The Compassion of Lord of the Harvest (Matthew Sermon 34 of 151)
September 15, 2002 | Andrew Davis
Evangelism, Missions, Jesus Christ
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew Chapter 9. We're looking this morning at Verses 35 through 38, the compassion of the Lord of the harvest. I remember I can still see in my mind's eye a harvest so plentiful that I wondered, being a city boy, how they were ever going to take it in. I used to drive from Louisville up to Grand Rapids, Michigan, through the corn fields of Indiana. I remember one farm so huge that it just stretched until the Earth curved, the corn was getting ripe, and it was almost time for the harvest. I remember commenting to the friend that I was driving up with, "How are they going to take it all in?" He said, “They have big combine machines.” I said, "What's that?" He said, "You've never seen one? They just kind of churn through and they're able to just harvest in an incredible way." I was overwhelmed that day. I was amazed and I was thinking, "How are they going to take in this harvest, how can it be done?" I think the same thing is true if you ever go to one of those huge wheat farms out in Kansas or in other places, you just see it as far as the Earth goes. The harvest is plentiful. How are they going to take it in?
But I had the same feeling another day and it was on a mission trip when I was in the far, far western part of China in a city called Kashgar. It's an ancient city. It's right on the Silk Road where Marco Polo went. It developed and thrived in that time, but it seems literally in the middle of nowhere. You have to travel three days by bus on one of the most dangerous bus rides I've ever taken in my life. We were driving along a ravine and I looked down and saw a bus just like the one I was on at the bottom of the ravine 500 feet down. It wasn't even rusty yet. And there was the driver chugging along, sometimes falling asleep a little bit, and well, we prayed a lot and we were trusting God to get us there. We finally got to Kashgar.
They told us that the bazaar was coming up. It was a monthly thing, and people would come from miles around to the big bazaar. We were excited. It was on a Sunday, and we went by donkey cart. We went and there were a couple hundred people at this bazaar. I said, "This is not that impressive." The driver said, "No, this isn't THE bazaar. You have to go downtown to the center of the city." Well, we went there and then we saw what they were talking about. Probably tens of thousands of Uyghur people. There are Chinese Muslims that were there, so many people that I was immediately overwhelmed. I felt like I was in a sea of humanity. I was overwhelmed first of all with feeling like I was a drop in an endless sea of humanity, and I thought, "How can it be true what David wrote in Psalm 139, “Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from a far.” How can that be true of all of us? How can you know us that well?" It boggled my mind and made me feel sick to my stomach. I thought to myself, "More than that, we are here as pseudo-missionaries, not real missionaries.” We were only there for a week. We couldn't really speak the language. We knew that the Uyghur people did not really know Jesus. They knew of a Jesus in the Muslim accounts, but they didn't know the Jesus who really is the creator of the ends of the earth, the savior of the world. They didn't know him, and they were lost. I stood there feeling overwhelmed, and I said, "How can you do it?" I guess, to some degree, I want to put that feeling inside you today. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask, beseech the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” We're supposed to feel amazed. We're supposed to feel overwhelmed, and then we're supposed to get on our knees, on our faces before God, and ask him to do something about it.
The Comprehensive Ministry of Jesus
First, we have to have a glimpse into the heart of the king of the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus Christ, because it all begins with compassion, doesn't it? Jesus has compassion. He looks out, he sees them in a way that no one else can. For me personally, it all begins with having the compassion of Jesus, and we only get it as we read in the scripture. We see in verse 35 of Matthew an assessment of Jesus' comprehensive ministry. It says that Jesus went through all the towns and villages teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom of Heaven and healing every disease and every sickness among the people. Jesus is there ministering and it’s a comprehensive ministry that he's doing.
