And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest – Matt 9:35-38.
Beyond its unholy divisions and racism, the church is facing with many issues today that hinders and declines every facet of its life and leadership. Without obedience to divine diagnosis and treatment command, we will do more harm than good. It is normal to mistreat the church when we misdiagnosed its disease. Over the past several decades, the church has noticed alarming symptoms of discipleship disease, hence, the church’s issue is missional rather than a debate or maintenance projects. Have we lowered the bar and settled for a lowest common denominator discipleship as it was in the Dark Age? Our human diagnosis shaped by a marketer than a minister through our arms of flesh, strategies and policy are adding to the disease and decline. An inherent danger in the church is that, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not taught and live out, something less than the New Testament church exists. Has the gospel any power again in our churches? The church is not just ‘a respectable and semi-decadent human institution, and nothing to worry much about if it goes out of business.’ Divine diagnosis is about distinctive Christianity beyond a shallow and generic spirituality that oversimplifying discipleship for growing crowds instead of growing Christians.
Divine diagnosis reminds us that the Gospel and the communication of the Gospel are two different matters. In the Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 9, Jesus, in summary of his earthly ministry teaches us the process of fulfilling a God-given vision and mission. Jesus made visible the Kingdom of God through His miraculous works of healing and salvation. Jesus took the initiative to obey God, He ‘went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction’ (v. 35). Jesus, in process of communicating the truth observed and understood the reality of human conditions. Jesus saw the crowd. Jesus had the same compassion that God has for sinning people. He saw them wandering in sin like lost sheep because they had no shepherd to show and teach them the truth. Jesus was burdened with a specific need for the crowd. He was moved with compassion for the crowd, ‘because they were … like sheep having no shepherd’ (v. 36). Divine diagnosis is about taking the Gospel communication as missional task, a call to repentance under God. Jesus was moved with burden and compassion for the crowd because Gospel communication on the whole was so inadequate that the crowds, sheep without shepherds, like the greater part of our society today, ‘whether within or outside of the churches, fail to get any real awareness of the gospel’s meaning or its power. Life goes on, for the most part, in our secular world as if the churches did not exist. ’
The message is that the historical mission of Jesus in Galilee provides a missional and communication model for us today about burden for our fellow human being who are so often “like sheep without a shepherd.” Prophet Ezekiel also compared Israel to sheep without shepherd (Ezk 34:5, 6). Jesus looked at the crowds following him and referred to them as a field ripe for harvest. A divine diagnosis, pointing us to the main missional issues and matters to be resolved, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few.” This statement reminds us about the two themes in the scriptures about the harvest. There is harvest of wrath and of judgement. Joel 3:13-14 says, “Swing the sickle for the harvest is ripe. Come trample the grapes, for the wine press is full and the vats overflow, so great is their wickedness. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision, for the Day of the Lord is near, in the valley of decision.” God is warning the church about a harvest of judgment in which He will visit on all the wicked and their sins (Matt 3:12). The second harvest is a harvest of soul for eternal life. Revelation 7:9-10 reminds us “After this, I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were crying out. Salvation belongs to the Lamb and all the glory of Jesus for salvation.”
Jesus challenges His followers to always remember that those who are spiritually lost – who do not know and follow God- have a priceless, eternal soul and will spend eternity in heaven or in hell (Matt 10:28). We must reach them with the message of Jesus Christ while there is still time. People can only be saved if someone presents to them the good news of forgiveness and new life through Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:14-15 points us to the problem, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” Prayer is one of God’s most important spiritual principles about our actions and role in God’s mission. Men and women remains God method and vessel for mission. Our part in God’s mission is necessary because before God takes action, He usually inspires His people to pray. God has choosing to accomplish His missional plans through the prayers of His faithful people. The kind of workers Jesus desires in His kingdom are those who are willing and spiritually prepared to spread His message and teach others what it means to follow Jesus and live according to His purpose – healing the sick and driving out evil spirit (Matt 9:35).
Why must we pray and ask God to send more labourers to the plentiful harvest? The harvest will be destroyed again. Joel 1:11 says, “Be ashamed you farmers. Wail, you vine dressers, for the wheat and the barley; because the harvest of the field has perished.” Church history reminds us the tragedy of the dark ages between 300 AD to 1500 AD. We can all remember how ‘Christianity lost ground to other religions because of the backslidden state of the church. Most of the areas where Paul won for Christ were lost to other major religions. The harvest was destroyed because of the backslidden state of the Church.’ A sleeping church cannot see the harvest. Divine diagnosis is an honest identification of the nature of our decline and the first step toward prescription and better health. Divine diagnosis is a reminder to churches of the importance of our biblical foundation. Is the church’s teaching based on the Bible? Is the church a praying church? Are the leaders committed to the ministry of the church? Is the church both locally and globally minded? Is the church driven by a Great Commission focus? Is the church reaching non-believers? Is the church keeping and discipling new believers who join? Divine diagnosis summons the church to better get well soon, or things will soon get worse. We can only see the harvest with our warmed hearts. God is saying to someone, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields.” God uses prayer to change our hearts and open our eyes to the plentiful harvest. LET US ARISE AND PRAY.