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Series A - Matthew
Series B - Mark
Series C - Luke
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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
Gospel Analysis, The Harvest is Great

PENTECOST  4A      Matthew 9:35-10:8

SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, pp. 89-90.

Grace Lutheran Church
Des Moines, Washington 98198 

This Bible study is from THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations beginning in 2005.

#98. THE HARVEST IS GREAT     Matthew 9:35-38; Mark 6:6b, 34; Luke 8:1, 10:2, pp. 89-90.

The transition from healings to teachings (about discipleship) is seamless and smooth. Notice what a wonderful transition Matthew makes from the series of fourteen healing miracles (chapters 8-9) into Jesus’ teachings about the need for more disciples. In Matthew 9:35-36, we hear of Jesus’ infinite compassion and healing of all people. These people were like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he says to his disciples: “We need more workers and laborers in God’s world.” In Matthew’s logic, it was time to find more workers of healing and compassion and give them authority over the unclean spirits, diseases and infirmities. The presence of God in Jesus was not enough. Jesus needed more people who were filled with the loving presence of God who would go out and preach, teach, and heal. Jesus needed more people who were willing to be instruments of the gospel.

-Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. “Words and deeds.” That is, Jesus preached the gospel and healed every disease. Jesus’ first disciples were to do the same: share the gospel and do deeds of mercy. Today, Jesus’ disciples are to do the same: share the gospel and do deeds of mercy.

-When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, The Greek word for compassion refers to deep, emotional feelings located in “the bowels” of one’s humanity. We find that Jesus was compassionate in many circumstances and the word, “compassionate,” is used to describe him. Jesus was moved to compassion when he saw the sick (14:14), the blind (20:34), those gripped by demons (Mark 9:22), the mother at Nain whose son had died (Luke 7:13), when Jesus saw the hungry crowd of 4,000 people to be fed (15:32).  Christians, who are effective evangelists today, also have compassion for people around them who may not know the gospel. Christians have compassionate attitudes to such people rather than carping criticism or petty faultfinding against those who are not followers of Christ. Compassionate people do not threaten others with hell and damnation for people who believe, think and act differently than themselves. Jesus preached the word of the gospel and did deeds of mercy with the spirit of compassion, and we Christians are to do the same today.

-Because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. A dominant metaphor in the Old Testament is that God and the leaders of God’s people are compared to a loving shepherd. Jesus, of course, becomes the good shepherd who loves the people so much that he is willing to die for them. Meanwhile, the masses of humanity are like aimless and helpless sheep, who are in need of a loving and guiding caretaker. The Latin word for shepherd is “pastor.” Some sheep do not have a “pastor” to feed them, care for them, defend them, and lead them on the narrow paths of God-pleasing right relationships (righteousness.)

-Then he said to his disciples, With this verse, we see that Jesus begins to focus on his teaching about discipleship to his inner core of disciples. Turn to page 97, #107, Matthew 11:1, which says, “When Jesus finished instructing his twelve disciples.” So we can easily conclude that chapter 11 is filled with teachings about discipleship for his twelve disciples. Jesus is teaching his first disciples about the fundaments of discipleship, and twenty-one centuries later, we are still listening in on that conversation. Jesus’ advice to his disciples two thousand years ago still rings true today. 

-"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." This was certainly true in Jesus’ day: a myriad of people were ready to belong to the kingdom but what was needed were more workers. Jesus then told parables that the harvest was ripe and ready, but he needed workers and harvesters. Here in the state of Washington where I live, it reminds me about when the strawberries are ripe and ready to be picked. You need the workers to do the job or the strawberries will start rotting on the vine.

Also, Jesus believed that the masses of humanity around him were ripe and ready for the gospel, ripe and ready for the kingdom, ripe and ready for God to rule their lives. The time was ready. The time was ripe. The same is true today in the twenty-first century: there is a whole world of people all around us who are ripe and ready for God to begin to rule their lives. The laborers are few. That is, there are numerous people who are “part of the crowd” who want to be a member of the church, sing in the choir at church, be on the council at church, work on social projects at church, and do everything at church but work at helping someone to know the love of God in Christ Jesus. The church here in America has plenty of people who are willing to do church work in order to keep the church running smoothly, but there are very few disciples to do evangelism work to help people know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This theme still rings true today.  

-Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. What is the first thing the church is to do when seeing so many millions of people who are ripe for the gospel? Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers. Prayer for workers is a crucial part of making new disciples for Jesus Christ.

