Sermon: Jesus’ Ministry and Our Calling Matthew 9:35-38

Truth Taught- Looking to Jesus, we discover what our calling consists of.


So far the Gospel of Matthew has focused most all its attention on Jesus and rightly so.  He is, in fact, the subject matter of the entire Bible.  In our section today, there is somewhat of a shift in focus.  Jesus is still the thrust but He is now becoming the Model for us in discipleship.  He is the model of discipleship.  So, what we learn today comes in the process of Jesus teaching His own followers to begin going out and to doing the things He does themselves.  So, in other words, we are going to learn a bit more about Jesus’ ministry so that we will go out and engage others by doing what He did and doing it with the heart of love He had.

Matthew 9:35–38 (ESV)

35 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. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

1.  Three Main Components of Jesus’ Ministry

35 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.

We are told that Jesus went out all the cities and the villages in that region.  In the area or district of Capernaum there were estimated some 200 cities and villages with an approximate population of about 3 million people.  Jesus had a comprehensive ministry.  He was so busy teaching preaching and healing that there was basically no one who hadn’t heard Him teach/preach and seen Him heal.  His ministry was very comprehensive in focus.

It’s time for Jesus to entrust His mission to His followers.  In order to do this there had to be some training involved.  This is the purpose of the current section.  Jesus is like the All-Star baseball player who is now transitioning to the Player-Coach.  He will still be engaged in ministry, still in the game but His goal now is to raise up others to learn from Him and follow in His footsteps.

            A.  Teaching in their synagogues

Throughout the Gospels we hear stories of Jesus entering into synagogues to read scriptures, to teach, and to heal. Indeed, the Gospel of Mark records that Jesus’s first act after making the announcement of his missionary purpose was to go to the synagogue to teach and to heal (see Mark 1:21-27). Similarly, the Gospel of Luke teaches that Jesus first revealed his divine mission while at a synagogue after reading a passage from Isaiah. Because the synagogues were central to Jewish community life during the time of Jesus and during the time of the synoptic writers, we see the gospel writers share a variety of crucial stories about Jesus that are situated at the synagogue.

Jesus took advantage of the custom of the time for visiting Rabbis to bring the message in the Synagogue. He would call for a certain Old Testament passage to be read and then He would explain the passage showing God’s plan for their redemption. An example of this is seen in Luke 4:14f when Jesus returned to Nazareth, entered the Synagogue on the Sabbath, then at the appropriate time stood and read Isaiah 61:2, then He sat down to explain what He read and its application for the present time which in this case was the fulfillment that day of Isaiah’s prophecy.

This was one aspect of Jesus’ ministry that He did throughout the region of Galilee in every city and village. It was the means by which Jesus was able to show the people that He was indeed fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies. He was the Messiah.

Often, our Lord entered a town or a city and as a distinguished Speaker and Teacher would proclaim and teach in each of the synagogues.  These were places of worship and much that Jesus did is what we follow today.

The synagogue was the place where God’s Word would be read in detail then exposited or the meaning explained and then the Word would be applied.  This was Jesus’ ministry in all the places He went.  He would read the Word and explain the meaning of the text.  He did this from the synagogue. 

            B.  Proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom

In the New Testament, we find the term gospel on the lips of Jesus Himself (Matt. 26:13). Christ uses the word most often in connection with the kingdom of God; thus, the Evangelists can speak of Jesus proclaiming “the gospel of the kingdom” (9:35). From Genesis to Revelation, we see the Lord’s servants longing for the kingdom of God to come. Put most simply, the kingdom of God is that place where His reign is recognized openly and gladly.

Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)

   How beautiful upon the mountains

are the feet of him who brings good news,

       who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,

who publishes salvation,

who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

When we speak of the kingdom of God, we do not mean to imply that there are places over which the Lord does not currently reign, for our Creator sovereignly rules over all.

Psalm 9:7–8 (ESV)

   But the Lord sits enthroned forever;

he has established his throne for justice,

   and he judges the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with uprightness.

 However, since the fall of Adam, His realm has been in open rebellion against Him (Gen. 3). Men and women do not willingly or happily embrace, submit to, and rejoice in God’s reign, and because of that they forfeit many blessings.

For people to recognize God’s kingdom, our Lord had to act and overcome humanity’s suppression of the knowledge that He is King and that we are to be His loyal subjects. This He did in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who as the second person of the Trinity and victor over sin and death now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:16 (ESV)

16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus broke our eternal rebellion against God and His rule and reign as He died on the cross for our sins.  As God’s people, we have been given a new heart that is not in rebellion but submits to Jesus’ rule and reign.

This is what Jesus preached and proclaimed.  He preached humanity’s need for repentance and forgiveness because of sin.  He then died to grant the very repentance God required.

