35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
History and Context:
The book of Matthew does not actually name an author, but Christian tradition from as far back as we have has claimed Matthew's authorship. The author was clearly a Jewish Christian writing to a main audience of Jewish Christians. For this reason Matthew is careful to clearly lay out how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. He quotes the Scriptures much more than any of the other Gospel writers. Much of Matthew is very similar to Mark and therefore scholars believe that Matthew drew on the book of Mark for material. The believed date of writing was somewhere around 80 AD but it could be anywhere from 50 to 100 AD.
Matthew chapter 8 and 9 list numerous miracles that Jesus does as He travels. In these chapters He casts out devils, heals sick people, gives sight to the blind, raises the dead, and calms the storm. Even here is verse 35 it says that Jesus went to all the cities and villages teaching, preaching, and healing, but He still was moved with compassion when He saw the multitude. He saw that no matter how much one man did, that one man couldn't do it alone. He knew that one man's ministry to the multitude wasn't enough. this is why Jesus chose to invest most of His time into twelve. When He said to pray for laborers, He also implied that our work should be focused on building laborers.
The Great Commission isn't about simply making converts. Jesus told us to go out and make disciples, in other words build laborers. It's not enough if you are the only one going out and preching the Gospel, you should be training the people who God gives you to also go out and preach the Gospel. This is the only way to truly affect the world for God. Jesus took seventy, focused on twelve, and gave extra focus to three. If God has given you a group of people to minister to, don't focus on growing your numbers as much as growing your individuals. Eventually they will be trained and confident to go out and bring new people in. Then your numbers will begin to grow.
Lord, help me to pray for and to build laborers for this harvest. Help me to do my part in discipleship, as well as be discipled myself. Help me to do my part in growing your Kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen!