Date:    12/7/03

Text:            Matthew 9:35-38

Title:     Mission of God's Kingdom (I)

Theme: Since God's kingdom is meant to expand, as his followers we are to understand the essential truth in this mission.



            Some of you have heard the story about the 2 shoe salesmen sent to a certain country to develop a market there. The moment they got off the plane one called back the home office and said, “Great opportunity, no one wears shoes here. Send me more orders” The other called, “Send me home, for there is no market here; people do not wear shoes.” It is like the one person who sees the cup half empty and the other half full. The circumstance is the same, but individuals see things differently.

            The passage before us is about seeing. 9:35 to the end of chapter 10 is commonly known as the Mission Discourse. During this past year, we have been studying the theme of Kingdom Living: how are we to live as citizens of God's kingdom? As we conclude this series of preaching in today and next week’s sermons, we will be looking at the initial expansion of this Kingdom.

            As this kingdom of God begins to expand, there is no distinction between local and foreign. God's kingdom expands from me to people around me; from me to my spouse, to my children. It goes from my family to the families around me; from my city to other cities, from my country to other countries. The expansion of God's kingdom is an all encompassing mission. It's both local and foreign.

            4:23-25 and 9:35 are two summary passages of Jesus' mission. It appears to be a formula: “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.” In chapters 5-7, Matthew gave us a summary of Jesus'' teaching. In chapters 8-9, is a summary of his deeds: healing the sick and casting out the demons.

            What is the focus as the kingdom expands? Teaching and preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of God. Jesus' teaching and preaching are authenticated by his healing ministry, demonstrating his authority and that he himself is the authority over all. Now the teaching and preaching of the kingdom of God is about to pass on to the 12 disciples. What does Jesus want his disciples to know and do? In today’s passage, he is demonstrating by example what is the essence of his kingdom expansion; his kingdom mission;  the essential truth in his Mission.

I.          The heart of the mission is to see the world as Jesus sees it.

            In vs.36, “when he saw the crowds….” As Matthew writes, he must have the picture in Ezkiel 34 in mind. In that chapter, is a vivid description of what God sees in the nation of the Israelites.

            We first want to note that Jesus sees the crowd. It is a simple statement, isn’t it? What is the big deal? Wait a minute, do we really see the people around us? We leave home early in the morning and come home late. If we have children, our world will most likely be wrapped around them. Yes, we may see our neighbors, but its like two ships passing each other at night. Our interaction with colleagues at work are at the technical and business level. Little do we know about what is going on in their lives. Yes, we see them and yet we don’t see.

            We can be so indulged in our own family and personal life that we know little about the outside world. You see, if God's kingdom is to expand, his followers must first open their eyes and see the world around them. This world can be far away countries and can be as near as our family, our neighborhood. There is a much bigger world beyond ourselves.

            Secondly, what do we see? Yes, we see people all around us. When we travel to other cities and different parts of the world, even the most remote areas, what do we see? Isn’t it true often we see how dirty or undeveloped they may be. Or in our own circle of contact, we see people in terms of what they have. What did Jesus see?

            9:36, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." He saw them as sheep without shepherds. They were harassed and helpless. They were bullied, oppressed, confused and exhausted. And above all, they had no power to do anything about the situation. They were helpless. In Ezkiel 34:4-5 is a description of what sheep are like without a shepherd, “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts.” When sheep are without a shepherd, they become sick, go astray, oppressed, scattered and devoured by others. They are helpless. This is what Jesus saw in the crowd.

            We too need to see the people around us with sharpened eyes. While rejecting any objective truth, our generation has let subjective experience be their guide. The Hollywood motto is: follow your heart and do what is right. Yet, not knowing the heart is full of deceit and corruption. Durst of Galveston, Rodriguez of N. Dakota, Lee Malvo and John Muhammad of the Virginia shootings, and the killer of the Federal assistant attorney Jonathan Luna, were following their hearts. Yet their hearts were sick and corrupt. While rejecting authority, our generation has let the 51% majority dictate our behavior. If 51% of the society feels marriage between the same sex is ok, we also think it is ok. If 51% of the church representatives think homosexual behaviors are ok, then ordaining a practicing homosexual clergy as bishop is to be accepted. When we reject objective truth and authority, we have lost our bearings for morality. Since there is no restraint, then we do whatever we think is right and good for us. Instead of moral absolutes, what is left is subjective absolutes. There is no more room for discussion of right and wrong, for it is all relative and personal. No wonder this generation, besides personal achievements, has no moral compass and direction. We are like a ship drifting back and forth in the stormy sea. We are alienated from the only objective truth, the creator God, we are alienated from each other, and often we are even alienated from ourselves.

            We are like sheep without a shepherd; harassed by the evil one and totally helpless.

II.         The heart of the mission is to care for the people as Jesus cares for it.

What happens when Jesus sees people as they are: harassed and helpless? 9:36, "He had compassion for them". The word compassion means deep emotion. His gut was strongly stirred. It is this compassion that drives God to speak those harsh words to the OT leaders for not caring for their people. It is this compassion that drives Jesus to utter these words (Matthew 23:37), “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, ………..How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” When Jesus sees the people as they are, harassed and helpless, he has great compassion for them. He cared for them deeply.

