Matt. 9:27-38 “Jesus’ Strategy for Ministry”

Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 29 January 2012

I. The Comprehensiveness of Jesus’ Ministry (9:35)

·         There are a lot of concepts to tie together in the last dozen verses of Matthew 9, but I think they can be boiled down to four strategy concepts that start with “C”: Comprehensiveness, Confidence, Compassion, and then a Command that initiates everything.

·         Because I am boiling down Jesus’ ministry strategy, I want to start with a summary statement in the middle of this passage before getting into the healings at the beginning of this passage.

·         The summary statement I want start with is Matthew 9:35: And Jesus was going around to all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness[1].

A)    Jesus takes His disciples on one more round together of the urban and rural populations around Galilee, as He did earlier in chapter 4:

1)      Mt. 4:22-24 “And immediately after the men [James & John] left the boat and their father, they followed Him. And He was leading [them] around the entirety of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every illness and every infirmity among the people. And the hearsay about Him went out into the entirety of Syria, and they led to Him everyone who was bad-off, having various illnesses and being held fast by deep pain, and demonized, and insane, and paralyzed – and He healed them!”

2)      This indicates the extent of Jesus’ ministry: He did not leave anybody out, but saturated His homeland with the gospel.

3)      This also gives us an example for how we should do evangelism. How can we see to it that every community in our area gets the opportunity to hear about Jesus?

B)    Note the 3 things Jesus did in His comprehensive strategy:

1)      Teaching (5:1-7:29 – The Sermon on the Mount)

a.       With the exception of the sermon on the Mount, this was done in the synagogues among those who were already believers in God and in the Bible, further instructing them about God and what He says in His word.

b.      I believe this is analogous to the Bible teaching we do in church and Bible studies.

2)      Preaching (4:17 - “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.”)

a.       This preaching was typically done in public places outside the synagogues so that those who did not believe in God or His word might hear and repent.

b.      I believe this is analogous to evangelism initiatives we carry on outside the church.

3)      Healing (8:1-9:35 - The man with leprosy, The centurion’s boy, Peter’s mother-in-law, The demon-possessed men in Gadara, The president’s dead daughter, The hemorrhaging woman…)

a.       I believe this is analogous to the many practical ways we bring physical blessing into the world, whether it be repairing bikes for international students, digging wells in Africa, providing health care to the sick, and, of course, praying for supernatural healing.

b.      This is all part of a comprehensive strategy which would be meaningless without the teaching or preaching going along with it to bring understanding of spiritual things.


Matthew provides us at the beginning of this passage with two more accounts of healings not found in any of the other gospel accounts, but which round out a particularly-exciting day full of miracles and underscore the…

II. Importance of Confidence in Jesus (9:27-34)

My Translation[2]: And, after Jesus went along from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Be merciful to us, Son of David!” Even after He went into the house, the blind men approached Him. Then Jesus says to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They say to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith, let it be done to you.” And their eyes were opened, and then Jesus was vehement with them saying, “See, but let no one understand.” But the ones who went out [from there] made Him famous in all that [part of] the world.

            Then, as they were going out, see, a mute, demonized man drew near to Him, but after the demon was kicked out, the mute man started talking, and the crowd marveled, saying that such had never been seen in Israel. The Pharisees, however, were saying, “He is kicking out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”


A)    These two miracles further confirm the message of Matthew that Jesus is the Messiah:

1)      The term “son of David” is a messianic title:

a.       In v.27, the two blind men call Jesus the “Son of David” as they follow Him down the street all the way from Jairus’ house to Jesus’ family’s house.

b.      Although King Solomon was called the son of David in the O.T., we don’t meet with the term again until Matthew’s genealogy, which establishes Jesus as the messianic king.

c.       These blind men express two interconnected thoughts: i) Jesus is a descendent of David, and ii) Jesus is able to heal blind men. These two beliefs together are tantamount to saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promise to David that his descendent would reign as king forever.

d.      For hundreds of years, Jews had languished under ungodly kings, hoping for the fulfillment of this prophecy, and, ironically, two blind men are among the first to recognize that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy!

