Matthew 9:37
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(37) Then saith he unto his disciples.—No where in the whole Gospel record is there a more vivid or more touching instance of the reality of our Lord’s human emotions. It is not enough for Him to feel compassion Himself. He craves the sympathy of His companions and disciples, and needs even their fellowship in prayer. A great want lies before Him, and He sees that they are the right agents to meet it, if only they will pray to be made so; or, to put the case more clearly, if only they will pray that the work may be done, whether they themselves are or are not the doers of it.

The harvest truly is plenteous.—This is the first occurrence in the record of the first three Gospels of the figure which was afterwards to be expanded in the two parables of the Sower and the Tares, and to reappear in the visions of the Apocalypse (Revelation 14:14-19). We find, however, from the Gospel of St. John—which here, as so often elsewhere, supplies missing links and the germs of thoughts afterwards developed—that it was not a new similitude in our Lord’s teaching. Once before, among the alien Samaritans, He had seen the fields white as for the spiritual harvest of the souls of men, and had spoken of him that soweth and him that reapeth (John 4:35-36).

Matthew 9:37-38. Then saith he to his disciples — To quicken their devotion and zeal, The harvest — Namely, of souls to be gathered in, is plenteous — The multitudes that followed Jesus, and expressed so earnest a desire of receiving his instructions, gave him occasion of making this reflection. He compared Judea and the neighbouring countries to fields covered with ripe corn, where nothing was wanting but reapers. See John 4:35 : and L’Enfant. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest — Whose peculiar work and office it is, and who alone is able to do it; that he will send forth labourers into his harvest — The word εκβαλη properly means to thrust out, plainly implying the exercise of some degree of force. For it is an employ not pleasing to flesh and blood; so full of reproach, labour, danger, and temptation of every kind, that nature may well be averse to it. Those who never felt this, never yet knew what it is to be labourers in Christ’s harvest. He sends them forth, when he calls them by his Spirit, furnishes them with grace and gifts for the work, and makes a way for them to be employed therein. “Christ’s example here,” says Baxter, “teacheth preachers to compassionate a willing multitude, when they want sufficient teachers, and to pray God to send forth more labourers when there are too few; and not to give over labouring themselves without being utterly disabled, though men forbid them. Some parishes in London have each about seventy thousand souls, some sixty thousand, some thirty thousand; and all the city and county, and much more, have but one bishop, and the curates or preachers cannot be heard [each] by above three thousand at once, or thereabouts.” But how much greater is the population of London with its environs, and of the whole country, at the present day, than it was in Mr. Baxter’s time!

9:35-38 Jesus visited not only the great and wealthy cities, but the poor, obscure villages; and there he preached, there he healed. The souls of the meanest in the world are as precious to Christ, and should be so to us, as the souls of those who make the greatest figure. There were priests, Levites, and scribes, all over the land; but they were idol shepherds, Zec 11:17; therefore Christ had compassion on the people as sheep scattered, as men perishing for lack of knowledge. To this day vast multitudes are as sheep not having a shepherd, and we should have compassion and do all we can to help them. The multitudes desirous of spiritual instruction formed a plenteous harvest, needing many active labourers; but few deserved that character. Christ is the Lord of the harvest. Let us pray that many may be raised up and sent forth, who will labour in bringing souls to Christ. It is a sign that God is about to bestow some special mercy upon a people, when he stirs them up to pray for it. And commissions given to labourers in answer to prayer, are most likely to be successful.The harvest truly is plenteous ... - Another beautiful image. A waving field of golden grain invites many reapers and demands haste. By the reference to the harvest here, he meant that the multitude of people that flocked to his ministry was great. The people expected the Messiah. They were prepared to receive the gospel; but the laborers were few. He directed them, therefore, to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth reapers. God is the proprietor of the great harvest of the world, and he only can send people to gather it in.

Remarks On Matthew 9

1. We are presented with an instance of proper perseverance in coming to Christ, Matthew 9:1-2. Nothing was suffered to prevent the purpose of presenting the helpless paralytic to the Saviour. So the poor helpless sinner should come. No obstacle should prevent him. He should lay himself at his feet, and feel that Jesus holds over him the power of life and death, and that no other being can save.

2. Jesus has the power to forgive sins, Matthew 9:6. He claimed it, and worked a miracle to prove it. If he had it then, he has it still. To him, then, the lost sinner may come with the assurance that as he freely "then" exerted that power, so he is ever the same, and will do it now.

