The Harvest is Plentiful?
Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38. (NASB)
These seem like strange words to western ears. In our experience, we have more church buildings than we have people to fill them. We have plenty of clergy but hardly any new converts. It seems to us that the laborers are plentiful and the harvest is weak. Yet, at the time Jesus made this statement, things might not have been very different in Israel. It was not for a lack of clergy that there was a lack of harvesters. The lack of harvesters was due to the clergy failing in their vocation to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and the failure of Israel’s “shepherds” to care for their flock, as the prophet Jeremiah noted so poignantly (Jeremiah 23). Matthew tells us that the reason Jesus made this statement was due to the compassion he felt for the people of Israel “who were distressed…like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36. As Messiah, Jesus saw Himself as gathering the scattered flock of God and restoring them to good pastureland. But how would Jesus do this? Jesus would do this by going into the place of captivity, exile and suffering, in order to bring His people out. At His baptism, Jesus told His cousin John that it was necessary for him to be baptized in order to fully carry out the purposes of God (Matthew 3:15). It was necessary that the Messiah would share in the suffering and exile of his people in order to bring them out of that suffering and exile. This is the kind of thing that a true shepherd does, he or she goes into the places where the sheep have endangered themselves and, at the risk of their own bodily or monetary harm, rescues the lost sheep. This is somewhat of a forgotten concept here in the West were we are not persecuted for our faith. The more comfortable we are, the more inclined we are to remain in that comfort and not put all that wealth and privilege in jeopardy. We should take note of Jesus’ words when He said that it is extremely difficult of a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). I have heard that the gospel is exploding in India right now, in spite of the persecution. Last year, the Voice of the Martyrs told the story of “Suta”, a young pastor in India who repeatedly evangelized in a Hindu village despite threats and warnings not to come back. As a result, this young pastor was beaten severely by the village men before being thrown into a ditch and left to die. One of the leaders of the village was greatly disturbed by what he had done and, at the urging of his wife, returned to Suta and pulled him out of the ditch. The family nursed Suta back to health and in the process, gave their lives to Jesus. Today, Suta is the pastor of a Church in that same village. The harvest is still plentiful. Are we willing to take the risks and do the labor?