2)      Isaiah’s prophecies are not explicitly mentioned by Matthew here, but the healing of a blind man and a deaf/dumb man dramatically call to mind the fact that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Messiah:

a.       Isaiah 29:18-19 “And the deaf will hear, in that day, words of a book, and from gloom and from darkness, eyes of blind men will see. And in Jehovah, humble men will compound joy, and poor mankind will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”

b.      Isaiah 35:4-6Be strong; do not fear; see your God! … He Himself will come, and He will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstop­ped. Then the lame will leap like the stag, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy…”

c.       Isaiah 42:1&6-8 “…My chosen one, delight of my soul; I set my Spirit upon Him; He will cause justice to go out to the nations… I will give you for a covenant of a people, for a light of nations: to open blind eyes, to cause the captive to go out from the dungeon, those sitting in darkness from the prison house. I am Jehovah; it is My name…”

d.      Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah has anointed me to evangelize lowly ones. He has sent me to bind up those who are broken of heart, for the calling out of liberty to the captives, and opening of the eyes for those which have been bound…”

3)      The crowd was right in v.33, nothing like that had ever been done before in Israel. No one for 4,000 years of history had ever healed a blind person or a deaf/mute person, and then Jesus comes along and does what no one had ever done before, demonstrating that He was the Messiah.

B)    These two healings also continue to highlight the importance of faith:

1)      It took a lot of faith for those two blind men to persevere and follow Jesus across town, calling out for help like they did. I might have given up and gone home after chasing Jesus for a block if He never stopped and acknowledged me. But no, they chase Him right on into His house after He had gone inside and shut the door!

2)      Jesus’ first words to them are the question, “Do you believe I am able to do this?” calling them to believe in His power, then He affirms their confidence in Him, “According to your faith, let it be done to you.”

3)      Both healings also highlight the other side of faith, and that’s the problem of unbelief:

a.       In the first of these healings we see Jesus commanding the believing blind men in v.30 to “see,” using the imperative (orate), but also giving them a separate command to “let noone [else] know/understand.”

(i)     This healing of the blind men was done in the privacy of Jesus’ house, so it was not witnessed by the crowds.

(ii)   The same is true of the miracle previous to this where the girl was raised from the dead in the privacy of her bedroom after the crowds had been sent away.

(iii) Obviously, the fact that a dead girl was alive again and the fact that blind men were seeing could not be hidden, but these people who had been healed were told by Jesus not to volunteer the information or, when they were inevitably questioned about it, not to try to explain it further.

b.      I believe Jesus did this because of the problem of unbelief which we see in the response of the Pharisees to the healing of the deaf/mute man: “He’s only able to order evil spirits around because He is in cahoots with the ruler of the demons – the Devil!”

(i)     Additional miracles would serve only to entrench these unbelievers in their antagon­ism against Jesus and would eventually lead to them capturing and killing Jesus.

(ii)   The Pharisees who refused to believe in Jesus provide a contrast to the faith of those who followed Jesus.


So far we have seen the Comprehensiveness of Jesus’ ministry as He travelled everywhere, preaching, teaching, and healing, and we have also seen the importance of Confidence in Jesus as He tests and affirms the belief that He is the Messiah despite opposition. Next, I want to focus on…

The Compassion of Jesus (9:36-37)

36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, as sheep not having a shepherd. 37 Then He says to His disciples, The harvest is great, but the workers few…

What did Jesus see as He carried out His itinerant ministry around Galilee? He saw people everywhere that were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” and it moved Him deeply.

A)    The phrase “harassed and helpless” paints a picture of a predator – like a cat with a mouse – progressively mangling its prey until it gives up trying to escape and just lies there in the dust.

1)      Physically speaking, Jesus was ministering to frail, broken people with all kinds of health problems, including mental insanity, fever, paralysis, leprosy, feminine problems, deafness, blindness, - even death! And instead of despising them, He had compassion on them and gently brought healing to each one.

2)      Politically speaking, Israel was at a low point after being conquered successively by Babylon, Syria, Egypt, and the Romans.