            How about us? On Thursday I was shopping for a hub cap for my car. I went to two shops on S. Main. The store settings were not the most user-friendly, but they were helpful. What went through my mind? I need to get out of this place as fast as I can. When we see the rowdy teenagers on the street, the college students indulging in wild parties during the spring break, the broken marriages around us, the rampant abortion in this and other societies, the lack of sense of moral right and wrong, what is our response? How disgusting, am I glad I am not one of them. When we hear individuals using foul language in the church, what is our response? Doesn't he know this is a church? When we see a high concentration of Chinese living in some apartment complexes or in the china town area, what is our response? There are too many Chinese there, I don’t know if I can handle it. There are too many problems there.

            DA Carson tells of a story about a trip he took with a friend to a beach. When he saw the rowdy high school students, he was angry. But his friend said, “High school kids, what a mission field”. When Jesus sees people as they are, he had compassion for them, because he sees them as sheep without shepherds. They were harassed and helpless.                       When we see the world as Jesus sees it, when we see areas with high concentration of Chinese population, when we see people in their brokenness, we are to see them as sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless. When we hear foul language at church, we want to embrace the person, for there must be a lot of anger inside. When we see the ugliness of life, the cruelty and brutality of human behavior behind the closed doors, may our hearts be stirred and say, what a mission field. After compassion, then what? What did Jesus do?

III.       The heart of the mission is to pray as Jesus teaches.

            If you are preaching and you have shown all the needs around the world and the audience is genuinely moved. Then what? I probably would say, “You have seen the needs out there, how many of you are willing to go? Now, you can come forward….” You know, Jesus did none of that. Instead he said, 9:37-38, “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.”

            He first said that the harvest is plenty and the laborers are few. That the harvest is plenty means that many are ready to be brought in, but not enough workers. If Jesus has a computer, he probably will look up the Roman Bureau of Statistics and find out that the total population of the world then was about 180 million. There are only 12 disciples plus him. 13 in 180 million. The harvest is indeed plenty, but workers are few. Many are ready to be brought into the kingdom. Please notice that many are ready to be harvested, meaning that God has been working their hearts, preparing them.

            Secondly, he said pray to the Lord of the Harvest. This harvest, these people belong to the Lord. It's not your people or my people. They belong to God.

            Thirdly, Pray. Don’t volunteer to go. Pray to God. Pray for what? Pray that God will send out laborers into his harvest. Pray that God will call people out to bring others into his kingdom. They are ready and are waiting to be brought in. This is God's harvest. It’s not dependent on us. What a comfort to know that. This harvest belongs to him. He has already chosen and worked in individuals' hearts. He had already issued the inner call in their hearts. And now, pray that God will send workers into his field to issue the external call, so that these individuals will have the opportunity to respond and come into the kingdom.

            You notice here that the calling and the sending is God's prerogative. He decides whom to send into the field. He is not recruiting volunteers. Volunteerism doesn’t work in God's kingdom. He calls and sends. And when he calls you, you response is to obey and follow.  


            What do we learn from this passage about the mission of God's kingdom? The foundation for the mission is simple: See, Care and Pray. We are to see the world as Jesus sees it. People without Christ are like sheep without shepherds. They are bullied, misled by the world, the force of darkness. They have no place to turn to, confused and oppressed. They can do nothing about it and are totally helpless. As we see people for what they are, our hearts will be stirred with deep compassion. This does not lead to volunteer work for God, but to pray that God will send workers out to bring people into his kingdom. Yes, the need is great, but there is also the understanding that he is the one who calls and sends. Our responsibility is to pray that God will send workers out. It is God's harvest from beginning to the end.  

            I am glad to see that this year we have more individuals participating in short term missions. This is one way to see the world outside of us. We are to train our eyes to see them as Jesus sees them. Not what they have or have not materially, that, too, is important so we know how to help them, but what their true spiritual conditions are without Christ. They are harassed and helpless. If they have Christ, what a difference it will make in their lives. And may this create a big stir in our guts, a deep compassion that we’ll pray to the Lord of harvest to send workers there.   

            I am glad to see that some of us are also seeing the high concentration of Chinese living in some apartment complexes and near China Town. We see them and we begin to feel their needs without Christ. The issue is not whether they are Chinese or not. But they are like sheep without a shepherd. They are harassed and helpless. May this create a deep compassion in our heart and ask the Lord of harvest to bring them into his fold.

            We are surrounded by people whose lives are broken by the results of sin in this world. They may include our family members, our friends at school, and colleagues at work. Their hearts are broken and lives are shattered by betrayal, divorce and abuse. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They are harassed and helpless. May this create in us a deep compassion and begin to pray to the Lord of the harvest.

            Several months ago, a young lady shared with Cynthia about her job. She didn’t like what she was doing. Yet she made a decision to stay in the job until the boss became to know the Lord. She saw her job and she didn’t like it. She also saw her boss. Not just someone who gave her a paycheck, but a precious person, harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. And she had compassion on her.