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The Harvest is Abundant (Matthew 9:35-38)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“The Harvest is Abundant!”

(Matthew 9:35-38)

Series: God’s Fulfilled Promise [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

May 12, 2019

The Passage

Matthew 9:35-38

35 Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

Introductory Comments:


Illustration: When I was a kid, my great-grandmother Kirkland had a piece of property off of Parker Road in the community of Medulla, in Southwest Lakeland. My great-uncle Donald helped manage the cows and pigs on the property. One day, when I was a young boy, he told me that he had a job for me. He said that these prickly weeds had started to pop-up all over the pasture and he wanted me to pick them. He said he would take me out there and show them to me and he would pay me to pick them. It only took one look for me to realize that this was not a job that I wanted to do. You see, there were far too many weeds and far too few of me. Thankfully, I wasn’t forced to do that job. 

Today, Jesus is going to tell His disciples that there is a lot of work to be done, and more workers are needed!

We’re continuing our series in the book of Matthew. We just saw last week that Jesus was doing a lot of miracles right and left. Now, Matthew is transitioning to talk about the work of the disciples of Jesus. 

Remember, a disciple simply means “a follower.”

Are we disciples of Jesus? (pause) You better believe it! We are called to be followers of Jesus.

In this passage, Jesus is going to give His disciples instructions for how to live as followers of His.   

We’re going to discover three steps which we must take as followers of Jesus also. 

Before we do, let’s pray to God and ask Him to teach us. 


Matthew introduces us to this section by giving us a summary statement of the continued work of Jesus. 

We learned about several specific miracles already in the Gospel of Matthew. 

Yet, verse 35 indicates that Jesus did a lot of other work as well. 

35 Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.

Jesus went to many towns and villages and He encountered a lot of people. As He continued to minister to them, more and more people came out to Him. 

Even though He was doing a lot of work, He was just scratching the surface of all of the people who needed to be touched by God’s love. 

This passage allows us to see the heart of Jesus and shows us what kind of heart we must have. 

Let’s learn together, starting with the first step:

I. We must be compassionate [on screen]

As Jesus encountered all these people and His heart was filled with compassion for them!

Look at verse 36. 

36 When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus ministered to a lot of people, but there were also many to whom He was unable to minister because there were so many people. He had compassion for them. 

This is not any ol’ compassion. Jesus had deep compassion for the people whom He encountered!

I don’t usually refer to the original Greek language, but in this case, it is helpful to communicate the meaning of this passage. 

The Greek word here is splanchnizomai, which can refer to a feeling from the gut. Way down deep inside. 

This compassion of which Matthew speaks is deep, gut-level, genuine compassion. 

Matthew said that the people whom Jesus saw were distressed and dejected, or harassed and helpless, or they were fainted and scattered abroad. 

The literal translation here is that the people were “torn and thrown down.” Why were they torn and thrown down? Because they were like sheep without a shepherd. 

You see, the leaders of the Jewish people were supposed to be leading them down the path of the kingdom of God. They were supposed to be leading them towards the Messiah. Instead, the leaders were rejecting Jesus. 

Jesus had deep compassion for the people because they were like lost sheep. 

Sheep are some of the worst animals to leave to their own devices. They desperately need someone to lead them to keep them from getting lost, to protect them from danger,  and to show them the way to go. 

People without Jesus really needed the Great Shepherd. 

We must have compassion. 

When you see that neighbor acting the fool, do you look upon them as sheep without a shepherd?

When you see that person in the community dressed in a way which you disapprove, or doing an act which you disapprove, do you look upon them as sheep without a shepherd?

When you see someone in the news who is a member of another religion, do you look upon them as sheep without a shepherd?

When you hear that gossiper in the church, do you look upon him or her as a sheep without a shepherd?

We must have compassion! We must have a deep gut desire that they would experience the life-transforming power of Jesus Christ!

You were once a sheep without a shepherd! I was once a sheep without a shepherd! God had compassion on us, not because we were some special sheep, but because of His great grace!

We must be compassionate. 

Second, . . .

II. We must be praying [on screen]

Because of Jesus’ great compassion for the crowds, He told His disciples that they should pray. 

Look at verses 37 and 38. 

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”

Jesus switches from a simile about sheep to a metaphor about a harvest.

His disciples probably would have pictured a field of grain that is vast and difficult to harvest. Jesus said that there are few workers, yet the harvest is abundant! It’s a lot of work for a few workers to do!

Again, keep in mind that Jesus is encountering vast amounts of people on whom He has deep compassion. 

He wants them to be reached with God’s love! He tells His disciples, “We need more disciples! We need more workers!”

Jesus is saying, “Pray! Pray to God, the Lord of the harvest, for more workers!”

Listen, church, we must pray for more workers!

Bartow is a small city, yet there are around 11,000 people in our city, many who do not know Jesus as Savior. Polk County has nearly 700,000 people, many who do not know Jesus as Savior! The world has over 7 billion people, most who do not know the Lord of the harvest. They do not know the great Shepherd. They are like lost and helpless sheep. 

We need more people on mission to reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

We need to be praying. 

We need to pray for more pastors, we need to pray for more missionaries, and we need to pray for more disciples who are simply following Jesus in their everyday lives and reaching people with the Gospel. 

We need more disciples in the world, we need more disciples in Polk County, we need more disciples in Bartow, and we need more disciples at First Baptist Church. 

That leads us to our final step:

III. We must be working [on screen]

It is both a great blessing and a great burden to realize that we are some of the workers for whom the disciples prayed. 

Think about it: Jesus asked His disciples to pray for more workers and for two thousand years, more and more Christians have come along to serve as workers in God’s harvest field. 

We, in part, are the answer to the prayers of Jesus and His disciples. 

Jesus said, “The harvest is abundant.” So, we must get to work!

There is a creature that can serve as our inspiration right now. I have one word for you: lovebugs. 

Illustration: the lovebugs understand their mission: to splatter their miserable corpses all over the windshields of Floridian drivers. They gather and their leader says, “Ladies and gentlemen, the harvest is great. There are millions of windshields at our disposal. Who will be a worker in our harvest field?” As a result, the lovebugs line up in droves to work in the harvest field! They are glad to give themselves to the task. Their time is now and they are having their way!

Church, our time is now! The Lord of the harvest has called and commissioned us for His harvest field. Jesus and the disciples prayed that we would be called and sent. The harvest is great and the workers are few. What are we waiting on? We must be working!

We should give ourselves fully to our task!

Concluding Thoughts:

Jesus had compassion for people and instructed us to pray for more workers. 

He had a deep burden for this.

This takes us to our bottom line:

Bottom Line: Jesus has a burden for more Gospel workers!  [on screen]


Jesus’ burden for more Gospel workers should also be our burden.

We should be compassionate. We should be praying. We should be working. 

Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Pray for more compassion.  [on screen]

Some of us need help to be compassionate. I know I do.

I know this also: I want to be like Jesus. 

To be like Jesus, I need to have compassion. Therefore, I should pray for compassion.

Challenge yourself this week to pray for compassion as well. 

  1. Pray for more workers.  [on screen]

This one is easy to understand. Jesus commanded this.

Spend some time this week in prayer for more workers. More pastors, more ministers, and more faithful Christians living on mission, every day. 

  1. Take personal responsibility to be a worker.  [on screen]

We are the workers for whom Jesus and His disciples prayed. 

We must take responsibility. 


If each of us led one person to Jesus each year, and they lived as disciples also and led someone to Jesus the next year, think about how that would change the world. Year one we would have about 150 new Christians. Year two we would have 300 new Christians. Year three 600 new Christians. Year four 1,200 new Christians.  Year five: five years from now, 2,400 new Christians. Year six: 4,800 new Christians. Year seven: 9,600 new Christians. Year eight: 19,200 new Christians. Year nine: 38,400 new Christians. Year ten: 76,800 new Christians. 

I’ve had a lot of people say that they want to see the church grow, and praise God, I do as well. However, we can only hold about 500 people in this room. If we’re serious about this we need a place to hold 76,800 sometime in the next ten years. 

Some of y’all are thinking that the pastor’s crazy. Well, it’s crazy that we think it’s crazy that we should be reaching people with the Gospel, just one a year!

Church, let’s each take personal responsibility to be a worker for the Gospel!

Souls are ready to be harvested, and God wants to use us as His workers. 


Let this passage move you to obedience to Jesus and faithfully following the Father. 

Some of you may feel harassed and helpless today, like a lost sheep. You need a shepherd! Jesus can save you! Jesus can guide you!

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Take My Life and Let It Be


If you have any sort of spiritual decision that you would like to make, you can contact our staff and we would be glad to talk to you anytime.

Tonight, we won’t gather as it’s a holiday. Enjoy time with your loved ones. Happy Mother’s Day, everyone. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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