By J.R. Miller
Matthew 9:35-10:15, 40-42
Jesus never rested. He went about doing good. His work is summed up here in three words: teaching, preaching, and healing. He was in this world to seek and save the lost, and He went everywhere on His holy mission of love. He did not stay in one place, because then other places would have been neglected. He knew that He had blessings for the sad, suffering world--and His soul was burdened until He had borne these blessings to everyone's door. So He went everywhere, from house to house. He was a shepherd seeking the lost, and we can see Him pressing through the dark ravine, up the steep cliffs, out upon the wild crags and over the rugged mountain, through storm and darkness, cold and heat--searching for the lost sheep! That is what He wants us to do now; for we are left in this world in His place, to carry on His work.
"When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them." Christ's compassion was astonishing. The sight of suffering humanity filed Him with grief. We have a picture here of the way that Jesus looked upon people, "When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." This means that they were neglected by those who ought to have been their friends and helpers. The rulers were intended to be shepherds to their people. Instead of this, they showed them no love, no kindness, no care--but wronged them, and even robbed them! Jesus was among them as a true shepherd, and His heart was full of compassion toward them!
Out of the deep pity of His heart, Jesus begins now to plan for the great work of saving men. "The harvest truly is plentiful--but the laborers are few." He seems to have been almost appalled at the vastness of the work as He looked out over the people and thought of their condition. But His vision was not limited to His own country. He had come to save the world, the whole world, and all nations. No wonder He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful." To meet the great need, there must be many laborers enlisted. This is the beginning of the great missionary movement which is now reaching out all over the world.
"The laborers are few," said the Master as He looked upon the great fields with their vast human needs, their sorrows, their hungering. Indeed, Jesus himself was the only laborer at that time. There were only a handful of apostles, and they were still untrained.
Note the first word His heart uttered as He thought of reaching the world with mercy. "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." The Lord of the harvest is God Himself. At that time the chief duty, was prayer that the Lord would send forth laborers. Men were first to be called for the work and then trained for it. There is still need for making the same prayer, for even yet the laborers are few--in consideration of the vastness of the field to be harvested. But few young men are entering the Christian ministry, and the ranks are growing thin. The gates of missionary lands are open, and the money is ready to send men into the fields--but the men are not offering themselves.
Already Jesus had chosen the twelve apostles. Luke tells us of this. It is said that He spent all night in prayer to God before choosing these men. He thus sought His Father's guidance in making His choice and His blessing on the men to be chosen. The work of the kingdom was to be committed to their hands, and it was of the greatest importance that they should be in every way the right men. We have a suggestion here also--as to the importance of choosing our personal friends. It should be with prayer. Their influence upon our lives will be vital and far-reaching, and only God can choose them for us.
Here we have a description of the mission and work of the apostles. "He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority." First He called them to Him. No one is ready to go out for Christ--until he has come to Him. Discipleship must come before service. There is no place to start--but at the Master's feet. We must lie on His bosom and catch His spirit. It is not enough to attend colleges and theological seminaries, and be graduated from these. It is not enough to be commended by committees and mission boards; every one who would go as a worker for Christ or as a missionary, must first come to Christ. Christ must choose and call His own apostles--and send them out with His blessing. None are ready to go, until Christ has given them power and authority. He is the King, and He alone can commission any to represent Him. If we want to help Christ save the world--we must personally surrender ourselves to Him, and let Him prepare us and then send us out with authority to represent Him.
The names of the apostles are given. They were not famous men when they were chosen. They were very plain and ordinary men; but afterward they became men of wonderful power, and all the world felt their influence. We see out of what common stuff Christ can make great men, holy saints and heroic missionaries.
There is something in His method of preparing His apostles, that those who would be preachers and teacher should note. He took these men into His family and kept them there for three years. He lived with them, pouring the light and the love of His holy life upon their dull, sinful lives--until they were literally permeated with His Spirit. Thus He stamped His own impress upon them so that they were ready to go out and repeat His life and teaching among men.
Perhaps many of us scatter our work too much. If we would select a few people and give to them continually our strongest and best influence, month after month, and year after year, carrying them in our prayers, and in our thoughts, and doing all we can to impress them and make them noble, true and Christlike; we might do far more for our Lord in the end--than by trying merely to touch a hundred or a thousand lives?
The apostle had their field of work laid out for them. They were not to go into the way of the Gentiles. This was not the final command; it was only for the first tour of the country. The Gentiles were not always to be left out from the proclamation of the gospel. The great final commission was universal; they were to carry the news of salvation to every creature under the heavens. But as yet the gospel was not ready to be proclaimed everywhere. The blood of the Lamb of God had not yet been shed. The alabaster box of the Savior's precious life had not yet been broken, to pour out the ointment. For the present, the messengers were not to go beyond the limits of the Jewish nation.
The great law of Christian life is: that we receive--in order to give; that we are blessed--in order that we may be a blessing. "Freely you have received--freely give." Christ has liberally blessed us--but the blessing is not for ourselves alone. The things He has given us--we are to pass on to others. He wants to reach the many--through the few. We sin against Christ, and therefore against others--if we keep in our own hands, and do not use the good things He has so generously bestowed upon us. We take the bread and are to pass it to those who are hungry. We receive the cup and are to give it to those next to us. We are disloyal; therefore, to Him if we close our hands and hold the blessings He gives us in tight clasp, just for ourselves. Let us freely pass on--all that Christ has so freely given to us!