Is it Still?
Jesus said the harvest is plentiful (Matthew 9:37). Have you ever wondered if it still is? I have.
In the eighties, a group of us moved to Philadelphia to start a church. In spite of our training, enthusiasm, and work, we only reached a few people. Plentiful harvest never entered my mind during those years.
I’m not sure Jesus was making a universal statement. I’m not sure he meant the harvest would be plentiful in all times and places. His words do have a context in first century Galilee. To be honest, the harvest not only seemed slight to me in Philadelphia in the eighties. It has seemed slight for most of my lifetime.
Recently, though, I have changed my mind somewhat. I was reflecting again on the passage and began to explore why Jesus said there was a bountiful harvest. A straightforward reading of the passage suggests two reasons.
First, just before he spoke the words about the harvest (v. 37), he saw a crowd of people who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (v. 36). They are the harvest. Apparently, their needs and problems made them more open to God.
I instantly realized that condition is true still today. All around me, people are having all sorts of problems and are lacking good leaders, just like the people Jesus saw. When people face troubles in their lives that show them their limitations, they tend to be more open to God. They are a harvest.
Second, I realized what brought that crowd together. You’re going to want to write this down. Get ready. Wait for it. Here it is: Verse 36 comes after verse 35! It is so obvious we may miss it, but the crowd in v. 36 is a result of Jesus’ ministry in v. 35. The reason there was a crowd present is that his teaching, proclaiming and healing had drawn them to him. People were attracted to Jesus!
That condition is still true today as well. People today are still attracted to Jesus. Frequently, they are not attracted to our churches, which is what makes us wonder whether there is a harvest in the first place. But consistently, people in the United States are attracted to Jesus himself. And we have to admit he is an awful lot more attractive than we are. Right?
So it seems to me that as long as people are broken and hurting and are attracted to Jesus, as they are today, there will be a harvest. Maybe not everyone will be open, but “plenty” will be. Certainly there are enough to encourage us to keep working.
I have to admit that the real question is not whether there is a harvest. There’s plenty. The real question hits closer to home. The real question is whether there are workers (vv. 37-38). That’s where Jesus put the focus. Instead of questioning the harvest, we ought to be questioning ourselves.
If Jesus’ words rings true to you, even if they make you a bit uncomfortable, maybe you would be open to being a worker. But what is a worker? How do you become one? Where do workers comes from? Read on.