Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38
esus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Main Point: There are a lot of needs in the world. In order to see those needs we have to have compassion and then we have to be willing to go and do something about it.
Learning Game: Survive: Escape from Atlantis!
Survive: Escape from Atlantis! Is a family-level board game. The game is in print and is readily available from places like Amazon.com. The game length is between thirty and forty five minutes. It plays up to four, but there is an expansion that can take the game up to six players. If more players are needed having people pair up into teams of two should be workable.
In Survive, Atlantis is sinking and players are trying to save as many of their people as possible. Players have wooden “meeple” pieces in their chosen color. These pieces have a point value, but for this lesson it is recommended that an official rule variant is used where players seek to get the most pieces off the island regardless of value.
On a player's turn they get three moves to divide up among their people. They can move people on the island towards boats. If they are in boats and have or are tied for majority control they can move boats towards safe islands. Players could also move their swimmers one space, or move off of a boat to safety. After making three moves a player will remove a tile from Atlantis This represents the island sinking as it gets ever smaller. Players first draw beach tiles, then forest tiles, and finally mountain tiles. Often removing these tiles will add monsters to the board or cause whirlpools that remove all adjacent pieces. The last thing a player does is roll the monster die and move a monster. Whales destroy boats, sharks eat swimmers, and sea serpents destroy everything. The game ends when a volcano tile is removed. Whoever got the most of their meeples to safety wins.
Post Game Discussion
Survive has a reputation as being a great family game, but it also can be kind of ruthless. This combination means it should easily generate discussion after it is over. Use the following questions to prompt that discussion:
1. Of all the starting people did the majority make it or not? Why did so many perish?
Facilitator Instruction: It is a given that close to half the starting pieces will be eliminated throughout the course of the game.
2. What adjective would you use to describe the way people played the game?
3. Why could the game not be considered compassionate?
Facilitator Instruction: This game tends to be a little ruthless as people take glee in eliminating opposing pieces. Often this leads to player seeking to get back at each other. Compassion is one of the last words that can be used to describe how this game is normally played.
4. In what ways does this game mirror real life?
Facilitator Instruction: The goal of the game was to save people, but to win it players had to save more of their people. The rules of this game enforce pursuing a selfish goal ahead of compassion, and far too often that kind of attitude is seen in everyday life. People are concerned only about what is best for them and turn a blind eye to suffering around them.
To introduce the scripture share some of the context. This scripture occurs closer to the beginning of his ministry. He has recruited his twelve disciples and he is starting to garner a bit of a reputation in the Galilee area which is why he is starting to gather crowds. Read Matthew 9:35-37 and then use the following questions to prompt discussion. Several of the questions have “facilitator instructions”. These are meant to be helpful tips for the person guiding the conversation.
1. Look at verse 36, some commentators consider this to be the “thesis statement” of the gospel. Why do you think they say that?
Facilitator Instruction: For a younger group it might be necessary to define thesis statement. Jesus often showed compassion and it was one of the hallmarks of his ministry on earth. He was often intentional on helping and interacting with the people who were harassed and helpless.
2. What does it mean to have compassion?
Facilitator Instruction: Guide the group in coming up with a definition for compassion. Part of it should be that it is intentionally noticing the needs of others. In working as a group to create this definition, it could be helpful to reference back to the game as examples of what is not compassionate.
3. What groups of people today would you say count as being harassed and helpless today?
Facilitator Instruction: Many of the crowds Jesus drew were made up of the working poor. These were people who did not have many resources or much social power. Today there are a lot of marginalized groups that can be named. If students struggle to think of this, the learning game can again be referenced. In Survive, the most vulnerable pieces are the ones in the water with sharks or sea serpents nearby. The question can be framed by asking what people groups are similarly vulnerable today. As students give answers, push the students to explain their reasoning.
4. How well do you think churches do at having compassion for those named groups? How do you think churches could do a better job?
Facilitator Instruction: If the students struggle to answer this question, it could be helpful if the facilitator had a couple of examples to share.
5. Look at verse 37. What does it mean that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few?
Facilitator Instruction: There is more need in the world than there are people to meet it.
6. What are the qualities that the workers of the harvest need?
Facilitator Instruction: There are a lot of possible answers, but the biggest one is compassion. They have to be willing to see the needs of others and care that those needs get met.
7. What are some of the needs you see in the world? How could those needs get met?
Facilitator Instruction: Push the students to think of real needs around the areas of social justice and oppression. Also push them to think about how they might meet those needs.
8. Practically speaking, how can this scripture impact our day to day lives and faith?
Facilitator Instruction: It is appropriate to reference the learning game here. In the game everyone was concerned only about their pieces, that they did not have compassion for anyone else. This scripture should challenge us to follow the example of Jesus and have compassion on those who are harassed and helpless. We can be more diligent about praying that God send workers to meet the needs. We can also be mindful of our own compassion level, and be more diligent about recognizing the needs of others.