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Sunday, August 12, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "When He Saw the Crowds"

“When He Saw the Crowds”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
August 12, 2018 :: Matthew 9:35-38

We’re skipping ahead today.

We should be in Matthew chapter 8, verse 1.

We are in a long term series working through the theological biography of Jesus called The Gospel of Matthew, a series we’re calling, “Following Jesus,” and we just finished the section normally called “The Sermon on the Mount” Matthew chapters 5 through 7.

So, the normal next step would be to watch Jesus come down from the mountainside and see what happens next. I’ll tell you what happens next. Jesus goes right back to healing people, calling people to follow Him, and working amazing miracles that reveal Who He really is.

We’ll see that next week.

But as I was reading ahead, I got stuck on this paragraph, Matthew chapter 9, verses 35 through 38. I’ve preached it before several times. It’s very meaningful to me and probably very familiar to most of you.

But as I was reading it this week, I was thinking especially about the Good News Cruise.

And our hopes for what will happen here on our campus this coming Saturday.

This passage is about the mission that Jesus is on and the mission that Jesus calls us to, as well.

We often think of it as a missions text. International missions. But it’s just a relevant to our living the missional life here today.

I think of this passage of Scripture as a guide for how to do the Good News Cruise.

As we watch Jesus see the crowd and react to the crowd, I think it shows us how we are supposed to see the people who will be visiting our campus and how to think about them and pray for them and try to reach them with the gospel.

So, let’s skip ahead to chapter 9, verses 35 through 38.

Keith Folmar likes to remind us that the Good News Cruise is not primarily about cars. It’s primarily about...people.

And every year we get more people here on our campus. There’s a sea of people out there between the cars.

How should we look at them? How should we see them?

What should be our perspective on these people who are our guests?

I love to walk up and down the aisles of cars at the Good News Cruise.

Not so much to look at the cars themselves–though there sure are some beauties out there.

But more to look at and talk to the people.

One year, Keith was looking for me at the cruise-in, and he easily found me and said, “I knew where you’d be–out there the middle somewhere talking to someone.” That made me feel good that I could be predictable like that.

There’s a lot of different kinds of people here at the cruise, aren’t there?

There are people like you and me in significant ways, and there are people not like you and me in significant ways.

I look around at the crowd, and I have various initial reactions when I see these people coming.

What is your initial reaction?

In Matthew chapter 9, our Lord Jesus sees a large crowd. In fact, he sees more than one large crowd. In this stage of His life and ministry there were many crowds that He interacted with. He was like a rock star at this point between His teachings and His miracles. Especially the miracles.

There were people everywhere.

What did Jesus see when He looked at the crowds?

Our Lord often sees things differently than we do, doesn’t He?

Our Lord often sees things differently than we do.

I think this passage tells us about our Lord’s perspective and shows us what to see when we look out at the crowd at the Good News Cruise.

Three questions for us this morning. Here’s number one.

#1. DO YOU SEE THE PEOPLE?

In verse 35, we get a bullet-point description of Jesus’ work in these early years of His traveling ministry. It’s really a bookend to the section that began in chapter 4, verse 23. It sounds almost just like 4:23. There are three main actions of Jesus: teaching (in synagogues), preaching (the gospel of the [upside-down, inside-out] Kingdom of God), and healing (all kinds of diseases and sicknesses). We’ll see more about that next week.

It was a very busy period of time for Jesus, and He was on a mission.

But in the rush of ministry, our Lord did not fail to notice the people.

Everywhere He went, Jesus saw people. Big people, small people, clean people, dirty people, rich people, poor people, hungry people, sick people.  People, people, people.

And v.36 says, that when He saw the crowds, He had “compassion on them...”

The Greek word for “compassion” here literally means to have your guts wrenched in pity and sympathy. Uggh. He felt it right here in His gut.

When Jesus looked out and saw the people, he just grieved in His spirit with a gut-wrenching feeling.

Uggh. It hurt Him to see people like this. I mean it. It hurt.

The people were in Jesus’ sight (v.36) “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

What do you think a sheep is like that doesn’t have a shepherd? I’ll tell you in one word: LOST.

Sheep are dumb animals. I’ve said this many times, and it makes me laugh every time. Sheep are so dumb they can get lost by walking into an open garage and then not being able to figure out how to escape!

If sheep don’t have a shepherd, they don’t have a leader, they don’t have a provider, they don’t have a care-taker, they are done-in, they are a lost cause, they are helpless.

And Jesus, when He looked out upon the crowds of people, saw shepherdless sheep.

They were harassed and helpless. They had forces at work against them which were way too powerful for them to stand against. They were in danger and in turmoil.

They were lost.

And our Lord felt compassion for them. Jesus loved the shepherdless sheep. Jesus loved lost people.

And the question that God is asking us today is this:

Do we see the people?

Do we see how they really are?

Not just the cars. But the people.

Do our hearts break when we see and interact with lost people?

Or are we too complacent and self-satisfied and self-centered?

Do we love the lost?

Or are we, rather, repulsed by them?

