A Compassionate Harvest

A Compassionate Harvest

Grace, mercy, and
peace to you from God our Father, and from our compassionate Lord and Savior,
Jesus Christ. Amen.

In today’s Gospel
lesson from St. Matthew’s account, we have heard a description of the kind of
person Jesus is. We learn that our incarnate Lord is one who loves people. He
enjoys being with them. He enjoys helping them. Matthew wrote about his
master, "Jesus went throughout all the towns and villages, teaching
in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every
disease and sickness."

Jesus was not the
kind of person to stay in one place and have the people come to him. He was
out there in on the road. He traveled from one little village to another. He
was almost always on the move. Our Lord had such a love for God’s people that
he did not expect them to travel to Jerusalem. He came to them.

That’s the sort of
God we have. He doesn’t wait for us to take the first step, because He knows
full well that we can’t. We’re dead in our trespasses, and dead men not only
‘tell no tales’—they lay there lifeless, their sinful flesh rotting away, being
consumed by the devil who constantly prowls, looking for someone to devour.

Jesus reaches out
to our stone-cold bodies and our rock-hard hearts. And when Jesus reaches
people, He always has something to do. He teaches them. He showed his love
for the people of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria by preaching the good news—the euangellion.
Even if you don’t know Greek, you might be able to figure out that word just
from your knowledge of English: The prefix “E-U” which means “good”, and the
body of the word which come from aggeliaj—message—the
root from which we get our modern word “angel”—a messenger of God. Therefore,
we translate this word for good news as “the Gospel”.

And just what is
the gospel, anyway? It is the good and wondrous message that God’s kingdom has
come down to you.

Humans throughout
history—even when they were mistaken in their understanding—have believed that
there is a being above us, our maker. Even today, with science theorizing all
sorts of speculative ideas about the origins of the universe and of mankind,
very few people truly believe that everything came about by accident and random

In spite of all
our knowledge and technology, in many ways ancient people were smarter than
many are today. They looked around at all the complexity of the natural world,
all the beauty and strength of nature, and then they looked at themselves and
their failures and they said, "There must be a God out there! I wonder
what that God looks like."

Well imagine being
in a little town in ancient Palestine one day, and as you go down to your house
of worship, there’s a man there who tells you everything you ever wanted to
know about God. But something’s very different about this man from all the
other rabbis and priests and Pharisees and Sadducees you’ve ever heard. He not
only tells you about God, he tells you that he is God! He says the
kingdom of heaven has now come down to you.

You look at that
preacher, and you are staring God in the face. This man preaches to you like
you’ve never heard before. He speaks with authority, because he is the eternal
God in the body of a human being. That’s what it must have been like for the
people who heard Jesus preach.

Jesus not only
preached to the people. He healed them as well. Those who were blind, or
crippled, or paralyzed: he made them whole. He healed their diseases. He gave
them back their abilities.

Jesus did this to
show them that what He said about Himself was true. He was the Son of God,
that is, he was God himself.

Many people
welcomed Jesus into their town. Some offered their homes to him. Others left
their homes to follow him wherever he went. We think of the little man
Zacchaeus, who climbed up a tree to see Jesus, and then welcomed the Savior
into his house for supper.

The Gospel of the
kingdom is that God has come to our town in Jesus Christ. Right here today,
Christ is making his appearance. We have gathered in this house of worship
this morning, like those people in ancient times. They gathered to read from
God’s Word, and they were surprised to see God Himself—the Word made flesh—come
into their midst.

We should not be
surprised to know that Jesus is present here this morning. Jesus has told us
that where two or more gathered in His name, He would be there with them. He
told his disciples that when they baptized and taught his word, he would be
with them always, to the end of the age. He told them, "Whoever hears
you, is hearing Me." We are certain that Jesus Christ is with us here
this morning.

When Jesus looked
out at the people who gathered around him, it says he had compassion on them.
He loved them. He wanted to help them. But there were so many of them. He
said they were harassed and helpless. Jesus could see more than they could.
He could see the reason they were harassed. They had enemies. There was a
predator in their town—that roaring lion, devil, who we’ve mentioned before.
He was everywhere, sneaking around, poking and jabbing at them.

And the poor
people! They couldn’t see this invisible enemy. He was working his hardest to
discourage them, to wear them down, to drive them to despair. He was the one
who brought illness to their bodies. He was the one who put the cloud of
despair over their heads. Satan was at work in those towns, just as he is
working among us today.

We really have the
same enemies today, as you will recall. We have the Devil, who preys upon us.
Most people today think Satan is an imaginary character—just a way of making an
abstract concept of evil more concrete—but I don’t think I need to tell you
that he’s not only quite real, but he is alive and well. Where do people get
the ideas to do the evil things that they do? The devil is whispering it in
their ear, or encouraging the world to offer them something juicy that goes
against God’s Word. Jealousy, envy, hatred, lust, adultery, thievery,
violence, murder. It all comes from the same place, from Satan, the father of

But Jesus cast the
demons out of people, made them leave, just as His Word and His action today do
the same for you and all repentant sinners who believe in Him.