3. Jesus Christ is divine. Nothing could prove it more clearly than the power to pardon sinners. Only God can pronounce what shall be done with transgressors of His law, Isaiah 43:25. He that claims this right must be either an impostor or God. But no impostor ever yet worked a real miracle. Jesus was therefore divine. He can save to the uttermost all who come to God through him.

4. We see here the proper rule to be observed in mingling with the wicked, Matthew 9:10-13. It should not be of choice or for pleasure. We should not enter into their follies or vices. We should not seek enjoyment in their society. We should mingle with them simply to transact necessary business and to do them good, and no further, Psalm 1:1.

5. In the case of the ruler and the woman that was diseased, we have a strong instance of the nature of faith. They came not doubting the power of Jesus - fully assured that he was able to heal. So all genuine believers come to him. They do not doubt his power or willingness to save them. Poor, and lost, and ruined by sin, and in danger of eternal death, they come. His heart is open. He puts forth his power, and the soul is healed, and the sin and danger gone.

6. The young must die, and may die in early life, Matthew 9:18. Very short graves are in every burying-ground. Thousands and millions, not more than twelve years of age, have died. Thousands and millions, not more than twelve years of age, are yet to die. Many of these may be taken from Sunday schools. Their class, their teacher - their parents, sisters, brothers - must be left, and the child be carried to the grave. Many children of that age that have been in Sunday schools have died happy. They loved the Saviour, and they were ready to go to him. Jesus was near to them when they died, and they are now in heaven. Of every child we may ask, Are you ready also to go when God shall call you? Do you love the Lord Jesus, so as to be willing to leave all your friends here and go to him?

7. Jesus can raise up the dead, and he will raise up all that love him, Matthew 9:25. Many little children will be raised up to meet him in the last great day. He shall come in the clouds. The angel shall sound a trumpet, and all the dead shall hear. All shall be raised up and go to meet him. All that loved him here will go to heaven. All who were wicked, and did not love him here, will go to everlasting suffering.

8. We see the duty of praying for the conversion of the world, Matthew 9:37-38. The harvest is as plenteous as it was in the time of Christ. More than 600 million are still without the gospel, and there are not still many laborers to go into the harvest. The world is full of wickedness, and only God can qualify those who shall go and preach the gospel to the dark nations of the earth. Without ceasing we ought to entreat of God to pity the nations, and to send to them faithful people who shall tell them of a dying Saviour.

37. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous—His eye doubtless rested immediately on the Jewish field, but this he saw widening into the vast field of "the world" (Mt 13:38), teeming with souls having to be gathered to Him.

but the labourers—men divinely qualified and called to gather them in—"are few."

See Poole on "Matthew 9:38".

Then saith he unto his disciples,.... His heart being drawn out, and filled with pity to these poor people, upon observing the miserable and sad condition they were in; he turns himself to his disciples, whom he was about to call, and send forth in a more public manner to preach the Gospel, of which we read in the following chapter; and in order to quicken them to this service, and engage their hearts in it, says unto them,

the harvest truly is plenteous; meaning the large number of God's elect, which were in these cities, towns, and villages, and in other places: not that these were maturely prepared by anything in themselves, or done by them, for the grace of God; and much less ripe for the kingdom of glory, and therefore called an harvest: but as there are the appointed weeks of the harvest, or a set time for the harvest to be gathered in, so there is a certain fixed time, settled in the counsel, and by the purpose of God, for the effectual calling and conversion of his elect; and this time being come, with respect to these in Galilee, and other parts, Christ calls them an "harvest"; and because of their number, a large, or "plenteous" one.

But the labourers are few: Gospel ministers; whose calling is a laborious one; whose business is to labour in the word and doctrine; to be constant in prayer; to give up themselves to meditation and reading; to study to show themselves workmen; to preach the word in season, and out of season; and diligently discharge the several duties of their office, to the glory of Christ, and the good of souls: but such painful and laborious ministers, who are willing to spend, and be spent for Christ and immortal souls, have been but few in all ages; generally speaking, there are more loiterers than labourers.

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 9:37-38. The μαθηταί in the more comprehensive sense. The Twelve are expressly specified in Matthew 10:1 immediately following.

ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς, κ.τ.λ.] The literal (John 4:35) meaning of which is this: Great is the multitude of people that may be won for the Messiah’s kingdom, and that is already ripe for being so, but small the number of teachers qualified for this spiritual work; pray God therefore, and so on. Luke 10:2 connects those words with the mission of the Seventy. They are as appropriate in the one case as in the other, and in both cases (according to Bleek, only in Luke 10:2) were actually used by Jesus. But to infer from the illustration of the harvest what season of the year it happened to be at the time (Hausrath, Keim), is very precarious, considering how the utterances of Jesus abound with all sorts of natural imagery, and especially considering that this present simile was frequently employed.