I firmly believe that our biggest problem in evangelism is not that we don’t know what to say. I think that many of us here know what the gospel is.

I believe that our biggest problem in evangelism is a lack of love.

I know that it’s my biggest problem in evangelism.

Our hearts are not moved by the plight of those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Shepherd.

Bill Hamel–the former President of the EFCA whom we are praying for as he is in hospice now with untreatable cancer–Bill Hamel regularly challenged our churches to love the LAST, the LEAST, and the LOST. That was his phrase, “The last, the least, and the lost.”

And if we don’t, he said we aren’t acting like Jesus.

Because Jesus did this for us!

Jesus looked at our helplessness before sin. He looked at our harassment by Satan.  And He took pity upon us. It hurt Him to see how we were. Ugh.

Jesus loved us, even though there was nothing in us to commend us to Him.  We were His enemies!

And yet, Jesus pulled us to Himself with covenant love.

If you are a Christian today, it is because Jesus saw how harassed and helpless you were without him...and He compassion on you!

And so we should do the same.

When I say the word MUSLIM, what happens in your heart?

Do you feel anger? Do you feel revulsion? Do you feel fear?

Or are you moved with compassion?

Muslim people are lost people.

And we should love them.

Not because Muslims are innately lovable, but because Jesus chose to love them, you and I should have our guts wrenched with an ache for their salvation.

I’ve heard supposed Christians call them, “Towel heads,” and hope they get out of our country. Yuck!

There are over 1.1 billion Muslims in the world. 80% of whom have never heard the gospel–ever! I read a statistic this week that of the 350,000 Christian missionaries in the world, only around 5,000 of them work in Muslim countries!

Do you see the people?

Not that I expect there to be many Muslims here on Saturday.

But the question is do we care?

How about this one.

When I say the words POOR PEOPLE, what happens in your heart?

Do you squirm? Do you feel revulsion? An aversion to talking about poverty?

Over a billion people in this world live on about one US dollar per day. 3 billion live on less than $2.50. Every day, around 10,000 people (most of them children) die from the results of dirty drinking water. There are 68.5 million refugees in this world. And 85% of the world’s poorest countries lie within the 10/40 window: the least evangelized part of the world.

In other words, if you are poor, you are harassed, helpless, and have a much smaller chance of hearing the gospel.

And do we care? Do we see the people?

Your neighbor down the street with the loud dogs, the beer cans in his yard, the raucous parties on Saturday night, the four-wheelers peeling over your newly planted grass? You see him coming your way...what do you do? Turn away? Walk down the other side of the street?

What do you feel?

Do you fear for His soul?

Do we see the people?

Or do we care too much for our comfort, our convenience, and our security?

What are you going to see when you look out at the people on Saturday?

You know, in saying that they are harassed and helpless, I don’t mean that some of don’t look really good. They clean up well. They have a nice looking car. Many of them are good upstanding moral people.

And we can learn from them, too!

We need to be careful labeling people as lost or helpless and make it sound like if they were just smart people like us then they’d have it all together. And they have nothing to offer others.

That’s far from the truth!

But we know what we were like before we knew Jesus, right?

Harassed and helpless like lost sheep.

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...”

What do you see?

When you go to Sheetz, and there are bunch of people in the line.

What do you see?

When you look out here and see community people on our playground.

What do you see?

Do you see single moms that are struggling to make it?
Do you see people trapped in addictive behaviors?
Do you see sheep that don’t have a shepherd?

In my job, I talk to a lot of people. And sometimes, it’s easy to get “compassion” fatigue and to stop caring.

I struggle with that a lot. I want to be a compassionate person, but I get tired. I get weary.

I’m sure that Jesus got tired.

But when He saw the crowds, He got compassionate.

What do you see?

What do we see as we as we look out on our community?

Do we just see our school, our post offices, our truck stop, our families, our things?

Or do we see shepherdless sheep who are harassed and helpless without Jesus?

That’s why we do the Good News Cruise.

Keith has written up a little message called “Tuned for Life” which is about our theme this year. It will go in all of the goodie bags that we’re going to pack on Thursday night.

He talks about spark, fuel, and air.

This is what he says, “God and his saving grace through Jesus is our SPARK!  Without Christ, we have no hope in the future. We need Jesus to be the point of hope in this life and throughout eternity.”

That’s why we do the Good News Cruise.

Because we want to see people the way that Jesus sees people.

In verse 37, Jesus turns to His disciples and says that He can see something else that they probably can’t.  V.37

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

Jesus, looking at these Shepherdless Sheep, sees something more that we often don’t see–potential!

#2. DO YOU SEE THE POTENTIAL?

Jesus looked at those people [sinners–every single one of them], and He saw some potential followers. He saw a church that He was going to build using lost people. He saw a harvest of souls won to the gospel of the kingdom–won to the King.

Do we see the potential?

Everywhere you go, among all the people you see, are the elect of God, sprinkled throughout humanity.

Do you see potential Christians everywhere you go?

Some of us see the lost, and feel their lostness, but we don’t feel hope for them.

