Gospel of Matthew 9: 27-38 (NIV)
27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they replied.
29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no-one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.
32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
This passage presents two instances where Jesus miraculously healed, first, two blind men and then a man who was demon-possessed and mute. Let us look, however, at the more general statement in verse 35: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and illness”.
The original Greek text shows “every disease and every illness”. It is not that on every occasion when Jesus encountered disease or illness he brought healing; rather, Jesus’ healing power extended to every kind of disease and to illness of every description. Matthew has his readers realise that Jesus’ authority extended across all kinds of ailments: there was no form of disease or illness that our Lord could not heal.
Consider Jesus’ life to this point. He was raised in humble circumstances in Galilee. Growing up in that town he would have been exposed to death and grief, sickness and disability. After his baptism by John, and as his reputation as a healer grew, he would have encountered even more cases of disease and illness, hopelessness and despair. He would have known the anguish of carers as much as the pains of those in need of continual care. He would have seen more outcasts of society than most of us ever will.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them (v. 36). He had compassion not because there were sick people in the crowds, nor because among them were the frail and aged, but because “they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.
This is juxtaposed in Matthew’s Gospel with verse 34 where the Pharisees, those who could and should have been “shepherds” to these crowds, were instead engaged in disparaging Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus’ compassion towards the crowds led him to instruct his disciples to pray. He did not instruct them to pray for healers. He did not instruct them to pray for an end to disease. He instructed them to pray for more workers in the harvest field of the Lord.
When we encounter Jesus’ description of the harvest in the Gospels, we see he is speaking of those to be gathered into the kingdom of heaven. He wanted his disciples then, and he wants his disciples today, to ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.
There is much for which we may pray. There is much for which our Lord will want us to pray. But as we observe society around us, as we observe the rise of secularism and of other faiths in the world, we can see why it is one of our Lord’s imperatives that we continue to ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers into the harvest fields – across the corridor as much as across the world.
Lord, send out workers into your harvest field.