δεήθητε, κ.τ.λ.] so entirely was He conscious that His work was the same as a work of God, John 4:34.

ἐκβάλῃ] force them out, a strong expression under the conviction of the urgent necessity of the case. Comp. note on Mark 1:12.

Matthew 9:37-38. θερισμὸς: a new figure coming in abruptly in the narrative, but not necessarily so close together in Christ’s mind. The one figure suits the mood of passive sympathy; the other, that of the harvest, suits the mood of active purpose to help. It would not be long in the case of Jesus before the one mood passed into the other. He could not be a mere pitying spectator. He must set on foot a mission of help. The Capernaum feast was the first stage; the mission of the twelve the second. The word “harvest” implies spiritual susceptibility. Weiss protests against this inference as allegorising interpretation of a parabolic saying which simply points to the want of suitable labourers (vide L. J,. ii. 119). So also Schanz maintains, against Euthy., that not susceptibility but need is pointed to. But, as against Weiss, it is pertinent to ask: what suggested the figure of a harvest if not possibilities of gain to the kingdom of God, given sympathetic workers? This hopeful judgment as to the people of the land, contrasted with Pharisaic despair and contempt, was characteristic of Jesus (vide my Kingdom of God, chap. 5).—ἐργάται ὀλίγοι: professional labourers, men busying themselves with inculcation of moral and religious observances, abundant; but powerless to win the people because without sympathy, hope, and credible acceptable Gospel. Their attempts, if any, only make bad worse—(sub legis onere ægrotam plebem, Hilary). “Few”—as yet only one expert, but He is training others, and He has faith in prayer for better men and times.

Matthew 9:38. δεήθητε: the first step in all reform—deep, devout desire out of a profound sense of need. The time sick and out of joint—God mend it!—ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ, etc. The prayer, expressed in terms of the parabolic figure, really points to the ushering in of a new era of grace and humanity—Christian as opposed to Pharisaic, legal, Rabbinical. In the old time men thought it enough to care for themselves even in religion; in the new time, the impulse and fashion would be to care for others. ἐκβάλῃ, a strong word (cf. Mark 4:29, ἀποστέλλει), even allowing for the weakened force in later Greek, implying Divine sympathy with the urgent need. Men must be raised up who can help the time. Christ had thorough faith in a benignant Providence. Luke gives this logion in connection with the mission of the seventy (Matthew 10:2).

37. The harvest truly is plenteous, &c.] The same expression occurs Luke 10:2 on the occasion of sending forth the Seventy, cp. also John 4:35, “Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.”

Matthew 9:37. Ὁ μὲν θερισμός, κ.τ.λ., The harvest indeed, etc.) He repeated the same words[436] to the Seventy; see Luke 10:2.—θερισμὸς, harvest) i.e. in the New Testament, for in the Old Testament it was the time for sowing. See John 4:35-36. And again, the present time is the season of sowing; the end of the world the harvest.—πολὺς, plenteous) See ch. Matthew 10:23.—ἐργάται, labourers) Fit persons to whom the work should be entrusted.

[436] After the lapse of a year.—B. H. E. p. 288.

Verses 37, 38. - The utterance is given word for word (except one transposition) at the beginning of the address to the seventy in Luke 10:2. But while serving there as an introduction to the rest of the speech, the reason for it is so much more self-evident here that St. Matthew seems to have recorded it in its original connexion. Our Lord himself, feeling the shepherdless condition of the people, desires to call out the interest of his disciples in it. He wants them to realize both the need of the people and the possibility that lay before the workmen. Changing the metaphor, he bids them pray him, who alone has the right and power, to send more workmen to reap these fields. Verse 37. - Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest - of human souls (John 4:35-38). Truly. So also the Revised Version; too strong a rendering of μέν. Is plenteous (cf. Matthew 10:23; Bengel), but the labourers are few. Who besides himself? John the Baptist, some who had been healed, e.g. the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:20, possibly also the blind men of ver. 31), and perhaps a few unknown true believers. Not the twelve, for these are evidently distinguished, and only to be included under the labourers spoken of in the end of the next verse. If, however, the utterance was originally spoken to the seventy (vide supra), the reference would be to the twelve. Matthew 9:37
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