Read: Matthew 9:35-38
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).
People without Christ are like sheep without a shepherd. They will soon run out of pasture and starve, or they will get lost or caught in some thicket and die. And in the meantime they are harassed, wearied, and helpless. Now the unbelievers you know may not seem to fit that description. But if you see them with the eyes of Christ and are not misled by the shell of self-assurance, you will recognize sheep who desperately need a shepherd.
Notice in verse 36 that Jesus had compassion on them. The word means, literally, to be moved in one's stomach with pity. Do you remember the last time you felt real strong pity? I remember visiting a missionary friend in Paris in 1978 whose little four-year-old daughter had pulled boiling cooking oil onto herself. She was isolated in a sterile room, naked. And for weeks her parents were only allowed to look at her through a window. I felt tremendous pity while I watched her mother show her pictures through the window and the tears roll down her face. If the pain and oozing flesh wasn't bad enough, the separation was almost unbearable. And I have asked myself and tested myself: do I feel that pity for my unbelieving neighbors, colleagues, classmates? Ah, there's our need. Our need is to feel compassion because of their need. Our need is to care and love like Jesus did. He was so much a man for others! We need to be honest and admit that compassion does not come natural to us. It is a work of grace in our hearts and, for that reason, the product not of works, but of prayer. "He saw the crowds and had compassion for them."
“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 9:37).
The metaphor changes. Unbelievers are not only like sheep who are in trouble. They are also like wheat that can be harvested. There is not only privation. There is potential salvation. And if we need the eyes of Christ to see the lostness of people and the compassion of Christ to feel pity for people, then we need just as much the expectancy and hopefulness of Christ that anticipates harvest time. Do you look upon your neighbors and colleagues and classmates and associates with the lively sense that here is a potential saint?
(Adapted from the January 3, 1982 sermon, “Prayer at Harvest Time: Now!” by John Piper)
Would you take time to pray that God would grant you the eyes of Christ to see the lostness of people, the compassion of Christ to feel pity for people, and the expectancy and hopefulness of Christ that anticipates harvest time? Would you pray earnestly to the Lord to send out laborers into his harvest?
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