We've been seeing in Matthew's gospel how Matthew has been giving us the credentials of Jesus Christ as the king of the kingdom of Heaven, that Jesus is fit to be king of the kingdom of Heaven. We've seen that in one of those summary statements after all the miracles that he's been showing us in Matthew 8 and in Matthew 9— the healing of the centurion's servant, the healing of Peter's mother-in-law from a fever, the stilling of the storm, the healing of the demoniac of the Gadarenes, so powerful he could break chains, iron chains, a legion of demons inside him, 5,000, 6,000 demons, and Jesus cast them out with a single word. We've seen the power of Jesus Christ, we've seen his compassion. After giving us all this evidence, he sums it up here in Verse 35, giving a glimpse of Christ's comprehensive ministry. Jesus did everything that the heavenly father wanted him to do. Isn't that incredible?
Have you ever had a day in which you finished and you laid your head on your pillow, and you could say to the heavenly Father, "Father, I did everything you wanted me to do today. I didn't leave anything out. All of the work that you had for me to do today, I did it." Can you think of one day in which you could have said that honestly to God? Jesus lived his whole life that way. So at the end of his life, in John 17:4, he prays to his heavenly father, saying, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." Isn't that amazing? Not just a day, not a month, not a year, but a whole lifetime of works. And Jesus did them all perfectly.
Comprehensive in Scope
His ministry was comprehensive in scope in that he went to every town. Jesus was not sent into the entire world at that point, understand this. His ministry was focused. It was concentrated on the Jews, the people of Israel. He says in Matthew 15, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." He has a very concentrated focus. He knows he's not sent to the Gentiles at this point, but within His call, he was comprehensive. He went to every town. He went to every village. Verse 35 in the Greek, "he was continually traveling about, going from town to town.” He had an itinerating ministry. He didn't stay in one place. As a matter of fact, as I read through the gospel accounts, especially Matthew, Mark and Luke, I only find one time that people come to Jesus with a need and he chooses not to meet it, and that was a time that he began in his preaching ministry in Luke Chapter 4. Jesus goes out into a solitary place. The people in that town are looking for him and they come and say, "Come back in our town and stay here and preach." They wanted him as their private prophet, I guess. Jesus said, "I can't. I was sent by God to preach to every town and village and that's what I must do." And so he left that area and went to the next town. A comprehensive ministry, he was reaching out.
Comprehensive in Content
It was comprehensive also in content. What did he do as he went from place to place? He was teaching and he was preaching the kingdom of Heaven. We undervalue teaching and preaching today. There are certain types of churches that are getting away from preaching. They're getting away from teaching, it's too authoritative. People instead want entertainment, they want skits, they want videos, they want other things. Jesus did not undervalue teaching and preaching, not at all. As a matter of fact, in a parallel account in Mark's gospel, he landed at one point and saw a huge crowd. Let me read so that you see the parallel here. In Mark 6:34, "When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, so he began teaching them many things." Do you see the significance of that? Jesus's compassion flowed out through his teaching ministry. That's how he showed his compassion is by teaching them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, they needed teaching.
What was the next thing he did in Mark's gospel? He fed the 5,000. Do you see the priority structure in Jesus? Give them the teaching first, the eating will wait. He taught them and then he fed them. We see the comprehensive teaching ministry of Jesus. Now, what was the focus? What was the content? It was the kingdom of Heaven. It was a comprehensive topic. What does this mean, the kingdom of Heaven? It's the place where God rules over willing subjects. The place where God rules over people who are delighted to have God rule over them. God is sovereign over the whole surface of the Earth, is he not? The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. Everything belongs to him. But the kingdom of Heaven advances when people willingly, gladly turn and put their lives and subjection to his rule. That's the advancement of the kingdom of Heaven. And so it's the place wherever God rules over people who are glad that he's ruling over them. Are you glad today that Jesus is your king? If you are, you're a Christian. You're delighted that you have such a king as Jesus Christ. You want to hear more about him, you want to find out more about his attributes and his nature, because he is the absolute perfect king for the kingdom of Heaven, and you're part of it.