We see their harassment, and we see their helplessness on their own.

We see their shepherdlessness. But we miss their potential to be Shepherded.

That’s a big part of my problem. I see the lostness. I feel it in my gut. But often, so often, too often, I have a hard time envisioning what God might do with them if I am bold enough to allow Him to use me.

But Jesus sees redeemable humanity among the lostness.

He did in me! He saw beyond my sin and my guilt and my shame.

And He went after me. He saw the potential harvest in me. Not that I had anything to offer Him. I didn’t qualify for even one of His gifts to me. But He knew what He was going to do with me. And I’ll be forever grateful.

That co-worker who bugs the living day-lights out of you could soon be your brother in Christ!

Your landlord who just about steals your hard-earned money, might soon be your sister!

Your hard-hearted father who has never had anything good to say about you or to you, may soon become a fellow Christian!

Some person you’d rather despise that is walking up and down the aisles of cars next week, somebody who is basically your enemy, might soon be part of your spiritual family!

Because the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!

Ask the Apostle Paul! God is in the business of changing murderers into saints.

You and I need to ask God that we begin to see every lost person we come into contact with as a potential Christian.

They won’t all turn to Christ. In fact, a depressing number of them will take the broad road that leads to destruction that Jesus was talking at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

But we have no idea who will. And Jesus wants Shepherdless Sheep to have a Good Shepherd!

Do you see the people?
Do you see their potential?
Do you see how we need to pray?

#3. DO YOU SEE HOW WE NEED TO PRAY?

V.38. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Do you see how we need to pray?

If you see the lostness of people and your heart is broken.

If you see how many people God desires to save through His gospel.

Then pray.  Ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into the harvest field to bring those Shepherdless Sheep to the Good Shepherd.

Do we pray for more workers?

There are 7.6 billion people on the planet today. Most of them do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

The current missionary force that we have will not reach the world. We need to ask God to send more of us into the world to reach the world for Jesus Christ.

Next weekend, we’re going to have a special missionary guest, Sarah [I can’t say her last name so we just say, “Kay.”]. She has been called to go serve the last, the least, and the lost in Panama. She is called to work with orphans.

I’m sure that seeing them will break her heart.

Sarah Kay is going to be with us at the Good News Cruise and she’ll be here on Sunday to share her story with us.

She has heard the call of the Lord of the Harvest and is going out into the field.

And we need to pray for MORE.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

It will only happen through prayer.

That’s why we have the Harvest Prayer Time every month. Last Saturday of every month, a group of believers meets in the prayer room for one hour to pray the whole time for the lost. We’ve been praying for the Good New Cruise.

It will only happen through prayer.

Why is that?

Why does Jesus want us to ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out more workers?

Doesn’t the Harvest-Lord know that there is a worker-shortage?

Of course He does!

At least 2 reasons why He wants us to ask:

#1. Because when we ask, we get involved. When we are praying, there is a much greater chance that we will care about what God does with these situations. It pulls us in. In fact, we are often the answer to our own prayers.

What happens in the very next verse? Chapter 10, verse 1? Those who were praying are sent on a mission themselves.

When we begin to pray for the person down the street who needs the Lord so desperately, often He sends us to go get them.

#2. Because God gets the most glory that way. Instead of OUR amassing a missionary army, we acknowledge our need and our dependence upon God to do it. And when He raises the army through our prayers–He gets the most glory.

Notice in v.38 that it is GOD’s harvest field? And that He is Lord of the Harvest?

The Lord of the Harvest is most glorified when He is most needed. And prayer is the most humbling and needful act that the church can participate in.

So we should pray for more workers.

We should pray that people on Saturday would walk out into that crowd and share Jesus with shepherdless sheep.

We should pray that we would be bold to talk to the people whose names were put in this fishbowl a few months ago. Have we forgotten about them?

We need to pray for workers for our various ministries this Fall. Misty will need help putting on Family Bible Night. Teachers, helpers, game leaders, song leaders, the whole nine yards. ABC Kids, Kids for Christ, Youth Group, Prayer Meeting. Link Groups. We need to pray for these.

And we need to pray for more workers to go out into the harvest field internationally.

And for people to support them to get there.

Abe and Jordyn Skacel still have like 25% of their support that still needs raised so they can go on campus and talk to shepherdless sheep about the Good Shepherd.

Sarah Kay needs support to make it to Panama.

We need to pray hard this week for the Good News Cruise.

Not for good weather.
Not for enough hot dogs.
Not for a bumper crop of cars.

We can pray for those things. That’s fine. God cares about them, too.

But that’s not what Jesus was seeing.

Jesus was seeing spiritually needy people.

And He was sending people who know Him and know His gospel to connect with them.

So we need to pray that we would be sent out into the aisles with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into”...that field right over there.

Do you see how you need to pray?

Is there some person in your life that drives you nuts, that you’d love to complain about on your Facebook page?

That you need to pray for instead?

Pray about this. Pray that you would see them as Jesus sees them. “Harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.”

And see them as Jesus sees that they could be.

And then ask the Lord what to do. And do what He says.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine

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