Sowing and Reaping Articles

When You Look At The Crowds, What Do You See?

By Larry Guido

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless. Then He said to His disciples,e He  “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” 

Each time I read or hear these words, I pause and think carefully about the introductory phrase: “When He saw the crowds…” And, when I allow the seriousness of those three little words, I ask myself the question, “Larry, what do you see when you see ‘the crowds?’” 

Matthew, in sharing this story with us, must have seen something that upset Jesus so profoundly that it was reflected in the eyes and on the face of Jesus. They had been together in other situations when crowds surrounded Jesus, were in contact with Jesus, had been close to Jesus. Perhaps, Matthew never noticed it before or the impact on Jesus – in this situation – touched Him differently. 

Matthew says that “He had compassion…because they were harassed and helpless.” Were they milling around aimlessly? Part of a protest? Agitated because they were disappointed? Perhaps angry at something?  We do not know the source of their feelings of harassment or their reason for appearing helpless. Nor does it matter. Matthew said, “When Jesus ‘saw’ what He saw, He “was moved.” And, the word “compassion” the Holy Spirit gave Matthew to use in this verse means that Jesus was “moved at the very deepest level of feelings possible.” 

When Jesus saw the crowds, He was deeply moved with compassion. If we – as His disciples – are the “eyes and ears and hands and feet and voices of Jesus today,” what happens inside of us when we see crowds of people? What is the first thing we notice? Clothes? Hairstyle? Color of skin? Jewelry? What they have in their shopping cart? The car they drive? And the Anger? Frustration? Fear? This list could go on endlessly. 

What Jesus saw in this “harassed and hopeless” crowd was pain and sorrow and hunger and loneliness and bewilderment and despair and defeat – feelings that are inside of people in every crowd – then and now. Feelings that Jesus knew His disciples could do something about because He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” 

So, what’s different today? Everything. Nothing. Everything would include the “ingredients” of life – the way we live, the things we have, the care we receive, the luxuries we enjoy. Nothing refers to the “ingredients” God planted in Adam and Eve – the physical needs as well as the feelings and emotions and hopes and aspirations, and after “the Fall,” a sinful nature. And, it is through “the nothing” that God has connected us and made it possible for us to have the same compassion that “moved Jesus deeply” when He saw the crowds. If it were not for this “connectedness” that unites us, there would have been no reason for Jesus to want “disciples who would make other disciples” to minister His love, mercy, grace, salvation, hope, and eternal life. 

Jesus addressed two facts in this short paragraph that were true when Matthew recorded this event that are still true today: the “plentiful” harvest” and the “few laborers” – or disciples – who are willing to work in His “harvest field.”

Perhaps a reason for the shortage of “harvesters” is the difficulty we have in “proclaiming the Good News” of the Kingdom. We may be reluctant “harvesters” because we feel shy or afraid or uncertain of what to say or how to begin a conversation with the “harassed or helpless.” However, there are three simple, easy “to do” starting points for becoming a “harvester:” give your testimony, witness, and minister. In the New Testament, the meaning of the word “testimony” is “making a declaration that confirms or makes anything known that informs as well as validates something that happened.” Simply stated, that means “telling or sharing with others about what God, through Christ, has done for you, a blessing He has bestowed on you, a gift He has given you, a prayer that He has answered for you, an insight from Scripture that He has shared with you.” A testimony is “me” telling  “you” – or “giving evidence” – about something “personal” that has happened to “me.” John, in His Gospel, wrote about what this means: “God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the Light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the Light.” (John 1:7)

We share many events in our lives with others in endless conversations, but how often do we pause – or even consider – and say, “Let me tell you, or share with you, what God has done for me!” And, the “testimony” we “declare” begins, when we “declare” – or share with another person – the gift that God has given us. It can be as simple as an unexpected phone call that encouraged us when we were going through a difficult time, or a generous gift from an unexpected source that enabled us to pay a bill or being healed from a severe health problem. The list of “God’s gifts” is endless IF we pause and admit that whatever we have, or do not have, is a gift from God that, in one way or another, is at work in our lives blessing us as one of His beloved children. So, sharing your gifts from God is declaring or confirming that validates God at work in our lives.

A “witness” in the New Testament is “one who has knowledge or information and makes that knowledge or information known.” As the risen Christ was preparing to ascend into heaven to be with His Father, He said to the Apostles, “You will be my witnesses telling people about me everywhere…” (Acts 1:8.) This serious statement from Jesus is meant to encourage, excite, empower, and entrust His followers to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of salvation. It is presenting the process and plan of salvation to others in a way that others will be able to understand what God can do for them because of what He has done in and through and for us! It’s “once I was blind, but now I can see,” and I’d like to tell you what that has done for me. Witnessing is “actively” presenting the Gospel Message, whereas a “testimony” may be more “passive.” It’s something that can be an effective “follow-up” to a “testimony” where we can say, “I’d like to tell you about Jesus and what He has done for me. Because, if He’s done something for me, He can do it for you!”   

A prisoner recently wrote to us “I have received your Seeds of Hope monthly devotionals for several years now. They have been a true source of Godly wisdom and hope to my life. I have been able to pass them on to other inmates as a way to bring others to Christ.”

Paul, in writing to Timothy, advised him that “A ‘servant’ of the Lord does…” That is the meaning of the word “minister” in the New Testament. Or, to put it as plainly as possible, a “minister” is “a server in the office of a subordinate, waiting upon others.”  So, if we are to minister to others, we must meet them at their “point of need.” Jesus, moved with compassion, saw people who were “harassed and hopeless.”   When we see the people who make up the “fields” around us, do we recognize their spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, relationship, or educational needs? Unfortunately, I am sometimes so involved in meeting my own wants and needs, my eyes and ears are closed to being interested in meeting their needs. 

From my earliest childhood to the day my mother went home to be with the Lord, she would constantly say to me, “Larry, can you see on that person’s forehead the words, ‘For whom Christ died?’” And, she would continue the conversation by saying, “What can you do to tell them about Jesus? How can you help them? Do you know if anyone loves them or cares for them, or if they are hungry or afraid or alone?” With “Ma,” it was not only seeing “the fields,” but seeing each one in the field as someone whom Jesus loved so profoundly that He willingly died for them so that they might live. 

Each of us can be a “difference-maker” if we accept our responsibility and obligation to become a “laborer in the harvest fields” and if we chose to share our testimony of what God is doing in our lives, be a witness and share the Gospel Message with others, and minister to the needs of the “harassed and hopeless.”

Are you willing to be a laborer for Jesus in His harvest field?