Luke 10: 2-3; 16 (Pentecost 7 - 2016)
“The Harvest is Plentiful”
There are those moments for those who garden when they realize a bunch of stuff is going to be ripe at the same time and the picking is going to get crazy. Without some help and some careful planning there are going to be missed opportunities for legit fruits and veggies. The Lord Jesus speaks of his kingdom that way. They opportunities for harvesting souls abound all the time. He has enlisted our help.
The Workers are Few
“Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” At the time Jesus spoke these words, thousands of souls were low hanging fruit and he knew it. The people of Israelite descent were becoming disgruntled temple worshippers. The teachers in the church had left them thirsting for a clearer message of God’s grace. Thousands were living in a world of godless immorality, violence and civil injustice. Crowds were curiously clinging to the new preacher man, Jesus and his message of authority and truth.
Currently, our own church body is experiencing a similar ripe harvest. Reports around the conventions, ministry schools, local congregation and gatherings we hear and experience news of harvest opportunities. Smaller classes in our schools paired with growing mission fields around the globe have us concurring with our Savior: “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” Perhaps you or someone you know is a candidate for being an answer to that prayer!
Our local mission field is no different. Our community is growing rapidly and more souls are moving into our neighborhoods. Now is the ripe harvest for reaching souls with the gospel. Now the harvest is ripe for letting the children come to Jesus through our ministries Christian Education. Now is the time to reach out to homes of people who have no church home and especially who have not heard of Christ Jesus or have learned the Bible and his teachings. Now is the time to reach out to the many guest families who have been visiting our worship services and ministry events. “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” Plenty good reason to be asking that Lord to send another servant of the Gospel into our part of the field!
The Work is Delicately Dangerous
Jesus said “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” There will be opposition. There will be rejection. There will be strife in the church. There will be persecution for those who are faithful to the teachings of Christ Jesus. Jesus shared other advice that we gain from his marching orders in Matthew’s account of this same lesson: “Be shrewd as vipers and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10: 16
Jesus does not want us to back down from that opposition. He means to send us right into it. There is a delicate balance between vipers and doves. There is a delicate balance between IN the world but not OF the world. Jesus calls us away from the naivety of putting our blinders on. But when we mingle with the crowds of the world we must also remain above reproach. How often we have faltered into the ditch on either side of the middle road. We mustn’t live in created sanctuary of avoidance. Nor must we fall into the sins of those we am trying to bring to repentance and to Jesus. This harvest work is delicately dangerous!
But Jesus blesses it. Jesus sends us. Jesus sends us with his grace and forgiveness in the cross. Jesus forgives us for the times we compromised his truth. Jesus forgives us for the times we blended in with sin. Jesus sends us the gifts his Spirit. Jesus gives us words his Spirit teaches. Jesus sends us with his Name and his authority. “He who listens to you listens to me. He who rejects you rejects me.” (More on this later.)
The Work is Valuable
Jesus gives this advice: “Do not take along a purse or a bag or sandals.” In verse seven, encouraging them to stay with those who welcome, he says: “the worker deserves his wages. Paul picks up on this in his letter to Timothy: “Do not muzzle the ox when treading out the grain.” He clearly explains in his letter to the Galatians: “Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor” (Galatians 6: 6).
Jesus wanted his apostles to truth that they would be taken care of. He wasn’t just telling them to “pack light.” He wanted them not to worry about their earthly needs. Those who receive the Gospel will naturally be led to support those who teach the Gospel. The Gospel moves them to do that. There is the lesson for the messengers: Preach the truth. Preach the Gospel. Those who love the truth of the Gospel will take good care of those whose calling it is to teach them that Gospel.
The Work is Urgent
Jesus wanted them to get going: “Do not greet anyone on the road” was not an invitation to be ornery snobs or impolite. He was telling them not to dilly dally around the common small talk greetings in the towns. He was teaching them to be eager for the urgent work. He was encouraging them to get to the point of the message of the Gospel and the reason for their visits.
With the healing of the blind man Jesus made this point “As long as it is day, we must do the work of his who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5). You have been made reflector lights of Christ. You are the light of the world by virtue of your baptism and faith in Christ. There are so many ways to help in His harvest field. Find your place there and set your hand to the plow and don’t look back. The harvest is plenty. The work is urgent.
The Results are the Lord’s
Anyone who spends anytime growing things knows good and the bad of looking for results. Every gardener would love to see perfect rows of lush fruit, equally ripe and ready from plant to plant. It just isn’t that way. The gardener learns to expect disappointment mixed with joy.
It is that way in the kingdom. “He who listens to you listens to me. He who rejects you rejects me.” Jesus anticipates the wolves and the devil. He expects rejection. He expects bad fruit. He expects people to shut the mouths of those who speak his Name and teachings. But he also expects results of faith in the hearts of people. He promises it: “So is the Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55: 11).
When people reject us because of the word, they are rejecting God and his Word. Do not take it personally. When souls are saved through grace of God and his mighty word, rejoice in it, and be thankful. But remember to give credit where credit is due. Paul reminded the Corinthians “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Christ and him crucified … so that your faith may not rest on man’s wisdom but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2: 2, 5).
His field is ripe because the common malady of the world is sin. Christ crucified is the one thing that resolves that malady. Death looms over all, especially those in unbelief. Christ Jesus Risen again is the one message that shatters those fears. He is the one thing needful. The world is ripe for his Love. The fruit stands ready to be picked. “The harvest is plenty but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus has made you ready part of his answer to that prayer. Rejoice! Amen!