My college buddy Mike once determined to radically obey Jesus’ command to “give to anyone who asks of you.” So, walking down the streets of Chicago, he committed to give something to every homeless person who asked. And then he went on a trip to India with the same plan…and gave up. There was just too much need. He didn’t have enough pocket change to serve that world.
Matthew 9 is a chapter of need…India level need. It begins with a paralytic lowered through a roof, and moves to a scene at a party filled with sinners. Then there is legalistic religion followed by blood and death and blindness. It’s no wonder that the chapter ends with Jesus’ challenge to His disciples as He is compassionately looking over multitudes of people who are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Verse 36)
What is surprising…is the form of the Lord’s challenge to His disciples in light of the multitudes of harassed and helpless sheep. Surrounded by all this need, we might have expected Him to issue a summons to buckle down and get to work. “Get off your duffs,” He would have said, “There are many who need you and the disciples who will follow you. So get to work preaching and serving and loving and healing. There is literally no time to waste.”
But no. That is not what He says. In light of the overwhelming need surrounding Him everywhere He looks, He tells them…to pray.
“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.”
– Matthew 9:37, 38
Jesus’s surprising call to prayer begs a question of us: what is our first response to the world of need around us? More than that, what is our first response when we are filled with need ourselves? It seems pretty clear what He wants us to do first and foremost: He wants us to call out to the One Who has…enough pocket change to serve the whole world.