Everywhere Jesus went, he preached the kingdom from the beginning. In Matthew 4:17, from that time on, it says Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near." Then in Matthew 4:23, Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom. He begins the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit or the spiritual beggars for," for what? "Theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." He's preaching the kingdom. He warned at one point about the Pharisees. He said in Matthew 5:20, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of law, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of Heaven." So the kingdom of Heaven is something you enter into. He said to people who are tempted to be anxious about what they eat and what they wear, he said, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all of these things will be added to you as well." The kingdom of Heaven was the focus of Jesus' teaching ministry.
Later on in Matthew, in chapter 13, he's going to preach a number of parables and all of them are focused on the kingdom, aren't they? The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and then hid it again, and then in his joy went out and sold everything he had and bought that field. The kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl of great value. When a man found it, he sold everything he had and bought that pearl. All of these things were designed to teach us about the kingdom. It was the center of the content of his teaching. As he went about from place to place in Judea, he was preaching in all their synagogues, one place after another, the kingdom. Comprehensive preaching ministry.
Comprehensive in Healing Power
But it was also a comprehensive ministry in terms of healing power. Matthew tells us he was healing every disease and every sickness among the people. Not only did he teach them powerfully, but he did powerful acts, powerful miracles, the very likes of which nobody had ever seen before. The power of Jesus Christ. He just touches their blind eyes and instantly they can see. How many of you are worried about the West Nile virus? The Center for Disease Control will tell us all kinds of diseases that are incurable. Nobody knows what to do about AIDS, nobody knows what to do about Ebola or mad cow disease which people can get. And they don't know how to cure them. Jesus could cure anything, every disease, every sickness, there was never a disease he met that he couldn't cure. He could just touch an AIDS victim right now, just touch them and they're instantly cured. There was no limit to his healing power. It was comprehensive. He stresses it. Look at it again in verse 35, "Healing every disease, healing every sickness." There was nothing he could not do. The comprehensive ministry of Jesus Christ. And so we have a summary, a life of kingly power in word and deed.
Comprehensive in Compassion
In the world kings are known for their power, but our king is known for more than just power, is he not? He's known also for compassion, and to that Matthew now turns. It's a very interesting shift we get, because this is the end of a concentrated account of Jesus' teaching and preaching ministry. Later we're going to see how Jesus begins to involve his disciples in his worldwide work. The advance of the kingdom of Heaven is going to be done through other people. We are called on to advance his kingdom. He's going to involve them, first in the prayer ministry, and then he's going to send out twelve men in Matthew 10 to do ministry in his name. Jesus begins it all, though, with a compassionate vision. Look at verse 36: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
It all began with a specific vision that only Jesus had, an ability to look right down into your heart and see what your real needs are. He could look at a person and see things that no one else could see. In John Chapter 1 when Nathaniel comes to Jesus and Jesus says of him, "Now, Nathaniel, here is a true Israelite in whom there's no guile. He's not a con artist, he is what he appears to be.” "That's very interesting, Jesus. How do you know me?" "Well, when Philip called you under the fig tree, I looked at you. I looked at you and I knew you completely. I know your heart just by looking. In John chapter 2, it says, "Many people were acclaiming Jesus.” They were saying they believe in Jesus, but Jesus would not entrust himself to them because he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about what was in man, because he himself knew what was in their hearts. He knew who they were. He had a specialized vision, and when he looked out over that crowd, he saw things no one else could see. He looked with a compassionate vision. He looked at their souls, and he was torn up inside over it.
John MacArthur says, "The divine eyes of Jesus saw infinitely greater need in their lives, a need that far surpassed a withered arm or a bleeding body, a possessed mind, blind eyes or deaf ears, far greater than that. He sympathized with their physical pains too and would have been deeply moved had that been their only afflictions, but in seeing the multitudes, Jesus saw the deepness and pervasiveness of their sin and the desperate plight of their spiritual blindness and lostness, and consequently he felt compassion for them as only God can feel. He cared for them because he was God incarnate, and it is God's nature to love because God is love." That's the compassionate vision of Jesus Christ. He could see things that no one else could see. It says he was literally moved with compassion. In the Hebrew mindset, the heart is the seat of the logic, it's the seat of the will, the seat of the choosing. As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. It was the bowels that were the seat of emotion and passion. We get an indication of that in the Greek, that Jesus was moved in his gut, as it were. He had a gut reaction, a feeling inside of compassion. It moved him physically. He was hurting for them. The ancient Greeks had their gods just up in Olympus, Mount Olympus, and they prized something about them which was their “apathea”, their inability to be moved by what was going on on Earth. They were just so far separate from mortals, they were up in the heavenlies. We get the word “apathetic” from this. The Greek gods were apathetic. They didn't feel anything. Hindu God's the same way, no compassion. Buddhism teaches that we have to get away from suffering and pain and so there's no desire whatsoever for compassion. Islam says that Allah is compassionate, but the trail of blood that Islam has left through history belies the fact.
