“The harvest is great, but the laborers are few …”
Jesus’ authoritative teaching (Matthew chapters 5-7) and demonstration of power (chapters 8 & 9) were not meant merely to astonish crowds (7:28-29, 10:33). But Jesus’ words and works pointed to a greater purpose – a mission. We often refer to this mission as “evangelism,” from the Greek euangelion meaning “good message.” Evangelism is the mission of the church. It is the proclamation of the good news that Jesus has come into the world to save us from our sins; that by trusting in His substitutionary death and conquering resurrection, we have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God and eternal life. Over the next 3 sermons, we will consider chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel under the banner of “Mission Impossible.” First we will examine the incentives, staff and mission itself (9:34-10:15); then in part 2, the peculiar danger of the mission (10:16-39); and finally in part 3, the mission’s reward (10:40-42). In part 1 on Sunday, we will see how at the beginning of the mission, Jesus chose 12 men to herald the gospel message and gave them specific instructions as to how to carry out their impossible mission in the midst of a hostile world.
In the introductory paragraph (9:35-38) we learn of the source and incentive of the church’s missionary power: (1) the heart of Jesus and (2) prayer for workers. Motivated by compassion for a plentiful, but harassed and helpless harvest field of souls, Jesus calls us to pray for laborers and to labor ourselves in this mission. As Mr. Phelps in the old “Mission Impossible” TV series would begin each program by selecting a staff that was appropriate for the specific mission, in Matthew 10:1-4, Jesus goes beyond merely choosing, but He equips His mission team with power – twelve men who we call “apostles,” literally meaning “one sent forth.” After choosing the men, finally Jesus gives them specific instructions as to how the carry out the mission (10:5-15).
Through our ordination as “salt” and “light” in chapter 5, to the grand warning to those who reject our message (10:15), and on through the Great Commission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, we discover that we are on the most important mission in the world, doing the world’s most impactful work. Do not allow the impossibility of the mission keep you from deciding to accept it.