We also have
another enemy, the world itself. I certainly don’t mean that we should hate
the beautiful planet we live on, the world which God created for us to enjoy
and take care of as His stewards. Rather, it’s the spirit of the world that
attacks us. The trends that drive people to self-centered and self-directed
actions is what I am talking about. The world preaches lies to us constantly,
through the media, through our experiences, through the lives of other people
who live in darkness and cross our paths, like the black cats of superstition.
When we read and know the Bible well, it’s easier for us to say what is right
and what is wrong. But when we see our friends and neighbors doing wrong, we
can get dragged along too, right into the devil’s trap.

Our third enemy is
very close to us. It is our flesh, those desires that pull us down and seek to
drag us away from God. The flesh is the untamed part of ourselves that feels
so good when we ingratiate and cater to it, but feels so bad when we realize
the wrong we have done. Yes, you’ve heard it said many times that we have
three enemies—the Devil, the world, and our flesh—but we all constantly need
that reminder, so the we never forget. They certainly won’t forget, and
they won’t stop until they thoroughly soil us and damn us, keeping us away from
God’s presence.

But Jesus breaks
into the world, breaks into our lives, and breaks through all these enemies.
He comes to greet us. He has defeated the devil by resisting all temptation.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted and yet was without any sin. That
not only means he did no wrong; it also means that he missed no opportunity to
do right. All of this goodness He offered up on the cross for us.

By giving us faith
in His sacrifice, he has imputed—or transferred—this goodness to us. We are
forgiven, and more than this, we are now holy and righteous in the sight of
God. We shine forth with all the goodness of our Savior. This is the Gospel
of the kingdom of God—Christ having come to us and given us His righteousness.

We learn from the
lesson today that Jesus looked out at all the people and loved them. They
looked like sheep without a shepherd. There were so many of them and only one
of He would die for their sins and give them His holiness. But how would they
hear this good news? So He said to his disciples, "The harvest is
plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of
the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

Growing up in Michigan, nothing important ever seemed to come to our little suburban town. Well, every
summer at the Founders’ Festival, there was a rodeo that came to town, but it
wouldn’t compare to a real Texas rodeo. Mostly, people just went to work, to
school, to church.

One time a
missionary came to our church and showed us what he was doing in New Guinea. We listened to him talk about the people there who had never heard about sin
and forgiveness in Jesus. They lived very, very poorly in economic terms, but
they welcomed the Gospel of the kingdom of God in the forgiveness of sins.

It was so exciting
to think that God was using this man to travel to the other side of the world
to bring his salvation to people who would never know that God came down in
Jesus and died to take away their sins, and therefore they would be welcomed
into heaven with us.

It was wonderful
to think that God was using us, as a congregation, to make this happen through
a small part of the few dollars we put in the offering plate each week.

Jesus called his
twelve disciples, and He gave them power to preach, to heal, and to defeat the
enemy. He sent Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, the brothers James and
John, Matthew and Thomas and all the others. They went out, and for the rest
of their lives they traveled and preached and taught until the day they
died—almost all of them dying for that preaching and teaching.

That was how Jesus
loved people—He had the saving Gospel proclaimed to them, both from His own lips,
and from the mouths of His chosen apostles. He told them to go first to the
people of Israel and proclaim that the kingdom of God was at hand. They didn’t
have to take money, for the people they preached to would supply all their

If those they
approached wouldn’t hear and believe, they were to move on. They didn’t charge
admission for God’s gift of the good news for the world; they were to depend on
the response which the Holy Spirit generated in the hearts of their listeners.
The good news was free, and it was for all people, even those who might reject

Friends in Christ,
things haven’t changed. The gospel of the kingdom of Jesus has come here
today, but there’s a world of people out there who either haven’t heard or
haven’t considered the possibility that it could be true. Christ has done
everything to make it possible for their salvation to be delivered to them.
All it takes is for a disciple to go.

There are two ways
we can respond to this. We can pray as Jesus said that God would send
messengers out into the harvest, to every town and village, faithful pastors
who will tell people what sin and death is, and what Jesus did to defeat it.
We can support our colleges and seminaries where pastors are trained so that
they are equipped to preach the gospel to a increasingly complex and always
sinful world. We can support the work of missionaries who faithfully proclaim
the message of Christ in places that it is not readily heard.

We can also
respond by carrying that message ourselves. Just imagine what those people
whom Jesus had healed had to say when they got home. "This morning I was
blind, but now I can see." "I never thought I would walk on my own
two feet, but look at me now!" Sometimes Jesus heals our bodies and minds
through modern medicine, or even through unexplainable miracles.

But more
importantly, Jesus has healed all of our souls. We have all received the
healing of our souls. That means we have a wonderful message to tell, too.

Pastor Nuckols and
I are the called servants of Jesus. So are Pastor Neumann, Pastor Pohl, Pastor
Martens, and Pastor Galler. There might perhaps even be a visitor or two among
us in that category here this morning. We may have been set aside by our
Savior and given His authority to drive out the demons of your sin and heal the
illness of your spiritual death. But the reality is: We will never be able to
reach all of the people that you know, or all those you come across in your
daily lives who don’t yet belong to Jesus. You can reach them, however. Pray
that God will give you the Spirit to tell the Good News of forgiveness and
eternal life that He has provided to you, that you might bring spiritual
healing to someone else. God grant it for Jesus’ sake…and for theirs.

In the holy name
of Jesus. Amen.