The Harvest Is Ripe - Luke 10:1-24 (Sermon)
Hello, Church. I am pastor Rob, and it is a pleasure to serve you today. Thank you, worship team. This morning kick starts a month of missions. We focus on what God is doing around the world and what part we play.
- Tonight, at 6 PM, you can join us at Converge (just down the road) and hear from several people, like the Vander Lugts and the Silvas, about how to do missions as a family.
- Next Sunday, for Sunday School, we will hear from Kurt and Kim Swank. They used to attend church here over a decade ago. Since then, they have retired and are learning Russian. Their goal is to set up an overseas business to share their faith with unreached peoples. Pastor Mike will be preaching about God’s kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.
- The following week, we hear from the president of To Every Tribe, Steve Leston. He will share with us about his organization and how they are planting churches in places with no Christian witness. Then, in the evening, Jeff Dryden will share with us what God is doing in Central Asia through Word Partners.
- The week after that, Mike Bowden will give an update at Sunday School about what he sees God doing around the world with missionaries during this year of COVID.
We have a full schedule, and you won’t want to miss it.
This last year your generosity has been unprecedented. None of us, as far as I can tell, could give $124,000 towards missions. But, together we did. None of us can go to Japan, Central Asia, Peru, Ethiopia, North Africa, and India training, counseling, equipping pastors, and planting churches, but, together, we did. Together we are doing far more than apart. There are many parts we have played in missions, from giving to praying to going. What is your part?
Luke chapter 10, verses 1 through 24, answers that in a way. I have asked B. and L. G. to read for us. If you are able, would you please stand with me in honor of God’s Word?
After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and overall the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
In that same hour, he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then turning to the disciples, he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Thank you. Let’s pray. Dear, God. You said the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. You want us to pray that you send out workers. God, send out workers. Raise up missionaries. Equip pastors, elders, deacons, ministers, leaders, servants, men, women, and children to play their part so others will hear the good news of your kingdom. We are thankful for your forgiveness, mercy, and love. The world needs to know it too. Gift people here at Sawyer to play their part. Inspire people here at Sawyer to obey your call. Invite people here at Sawyer to go and make disciples of all nations. Help us understand what our role is. Help us play our part for your fame and our joy. In Jesus’s name and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we ask this Father, AMEN. You may be seated.
To understand this passage, we want to grasp what is happening. But, first, we need to know the context. In Luke chapter 9 verse 51, the author tells us something important about Jesus’s ministry. Look at Luke chapter 9 verse 51. What does it say?
“When the days drew near for him [Jesus] to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
Jesus was traveling from the north, Galilee, to Jerusalem, in the south. Why? To be taken up. What did that mean? Jesus told us a few sentences earlier. Look at verse 22. Luke chapter 9 verse 22. Jesus told his disciples,
“The Son of Man [He was talking of himself] must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Friends, he was on his way to Jerusalem to die. He knew it. He would be taken up on a cross, taken up from death to life, and taken up from life to heaven. Why? Why did he go to Jerusalem to suffer? Keep your finger in Luke 10 and move to chapter 19. Look at verse 10 of chapter 19. Jesus said why he was going to suffer. He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” His purpose was to seek and save the lost. He came to bring salvation, or in other words: eternal life, to those who were lost and dead in their sin. He came to turn around those going their destructive way. He came to bring hope to the hopeless and healing to the sin-sick soul. Why? Why did he bother? Because he loved us.
In chapter 10, things needed to happen before Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. That is why he sent people out ahead. We read in chapter 9 that Jesus sent the twelve apostles ahead. In chapter 10, he sent out seventy-two ahead. In both cases, they traveled light. In chapter 9, he told them to take no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, or an extra tunic (9:3). The list in 10 is very similar, take no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals (10: 4). Why? This was a short-term trip with a targeted audience and a narrow purpose. They were to prepare the way for the Lord like John the Baptist. How? How did they prepare the way? We don’t have all of the marching orders; yet, we know a little about what they did and said. What was that? They proclaimed peace, “Shalom,” and the news about the kingdom of God to those who would listen. From verse 17, we know they cast out demons. In chapter 9, verse 1 Jesus, “gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (9:1–2). That was their assignment.
What is our assignment? What is our part we play? How does this passage instruct us? I think this teaches us: to pray, obey, and say. (I like to rhyme). So, if you are taking notes, that is our call: to pray, obey, and say.
Let’s walk through this text and see it for ourselves. Verse 1 of chapter 10 we read
After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two (10:1)
Why seventy-two? Some scholars see this as significant. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible defines the nations as seventy-two. Luke’s sequel, Acts, begins with God calling the disciples to be witnesses to all nations (1:8). Thus, the seventy-two people potentially represented the gospel going to all nations and demonstrated God’s heart for the world to know Jesus.
