Chapters 8 and 9 of Matthew take us into the second “story” section of that book and what immediately strikes me is how popular Jesus has become. Large crowds from all over Palestine are following Jesus. He cannot escape the crush of people who come to depend on him.
At the end of chapter nine are these words: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (9:37-38). I doubt, however, that what Jesus has in mind is a prayer that says: “Lord, there’s lots of souls out there. Sure hope you will send someone to reach them.” When we ask God to make our concerns his, we should be sure they are genuinely our concerns. That’s really at the heart of Jesus’ instruction. It’s not just “ask God” to send someone. It is to be involved ourselves.
Jesus sees people with empathy and works to help them. He does miracles because he can. The example is that we too should be on the watch for the needs of others. When we begin to see those, and take the time to provide help and comfort, we, like Jesus, will not have to continue to be on the lookout for them; they will find us just as they found him.
And as we minister to them, we should remember to tell them about the kingdom of heaven. That’s what Jesus did. He was not conducting a social services ministry. He was in a life changing ministry and he did that through his teaching. When Christians seek to alleviate the suffering of others without pointing them to Jesus, they are only getting discipleship half right. When we seek to teach without connecting with the lives of others, we fail to get it right at all.