In Luke 9 we saw Jesus sending out his twelve apostles proclaiming the kingdom of God in the towns and villages of Galilee. In chapter 10 Jesus sends a larger group into every town and place where Jesus is about to go. There is, however, a significant problem. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Jesus looks at the nation with a spiritual lens. Jesus does not look at the condition of Israel with all of its depravity and wickedness and think that his teaching is a wasted effort. Remember the nation is so wicked that God will destroy it 40 years after Jesus’ ministry. Jesus sees souls and sees a problem. There is a harvest out there but there are not enough laborers to gather the harvest.
Before we move forward in the story we need to consider if we have the same outlook as Jesus or if we have a pessimistic, defeated outlook. It is easy to develop an attitude that believes that we are the only ones who have any spiritual interest. It is easy to assume that the world is more wicked now than in the first century and no one is interested in God. Or we can have the mentality that everyone has already heard and therefore the harvest has been reaped. Everyone has heard about Jesus and there is nothing left to do. While the world has heard of Jesus and has a concept of God, I submit to you the issue is that majority of the world is misinformed. People have been misled. People have been turned off by the religious nonsense that is promoted as Christianity. They have seen self-righteous people wearing robes, performing actions that do not make sense and are not taught in the scriptures. They have seen people with irrational faith unable to defend what they believe. Satan’s effort has been to flood people with misinformation so it is difficult to determine what is truth and what is error.
I submit to you that this situation is not entirely different from the first century. In the nation of Israel we read about these self-righteous people who do not follow the actual law of Moses but their own rules and traditions. They are burdening the people with false teachings about what God demands of them. The Pharisees and Sadducees are directly contradicting the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. If we extend outside the boundaries of Israel to the Roman world then we will see a similar picture of misinformation. It was a time of religious pluralism. The call was to worship the god of your choice and it did not matter what god you worshipped. Greek and Roman paganism were the norm and the only thing condemned was to suggest that there was only one God and only he was to be worshiped. We must open our eyes and see that we are living in the same world that Jesus and the apostles lived in. But do we have the same spiritual outlook that Jesus had? I believe most Christians have an evangelistic heart but do not know what to do. We want to see people come to Christ to be saved but do not know what part they can play in that effort. Let’s look at what Jesus teaches us about how to be laborers for the harvest.
Jesus’ answer to the problem of a great harvest and few laborers is prayer. The first thing is not to have a strategy session. The first step is prayer. We must remember only God can give the increase. We can do all the planting and watering we want but God is the one who provides the growth. Yet we often leave off this critically important step. Do we believe that there is a great harvest that we must pray for so that they can be saved? Will we pray for their salvation? Will we pray that we can find them and teach them?
We do not exist here for survival. We exist to reach more people and share the good news of Jesus. What is the vision that you have for this congregation? I have a very large, optimistic vision for this group. I do not see this church maintaining its small church status. My vision is that we will not only expand our facilities to the most this property can handle, but that we will have multiple Sunday services and will spin off other locations in this county. It is easy to reach contentment at round numbers. Reach 100 and feel content. Reach 200 in membership and become content. Touch 300 and become complacent. It is the problem of round numbers. We cannot have a low opinion of what we think we can be and the impact we can make in this community. If your vision for Haverhill is that this is the way we will always be, then you are not praying to the Lord to work big things. We exist for the salvation of others, not for the maintaining of ourselves. We should have a hope and expectation for growth. We have the word of God. The gospel is the power of God to salvation. To think that we cannot grow explosively is to have a low view of the power of the gospel. We are not lacking any ingredients for explosive growth. God is still bringing people to salvation everyday. If we have the desire and we pray to the Lord for the harvest, then there is nothing that can stop us. Do we have the desire? Do we have the faith? Do we have the earnest prayers? Pray is the first way that you can participate in evangelism in this church.
Notice that Jesus does not say that they need to pray and sit down on the ground and hope something happens. The very next words after praying is “Go your way.” First, we pray but then we need to be part of the answer. Jesus said there is a big problem. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pray for laborers and then become a laborer. You are an answer to our prayers. You are an instrument in the harvest of the Lord. There are a number of things Jesus teaches about how we are to go.
Go in teamwork.
