The good news refers to the coming of the kingdom of God, and the restoration of a relationship with God. Jesus accompanied his preaching with healing, to prove his authority and show his compassion. The crowds gathered to Jesus because they longed to hear him. Jesus looked on them with compassion because he saw they were lost and confused, as sheep without a shepherd. Shepherds guide their flock, bring them to pasture and water, gather the strays, and protect the flock from danger. This figurative language would have been understood by anyone familiar with herding, but it had special significance to the Jews. Jacob, Moses, and King David were shepherds, and served as “shepherds” of God’s people. The Prophets and Psalms (Psalm 23) also described God as a shepherd. The Jewish people were longing for a new shepherd, the promised messiah. The Jews had been without a king for centuries, and they could no longer call their land their own. They were under the control of the Roman Empire. Spiritually, they were all sinners in need of redemption. God had not spoken through a prophet in centuries (until John the who was not recognized by everyone as a prophet). The concept of gathering is also significant when taking into account that the Jewish nation had been largely exiled and dispersed at the hands of the Babylonians centuries before. This Jewish population that was spread throughout the empire was called the Diaspora. These Jews were subject to pagan influence, particularly that of Hellenism (Greek culture), which was an additional factor in straying from God. The Jews who were closest to Jerusalem were more likely to adhere to strict Judaism.
When Jesus saw the condition of the people, he acknowledged their was work to be done. He compared the work of spreading the gospel to the people to gathering a harvest. There were many people to reach, but not many to spread the message. Jesus decided it was time to send his disciples out to the people- the time was right for the “harvest”. This indicated the following:
The initial ministry of Jesus was complete, and had provided the proper opening for a broader outreach.
The disciples had been properly trained and educated in the message of the gospel.
It was the disciples responsibility to gather “the harvest” or draw people to the truth.
Jesus identified himself as “Lord of the Harvest”, meaning that he was the Lord of those receptive to his message.
The people were actively looking for a leader, the promised messiah.
Jesus called himself the Lord of the Harvest”. This was his mission, done by his command, and those who were gathered to him would call him Lord
The method of spreading the gospel is a Christian duty. Unbelievers should be looked at with compassion. Jesus is the great shepherd. He gathers the spiritually lost. The harvest continues to be plentiful, and the workers continue to be few. Jesus wants us to be his workers, and spread the gospel. It is the responsibility of Christians to gather the harvest. This responsibility is an honor and privilege. We should be humbled that the Lord has entrusted us with this task. If we have submitted to the truth of the gospel, we call Jesus our Lord.