I have a small painting from China of an apple harvest. The painting is dotted with lots of red round juicy apples and of workers diligently picking and packing the apples. The apples are plentiful and the workers are harvesting. I have thought how odd the picture would be if the harvesters were instead, sitting on the ground framing the edge of the apple harvest. How strange it would look if they were talking with one another, texting, or sleeping as ripe apples clung to the trees or fell to the ground, left to rot and die. If this were the case, I would be asking, “What is going on? Why are the workers even there?”
Followers are “sent”
Trailing the conversation between Jesus and the three hopeful followers (see Following a Person, not just a path), Jesus gives some instruction to His followers about the harvest before them. Immediately, after calling followers to a radical commitment, he sends them out in pairs. Follow, and then sent out. A follower is one who is sent. If I was standing there, I would be paying close attention and listening carefully for His instructions, for I would be a little unsure and scared. As a follower, I would want to make sure I got this right. What should His “sent ones” need to know? This is what He says:
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10:1,2)
The Harvest is plentiful
There is a large harvest. At one point in Scripture, Jesus describes the people and their desperate needs-their need for forgiveness, healing, restoration and new life-as a harvest. If people were apples, they would be like the apples in my painting, filling and covering the trees. Jesus says to His followers that the people harvest is large and ample, and is ripe and ready. Jesus says he came to seek and save that which is lost. The lost are plentiful.
The Laborers are few
If I was standing there as His follower, I might think this is an odd statement. “There are seventy being sent out, but He thinks we are few.” It may seem as if there are so many already laboring in the harvest. However, Jesus says this is not true. He points out that there are very few to work this “people harvest.” It would be similar to my painting–having just a couple workers harvesting those plentiful apples and the rest of the workers sitting having a smoke or watching YouTube! The people harvest needs “sent ones.”
Jesus tells the followers to do something. Now I am listening closely. There is something He wants us to do. He says to “beseech,” or ask, call out, or pray to the Lord of this harvest. Really, this word “beseech” is more like a “pleading” or “begging.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beg the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” The need is so urgent; we are told to beg. Beg for laborers. Begging is not normal for me. Begging seems like something that is for desperate times, very desperate. Nevertheless, this is what Jesus tells his followers: beg for laborers.
So I keep this in mind: I am to beg. Then He says to plead that the Lord sends out laborers into the harvest. The solution to the plentiful harvest is more laborers. The words “send out,” sound like a polite request for more helpers, like asking for more volunteers to pass out fliers or clean up after an event. Actually, the meaning is more like “cast out” or “thrust out.” This sure doesn’t sound as nice and polite. Why would I need to beg the Lord to thrust out laborers into the harvest? If something needs to be “cast out” or “thrust out,” there is a need for extra work, motivation or a kick in the pants to get it moving. If the apple laborers in my painting were distracted, and occupied with other things, something would need to change before the apples fell, rotted and died. They would need to be “thrust out” to save the apples. If they do not work, the apples rot. The apples die.
Following sends us places
This is not how it ought to be: apples rotting and dying, laborers sleeping through the harvest. Maybe that is why at one point Jesus tells his followers to look up, look up and see the harvest. It is so easy to become distracted by so many things, even good things… family, school, busyness, problems, a schedule, immediate needs, or others’ expectation. Jesus knows we naturally do not look up and see the harvest. Our natural tendency will always be to take care of our immediate needs first. We need to look up.
In addition, Jesus does say this is a radical commitment. Following, we see, is more than a simple click to keep up with someone, like on Twitter. However, we can follow Jesus because He has the best path in mind and He is a person worth following. Quickly we see that following and being sent gives our life a new meaning and purpose. Our purpose now is intertwined with the harvest. To be a follower is being one sent into the harvest, a worker in the harvest.
Lastly, being a follower changes how we pray. Now we pray for the harvest and for workers. Do I see how desperate the situation? Why else am I called to beg and plead? As a follower we are ones who beg on behalf of the harvest.
As I think about these things I feel very aware- aware that I have a new purpose. It is easy to forget this, day to day. Life becomes about so many other things. Being aware of this shapes me, changes me, my life and the work I do. How about you? If you are a follower, a sent one, how could this change things for you? Now our life is an investment we make. When Jesus says, “Follow Me,” we go where He goes and where He sends. Following sends us places– into the harvest.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
Following Jesus does change things. It doesn’t mean it looks the same for each person. What are some things that it changes for you?
Time is a commodity. How we use it, matters. How will you work as a harvester? What resources, training, vision or gifts has he given you? Is there something you can take advantage of to be better equipped for the harvest?
When you think of being “sent,” does it sound boring and dull, or interesting and full of possibilities? (I know I had my own ideas of what this meant. But it is interesting the places I have been able to go, like East Asia to Europe, Russia to Mexico, and California to New York. I think of the people I have met and introduced to Jesus, like Anya, Trisha, Jennifer, Li, Sisi, and Linda. It has brought me in contact with people from all over the world. He has lead me and caused me trust him with all sorts of things!)