Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few" (Matthew 9:38). Is that still true?
There are more than 311 million people in our country. Our world should reach 7 billion within a year. Yes, the harvest is plentiful. And the fact that so many of them do not know Jesus - well, he's right about the other part too.
That's why Jesus' next words were, "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
I had a seminary professor who liked to call that Jesus' dirty trick prayer, because in the very next verse, Matthew records that Jesus called together his 12 disciples, the ones who just prayed for workers, and then Jesus "sent them out," workers in the harvest field.
Look at what led up to Jesus saying what he did. In 9:35, we read that Jesus is going around "Preaching the good news of the kingdom..." and look at what happened as he saw the people: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
That's why he said what he did. They needed help. They were misled by false teachers, hounded by the devil, unable to see their need much less fix it. They were headed for hell. And that hurt Jesus. They needed to hear the good news of their Savior or else they'd be spending eternity away from him.
Our world today looks the same, even worse. Our world does not believe. They do not know Jesus, and the worst part is they are oblivious to what really matters.
So what do we do? Do we say, "How sad!" and walk away? No. Look at what seeing that did to Jesus: It hurt him deep down.
The text says he had "compassion" literally (his guts were moved). There are several words for compassion in the Greek, but this was a word only used of Jesus and those imitating him in the New Testament. This was compassion that felt the pain and did something about it.
Do your guts move when you see the people of our world lost and shepherdless?
Think of how many see Oprah as their spiritual leader, or Dr. Phil. And actually, last year they both were topped on one list of the people most influencing our nation's worldview by Lady Gaga, with Justin Bieber and Elton John both near the top of that list. Think about that.
And what the people of our world don't take from those "heroes," they'll find another source to mislead them, because that is what is in our human nature. It is a world that thinks right is wrong and wrong is right.
Look at what people think is acceptable behavior, and reality TV constantly tries to push the envelope to get our world used to seeing more and more sin, and calling it 21st century living, calling it "advanced," confident that God will accept them because they tried hard.
In reality they've tried very little, and the ones who do try hard, well, trying hard is a self-taught religion based on the lie that we could accomplish what only God can give. And where does that end up? So much suffering coming for so many who think they are just fine.
Are your guts moved? Is that heart of Jesus thumping within you?
The world is dying. Our neighbors are dying. The devil is snatching them one at a time. And only the truth of God's word can change that.
The world needs you. It needs your time and your love and your resources to get them the truth. Are you ready to be workers for Christ?
So get out there and share him. If you're looking for opportunities to do that, call me. I'd be happy to help.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.