3)      Spiritually speaking, the Israelites were also “harassed and helpless”

a.       In many cases, their own sicknesses made them ineligible to even worship with the people of God - Lev. 21:8 prohibited blind people from being able to enter the sanctuary to worship God. Once again, as in the case of the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus was bringing religious outcasts into favor with God.

b.      But these people were being even further oppressed by their own spiritual leaders, the Pharisees and scribes who, instead of teaching them the truth of God’s grace, were beating them down with tons of man-made religious rules. The Pharisees were teaching that people could earn right relationship with God by obeying enough rules. The fact is that we can NEVER be good enough to earn a right relationship with our Creator. The only way there ever has been to God is through belief in His Messiah (whom we know now as Jesus) whose death satisfies the punishment we deserve for not obeying all of God’s laws. It is Jesus who brings us into a right relationship with God, but most of the Jews of Jesus’ day hadn’t been taught this truth.

4)      The world is still like this today:

a.       I think of all the Muslims who have the same problem the Pharisees did, confusing outward obedience with salvation. There are over a billion Muslims today, spiritually “harassed and helpless” because they think that they can earn favor with God by praying and fasting and giving enough, and they’ve never heard of God’s grace!

b.      My heart is burdened for one country in particular, the country of Yemen, in the Arabian Peninsula. There are 24 million souls in that country, and their number is doubling every decade. When I visited Yemen, I saw Mosques on every corner, but no Yemeni churches. Not a single one in the entire country. Almost every man there was addicted to narcotics; every afternoon, all the men would close their shops down and hole themselves up in their living rooms to get high. The average income in Yemen is $200 per year. (That’s not $200 per WEEK – that’s $200 per YEAR). Although they collect taxes for welfare, the government is so corrupt that the poor-tax just ends up lining the pockets of elite bureaucrats. Both physically and spiritually, the people of Yemen are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

c.       If we look not only at the Muslims, but at all the harvest fields combined, there are some 4 billion people today who will live and die and go to hell without ever knowing the truth that Jesus saves – unless someone makes a new effort to go and tell them. What are the prospects of them hearing the gospel?

B)    v.37 The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few.

1)      As you can see from the chart, there are only about 3 missionaries per million Muslims around the world, and in Yemen in particular, most of the missionaries that were there have fled the country because of all the fighting.

2)      According to the year 2000 edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are about 5 ½ million full-time Christian workers, so that’s theoretically almost one pastor per thousand people in the world, but they are not evenly distributed. Only about ½ million of these 5 ½ million Christian workers are actually involved in cross-cultural outreach. You can see on this map the red areas where there are the fewest missionaries per capita.

3)      Of course, in Jesus’ day, those 12 disciples were it! That’s all the gospel workers there were in a world of perhaps 200 million people[3]. They faced an even more daunting challenge than we do today, but the laborers are still few.

C)    Our hearts should be moved with compassion as we consider the needs of the world around us.

1)      36 But when [Jesus] saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for themCompassion is a character trait of Jesus. When we respond in compassion, we are being like Him.

2)      It is interesting to note that the first occurrence of this phrase “like sheep without a shepherd” occurs in the book of Numbers (27:17) to describe the nation of Israel upon losing Moses as their leader. It was at that point that Joshua came in to shepherd God’s people and bring them into the promised land. In a very real way, Joshua (whose name is Hebrew for our English name Jesus) prefigures Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

3)      In the book of Ezekiel, the same phrase occurs again, in chapter 34. God has harsh words for the spiritual leaders of His people and promises to come Himself to shepherd His people. He says, “because my flock has become prey… even become food for all the beasts of the field for lack of a shepherd… I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his herd… so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them…”

4)      And here in the book of Matthew, we see the fulfillment of that prophecy. God Himself walked on earth and demonstrated His compassionate nature in the form of Jesus.


O.K. Now that we see the context of the passage, the Comprehensiveness of Jesus’ ministry, the importance of Confidence in Him, and the example of His Compassion, what is His Command? It’s not what I’d expect:

If we have learned how to do ministry from Jesus’ example and we trust Jesus ourselves and our heart is moved with compassion for the lost world around us, what should we do?

The Command to Jesus’ Disciples:

38 Beseech therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He thrust out laborers into His harvest.

A)    This is an intense command. Most English Bibles do not give it the kind of intensity that it has in Greek when it speaks of praying and sending:

1)      The word for “pray/ask/beseech” in this verse (depending on your translation) is not the standard Greek word for “pray” or “ask,” dehqhte, the word here, is generally used in the sense of begging out of a deep sense of need. If our heart is moved with compassion for the lost, our prayers will be intense; we will BEG God to send out laborers.

