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Matthew 9:35-38 – The Harvest Is Great, the Laborers Few


Jesus concludes his initial ministry of teaching and healing in Galilee. He has compassion for the crowds who are like sheep without a shepherd, and now he invites his disciples to pray the Lord to send out laborers for the harvest.


This section provides a concluding frame to Matthew's narrative units on Jesus' initial ministry in Galilee-the Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29) and the cycle of miracles (8:1-9:34). It repeats verbally the description of Jesus' ministry in the sequence that matches Matthew's narrative emphasis: teaching, proclaiming the good news, and healing (see 4:23-25). Once again it points to the successful magnitude of that ministry in Jesus' healing of "every" disease and "every" sickness (9:35; 4:24). But now in transition it prepares for the narrative that will follow. Rather than focusing on the great crowds that follow Jesus, it turns instead to Jesus' compassion and to the theme of mission. Jesus first instructs his disciples to pray the Lord send out laborers for the harvest and then, as if in fulfillment of that prayer, proceeds to summon his disciples and send them out in mission (10:1-42).

Matthew 9:35-38

The Harvest Is Great, the Labourers Few

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

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