What does Matthew 9:38 mean?
ESV: therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
NIV: Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'
NASB: Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'
CSB: Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest."
NLT: So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.'
KJV: Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus, looking out over the massive crowds that have come to see Him, is filled with compassion. They are leaderless and harassed. Many are ready to be spiritually "harvested," in the sense that they are ready to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and follow Him on the path to life (John 4:35). The problem is that there are too few laborers to go out among the people and bring this good news, this gospel of Jesus. Luke 10:2 contains this same statement.

Now Jesus asks His followers to participate in the solution to this problem. He asks them to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest that He would send more and more laborers out with this message. Jesus identifies two roles that believers can serve: praying earnestly and going out as laborers with the gospel. In the following chapter, Jesus will send out His disciples to participate directly in the harvest.
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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