The fact of the matter is, however, our God is gracious and compassionate, is he not? He's a compassionate being. God said to Moses, "I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt, and I'm concerned about them, about their slavery and their suffering. So I'm going to send you to get them out." What does he say to the Prophet Jonah about the Ninevites? "Nineveh has over 120,000 men who cannot tell their right hand from their left and women and children, and a great many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Compassionate for the Jews, compassionate also for the Gentiles.
So it is that when Jesus came as a perfect reflection of his father that he would demonstrate compassion as well. Christ stood over Jerusalem and wept. He wept in front of Martha and Mary at the death of their brother Lazarus. He was a compassionate being. He felt deeply. For that reason, I think Jesus was constantly touching people. He was touching their blind eyes, he was touching their withered hands, or their leprous flesh. He was touching them because he was compassionate. He was moved. He wanted to interact with them, that's the way he was, but what moves him here? It's the sheep's condition. Look at verse 36. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” People, in the Bible at least, are like sheep. Does that offend you? Does that hurt your self-esteem that God thinks of you like sheep? We were at a conference this week and one of the speakers said that sheep have 2D problem, they're dumb and they're defenseless. I would add a third, they are delicious. So you've got a threefold problem. They're very, very ready and fit for the prey right. The wolves are surrounding them and they're ready to devour them.There's nothing they can do about it, and meanwhile they're just following their nose to the next tuft of grass, just the next thing. They get themselves tangled up in briers or surrounded by packs of dogs or wolves and there's nothing that they can do, they're dumb and they're defenseless, and they're delicious. In this way, they need a shepherd. We are like sheep, are we not? God says so. David struck this theme again and again in his Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd.” What does that make you? It makes you a sheep. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” That's the Shepherd that we have, or Psalm 100:3-4 "Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture."
Isaiah takes it to another level. He speaks about our sin in Isaiah 53, “All we like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned his own way and the Lord has laid on him, Christ, the iniquity of us all.” When Jesus died on the cross, when he was there, suffering and dying, when his blood was flowing out and when he was under the wrath of God, it was because we're like sheep going astray through our sinfulness and wickedness. Jesus took our wrath, our punishment on himself because of our sheep-like nature. If we're sheep that means we need shepherds. God provided that there would be under-shepherds; Israel's kings were called to be Shepherds. David shepherded God's people it says in one scripture. And so also the Levites, the priests were meant to shepherd the people through their hearts to a teaching of the Word of God. The problem was, for the most part, the shepherds of Israel failed them. The kings were wicked. The Levites and the priests were ignorant and wicked and selfish so the people were very frequently like sheep without a shepherd.
