And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” Luke 10:2 (ESVUK)
To me, winter in South Africa is associated with special experiences. At this time of year, the maize fields are harvested. The fields turn white-yellow in the light of the setting sun. As a child, it was wonderful to sit on the trailer filled to the brim with freshly harvested maize. It was an experience of joy and abundance. The fruits of the harvest were brought in and it was evident that the farmer’s efforts had paid off. Harvest time is usually a joyous occasion.
That is why it is a fitting image for what will come when the kingdom of God appears visibly and in perfection. Then joy will be in abundance and misery and suffering will come to an end. Then what we have been waiting for in faith will be fulfilled.
Christ prepared people for God’s great harvest during his time on earth. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and called people to repentance. He received people into his discipleship. He ate with sinners and forgave them their sins, healed the sick, and relieved many of their sufferings. During that time, that is how people came into saving fellowship with God. Since Jesus’ death and resurrection, this possibility is open to all people. To testify to this, and to invite people to make use of it, remains the task at hand until the great harvest day. To this end, God uses helpers.
At this time of year, when the maize harvest is brought in, many additional labourers are hired.
For God’s harvest to be gathered, the Lord sent out not only the 12 disciples but later another 72 who went ahead of him. According to Genesis 10, there are 72 Gentile nations. This number indicates that God’s message is meant for all people. It is to be carried to the ends of the earth. All people are to hear God’s message. Jesus sees people as a great harvest. They are ripe to be harvested for the kingdom of God.
However, Jesus recognizes a problem with this harvest. The problem is not grounded in the nature of the harvest, that is, in the people who are to be harvested. There is no one too bad for him. Jesus sees the problem in the fact that there are too few labourers for the harvest. Then, as of now, there is a lack of workers to bring in the harvest. In our Synod, there is a lack of new theology students.
So what is to be done so that more labourers can once again be recruited for God’s great harvest?
On the one hand, we can state that the labourers in God’s harvest do not only mean pastors and missionaries. Proclaiming the good news in word and deed is harvest work. Everyone who belongs to Christ through baptism and faith is called to be a witness of Jesus Christ and to share the Gospel in his or her personal environment. But in any case, we are commissioned to ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into His harvest. “Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord!” – that is the most important part.
Jesus impresses this upon our hearts: our task is to plead with the Lord of the harvest to send more labourers into his harvest. One commentator writes in this regard, “God’s Spirit must grab people and overcome them, make them capable and willing.” * God Himself wants to be asked to awaken labourers, to mould them, and to place them in His service.
So, asking God to do that is our fundamental task. Every Christian is called to do this. Whoever frees up time and strength for this is himself a co-worker in God’s harvest. We can also be sure that such prayer is effective. After all, it is Christ who calls us to do so.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Lord of the harvest. Send labourers into your harvest again and again and show us where you want us to be part of your harvest. Amen.