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The Harvest Truly is Plenteous 12 June 2011 Elder Peter Goh

In Matthew 9:35-10:4, we read about our Lord Jesus Christ in His public ministry as He “..went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom….when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest. And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples….Now the names of the twelve apostles are these….and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” The above gives an account on evangelism as taught to us by the Master evangelist Himself. Brethren, recently I have been reading a number of articles concerning evangelism and I feel compelled to broach on the subject of evangelism again which may seem somewhat repetitive. But because of its relevance and importance, being reminded by the Lord Jesus that “the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (9:37), it is indeed the Christian’s mandate from Christ to evangelise. Evangelism is not only necessary but urgent! Many souls are going their own way and the Bible tells us that their way which is the ‘broad way’ is the way of destruction and death. The Lord Jesus has this to say in Matthew 7:13, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” A true church of Jesus Christ is a ‘missionary church’. As the disciples of Christ we are saved to share the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Why must the followers of Christ be involved in missions? Because witnessing to the unsaved is the Great Commission and every Christian ought to take the task and responsibility cheerfully and seriously. Because of the lost condition of the world in which we live, there is a great need for the salvation of mankind. And because of God's love working in us we are constrained to do His biding. All of us certainly know this but what are we doing about it? Yes, many Christians so-called do not witness because they find it hard to do. Indeed, soul winning is no easy task and can be difficult and discouraging. Oftentimes it is frustrating and disappointing. We get discouraged and fearful when our non-Christian friends become defensive, aggressive and sometimes even unruly. Whatever the situation, we must persevere on with the work which the Lord has entrusted to us as His blood-bought children. Remember that we are commanded by our Lord to do His work and we ought to obey Him if we profess that we love Him. This great work of evangelism must be done before the return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Consider Proverbs 11:30, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” Since it is Christ who calls us to do the work it would be wise for us to carefully observe how our Lord Himself evangelised and to follow in His footsteps. In Matthew 9:35-10:4, Jesus provides us with an evangelistic model for the church to follow. This important passage on evangelism teaches us four important things: (1) What Jesus did at that time; (2) What Jesus saw as He moved among the people; (3) What Jesus instructed His disciples to do; and (4) What actions Jesus took. First, let us look at (1) what Jesus did at that time. Verse 35 tells us that “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” Jesus was doing the will of His Father. Jesus was hard at work going from place to place teaching, preaching and healing every disease and sickness. An obvious place that Jesus went was into the synagogues. We see that He preached and taught in the synagogues where people gathered for worship. This should be the proper place to begin evangelism. Visitors and friends who come for worship must be able to hear the gospel message from the pulpit! In many churches today there are many who come week after week for worship. Yet many of them leave without having heard the message of the salvation grace of God in Christ Jesus. There are many churches today which preach a social gospel where Christ is not present. Many are left helpless and they do not know God and His Word. Like the Jews in Jesus’ time, they are taught the false gospel and they go away thinking that they are right with God. They have fallen short of God's glory and His righteousness and they are not even aware of it. They do not know the true gospel as revealed in the Scriptures. Jesus taught the Jews in the

synagogues how they needed the Saviour who could save them from their sins. Jesus preached and proclaimed to them the good news. Jesus taught them from the Old Testament Scriptures and having taught them Jesus began to heal their diseases. His miracles are to authenticate that He is the promised Messiah as He told the disciples of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:2-5, “Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Today we have the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us in our teaching and preaching of the gospel and the Word of God. It is the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit that draws an unbeliever to Christ through His Word. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17) Let us therefore be diligent and earnest in bringing the good news to others that they may hear the gospel and repent of their sins and come to faith in Jesus Christ. Secondly, we note what Jesus saw as He moved among the people. Verse 36 records thus, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” We see that Jesus had compassion on them and for them because they were helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. The image of ‘shepherd-less sheep’ has strong roots in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament record, there were many false and wicked shepherds of Israel. They were responsible for leading astray God's people to worship other gods. In our Lord's own testimony, He revealed Himself as “the good Shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep” (John 10:11) as such the Jews were able to understand the real meaning of what Jesus was saying. Jesus continued in John 10:1416, “I am the good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.” Today many people believe that all religions lead to God. While we do not disagree that all religions teach man to be good but only Christ promises life beyond the grave as He has said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6). Thank God that in His mercy He has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light of salvation having “…turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10) Like our Lord Jesus let us have the compassion to seek out the lost and earnestly and diligently bring the gospel to them that they too may be saved. Thirdly, let us see what Jesus instructed His disciples to do. They were to pray for labourers to work in the harvest field. In verses 37 and 38, Jesus said to them, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest.” Evangelism must begin with earnest prayer. The church needs willing workers to be sent into the harvest field to labour for the Lord. However, it is God who works in the hearts of believers to burden them with the urgency of the work but sadly the workers are seemingly few. Indeed the work is urgent because there are many souls who are helpless, needing the truth of the Gospel to save them from their sins. Many are being led astray by ‘false shepherds and teachers’ heading to everlasting destruction. The instruction from the Master is to pray. Why? This is the work of God, not of man and thus has to be undertaken in His power through His Spirit with much earnest and fervent prayer. Remember that it is God who calls and it is God who will give the increase and for His glory. Fourthly, having instructed His disciples to pray, Jesus took the necessary action by calling labourers into the harvest field. In Matthew 10:1, we read that after calling His twelve disciples unto Him, “He gave them power

against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.”
When Jesus calls, He also provides the power and the authority. Some Christians may ask, “How do I know that Jesus is calling me to the harvest field?” You will know because Jesus will give you clear instructions like He gave to the twelve. It is interesting to note that Jesus called people from diverse backgrounds and temperaments. We know that Peter was a fisherman and an optimist; Thomas was obviously a pessimist who had many doubts. Simon the one-time Zealot was political and eager to overthrow the Roman government and also there is one called Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord. It is astounding to note that Jesus was able to gather around Himself and to unite such a band of people to conquer the world with the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. Brethren, what can we learn from our Lord's example? Obviously, Jesus’ recorded words and actions are for our learning. Let me share some applications. We are to see the urgent need for evangelism so that the lost may be reached for Christ before He comes. We are told to pray to ‘the Lord of the harvest’ for labourers for the harvest field and that proper action must be taken. It must begin with every truly born-again believer who has tasted of the salvation of the Lord. If Jesus could use the twelve disciples such as they were, He can certainly use you and me. It is heart-warming and with thanksgiving to God to see the commitment of our church in local and foreign mission work. But more members are needed for the harvest is truly plenteous but the labourers are few. Jesus is calling you! Are you willing to go?