Israel's shepherds were judged for how they shepherded the flock. In Ezekiel 34, "The word of the Lord came to me, son of Man prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says, "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves.”’” This was a consistent repeated theme in Israel's history. God's response through the prophets was, "I'm going to raise up somebody to shepherd them in integrity of heart and it's going to be a son of David, David will shepherd them." Micah 5:2 says, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah though, you are least among the rulers of Israel out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” Who is that? That's Jesus Christ, the son of David. In Jeremiah 23 Jeremiah says the same thing. "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord," he says, "The days are coming when I will raise up to David a righteous branch, a King who will reign wisely and do it as just and right in the land and in his days, Judah be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which that Shepherd, will be called, the Lord our Righteousness." Jesus came to be a shepherd to people who had no shepherd, they were harassed and they were helpless. The NAS translation is very strong about this, "distressed and downcast”. The word “harassed” means flayed, like their flesh is being ripped apart. Imagine, if you would, briers that are long and dig into the sides of the sheep. If they move in any direction, it tears their skin, it tears their flesh. That's the picture that Jesus has. These are sheep that are tormented. They're tormented politically. The Romans dominate them and see them only as silent slaves to row in their galleys, perhaps, and as sources of tax money. They were tormented physically by disease and death over which they had no power. They were tormented religiously by people like the House of Annas. He was more like a mafia leader with his hands financially in every pot, and all of it was for his own wealth. That's why Jesus twice cleansed the temple, because the temple had been made into a den of robbers. They had no shepherd, they were tormented spiritually. If you could have seen in the spiritual realm, this large group of people had a demonic host around them like flies. They were harassed by demonic forces of evil, by Satan himself, harassed and helpless.
More than anything, though, what was the greatest danger? It was the wrath of God. They were under the wrath of God for their sins. There was a record of each of their lives, so accurate and so careful, that nothing was missed, as as long as your arm and 50 times longer of each act of sin, each thought, each word. They stood under the wrath of God, and there was nothing that they could do. They were harassed and they were helpless, defenseless against the coming wrath. The apostle Paul puts it this way, in Ephesians 2, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts, and like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. Do you know what that means? As an object of wrath, you're designed for destruction. Like a lightning rod ready to be struck by the wrath of God, harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus had that vision of their condition, but he didn't leave it there. He was moved by compassion and he spoke to his disciples in verse 37. By the way, I feel he's speaking today, isn't he? If you're a disciple of Jesus Christ, he's talking to you today. What is he saying? "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Realize Christ's strategy. He's not going to just come and die on the cross and be raised from the dead. A gospel is going to be preached, the gospel of the kingdom of God. Jesus says, in Matthew 24:14, "To every tribe and language and people and nation. And then the end will come." He turns very strategically in verse 37 to his disciples and says to them, "The harvest is plentiful." Do you see this key moment? It's not just me[Jesus]. When Isaiah says, "I've trodden the wine press alone." There were some things only Jesus could do, but in this matter, the matter of the ministry of reconciliation, he turns to his disciples and involves them. "The harvest is plentiful,” he says to them, “but the workers are few." From the very beginning, that's why he called them. In Matthew 4:19, walking by the sea, he sees Peter and John and James, and Andrew working by the sea, and he says, "Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Right from the beginning, this was his strategy and his intention.
The Harvest of Wrath
What does he mean when he says, "The harvest is indeed truly plentiful." What does he mean by that? There's two different themes in the scriptures about the harvest. One of them is the harvest of wrath and of judgment. In Joel 3:13-14, it says, "Swing the sickle for the harvest is ripe. Come trample the grapes, for the wine press is full and the vats overflow, so great is their wickedness. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision, for the Day of the Lord is near, in the valley of decision." There is going to be a harvest of judgment in which God will visit on all the wicked, their sins. So also when John the Baptist is preaching about Jesus in Matthew 3:12, speaking of Christ and he says, "His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering up the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with unquench-able fire," — the harvest of wrath.
The Harvest of Souls
I don't think that that's what's in Christ's mind at this particular moment. The scripture speaks of another harvest, a harvest of souls for eternal life. Do you remember the account when he is witnessing to the Samaritan woman at the well? Jesus has sent his disciples on mission.
