Matthew 9:35-38 – The Lord of the Harvest

John Carter – March 10, 2019

{Audio Available}


To introduce the hearer to the teachings of Jesus in the context of the Old and the New Testament. The Gospel according to Matthew lends itself to this end because Matthew spends a great deal of time quoting and alluding to the Old Testament as he describes the life and teachings of Jesus.


Do we have a gospel-saturated compassion for the Lord’s Harvest?


Psalm 120


  •   For answering us in our distress (v1)


  •    For lying lips and a deceitful tongue (v2)


  •    To endure the sharp arrows of those who hate peace (v4)


Do you have a gospel-saturated compassion for the Lord’s harvest? Do you have a gospel-saturated compassion for the people of Fortuna, Humboldt County, and the ends of the world? Are you driven to our knees in obedience to the command of Christ to pray for the Lord’s harvest? Do you pray earnestly that God would send out workers into his harvest? Or do you fear the consequences of such compassion and prayers?


This section (Matthew 9:35-10:1) parallels Matthew 4:23-5:1. It is a summary statement that then sets up the next part of Matthew. It is like a literary subtitle. A hinge upon which we move from one section to the next.

Matthew 5-7 establishes the content of teaching of the kingdom that Jesus taught in the synagogues. Synagogues were like mini-temples throughout Judea and Samaria. Synagogues were the gathering palaces of Jews who couldn’t make it to Jerusalem every week. In many ways, the modern church gathers its heritage from Synagogues. Jewish oral law maintained that 10 men were required to establish a Synagogue. This is in part because if each man is giving a tenth then the rabbi or teacher would be fully supported. But it was often the case the Synagogues would give visiting rabbis (itinerate rabbis) opportunity to teach as they were passing through. This is why Jesus was able to walk into a new village and have immediate access to teach in the synagogues and preach the gospel of the kingdom.

Teaching and preaching must be in the vein of our Master. Our teaching must be the teachings of Jesus and our preaching must be the gospel of the kingdom. Anything else is an abomination. It is not my job to preach and teach anything else. I am not a politician. I am not a motivational speaker. I am not a financial adviser. I am not a new reporter. Nor am I an entertainer. I am an Elder and Overseer called and appointed to preach and teach the gospel of the kingdom. To preach or teach anything else is an abomination.

While Matthew 5-7 establishes the content of Jesus’ message Matthew 8-9 establishes the mercy ministry of Jesus. Then quickly we see why he spent so much time participating in healing and alleviating the pain and affliction of people. He had compassion for the crowds.


The compassion spoken of here cannot be overstated. He was deeply moved. His heart went out to them. His heart broke for the crowds. Jesus is not cold and calculated. He had compassion for them because they were being harassed (passive participle) and being [made] helpless (passive participle). These were not just conditions, but they were afflictions imposed upon them by the religious establishment. We must not see this as a health, wealth, and prosperity passage. We must see this as a gospel of the kingdom passage. When Matthew says, ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ he is pulling out an idea that goes deep into the Old Testament prophets.

God often calls his people sheep. Here that imagery is used to communicate that they were sheep without a shepherd. God’s people need a shepherd. This is why he has at many times throughout the Scriptures called his leaders shepherds. In fact, we learn that one characteristic responsibility of Elders in the New Testament is to shepherd, to pastor, his flock. In 1 Peter 5:4 we learn that Jesus is the Chief Shepherd. Which then teaches us that Elders (or Pastors) are under-shepherds.

The Old Testament is replete (filled) with examples of how the kings, the judges, the priests, and the prophets were called to exercise compassion as shepherds of God’s people. The Men of FBC Fortuna will see an example of this in Ecclesiastes 12:11. But we turn to Jeremiah 23:1-8 to see an example of what invoked Jesus’ compassion for the crowds in Matthew 9:36.

