intervals were too large; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the ravine yawned like the mouth of hell.
Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees with their backs turned towards the ravine. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it was a rather crude noise. And if one of their group started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. "Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! You haven't finished your daisy chain yet. It would be really selfish," they said, "to leave us to finish the work alone."
There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries for miles and miles along the edge.
Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called, and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls. Once a child grabbed at a tuft of grass that grew at the very edge of the ravine; it clung convulsively, and it called - but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which her friends reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; "The gap would be well taken care of!", they said. And then they sang a hymn.
Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew that it was "The Cry of the Blood".
Then a voice thundered. It was the voice of the Lord, and He said, "What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground."
The tom-toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shuddered and shivered about me; I heard the yells of the devil-dancers and weird, wild shrieks of the devil-possessed just outside the gate.
What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it? God forgive us!
God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!
The Compassion of Jesus Motivates Us Over The Solution For The Harvest (V38)
The workers are those who know the Saviour who are commanded to go into the highways and hedges and among the weary scattered sheep and see people escape from the judgment to come. Notice the characteristic of the kind of workers that we are to pray for. They are not self appointed, but sent out by the Lord. “Sent out” is better translated “thrust out”. It is a compelling call. This ought to be one of the main focuses of our prayer. Pray that God would thrust out workers into the fields before the final harvest of judgment comes. This is not just a prayer for missionaries and Pastors though it includes them. This is that God would thrust out the whole church into the fields where a harvest is coming.
Will you pray?
When Hudson Taylor arrived in Shanghai, China, in 1854, the city was under attack from rebels. The Chinese regarded Westerners as "foreign devils" and did not allow them into the interior of the country. Taylor had failed to finish medical training, knew no Chinese and was the first missionary in a new, non-denominational society. Undeterred, he studied the language and culture and defied the government by taking the gospel inland. He also adopted Chinese dress and customs so more people would listen to his message.
By prayer he raised up hundreds of missionaries to work in China in sacrificial roles through the then China Inland Mission. He would pray and God would send. he would pray and the Lord would supply the funds for these folks. Will you pray?
Before he died, Hudson Taylor had succeeded in spreading the gospel into many unreached areas of China! Will you pray?