The United States is currently experiencing a labor shortage. Most of us have experienced the results. Dedicated employees are scrambling to compensate for absent co-workers. Businesses are closing earlier when shifts aren't covered. And no matter how you might view it politically, I think we can all agree that when laborers are few, frustrations are many.
In Matthew 9:35-38, we see an even more crucial labor shortage. It reads, "And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then 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'" (ESV).
Jesus prioritizes partnership from the start of His ministry. He values co-laborers. Rather than working alone, He calls others to join Him.
For example, Jesus tells Peter and Andrew, "'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men'" (Matt. 4:19 ESV). Notice how Jesus does more than call them to follow. He gives them a part to play in the mission of God.
So, when we find Jesus in Matthew 9, we find Him hard at work. And He acknowledges how the work is greater than the number of workers. Not because He is too weak to accomplish this work on His own. But God, in His sovereignty, chooses to work through brazen people like Peter in the spread of the gospel to the nations.
That's why we need to see what happens next. Matthew 9:35-38 is connected to Matthew 10 when Jesus sends His disciples to share the gospel with the lost.
They go. But do we?
Most of us are familiar with Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus says, "'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age'" (ESV).
As followers of Christ, are we obeying His call to go and make disciples? The work is plentiful, but how many of us are actually willing to be sent?
Discipleship is costly. When Jesus sends out the twelve in Matthew 10, He says, "'Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves'" (v. 16 ESV).
A little later, He says, "'A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household'" (vv. 24-25 ESV).
You see, being a disciple of Jesus means sacrifice. That's why Jesus says in verse 39, "'Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it'" (ESV).
As we obey Christ's call to be and make disciples, we're partaking in His work to bring people of every tribe, language, people, and nation before Him (see Rev. 5). It's the most crucial work. Yet Jesus says the laborers are few.
So, will you let discipleship top your list of New Year's resolutions? Will you pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest (Matt. 9:38) to open a door for you to disciple someone in 2022?
And don't think God only uses pastors and missionaries to accomplish His purposes. God may not call you to Africa. God may not call you to pastor. But who has He placed around you? Maybe that person needs to hear the gospel and see the gospel displayed through your example.
In his wonderful book called The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert E. Coleman emphasizes how discipleship is more than teaching. It also involves watching. As we share our lives with those we disciple, we follow the example of Christ.
My prayer going into 2022 is that God will find in me a more willing and ready heart to go where He leads and disciple those He places around me.
There is work to be done. Will you go and make disciples?