I pray through the ministry of Jesus Christ your heart has been changed and you now currently submit to God’s reign in this world.,

            C.  Healing every disease and affliction

Jesus healed every disease and affliction in the region.  There were literally no sick people to be found, no one was lame, or blind, or deaf.  There were no demon possessed people because as the text tells us His ministry was exhaustive and comprehensive. 

Why did Jesus connect His preaching and teaching with a healing ministry?  We have looked at the first reason some in previous sermons.  In healing He was verifying that what He taught was also true.  His healing proved His power and authority over every realm therefore what He taught would also be viewed as authoritative.  His message was verified and the people convinced as He healed them along the way.

Another reason is to show us an accurate picture of God’s character.  The Pharisees had presented God as mean, impatient and unloving.  Jesus heals to show that God is the God of compassion.

2.  Jesus was Motivated by Compassion

When Jesus heals His biggest motivating factor is compassion. 

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus has compassion because God is love and God shows compassion toward those who are His.  When we read about Jesus healing the sick and showing compassion to the multitude we are to connect the dots by concluding that this is the most accurate picture of who God the Father is.  It’s vital that when we read about Jesus healing all in the region and that He does it  from the motivation of compassions that we absolutely let this prove to us that God the Father is exactly like this as well.  The Trinity shows compassion to creation.

Exodus 34:6 (ESV)

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

Psalm 103:8 (ESV)

   The Lord is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Isaiah 49:13 (ESV)

13    Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

       For the Lord has comforted his people

and will have compassion on his afflicted.

Why such a strong feeling? Because the situation the multitudes were in was desperate. Our text describes them as “distressed and downcast.” The KJV has “they fainted, and were scattered abroad.” The NIV says, “harassed and helpless.” The Amplified version puts all of these together and says, “bewildered – harassed and distressed and dejected and helpless.”

The first word ( esklmenoi / esklmenoi) has a root meaning of “being flayed” or “having the skin torn” as might happen to a sheep wandering among the brambles and sharp rocks. Its derived meaning would be “harassed” or “severely troubled.” It would carry the idea of being battered, bruised, mangled, ripped apart, worn out, exhausted.

The second word (from rhynumi / rapsnumi) means to be thrown down prone and helpless,” as would an exhausted sheep or a person who had suffered a mortal wound. This word was used in reference to corpses lying on the ground.

Jesus was not fooled by religious fronts. He sees the heart, and He saw the hearts of these people as wounded and torn by the effects of sin. They were inwardly devastated and helpless in their sinful and hopeless condition.

They were “like sheep without a shepherd.” They were entrapped in a system led by the Scribes and Pharisees that had codified the Mosaic Law and left them wounded and wandering. Those that were supposed to be leading them were not leading them to God, for they were instead wolves leading them away from the true and proper worship of God. These sheep had no shepherd, and like a sheep without someone to protect and guide them they had become battered, bruised, confused, and disheartened.

Jesus was motivated to heal because He saw their great need and had compassion on the crowds.  When Jesus surveyed the crowds He saw that they were harassed and helpless.  He saw literally from harassed people who were so beaten down with wear that their skin was torn and it was as if they were fainting under this world’s abuse and helpless.  They were wounded sheep with no way to ever get better. 

When Jesus sees this very desperate sight He is moved with compassion.

Compassion in the Greek comes from a word that means bowels.  The sight of Jesus’ people being like lost sheep without a shepherd beaten down and helpless caused something to happen inside of our Lord.  His stomach churned.  That’s the idea of compassion; it’s a stomachache over a truth or sight that motivates us to take action.  Do you have compassion on those who are helpless?  When a fellow church member is suffering do you feel sadness and does that motivate you to show love to them?

No matter how good people are at presenting themselves in a positive light Jesus gave us the reality.  When He looked out among the people He saw their reality not their make believe show.  Jesus sees through all the fluff to reality.  When He did that He saw people greatly beaten down by sin and life.  He saw their great needs because they were helpless like sheep without a shepherd.

3.  Jesus’ Call

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The reality Jesus focuses our attention on is the reality that there is a great harvest that needs brought in to the barn.  Harvest is plentiful

Now Jesus uses a word picture here of a field with crops that stand ready to be harvested.  The reality is there is a great work before us because we are talking that there is a harvest of people.  There is more involved in the harvest of souls…

To be a worker in that type of harvest we must be prepared for all the difficulties we will face.  We will be hated and abused.  We will go out as sheep among wolves. 

Because there is a massive harvest ready to be picked and because there are few workers then we are to pray for more workers.

Notice with me that at least here in this text Jesus does not say pray for the lost does He?  Instead, He commands us to pray for workers to go out into His field.  I don’t know if you ever noticed that or not?  If there is someone you know who is lost perhaps the way to pray for them is to not pray for them but to pray for workers?

Jesus prayed all night before He went out to gather His first workers, the Apostles. 

Luke 6:12–13 (ESV)

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:

There is a twist that,Lord willing, we will look at next week…

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

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