“If we don’t believe then how will they know? / How will they hear if we never go? / Oh Lord, send us to the world / If we don’t believe then how will they see? / How will they know that they can be free? / Oh Lord, send us to the world” – Harvest, If We Don’t Believe (Send Us to the World) from the 1983 album “Send Us to the World”.
Right after the two now-seeing men leave to tell everyone what had happened to them, a demon-possessed man is brought to Jesus. The man cannot speak. The Christ casts out the demon and suddenly the man’s tongue is loosened. It’s the reaction of the Pharisees I want to focus on here. These religious leaders have just witnessed a slew a miraculous healings and somehow they reach the conclusion that the only reason Jesus can do what He does is because He gets His power from the prince of demons, Satan.
Throughout chapter 9, these so-called “men of God” accuse Jesus of four different sins: serving Satan (v. 34), impiety (v, 14), blasphemy (v.3), and befriending outcasts (v. 10). Why did the Pharisees malign Him so? My study bible has a footnote which reads: “(1) Jesus bypassed their religious authority; (2) He weakened their control over the people; (3) He challenged their cherished beliefs; and (4) He exposed their insincere motives” (p. 1560). Of course, they hated Him. Of course, they wanted to take Him down. “While the Pharisees questioned, debated, and dissected Jesus, people were being healed and lives changed right in front of them. Their skepticism was based not on insufficient evidence but on jealousy of Jesus’ popularity” (Study Bible, p. 1560).
Reminds me of so-called religious leaders now who use Jesus to line their own pockets and gain power for themselves. They aren’t really interested in people being healed and restored to wholeness. They are “Christians” because it does something for them, which is too bad because in the concluding verses of chapter 9, Matthew relates Jesus teaching to His disciples that the harvest is ripe (there are many people who need Jesus in their lives) but the workers (the people who bring people to Jesus) are few (v. 37). The thing is, I’ve found when I pray for something like more people to bring in the harvest, often God points to me and challenges me to step up my game. How am I bringing people closer to God? And more importantly, what’s my motivation? Am I doing it for me, or for them? The truth is, we all need to be prepared for God to use us to show others the way to Him. Otherwise, it seems to me, we are just like the Pharisees.
Jesus, by contrast, was a Being overwhelmed with compassion for people. Matthew writes that He saw “they were confused and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd” (v. 36). The former tax-collector deliberately uses this phrasing because it echoes the deep mercy of God described by the Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel (34:5,6). The disciple, John, writes in his gospel that Jesus is the “good shepherd” (chapter 10) who seeks to give life, while the thief (Satan) seeks to kill and destroy.
So, the choice is ours: what will we stand for? Mercy and compassion or judgement? Harvest or waste? Life or death? It really is that simple. I think, and I could be wrong, the reason more of us don’t join Team Life and pray for more harvest workers is that we don’t want to be challenged with going out into the fields ourselves. Which is too bad. That’s where God’s heart is. Imagine if Jesus had insisted we come to Him instead of Him coming to us. Oh Lord, send us to the world.