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The Harvest Is Great, the Laborers 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.

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Mt 9:35-10:5. Third Galilean CircuitMission of the Twelve Apostles.

As the Mission of the Twelve supposes the previous choice of them—of which our Evangelist gives no account, and which did not take place till a later stage of our Lord's public life—it is introduced here out of its proper place, which is after what is recorded in Lu 6:12-19.

Third Galilean Circuit (Mt 9:35)—and probably the last.

35. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people—The italicized words are of more than doubtful authority here, and were probably introduced here from Mt 4:23. The language here is so identical with that used in describing the first circuit (Mt 4:23), that we may presume the work done on both occasions was much the same. It was just a further preparation of the soil, and a fresh sowing of the precious seed. (See on Mt 4:23). To these fruitful journeyings of the Redeemer, "with healing in His wings," Peter no doubt alludes, when, in his address to the household of Cornelius, he spoke of "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with Him" (Ac 10:38).

Jesus Compassionating the Multitudes, Asks Prayer for Help (Mt 9:36-38). He had now returned from His preaching and healing circuit, and the result, as at the close of the first one, was the gathering of a vast and motley multitude around Him. After a whole night spent in prayer, He had called His more immediate disciples, and from them had solemnly chosen the twelve; then, coming down from the mountain, on which this was transacted, to the multitudes that waited for Him below, He had addressed to them—as we take it—that discourse which bears so strong a resemblance to the Sermon on the Mount that many critics take it to be the same. (See on Lu 6:12-49; and Mt 5:1, Introductory Remarks). Soon after this, it should seem, the multitudes still hanging on Him, Jesus is touched with their wretched and helpless condition, and acts as is now to be described.

36. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted—This reading, however, has hardly any authority at all. The true reading doubtless is, "were harassed."

and were scattered abroad—rather, "lying about," "abandoned," or "neglected."

as sheep, having no shepherd—their pitiable condition as wearied under bodily fatigue, a vast disorganized mass, being but a faint picture of their wretchedness as the victims of pharisaic guidance; their souls uncared for, yet drawn after and hanging upon Him. This moved the Redeemer's compassion.