2)      The word for “send out” in Greek is also not the standard word for “send,” the word here, ekballw, literally means to “throw” or eject by force.

·         Why such a strong word? Because this kind of work is difficult – for instance, in France where Evangelical Christians are considered a radical cult group. We don’t naturally want to labor in God’s harvest where it is difficult; we need a kick in the pants!

B)    How will God answer this prayer?
First, tell me this, when Jesus said, “pray,” do you think the disciples said, “O.K., yeah, we’ll remember to record this when we write our Gospels…”? No! If Jesus pointed His finger in your face and commanded you to pray, you’d drop right down to your knees right then and there, and start praying wouldn’t you?

1)      Note what happened after the disciples finished praying: they became the answer to their own prayers, because in the next few verses, Jesus sends them out two by two to preach in the next villages!

2)      Does it scare you to think that if you obey Jesus’ command to pray for laborers that you or your children just might end up being the answer to your own prayers? We need to prepare our­selves – and our children – so that we can share the Gospel if and when Jesus sends us out!

C)    So, we are to “beseech the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest” RIGHT? NO! it’s not “into THE” harvest” it’s “into HIS harvest!” That little word makes a difference:

1)      Yes, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture,” but He also created the lost billions, so they are also in a sense “His.”

2)      We hear of some places in the world being “God-forsaken,” as though missionaries going deep into the jungle or deep into the heart of vast Asian cities or deep into the lonely desserts are removing themselves from God’s presence. But the truth is, No, we’re not going outside of God’s sovereignty to reach these people; they are HIS harvest, and as we go out into them, He will be right there to help us!

3)      This is God’s baby! If He tells us to pray something, it’s because He wants to fulfill that prayer! It He tells us to pray for more missionaries, you better believe that He wants to send out more missionaries!

Now if you’re anything like me, you may be saying, “How can I make this practical in my life right now?”

1)      One way of obeying this command to pray is simply praying the Lord’s Prayer – when you say, “Thy Kingdom Come,” you are praying a missionary prayer that more and more people will recognize the kingship of our Lord Jesus! Use the Lord’s Prayer!

2)      Another real practical way you can pray for the Lord of the harvest to thrust out laborers is to pray for a missionary every night during family devotions. (If you don’t know any mission­aries, start with the half-dozen that our church supports!)

3)      Some other ideas: Pray for lost people that you see as you drive around town and also for people around the world as you hear about them on the news or as you eat ethnic food – if you have a burrito dinner, pray for the evangelization of South Americans and pray that God will send Latin Americans out to reach Muslims!

4)      I can also help you get printed prayer guides to help you pray for the world!

Closing Illustration: John’s multiple-entry visas

When I first began sketching out the outline for this sermon, I got a letter in the mail from a long-time missionary friend of mine named John – actually from his wife. I want to read it to you because it so perfectly illustrates the way God uses prayer to send forth laborers into His harvest:


“We called the Taiwan consulate, just to ask some questions concerning the type of visa that we would be requesting (a multiple-entry visa). Because we go in and out of Taiwan so regularly, to get a multiple entry visa makes travel much more convenient. The woman on the other end of the phone responded with finality, ‘We don’t give multiple entry visas.’ This came as a surprise to us, in that we have heard of others receiving one. John asked several questions, all met with the same clear response, ‘We don’t give multiple entry visas.’


“With John’s language ability and history in Taiwan, we felt that we might have more success in dealing with the consulate face to face, rather than over the phone. So John made a trip down to Houston.


“He approached the counter to apply for our visas and inquired about the multiple entry visa. He was met by the staunch reply of a woman who had ‘ruled’ that office for 16 years. She again reported that they do not give multiple entry visas. John turned on all his third-culture charm and asked question after question, and made many attempts to try to change her mind. With each of John’s attempts, the woman became more and more resolute, demanding one after another new requirement. He realized that his situation was only getting worse, and now he was faced with a list of documents that he had to provide in order for us to even get a single entry visa – documents that he did not have. He decided to retreat and try to at least gather the papers that she had requested and come in the next morning to try again.