Some basic principles of evangelism that are derived from this story are:

a)      The disciples were to each out to people who knew their need of God and the ways of God.

b)      The disciples had an attitude of compassion and not criticism nor condemnation.

c)      The disciples were not religious professionals but common and ordinary people.

d)      The disciples prayed to the Lord of the harvest to give workers who would do the work of harvesting, not people whose primary passion was working to maintain the church.

e)      The disciples were sent out two by two. (next story)


#99. COMMISSIONING THE TWELVE     Matthew 10:1-16

- He called the twelve The twelve disciples become the hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds of Jesus. That was the way it was originally and still is true today. For Jesus to complete his mission in today’s world, he needs hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds. The harvest is overwhelmingly great and Jesus needs willing hands, willing hearts, willing minds and willing spirits. Jesus gets work done today through his disciples who are committed to doing the work.

Twelve is the same number as the twelve tribes in the Old Testament and twelve disciples of the New Testament.

These were not twelve religious professionals or rabbis, etc. The word, “disciple,” means learner or pupil, and disciples are people who learn from Jesus, our master.

-And began to send them out two by two.
(Mark) “Sent them out two by two.” Here in this passage, the twelve disciples are sent out two by two. We find this same theme of two by two in Luke’s version of a similar story of the sending out of the seventy. (See page 165, #177.) Today, we think of young Mormon missionaries going out two by two.

Why two by two? It gives courage, confidence and strength to go out with a partner. One reason Mormon missionaries are the most effective missionaries in the world today is because of this simple method: training in missionary faith for two years and then they go out two by two. That simple formula made for effective evangelism two thousand years ago and formula is still effective today. Some scholars would trace the roots of the concept of going out “two by two” to the Old and New Testament injunction to have two witnesses in order to ascertain the truth (Deuteronomy 19:15; Numbers 35:30, Luke 10:10-15.).

DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHY DO YOU THINK THE DISCIPLES WERE SENT OUT TWO BY TWO? (Have a group secretary to record the answers and turn them in after the class.)


1.      Support and encourage each other

2.      A shared synergy and energy

3.      Safety in numbers; draw strength and security from one another

4.      Shared knowledge about Christ

5.      Two heads better than one; two people see things differently

6.      Keep each other from straying from goals

7.      Hold each other accountable

8.      Learn from each other e.g. a new witness learns from a more experienced witness

9.      Perseverance, less willing to quit

10.  Flexibility in dealing with varieties of people

11.  Easier when two handle everyday details e.g. food, lodging

12.  Help each other out during times illness or death

-Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. Luke adds one of his favorite words, “power.” People are more effective when they know that they have been invested with authority. They spoke the gospel with authority. They told about the power of God in their lives with authority. The opposite of having power and authority in one’s faith is to have a doubting, half believing faith that lacks credibility, power and authority.  Jesus himself had an inner spiritual authority, and people listen to him because he had that authority. This principle is still true today. When lay people speaks with conviction about Jesus Christ, there is authority in their voice and in their stories and their reasoning. Being authoritative is not being autocratic or domineering. This turns people off.

-These are the names of the twelve apostles:
The word, “apostle,” means sent, and Jesus sent out twelve disciples out to preach, teach, and heal.

-First, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
The twelve disciples were varied in their personality and disposition: four fishermen, two people with hot tempers, a government tax collector who worked for the Romans, a political zealot. It can be imagined that there were various personalities and dispositions among the disciples so that they could relate to various personalities and dispositions among the people with whom they related.

-These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
The first thing the Jewish disciples were to do was to go to their own people, with their own customs and their own language. That was the most natural thing to do. Acts 1:8 gives the paradigm for Christian evangelism: “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That is, evangelism starts with its “own kind” and then branches out. So it was for these first disciples who were all Jews so they naturally went with the gospel to people of their Jewish culture. It will be noted that only Matthew’s gospel tells the disciples to go first to the lost sheep of Israel. That was not the concern of Mark or Luke in their version of the story of the call of the first twelve disciples.

-As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
Word and deeds. The message of preaching is the reign of God, the kingdom of God, and that God wants to rule people’s hearts, minds and lives. We all need to be ruled by the wisdom, peace and sanity of God and God’s ways. And we are to be agents of healing, especially healing the sin that permeates and destroys all of our lives. Jesus’ advice to his original set of disciples still rings true for us today.