Their particular view point of the mission is, "We need to go into that filthy Samaritan village and buy some food fit for us to eat." That was their view of the mission. For them as Jews to go into the village and buy some food. They come back and said essentially, ”We got the food. Let's eat." This is a paraphrase, it's not really in the NIV translation but that's about what happened.”Master have something to eat," and he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about." I could almost stick in the word, "I have food to eat that you apparently know nothing about." Why could I stick the word “apparently”, in there? Because of how they behaved. What do they come back from that village with? What did they bring back from that village? Food. What else? Nothing, they bought nothing back. The Samaritan woman goes into the village and what did she bring back? The whole town to come listen to Jesus. He said, "I have food to eat, you know nothing about.” "Could someone have brought him food," they thought. "Maybe he's got a food source. But then why did he send us then to that village to buy it?" “My food”, said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work. Do you not say four months more, and then comes to harvest? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and look at the fields they are ripe for harvest.” What harvest is Jesus talking about there? Some people think that the village was coming out at that point and he points to them and he says, "Look at them, they're ready, they're ready." And they were ready, they came to faith in Christ when Jesus preached to them. There are thousands and thousands of people coming to Christ every single day. Some people estimate as many as 30,000 a day, 2,300 every hour coming to faith in Christ. Nobody really knows, 20 million a year, 40,000, a day, who can really say, but there's a vast harvest out there of people who will respond to the gospel, if somebody will just proclaim it to them. It's prophecy. Revelation 7: 9-10, "After this, I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were crying out. Salvation belongs to the Lamb and all the glory of Jesus for salvation." That's what they're doing, they're standing around.
How do they come to faith in Christ? In Romans chapter 10, "They cannot come unless they call in the name of the Lord, unless they say, ‘Lord save me.’” Who is the Lord? Jesus Christ of Nazareth. So unless somebody goes and preaches to them, they can't be saved. That's the whole logic of Romans 10:14-15. "How can they call on the one of whom they've never heard and how can they hear unless somebody goes and preaches to them, and how can they preach unless they are sent." As the Scriptures says, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news." The harvest is plentiful, but we have a problem. The workers are few.
I saw a movie one time called “Places in the Heart” with Sally Field. It was a story of a woman who lost her husband and in order to try to survive during the Depression, she decides to plant a huge crop of cotton. Things are incredibly tight, and basically the only way she can save her farm is if she somehow manages to get the first bale of cotton to the gin before anybody else. Finally, the harvest time has come. She's there with her two little kids, a blind guy, and one worker. They're working steadily picking the cotton and putting in the bag, and then the camera just starts to pan back further and further, higher and higher and higher. There's this sea of white and by the time the shot is done, you can't see them anymore. That's what I think of when I think of this passage. There are some people out there, working for the Lord, but the work is so overpowering, so overwhelming, so great that they'll never get it done by themselves. The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the workers are few. At present the International Mission Board has 5,400 missionaries. What's exciting is over a thousand of them have been appointed in the last year. That's amazing, and so more and more people are coming but understand this, that 5,400 represents 0.03% of the total number of Southern Baptists in this country. That doesn't mean three out of every 100 or three out of every 1,000. It means three out of every 10,000 is a missionary supported by our churches. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
What does Jesus tell us to do? Verse 38 says, "Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into the harvest field." This is amazing. Christ first command, isn't, "We got to get going. You need to move.” There's a sense of urgency, a sense of desperation. “Don't you see that crowd out there? Don't you see those people. They're lost, they're dying, you better go.” That's not the first thing he tells them to do. What is the first thing he tells them to do? “Pray. Ask the Lord of the harvest, get down on your knees and why, because your praying is far more effective than your going. It is true, you will accomplish more on your knees, than going.” But,of course, they must go. Later we see that Jesus sends them out. But he says, "First we need to pray.”
We Americans are so in love with our plans and our schemes, and our strategies and our promotions and our videos and all kinds of things. That is not what is going to get it done. So get down on your face and ask the Lord of the harvest to, “Thrust out, eject, evict workers into the harvest field.” Some people have to be ripped from their lives and sent out into the harvest field. I don't know what it's like, maybe it's like a harvest for yourself, where you're hanging on to them, you get pulled out and sent into the harvest field, he says, "Get on your face and begin asking the Lord of the harvest." Who's the Lord of the harvest? Did not God the Father send his son into the world? Yet, at the same time, Jesus said, in John 20, "As the Father has sent me even so what? I am sending you." So it could it be that Jesus at this present time is the Lord of the harvest. So we pray to the Triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit, and we ask that he would send out laborers into the harvest field.