What were they to do? Time was drawing to the end of Jesus’s ministry. Luke tells us,
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him (10:1).
Chapter ten doesn’t tell they departed, but we read they returned in verse 17.
Luke goes on to relay to us,
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two (10:1)
Why pairs? Luke doesn’t say.
- It could be for safety; there is strength in numbers.
- It could be for effectiveness; two minds are better than one.
- It could be for accountability; we are more motivated together than apart.
- According to the Old Testament, you were not to accept a testimony of one person, but two or more. So perhaps sending out two added to the credibility of their witness.
We don’t know why, but that is what Jesus told them to do, and they obeyed.
The text goes on to say that the harvest was plentiful. Jesus had said this before. Matthew records,
“Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9:35–38)
Jesus says this in Samaria too. In John 4, Jesus was traveling through Samaria and was tired. He stopped for a rest while his disciples went into town to get food. A Samaritan woman came and drew water from a well near Jesus. He asked for a drink. She was shocked that he, a Jew, would speak to her and ask her for help. This began a conversation where she was even more taken aback. She left to tell the whole town. In verse 39 of chapter 4, we read, “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony. ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” When the disciples came back with food, Jesus was telling them he had already eaten. He was talking in code about serving God, and as they were trying to understand what he was getting at, the townsfolk appeared.
Jesus said to the disciples, “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” In Luke, Matthew, and John, Jesus was saying people are fields. God was and is still at work drawing them to himself, using his followers to play a part in his work. Paul used this similar language describing God’s people sowing, watering, and harvesting (1 Corinthians 3). Paul writes that God causes the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7). Luke attributes people’s beliefs to God’s work. He writes in Acts 13,
“And when the Gentiles heard this [That is the good news of Jesus], they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
This is consistent with Luke chapter 10. Look at verses 21 and 22. Luke writes that God reveals himself to people. Look at verses 21 and 22.
In that same hour he [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Luke 10:21–22)
The harvest was ripe because God had caused it to be so. So it was the case in Samaria and Galilee and is in our day as well.
WORKERS ARE FEW
Luke goes on to say there is a problem with this ripe harvest. Look again at verses 1 and 2.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."
Now, seventy-two seems like a lot. If we had seventy-two of us go into Sawyer right now and knock on doors to tell people about Jesus, that would be surprising. But this situation is different. We are not talking about a few hundred people and seventy-two workers. There was a world out there that needed to hear about Jesus. Seventy-two was not enough and is not sufficient today.
Gallup polls just came out with a statistic that says for the first time in American History; they found data that shows less than half of the Americans are church members. Now, church membership is not a direct indication of a relationship with Jesus as Savior. However, fewer and fewer people are going to church. Fewer and fewer people are calling themselves Christians. That is just in America. When we think globally, most of the world is not Christian, and much of the world doesn’t have a church, Bible, or Christian witness. Many have never heard of the name Jesus. All you would get if you said the name would be blank stares. For example,
- There are 1.9 Billion Muslims,
- There are 1.2 Billion Hindus,
- There are 1 Billion who are nonreligious,
- There are 737 Million ethnic religions,
- And 500 million Buddhists in the world.
How many missionaries do you think there are? 400,000. Of those billions that don’t know Jesus, how many are unreached? 3.6 billion people are unreached today. That means they have no native Christian population to share Jesus with them. (https://joshuaproject.net/help/definitions ) How many of those 400,000 missionaries are going to these 3.6 billion people? Only 13,000. That means there is one missionary for every 1/276,000 people. Can you imagine there is only one Christian worker, one Christian worker, for the city of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo combined? That is the kind of numbers we are talking about. The laborers are few.
Can’t we just let people be how they are? Why do we care? Jesus said that no one comes to the Father (God) but through him (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that apart from Jesus, there is no salvation (Acts 4:12). Eternity is at stake. The world needs Jesus. And God has appointed people to come to know him until he returns. Many of these unreached people are in places we can’t get to. But God is bringing them to us through great migrations of people to free countries like ours. They are looking for a better life. What they don’t know is that maybe your part is to share the gospel with them, and they find eternal life.
Consequently, that brings us to the next thing Luke tells us and our first thing God instructs: to PRAY. What is your part? Pray. Look at Luke 10.
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray (Luke 10:1–2)
Pray that God would send out workers. (Ironically, the workers Jesus was sending to do the work and praying were their answer to prayer.) Prayer is something we all can do. Whether you are young or old, mobile or immobile, a rocket scientist or not. That being the case, do we? Do we ask God to send people out to the harvest? Are we asking God to raise up missionaries from the youth group or our families? What if we began to pray that God would raise up missionaries from among us? What if we prayed that God would raise up missionaries to reach the unreached? What if we engaged with God about this? What might happen?