Jesus does not send these disciples to go by themselves. We make a tremendous mistake by thinking that this is an individual effort and we have to do this work alone. In verse 1 we read that Jesus sent them in pairs. There are myriads of reasons why we should do this work together. There is encouragement in doing the work together. There is confidence in teaching together. We learn from each other when we work together. Pick a Christian brother or sister here and work together in praying about our evangelism and then go and be an answer. Ask people together. Tell people about Jesus together. Husbands and wives can do this work together, a natural work that you can do. Two sisters in Christ can work together. Two brothers in Christ can work together. Take advantage of the moment today after services and ask someone to work with you in the efforts of evangelism. Our community groups are about teamwork. You invite your friends to the study and we all are working together to teach. This reminds us that we need to be conscious of the things that we say and ask if our community group has an unbeliever. We need to make sure we are not saying things that would become a stumbling block to them coming to the truth.
Go in wisdom.
Jesus says that he was sending them out as lambs in the midst of wolves. That doesn’t sound very good because wolves are natural enemies of sheep. Anticipate difficulties in our evangelistic efforts. We are not going out to a world that loves the Lord. When Jesus sent out his twelve apostles he told them there would be rejection. Jesus tells this group of disciples that they will also have rejection. Notice in verse 10 that there could be a whole town that rejected them. We could have all of our neighbors say no. We could have our whole subdivision say no. Understand that people will say no but do not be deterred.
Go in urgency.
Jesus said in verse 4 to not take anything and to not greet anyone on the road. Jesus is not teaching to be rude and unprepared. Jesus is teaching us the urgency of the task. Don’t get distracted from your God given purpose. Nothing can interfere with the purpose. Don’t focus on all the peripherals. Don’t make evangelism more difficult than it is. We try to make teaching and inviting so much harder than it really is. Jesus does not tell us what to say. These disciples are not given a method. Why? Because there is not just one method to reach people. There is your method to reach people. Use the method that works for you. Don’t think that you have to do evangelism some particular way. Take a stack of Bibles (we have many to give to you if you will do this). Go to your neighbors and ask them, “If I give you a Bible will you read it?” If they say no, then move on. If they say yes, then give them a Bible and ask them if they have any questions. Give them a card and tell them where you go. Be a laborer in the field. We are the instruments in a dark world bringing people to the light of Christ.
Go in trust.
We saw this when Jesus sent out his apostles in Luke 9. We see Jesus instructing these disciples to put their trust in God. They took nothing with them as they went. They were to rely on the hospitality of the people they were staying with as they taught. Jesus taught his disciples to be sacrificial servants. We must be ready to sacrifice for the kingdom of God and trust in God to provide. It means that we will not be able to spend our free time working on the yard or watching television. We will make sacrifices to our time and our comforts to extend the offer of the gospel to the world.
Teach God’s Warning (10:10-16)
Regardless of the people’s refusal, the kingdom of God was coming (10:11). When these disciples were rejected they were to warn the people of the unbearable judgment for those outside of Christ. Notice that Jesus says in verse 12 that it would be more bearable for Sodom than for those who reject the message his disciples were teaching. It is extremely serious to reject God’s salvation message. Jesus pronounces woes against the people of Israel for rejecting the message. Jesus says that unbelieving Gentiles would have responded to the signs and the teachings done in those towns. We must tell people what we are trying to save them from. Salvation does not make sense until we explain the peril every person is in. Eternal life and eternal punishment are at stake.
Joy In The Harvest (10:17)
When the disciples returned they returned with joy. No matter how it goes in your evangelism efforts, you will return home with an inexpressible joy from knowing you have accomplished God’s will. Even when we have to shake the dust off of our feet there is great joy in doing your part in the kingdom of God. But we will not come back with failures. God wants us in the field and there is a harvest to bring in. When these disciples return they do not come back with joy only from being obedient to the will of the Lord. They are joyful because of the power of Christ’s kingdom is having success in the world.
We noted in the first nine chapters of Luke that the author is showing us who Jesus is. Beginning in chapter 9 Luke has transitioned to teaching who can follow Jesus. Followers of Jesus are laborers in the field of the world reaping the harvest. There is nothing technical or complicated about working in God’s kingdom. Jesus summed out how we labor in his kingdom. (1) Pray, (2) Go, (3) Teach, (4) Expect return, (5) Rejoice in spreading the kingdom. God has given us a mission. We need to stay on mission.