Now what application can we take for this text? First of all, it would be wrong for me to read over this text and assume that every single person listening to me has trusted in Christ, all the things that I said about you, if you're not a Christian, you're under the wrath of God, you're a vessel of wrath and you must trust in Christ. Could it be that you are right now actually part of the harvest, that you've never given your life to Jesus Christ? You can't let today go by without trusting in Jesus. I heard it said recently that in every pew, there is a broken heart. Who's got the broken heart? I don't really know if it’s true but I tell you this, Jesus is compassionate. He is able to see your heart, he's able to look to whatever it is you're facing, whatever issue and he's able to minister to it, There is nothing that he cannot do, so I would urge you to come to the Lord of the harvest first for healing for a broken heart or for whatever issues you're facing. But now, I want you to get your eyes up off yourself. So much of the grief we face is because we're not in God's will, we're not living the way God wants us to live. Is it not clear from this text that God is calling us as a people? Calling this church, First Baptist Church, to be involved in the harvest that he's involved in? I've given you five steps.
God has brought this church through a lot of things in last two years. I think it's all been about unity for the purpose of the harvest. As I think about it, it's been about unity for the purpose of a great harvest, a harvest so great that a divided church that isn't quite sure what to do with the word of God cannot do it. It's not about this or that or the other issue, it's about this harvest, isn't it? I want to challenge you to think again about your own life. I want you to think about your own contribution to the advancing Kingdom of Heaven. I want you to realize that God desires that each one of his disciples be involved in his harvest. What is your ministry to the harvest? How are you involved personally? What are you doing? It’s easy to stand up and say applications is always the same, missions. You don't even need to think about it, it is always the same application. Pray, give and go, right? Always the same. No, it's more complex than that now. We need the whole body of Christ, using all of their spiritual gifts in order to accomplish all the mission that God has for us to do. He's given us a comprehensive ministry as well. He's called us to minister to Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. I believe that's a paradigm for how every local church should see its contribution to the advancing Kingdom of Heaven. What is our Jerusalem? We've got work to do right in this area. It could be that some of the broken hearts are because we're off of God's plan and we're not using our time and our energy and our money for what God would have us to do. Come and you give your strength and your gifts and your time to the Lord and you'll never regret it. You're on a winning team, it's in prophecy, you're going to win. If you come and help Jesus build his kingdom, every tribe and language and people and nation will most certainly trust and believe. What are you doing? Are you using your gifts?
This church is like a grist mill by a river, and as the water runs by and turns that big wheel and it turns the other cranks, then wheat is ground into flour.The more water runs by, the more we can grind. If it's a drought, that wheel doesn't turn very fast, does it? And when we don't grind much wheat, we can't do many ministry projects, we can't do much. We need more water to flow by. So if we're going to keep the analogy going, I feel like that there's a bunch of blocks of ice further up and they need to thaw under the heat of the conviction of God. Then there's going to be water flowing down by that factory and it's going to and we'll be able to minister to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest field. Could it be that some of you sitting in these pews right now, right today, are called by God to go as a cross-cultural missionary to an unreached people group. Don't excuse yourself too quickly, because we actually had a family go out right in mid-career, bringing four young kids to go to an unreached people group. Right in the middle of a career. It can be done. Could be the college students who come thinking, "I'm going to do this or that," but God is calling him or her to a cross-cultural mission. Could it be that senior adults that have reached the point where they have more freedom than they’ve ever had in their lives before. God is calling you to be a cross-cultural worker, perhaps to support a missionary, or maybe even to go in a way that you could never have even imagined.
Could it be that God is calling you to be part of the harvest? Might you say to God, "Lord, I feel that I've been like that block of ice, I have not used my gifts, my talents, my money, as would glorify your kingdom. I've not been sold out for you the way I want to." Pay for the harvest and for your role in harvesting.