“Back in Oklahoma at this time, Jamie [John’s wife] was working on the computer, sending some email, when a message came up on her screen that one of our missionaries down in Mexico was on­line and wanted to visit. They wrote messages back and forth to each other over the Internet for a few minutes, checking in and asking how each other was doing. Jamie informed her that John was in the Taiwan consulate trying to get the visas and that there was a possibility that he was having some trou­ble. Mary asked, ‘Is it too late to pray?’ to which Jamie said, ‘No,’ and asked for prayer. Mary wrote back that she was praying right then that God would give us our multiple entry visa into Taiwan.


“As John left the office, he waited in the corridor for the elevator to take him down to the street level. Two Chinese men came out of the office dressed in suits and joined John in the elevator. John asked them in Chinese if they were getting off work. Startled and surprised to hear a white man speaking Chinese, they responded with excitement. They struck up a conversation in Chinese that lasted for just a few minutes. By the end of the ride, one of the men said, ‘Hey I want to have lunch with you tomorrow. I know a great Chinese restaurant. I’ll introduce you to it.’ He handed John his card and told him to just come to the front office at 11:30 and show the woman his card and they would go to lunch together. Never able to turn down a great Chinese meal, John agreed. He looked down at the card in his hand and saw that it belonged to the Director General of the Taiwan Consulate!


“The next morning, John entered the office and approached the same belligerent woman at the front desk. She greeted him, expecting to have to deal with his visa applications. Instead, John showed her the business card and told her that the Director General was waiting for him. Her eyes widened with confusion and surprise. Then she ducked her head and summoned the Director General.


“After a wonderful Chinese meal, John returned to the consulate literally arm in arm with the Director. As they walked down the corridor, heads peeked out of the office doors to watch this white man who was being led to the ‘holy of holies,’ the Director’s personal office… [The Director] assured John that his visa needs would be taken care of right away.


“When John finally went out to the front desk to receive his visas, the woman who had just the day before been nearly hostile about giving him a visa at all quietly bowed and handed over multiple entry visas for our whole family!


“The next day, when John and Jamie compared notes, they discovered that as John had been standing waiting for the elevator, Mary was praying, clear down in Mexico, that God would give us our multiple entry visas!”


That is how important your prayers are! When we pray like Mary did, God sends His servants out to reach the lost! We begin to fulfill Jesus’ strategy to save the world when we begin beseeching the Lord of the harvest to thrust out workers into His harvest.

[1] The Majority Greek text ends with “among the people,” although this phrase is not found in any early manuscript. Other manuscripts (א,L,f13,1010,1424) add an additional phrase: “and many followed Him.” These phrases, however, do not appear to add necessary information.

[2] Matthew 9:27 Καὶ παράγοντι ἐκεῖθεν τῷ ᾿Ιησοῦ ἠκολούθησαν [αὐτῷ-B,D] δύο τυφλοὶ κράζοντες καὶ λέγοντες· ἐλέη­σον ἡμᾶς, [Κύριε+f13] υἱὲ Δαυΐδ.  28 ἐλθόντι δὲ εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν προσῆλθον αὐτῷ οἱ [δύο+א,D] τυφλοί, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· πιστεύετε ὅτι δύναμαι τοῦτο ποιῆσαι; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· ναί, Κύριε.  29 τότε ἣψατο τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν λέγων· κατὰ τὴν πίστιν ὑμῶν γενηθήτω ὑμῖν.  30 καὶ ἀνεῴχθησαν αὐτῶν οἱ ὀφθαλμοί· καὶ ἐνεβριμή-σατο [-θηא,B,f1] αὐτοῖς ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς λέγων· ὁρᾶτε μηδεὶς γινωσκέτω.  31 οἱ δὲ ἐξελθόντες διεφήμισαν αὐτὸν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ γῇ ἐκείνῃ.

Matthew 9:32-34 Αὐτῶν δὲ ἐξερχομένων ἰδοὺ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ [ἄνθρωπον-א,B,f13] κωφὸν δαιμονιζόμενον·  33 καὶ ἐκβληθέντος τοῦ δαιμονίου ἐλάλησεν ὁ κωφός, καὶ ἐθαύμασαν οἱ ὄχλοι λέγοντες [ὅτι-CT] οὐδέποτε ἐφάνη οὕτως ἐν τῷ ᾿Ισραήλ.  34 οἱ δὲ Φαρισαῖοι ἔλεγον· ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων ἐκβάλλει τὰ δαιμόνια.

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