1. The Perception
Jesus Christ perceived that the harvest TRULY is great. Do we perceive that the harvest TRULY is great? This refers to the fact that we live in an age when the only labor left to be done is harvesting, because Jesus finished the first part of the job. We live in the End of the Age.
The second perception is that the laborers are few. The harvesters are few. Why, there were thousands of priests, scribes, and religious leaders in those days! But, still He says that the laborers are few. That means that not all who might be religious leaders or teachers are laborers sent by the Lord of the Harvest. What are the marks of a laborer? These are few things that we must meditate about today. But, here, it suffices to observe that the laborers are few.
2. The Prayer
Jesus calls us to pray the LORD of the Harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. This prayer reflects a need, the need of workers, more workers. Like Peter, who had to call for others to help him draw in the net full of fish, the harvest calls for more and more laborers every hour. It is the greatest enterprise and immediate vocation in the world today. It is also the greatest subject of prayer and prayerful effort today.
3. The Placement
The ones called to pray are the ones sent to preach. Remember, unless your heart beats for the harvest, you can not be part of the harvesting. Only the laborer who prays is the laborer who stays responsible to the end. He sends them in their way ("Go your way"). I remember the testimony of Luis Palau who said that there was a time in his life when he used to only pray for the harvest. His mom once said to him "Go and preach" and he replied, "I must wait for the command of the Lord." His mom answered, "He gave the command 2,000 years ago. Go!" When Abraham was called to get out of Ur, he just get out. We need to get out and preach, for the harvest is all around. We need to be able to say like John Wesley, "The world is my parish."
4. The Prescription
The prescription in verse 4 is two-fold: not to make financial arrangements for the journey and, secondly, not to greet anyone along the road. This is a call to self-negation and total reliance on God. It is also the call to a life committed to only pleasing God and away from the social accommodations of worldly relationships. The man of God can't stop by until the mission is complete; for the harvest is full and plenty.
There are three pictures that are drawn by Christ regarding the one who is sent:
The call to be a laborer is the end of physical comfort.
A laborer is a workman who endures hardship and doesn't lead an easy life. The leader or the teacher cannot lag behind on the excuse that he has already accomplished much; in fact, he has accomplished very little yet. The leader and the teacher is expected to be the greater servant and laborer, even as Christ left an example for all. Wasn't it He who was spending hours and hours in prayer, while His disciples slumbered and slept? When levity sits on a leader, the surrounding environment is chaotic and destructive. Jesus Himself called us asking us to take His yoke upon ourselves, so that we could learn from Him who is the meekest of all. He, the Greater One, takes the heaviest portion of the yoke in order to teach us how to carry it ourselves. Likewise, we must learn to bear one another, and bear the hardest part. Also, remember Nehemiah and how he placed himself in the most risky positions, as a leader.
The characteristic of a laborer is work. The work of this laborer is very simple, to harvest. To harvest implies two actions:
a. to cut off
b. to gather in one place
The work of the laborer is not merely to go and preach the Gospel, get people to confess and give a report to others. The work of the laborer is to ensure that proper severing (separation from the old life) and proper gathering (into a fellowship) has occurred. Unless that happens, the harvest is not done. Of course, one would say that this gathering will only occur on the Last Day. Of course, there is one harvest by the angels on the Last Day. But here, if it was the Last Day that was meant, Jesus would not have need to send the seventy out to preach the Gospel; to save that which was lost.
Scripturally, severing and gathering ("called out", "called into") occur through proper teaching; it is also known as discipleship training or "making disciples". So, the first picture is of the sent one as one who is sent to bring in.
Christ sent the disciples as lambs among wolves. This is the call out of physical, social, and political security into a life full of risks and dangers everyday.The risk doesn't involve merely physical discomfort, but also dangers brought in by false teaching.
Paul captures it well when he says in 2Corinthians 11:26:
"in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren..."A person who wants to serve Christ and also want to save his life has made a gross mistake; for Jesus said that he who wishes to save his life only loses it, but he who loses his life for Christ's sake finds it. The world is composed of wolves into which the disciple is sent like a lamb, totally self-unprotected. However, the lamb among wolves must remember two things:
a. the Shepherd is always with the lamb
b. the wolves can never be the part of the solution; they are part of the problem
The presence of the Shepherd makes the lambs fearless, confident, bold, and courageous; while in nature, they are meek, lowly, obedient, and faithful.
The call is to a leap of faith. It is a call out of socio-economic security.
The disciples are not to carry purses or sandals. They are not to make extra provisions; for that would involve disbelief in God.
If we entertain even a bit of doubt as to whether God would be faithful to His promises of His presence and His provision, then we do not hold any reason for getting into the work of the ministry. Those who preach and testify of supernatural things must also live a supernatural life, even as Christ did when He stepped into His earthly ministry. The Bible says in Philippians 2 that He emptied Himself totally and took on the form of a servant, being obedient unto death. It is the kind of faith that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had, that believes in God despite of what is going to happen. When Nebuchadnezzar told them to bow before the idol, or else they'll be thrown into the fire, they replied, "Our God is able to save us out of the fire; but, even if He didn't, we will not bow down before the idol." It was because they were certain about the eternal truth that they believed and this ruled their life, rather than the security-demands of the world.
This involves risk. Faith is risk. It is a totally sober leap into the dark, but the darkness is not darkness to the eyes of faith. It is like a bat that doesn't need sight to fly through a dark cave, since it navigates itself through its radar like sense; similarly, the one who walks by faith is not dependent at all on what appears all around.
Unless one has the guts to get out of the boat and walk on the water, to get out of the possible into the realm of the impossible, to get out of the secured zone into the zone of insecurity, one must not think of being a harvester. The action of faith, however, must reflect the word of the Master. The servant has no business doing what the Master has not specifically commanded him (for instance, we are not all commanded to walk on water; only Peter was - but, if we tried to do it, we will, naturally, drown).
© Domenic Marbaniang, July 2010.