35. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.36. And when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion towards them, because they were destitute and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd.37. Then he saith to his disciples, The harvest is indeed abundant, but the laborers are few.38. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest, to send forth laborers into his harvest.
Matthew 9:35. And Jesus went about This statement is made by way of anticipating an objection, and is intended to inform us that the whole ministry of Christ is not minutely described: for he was constantly employed in the discharge of his office; that is, in proclaiming the doctrine of salvation, and in confirming it by the addition of miracles. The gospel of the kingdom, we have already said, is a designation given to it from its effect, for in this way God gathered to himself a people sadly scattered, that he might reign in the midst of them; and, indeed, he erected his throne for the express purpose of bestowing on all his people perfect happiness. Yet let us remember that we must be subject to God, in order that we may be exalted by him to the heavenly glory.
36. He was moved with compassion towards them Hence we infer, first, how great was the indolence of the priests, who, though they were scattered over the whole country, in order to enlighten the people with heavenly doctrine, were slow-bellies, (Titus 1:12.) True, they boasted that they were superintendents of the people; and the number of those who gloried in that title was not small. Yet not one of them does Christ own to be a pastor. A similar confusion may now be observed in Popery, though it is full of persons who are called pastors: for there is a prodigious crowd of those who under the name of clergy, eat up the flock. They are dumb dogs, (Isaiah 56:10,) and yet are not ashamed to make a vehement sound about their hierarchy. But we must listen to the voice of Christ, who declares, that where there are no laborers there are no shepherds, and that those sheep are wandering and scattered which are not collected into the fold of God by the doctrine of the gospel. His being moved with compassion proves him to be the faithful servant of the Father in promoting the salvation of his people, for whose sake he had clothed himself with our flesh. Now that he has been received into heaven, he does not retain the same feelings to which he chose to be liable in this mortal life: yet he has not left off the care of his church, but looks after his wandering sheep, or rather, he gathers his flock which had been cruelly chased and torn by the wolves.
37. The harvest is indeed abundant By this metaphor he intimates, that many of the people are ripe for receiving the gospel. Though the greater number afterwards rejected basely and with vile ingratitude the salvation offered to them, yet the limited number of the elect, who were mixed with unbelievers, is compared to an abundant harvest, because God values a small band of his own people more highly than the rest of the world. Though there were at that time many who assumed this character, yet as few of them discharged it faithfully, he does not rank them among laborers: for he employs the word laborers in a good sense. When Paul complains (2 Corinthians 2:13) of bad laborers, he refers to their boasting: for he would not have bestowed the designation of laborers on those who devoted all their exertions to ruin and waste the flock, had it not been that they gloried in the false pretense.
38. Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest As no man will of himself become a sincere and faithful minister of the gospel, and as none discharge in a proper manner the office of teacher but those whom the Lord raises up and endows with the gifts of his Spirit, whenever we observe a scarcity of pastors, we must raise our eyes to him to afford the remedy. There never was greater necessity for offering this prayer than during the fearful desolation of the church which we now see every where around us.