My Life Group lesson for Feb. 7, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...
What things last week did you want to accomplish and ended up left undone?
What factors kept you from doing some of the things on your list?
Sometimes lesser things get in the way of doing more important things.
While we deal with personal matters, we can also feel like we aren't meeting the needs of our church and the community.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
*** So far in Matthew we've talked about the Sermon on the Mount and seen Jesus perform miracles. He was a man of great words and great deeds.
*** Now that there was a large number of people ready to convert into followers, Jesus now extends his authority to his 12 disciples.
*** (If you remember, during the Sermon on the Mount Jesus focused on the disciples while the people listened.) This week we'll see how Jesus focuses on the people and prepares the Twelve to carry out their mission.
MOTIVATED BY COMPASSION (Matt. 9:35-36)
35 Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd.
*** Don't be sheepish.
--- A preacher once said, “If you’re going to be a shepherd, you’d better like the smell of sheep.”
--- There was a huge difference between the religious leaders and Jesus. They liked telling people what to do, but didn't care about the people. Jesus loved people. Loving people was what He was all about.
--- Verses 35 and 36 are a great example of how Jesus viewed people. First he saw those that needed a touch from God. Next He saw those that needed guidance. Finally He saw those that He would use to help Him in His mission. (Bro. Joseph)
*** Spread the Good News.
--- Have you ever felt so merciful for someone that your heart ached for them?
--- Matthew says that Jesus felt tremendous compassion for the people. The original language makes clear that it was an emotion that He felt deep inside his gut (the same way our modern culture uses "heart"), so much that He felt compelled to act on their behalf.
--- Jesus went to where the people were, to their villages and their places of worship. He didn't sit on a mountaintop like some guru waiting for them to come to Him.
*** Baa! Baa!
--- Why was Jesus so concerned for us? Jesus often refers to us as sheep. In John 10:11, Jesus contrasted Himself with Israel’s corrupt spiritual guides: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” In John 21, Jesus tells Simon Peter to feed His sheep.
--- But when Jesus compares us to sheep, He’s not exactly giving us a compliment. He’s saying that we are helpless, we are stubborn, we are disagreeable. We need constant supervision. Because a sheep without a shepherd can not take care of itself. A sheep without a shepherd will die.
--- This imagery draws heavily from the Old Testament, comparing shepherds to their leaders. When God informed Moses that he would not lead the people into the land, He commanded Moses to anoint Joshua as successor “so that the Lord’s community won’t be like sheep without a shepherd” (Num. 27:17). According to Ezekiel 34:1-7, Israel’s kings, who were supposed to be good shepherds, were selfish and corrupt. Similarly, in Jeremiah 23, God was grieved by the pitiful state of Judah’s kings and other leaders. As a result, the prophet promised that God would remove these despicable leaders and replace them with righteous guides who would shepherd them and protect them from harm (Jer. 23:1-4).
--- Thus, Jesus was moved to compassion when He looked out at the people of Israel and saw their desperate situation as a result of their lack of leadership.
*** Question - What scenes move you to compassion? How do those scenes compare with what Jesus was observing?
CHALLENGED BY PRAY (Matt. 9:37-38)
37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
*** We need more farmers.
--- Jesus tells the disciples that the work is obvious, but someone has to do it, and they aren’t enough.
--- Using a farming metaphor, there’s a gigantic harvest of people who need to hear the Word, but more laborers – disciples - are needed to gather the harvest. It was time to stop listening and start doing.
--- First, though, Jesus didn't tell them to go and gather the harvest. First he said to "pray" to the Lord for workers.
--- Jesus wanted His followers to learn an important lesson of the harvest: without prayer, the laborers will be insufficient in number and inadequate in power.
--- Think of the challenges the disciples faced in their day. There was no TV, no radio, no newspapers, no social media. To spread the Word they had to do it person to person, walking from town to town on dusty or rocky roads with no guarantee of where they would sleep or what they would eat.
*** Who is Lottie Moon?
--- We've said it before, that if you don't answer the call then God will send someone else to do the work you would have been commended for. One of those people was Lottie Moon.
--- Every Christmas Southern Baptist churches across the United States take up a special offering for foreign missions in the name of Lottie Moon.
--- Charlotte Digges "Lottie" Moon (December 12, 1840 – December 24, 1912) was a Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board who spent nearly 40 years (1873–1912) living and working in China.
Raised in a Christian home, Moon was a teacher, but kept getting that tug from God to go tell people around the world about Jesus.
When she was 32 years old she decided to become a missionary and was appointed to China. That’s where her sister Edmonia was already a missionary.
It was tough to reach the untrusting people there at first, but through baking cookies she began to slowly reach the people and tell them about Jesus. She then started schools for girls who largely weren’t getting an education.
In 1912, a terrible famine came to China. Lottie gave her food to the people. But soon she got sick. The doctor said she should go back to the United States to get well.
So Lottie’s friends put her on a ship for the States. But she never made it. She died on Christmas Eve, 1912 while still on the ship. Lottie Moon gave her life so the people in China could learn about God.
(From Baptist Heritage)
COMMISSIONED TO GO (Matt. 10:1-8)
1 Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the 12 apostles: First, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. 5 Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. 6 Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge.”
*** The saints go marching.
--- Jesus sends out his 12 disciples in pairs of two.
--- Question – Why was it important to do this?
--- He uses His authority in teaching, healing and over sin and death and delegated it to the disciples. They would perform the same miracles as Jesus did before.
--- This is the only time Matthew uses the term "apostles" to describe the disciples.The Greek word apostolos designates an authorized representative who has the authority of the sender. (2 Cor. 8:23 it's translated as "messengers.")
--- There was a lot of diversity among the disciples. There are two pairs of brothers: Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John. They were uneducated fishermen. Matthew likely had more education since he formerly served as tax collector. The other Simon was a zealot, indicating his political affiliation. It is remarkable that a Jewish zealot, who would have used violence against Jews that conspired with the Romans, could form a brotherhood with a Roman sympathizer like Matthew. What a testimony of the power of Jesus to transform people’s lives.
--- Their mission was more than preaching the kingdom of Jesus Christ. They also needed to show compassion for the people and meet their needs.
--- They started with the people of Israel because they weren't well-prepared to cross cultural barriers to reach Gentiles. That came later with the Great Commission.
--- Jesus instructed the Twelve to live simply, accepting the hospitality of the people to whom they were ministering. They did not pay for the gospel they received, and they should share it without charge, fully dependent on God for provision.
*** Question - Is Jesus always specific when He gives one of His followers an assignment? How can His assignments be both specific and general?
Have you ever looked around while in the car on the highway and wondered about all these people?
Where are they going? How different are their lives?
Have you ever wondered how many of them have that inner joy of being a follower of Jesus?
(Probably not that guy who cut you off then went 10 mph under the speed limit.)
*** Are our hearts moved with compassion for the lost? How do we see people: as a nuisance or as sheep who need to know the Shepherd?
*** Jesus showed the disciples how to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the people, then told them it was their turn. Now it’s our turn.
*** Ask what God would have you do as a worker to reap the harvest. Pray that God would send out workers to get it done.