The gospel is not just a series of commands to be followed, but a message which demands reform from the inner heart. In Acts 2:37, before responding to the gospel, the men who heard the preaching in Jerusalem were cut to the heart: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” There was an emotional response from those men which led them to action. This is interesting for many reasons, but primarily because it gives us a pattern to follow today. We feel something within us, an emotion, that then should motivate us to do something.
Jesus taught the same thing by example. In Matthew 9:36 we read, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” The word for “moved with compassion” in the original is a very complex word-picture. It is sometimes literally rendered “to have the bowels yearn” or “to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion.” This is a very strange definition, but it was a word which described an emotion so powerful it evoked as churning of one’s insides, almost like feeling butterflies I would imagine. This inward, emotional response that our Lord felt was not the end of the matter however. in Matthew 9:37-38 we find, “Then He said to His disciples, “ The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”
Jesus saw the people he was teaching and healing and likened them unto scattered, weary sheep without a Great Shepherd. He felt a strong, stomach-turning sense of compassion on them, which then led to Him teaching about the need for workers being sent out to the Lord’s fields. What a powerful example Jesus is to us, to show us the proper pattern of an emotional response leading us to action.
I pray that as we all travel through this life, we will lift up our eyes to the situations around us and do what we can to bring souls home to harvest. In another place Jesus said this, “…Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together” (John 4:35-36).