35 And Jesus went about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness. 36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd. 37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few. 38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest. Matthew 9:35-38
The Harvest Demographic
Look at the kind of people Jesus ministers to in Matthew 9. Blind, mute, demon possessed, social outcasts (issues of blood) etc. The helpless and harassed, distressed, without a shepherd = some who cares for them, protects them and guides them to refreshing places of rest and nourishment. All of this points to the demographic of people who Jesus points to as being where the Harvest is. It is sort of Matthews way of doing what Luke does in highlighting Jesus attraction to the outsiders/poor, broken hearted, oppressed, captive etc. Luke talks a lot about the Holy Spirit. I think there is a connection here in that you can not minister to this demographic with out empowerment from the Spirit. We can not, and do not do this kind of thing unless God is empowering us to do it through the Spirit of Jesus.
The Harvest is Plentiful
There is no shortage of people in any community who are in this condition. If they are not in your community, they are on the other side of town in another community. We know where they are, because we choose not to go there for our own safety or comfort. And if it is not a specific place, it is that specific type of person that you run from, that you intentionally avoid because it makes your life more complex. It makes your view of reality a bit more fuzzy. Engaging them forces you to engage a part of yourself that you would rather ignore. The pat of you that has not been softened by God love. In essence, "those people" obligate you in more ways than one. They force you to step out of your world and into theirs. As Paul reflected on the Harvest in Corinth, he said not may of you were wise, strong, noble. Mission flows out of intimacy with Jesus, but if we are not careful, the Jesus we are intimate with may not be the Jesus of the gospels. If Jesus was intimate with the poor, brokenhearted, oppressed and the captive, then would it not stand to reason that intimacy with Jesus would place me in proximity with the same kinds of people? Who ever claims to follow Jesus must walk as he walked. This is coming from one of the most imtimate followers of Jesus.
The Workers are Few
It is not a surprise then, this being the case, that he says "the workers are few." This is not the demographic we are naturally drawn towards. We do not gravitate towards these kinds of people naturally. This is why Jesus says to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers. The word "send out" is in the greek ekballow. It means to thrust out violently, to draw out with force. Some people will not go into the Harvest field unless God moves,thrusts, throws them into it. Like a bird kicking the babies out of the nest, sometimes Gd has to thrust us into the Harvest field, because on our own, we will be in other fields or in no field at all. If we want to get to the real reason why the workers are few, it is because we do not pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into the field! Lets pray!
The Lord of the Harvest
The Harvest fields are not an environment of shade and rest. They are where the work takes place. Sowing, weeding, harvesting, all of this is hard work. I don't want to sound masochistic or anything like that. I am not one to glorify tough situations for toughness sake. I am only highlighting the fact that sometimes the Harvest environment is overwhelming and seems impossible. Imagine having to hand pick and harvest some of the massive corn fields, or better yet, hand pick a 15 acre farm of snap beans! As Paul says, we are not sufficient to this task. (II Corinthians 2:14-16), but God makes us sufficient. (II Corinthians 3:1-6) He is The Lord of the Harvest." It is His harvest, not ours. We are only the workers in the field. We go in weakness and dependence, like going out with no money or a place to stay, (Luke 10:4).
Meditating on this passage has so many insights into our relationship with Jesus and mission. It is probably one of the most challenging verses I am confronted with when I think of being intimate with Jesus and letting that intimacy generate a missional life. I am writing some pretty challenging reflections. I am praying that the Father will empower me to live into these principles so I will not be guilty of intellectualism.