What does Matthew 9:37 mean?
ESV: Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
NIV: Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
NASB: Then He *said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
CSB: Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.
NLT: He said to his disciples, 'The harvest is great, but the workers are few.
KJV: Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Verse Commentary:
Looking out over the massive crowds that have come to see Him, Jesus is filled with compassion for the people. He sees that they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. This is not only an expression of care for the people. It's an indictment of the failed spiritual leaders of Israel (John 10:11–13). In response to this compassion for the people, Jesus turns to His followers. His comment here meshes with remarks Jesus made after speaking to the woman at the well: "the fields are white for harvest" (John 4:35).

Jesus seems to be saying that many people are ready to believe in Jesus and be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. As the Great Shepherd, Jesus understands that this is their greatest need. This is how they will be rescued from their harassed and helpless condition and given peace, joy, and the hope of an eternal home with the Father.

What is the solution to this labor shortage? Jesus will say in the following verse that for His followers, it is prayer.
Verse Context:
Matthew 9:35–38 gives a wide-ranging overview of Jesus' earthly teaching and preaching ministry. It describes Jesus' great compassion while looking out over crowds of people who have come to see Him. He recognizes they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Christ tells His followers the harvest is plentiful, but there are too few workers. He commands those followers to pray earnestly that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers to gather it in.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 9 continues to show how Jesus authenticated His claims to be the Messiah by powerful miracles of healing and casting out demons. He heals a paralyzed man after telling the man his sins are forgiven. He calls Matthew to follow Him and eats dinner with Matthew and other tax collectors. He answers questions from Pharisees and others. A woman who touches His cloak is healed from a 12–year illness, and Jesus raises a dead girl back to life. He restores sight to blind men and speech to one who is demon oppressed. He is filled with compassion for the crowds.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 9 follows the same pattern of Matthew 8, showing through miraculous works of healing that Jesus is truly the Messiah. Christ forgives the sins of a paralyzed man and heals him. He calls Matthew to follow Him and eats with tax collectors and sinners. A woman is healed by touching His garment and a dead girl is given life by the touch of His hand. Two blind men see, and Jesus casts out a demon, restoring speech to its victim. Finally, Jesus declares that the harvest is plentiful and tells His followers to pray for workers. Chapter 10 builds on this compassion as Jesus commissions the Twelve to go and deliver His gospel to the people.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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