Another thing to notice is how Jesus wants them to pray. Earnestly. Different translations say they plead, beseech, and implore. If we aren’t praying, we aren’t earnest. But if we are praying, is it heartfelt or duty? Do we pray earnestly? Let us hear Jesus’s words to us to be sincere and honest and humble and passionate in our prayers to God.
WE HAVE IT
How does this work? God is going to save people with or without us. Why pray? Follow this logic. God’s will is for his followers to pray that people would go into the harvest field and do his work. Right? I think it is God’s will that people are still sent today. The mission is not complete. Knowing this, hear 1 John 5:14–15. Let me say that reference again. 1 John 5:14–15.
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:14–15)
What does that mean? If we pray earnestly, brothers and sisters, Luke chapter 10 verse 2, God will answer that prayer. We know that we have the request. We don’t know whom God will raise up or whom will come to believe, but people will. We get to participate, to play our part when we pray. This is kingdom building, life-changing, church planting, pioneering work. Prayer is powerful. Will you play your part? Will you pray? The harvest is ripe. That is my first point this morning.
My second point is to Obey. We can sum up Jesus’s assignment to these seventy-two and the twelve before as one of obedience. He called them to pray and obey. In chapter 9, they “went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (9:6). In chapter 10, they did that too. These disciples spent loads of time listening, watching, and being with Jesus. Now, he gave them his power to do what he did. They were his ambassadors. Look at verse 16. Luke 10 verse 16,
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Jesus called them to go and be his missionaries. He called them to speak of God’s kingdom, to offer words of peace, heal the sick, and cast out demons.
OUR CALL OF OBEDIENCE
Our part is not exactly like theirs. We all are different with different gifts, talents, energy, opportunity, and resources. But we all are called to obey. Jesus said, if you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). What does he command? Love. We talked about this last week. We are to love God and love people. Are we? Before God sends you to the 3.6 Billion people, a way to train for that field is to love. How do you love those people God has put in your path? Love them as yourself. Are you willing to obey? Then love.
SHEEP AMONG WOLVES
Love is not easy. We need God’s help. Jesus says in Luke 20 verse 3, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Think of that. Think of the wolf. Think of a hungry pack of wolves. Think of the lambs. How well will they defend themselves among the ravenous wolves? That is scary. Jesus said, in Matthew 10,
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, ‘to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.” (Matthew 10:16–18)
Jesus’s followers left him not knowing what would happen. They trusted God and obeyed. The unreached people are in places that are poor, and dangerous, and uncomfortable. Will you pray God raises up laborers for the 3.6 billion people? Or will you be open for your children to go? God stretches us. And your grandchildren to go? Be strong and courageous. Let us not be frightened, for God will be with us (Deuteronomy 31:6).
CALL TO OBEY
Will you obey? God can use you to spread his fame here and there. I think God will marshal you to spread the word about his love if you are willing.
That brings me to my last point.: Say. People need to say what they believe about Jesus for people to believe. God tells us:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14)
In Acts 1:8, Jesus said,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
We share what we believe with others. God doesn’t put how people respond on our shoulders. He causes the increase. We are just called to be faithful. What does that look like? Do we have to sit down and do a Bible study with everyone? No, like the Samaritan woman at the well, we can point people to Jesus. We can plant a tiny seed here and there. This week I had a plumber in my house. He was amazed at how many kids I had. He was praising me. I planted seeds of God’s goodness and pointed to God as my help in parenting and marriage. I learned his name and have prayed for him since. We hope to see each other on the baseball field where our kids play. You can plant seeds, and you can do book studies, and you can offer to pray for them. You can be blunt or subtle. Just be faithful. Say what God leads you to say and trust him to bring the increase. Pray, Obey, and Say.
What was the result of their prayers, obedience, and message? Joy. Notice joy in this chapter. The disciples came back, rejoicing. Jesus was rejoicing. He commends rejoicing. Jesus adjusts their focus but encourages joy. His disciples saw God’s power. They saw people healed and demons flee. God’s power is great, but his grace is more remarkable than that. Jesus refocuses their joy on their salvation. We have forgiveness through his death on the cross. Our mission now is to share God’s love and this joy with all nations. How exciting is that?
What is your part, church? The harvest is ripe, and the workers are few. So let’s pray God would send his people out, they would obey, and they would say what a loving Savior and happy God we serve.
Let’s pray as the worship team comes upfront.
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