Jeremiah 23:1-8: Jeremiah tells us of God’s plans for those who failed to shepherd God’s people. Instead of caring for God’s people these failed shepherds destroyed and scattered the sheep. YHWH lets us know that he will repay those evil shepherds for their evil deeds. Then he will gather his sheep and place new shepherd(s) over them who will care for them. Just as the sheep were driven away the evil shepherds will be driven away. Even though the evil-shepherds failed to attend the needs of the sheep, YHWH will attend to the evil deeds of the evil-shepherds. Verses 5-8 inform us about a righteous branch that will come and gather the sheep of YHWH. We have no other option than to see that Jesus is this righteous branch who will gather the lost sheep of God.

But what about these ‘other shepherd(s)’ that are spoken of in verse 4? We read about this in 1 Peter 5 and Acts 20.

1 Peter 5:1-5: Elders are called to shepherd (verb) as under-shepherds until the Chief Shepherd appears. This means until Jesus appears Elders are to shepherd by exercising oversight: willing, eagerly, and as an example. Elders are to pastor in humility. And the people of God are to follow in humility.

Acts 20:17-35: In a final address, to a group of Elders, Paul speaks about his ministry and their ministry. Paul informs these elders that Elders and Overseers are to pastor (shepherd – verb) by paying attention to and caring for the flock of God (28). Specifically, as it relates to protecting the flock from fierce wolves (external) and from twisted men (internal) teaching things in contradiction to the gospel of the kingdom (29-30).


The conditions are bad. It doesn’t matter how big the harvest is, is the fruit/produce is not harvested it is lost. You cannot recover lost fruit/produce.

The harvest is clearly God’s people. This is made evident in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.


Pray – request – Matthew 7:7-11

Unhealthy/Dying churches do NOT send out people. 1. They don’t ask God to send out workers. 2. They focus on themselves instead of the work. 3. They don’t have because they don’t ask. 4. They disobey God because they do not love him. 5. They do not ask because they are not willing to go. 6. They expect the hired guns to obey gun, “that’s what they are paid for”. 7. They focus more on buildings then on the kingdom.

Church buildings are a distraction to this command of Jesus. Church buildings tell us that salvation is to be found here. But Jesus tells us salvation is to be found on the lips of his people among the harvest. Church buildings drain energy and resources. Church buildings give us the sense that we are being obedient to God because the lights are on and the floors are clean. This does not mean church buildings have no value. But Jesus commanded us to pray for those to go(!) to the harvest. He never commanded us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to build barns.

Healthy churches send out people. 1. They ask God to send out workers 2. God answers their prayers. 3. God send out those who are obedient. 4. God takes volunteers. 5. God sends whomever he wishes/wills.

It is scary to pray to God that he would send out workers to his harvest. Because he might answer that prayer by sending you. It is scary because going into the harvest will cost you.

We cannot neglect Mathew 10 when reading this passage. It is extremely important to understand that Jesus compassion for his people necessarily results in him sending out his disciples into the harvest. Which begs the questions, you who claim to love Jesus, will you obey him when he sends you out into the harvest?

Sheep –

  • Lost sheep – 10:6;
  • Sheep among wolves – 10:16;
  • Sheep receive sheep – 10:40


1. Look to Jesus! He cares for you! He has compassion for you. His desire is that you would turn to him in repentance. He came so that you might have life. Don’t you want life? Don’t you want his comfort and compassion?

2. Pray for Christ-like compassion. Ask God that you would be moved for the welfare of those around you. Social justice is a failed movement because it seeks to alleviate the pains of society without any consideration of the spiritual state of man. But the gospel without mercy cruel.

3. Pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into his harvest. This is scary. This is daunting. This is exciting. This is fulfilling. Many people ask why their prayers are not answered. Perhaps it is because you are praying the wrong prayers. How many times have we prayed that God would fill this building? Compare that to how many times you have prayed that God would send people out into this harvest here in Fortuna? This does not mean we do not ask people to come here. We do and we should ask people to come here. But if we only ask God to fill this place and never ask him to send, then we are failing to obey a clear command of Christ.