These are signs of the reign of God, that God is ruling a person or a family or a city or a nation. As has been said previously, these signs were reported to John the Baptist in order to persuade him that Jesus was the Messiah.

What are the equivalent signs today that Jesus reigns and rules in an individual, a family, a city or a nation? Perhaps such signs today of God’s rule are good homes, good schools, good hospitals, good medical care, good government, good jobs, good faith…for all the people and not just for a minority or even a sizeable majority.

-You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.
The Spirit of Christ is given to us, and we cannot buy that Spirit of Love. The Spirit of Christ and his love is freely given and is not for sale nor can it be purchased with any amount of money.

The disciples are told to carry no gold or silver with them and they are to dress simply.  One tunic. Two pairs of sandals.  That’s all.  What is behind this?  I am convinced that Jesus is aware that some people may be attracted to Christianity for the wrong reasons e.g. Christianity will make you healthy, wealthy, and popular.  Fancy clothes and bulging wallets may send the wrong message.  The only thing the disciples have to offer is the kingdom of God, the power and presence of God to heal their lives, to make a difference in the way they live.  Nothing more. Jesus’ advice to his original set of disciples rings true for us today.

The following Scripture is not part of the appointed lectionary for Pentecost 4A, but this Scripture is part of Aland’s SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS.

-Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 
To welcome guests and travelers into one’s home was a common courtesy during New Testament times. These traveling missionaries were to stay with families who welcomed them into their households.  If a family was hospitable and trustworthy, the first missionaries were to give them a blessing as they left that hospitable home. If the family in the house was cold, indifferent and unreceptive, the early missionaries were to wipe the dust off their feet as a sign to the inhospitable family that God would punish them for their rejection of the gospel and their rejection of the missionaries of the gospel. These people had the opportunity to listen and accept the gospel and they missed their opportunity. A poet once said, “Three things can not come back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, and the lost opportunity.”

-As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. -If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

-Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. We will hear this same theme of judgment for towns that rejected Jesus. We see this on page 100, #108, and the woes pronounced on the Galilean cities. We will study this theme of God’s judgment and wrath for those who do not repent when we study page 100, #108. Let us simply be reminded that Sodom and Gomorrah were a New Testament symbol for evil (Matthew 11:23-24, Luke 10:12-13; 17:29; Romans 9:29; II Peter 2:6; Jude 7). These towns rejected Jesus, the message of Jesus, and the kingdom of God, and their rejection resulted in the punishment of God. -See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. The disciples were going out into a world that was incredibly evil and dangerous and that dangerous world is still with us today. In this kind of hazardous world today, disciples need to be incredibly wise, and still have a genuine innocence to them. Jesus’ advice to his original set of disciples rings true for us today.

Winston Churchill embodied a crafty wisdom. One time, when approached by a Frenchman as Great Britain was being bombed and defeat seemed inevitable, Winston Churchill used the analogy of a lobster. Churchill said to the effect that there was a time in a lobster’s life when it shed its hardened shell and became extremely vulnerable to its enemies in the depths of the ocean. The lobster, without its shell, crawled into a crevasse in the rocks for safety and hid until its armored shell grew back. When the shell grew back, the lobster would ready to face its enemies. So too with Great Britain. It needed to be in a defensive position until Great Britain grew a new armored shell and was ready for battle.  … Yes, Christians are called to be as crafty as serpents and as wise as doves

-Study Luke’s version of the same story on page 165-167. Notice that Luke sends seventy disciples out two by two. We recall that Moses appointed seventy elders in Exodus 24:1,9-14. Moses needed help to do the work of the Jewish nation and Jesus needed seventy disciples to go out ahead of him. Notice the parallels in commissioning of the seventy in Luke 10:1-16 to the to the commissioning of the twelve in Matthew 10:1-16. In Luke 10:17-20, on page 167, you will notice that the seventy return from their mission and report that even “the demons are subject to us in your name.” That is, the power of evil was finally confronted and destroyed…even by the disciples. Jesus said that he saw “Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (See Revelation 12:7-10, 20:1-3 where St. Michael and all his angels defeat Satan and throw him out of heaven and down to earth.) This is the first time in Luke’s gospel that Luke labels the power of evil by calling him/it Satan. This is a clear indication that Satan is to be finally being defeated and bound here on earth. This defeat of Satan in Luke 10:17-20 constitutes the first of six healing miracles in Luke.

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