For most of His ministry, Jesus traveled freely throughout Galilee, preaching the Good News while confronting the sin and disease that bound His people. In short, He modeled the imperatives of the Great Commission.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ ” (Matt. 9:35-38, NIV)
Imagine walking with Jesus through these towns as His reputation exploded. People were coming by the thousands, but they weren’t the movers and shakers. Most of them lacked significant influence and resources. In fact, Matthew called them the “harassed and helpless,” and Jesus responded to them in three ways:
First, Jesus saw them. Notice how often His disciples tried to dismiss the needy crowds. They looked at the “harassed and helpless” as a hindrance, but Jesus saw them as sheep who needed a shepherd. Next, we see that Jesus felt compassion for them, the thousands who were barely making it, and His empathy moved His heart to action. Finally, He instructed His followers to pray. Among these helpless crowds, He saw an opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission and said, “You should pray about that.”
Jesus’ inner circle often missed the Spirit’s work as they observed their circumstances. Where they saw problems, He seized on opportunity.
He also knew that a saving response to the gospel depended upon willing disciples who would carry the Good News with them to others, so He directed His followers to pray for fellow workers. Through the Spirit, Jesus gave them the power to tear down strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4), which keep the sheep deaf and blind. Powerful, Spirit-led prayer is among the most potent means at our disposal as we wade into the harvest.
As we do so, let’s also lean into the Spirit. Jesus’ inner circle often missed the Spirit’s work as they observed their circumstances. Where they saw problems, He seized on opportunity. Eventually, Jesus’ followers learned to recognize the One He sent to move the mission forward. Whether like Paul, borne along by roads and ships, or a miraculously transported Philip, let’s join those who trusted the power and provision of the Spirit. May our sensitivity to His leading encourage us in prayer as we labor for the harvest.