Luke 10:1-3 [Audio at Bottom] Download Study Guide
Thesis: The Harvest Awaits to Be Reaped By Unskilled Laborers Reliant Upon Lord of the Harvest
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.” (Luke 10:1–3 ESV)
The Second Commission
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.
Jesus send the 72 into the Samaritan villages. This is the second sending out of laborers in the gospel of Luke. If you remember, at the beginning of chapter 9 Jesus sent out the twelve apostles in what I called the first commission. At that time, I remarked that Jesus sending out his disciples into his mission would have been a radical departure from their expectations. Here the ministry is broadened - instead of just the twelve sent out, 72 are sent. Many think the number is significant - the Jews had believed that the world has divided into 72 non-Jewish people groups and so Jesus was foreshadowing the broader Gentile expansion of the church which would happen after his ascension.Whether that is the case or not, a substantial number of heralds are now being sent out, many more than just Jesus’ closest disciples.
What is required from an evangelist? Well, if we look to back at chapter 9, we might get a pretty mixed picture of the quality of people these evangelists were. They were not perfect by any means. Chapter 9 is not flattering to the disciples. I believe that when I preached chapter 9 I described them as floundering; specifically, they were shown to be faithless, foolish, heartless, and ruthless. They struggled with fully grasping who Jesus was and the significance of his mission. They jostled for positions of power over one another. They reacted violently when they were rejected by their enemies, the Samaritans. In short, they are pictured as being a lot like us. So they weren’t perfect, but they were committed. Chapter 9 closed with a very urgent call to discipleship, to leave all attachments behind, to put our hands to the plow in service of our Lord.
This is why I am using the term, “unskilled laborers” to describe these guys and us in our task of evangelism. These are not the best of the best, not the specialists, but they are committed to the task and will see the job done. Jesus uses a harvest analogy in speaking to these guys. In Israel around harvest time, there would be so much work to be done that the farmers - the professionals - would need all the held they could get. So they would go to the marketplace where there were scores of unskilled laborers milling around, and they would hire them for a day or two or however long it took to get the job done. These weren’t professional farmers but they could get their hands dirty and work. Grunt work, is what we used to call it. Evangelism is the grunt work of the church.
The Promise and Problem of the Harvest And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.
The Promise of the Harvest: The harvest is plentiful. Jesus promises those he is sending out - the grunt workers - that the harvest is plentiful. He promises that there will be work to do and that there will be a reward to our labour. See a laborer going out needs to trust that there will be work to do and that their will be a reward for the work done. When a worker is not given enough work, he becomes lazy and disillusioned. Also when a worker sees no tangible result for his labour, he can become discouraged. Maybe this is why some of us have given up on the work of evangelism. We don’t really see the harvest in front of us or that our evangelism will make any difference. Maybe we gave ourselves to the work in the past and we became discouraged because we did not see results. Listen, I want to encourage you with three things, but really only the third one matters.
- The fields are not a barren as we think: Look, it is a very popular thing in Christian circles today in North America to feel sorry for ourselves because we have become a post-Christian society so that the church does not have a privileged place in our culture anymore. The media and the universities and the politicians all seem so anti-Christian and we think we’ve lost. Atheism and secularism seem to rule the day in Canada. The number of Canadians who do not identify with any religion has been rising rapidly in recent decades, going from 4% in 1971 to nearly a quarter (24%) in 2011. They are sometimes called the “nones”. Yet I am encouraged! I’ve been reading this book, “The Rise of Christianity” in which Rodney Stark argues that it is at precisely those moments of history when religious affiliation is low that a culture is primed for a new religious awakening. Indeed, I’ve shared before, among the younger unchurched 51% have said they would be willing to study the bible if a Christian friends asked them to, 89% said that they would be willing to listen to what a friend had to say about Christianity, 32% said that they’d be willing to join a small group to learn about Jesus, and only 27% said that Christians “get on my nerves” - so we’re not as annoying as we think we are. I don’t think the fields are as barren as we’ve been led to think.
- “Success” isn’t as dramatic as we think: A second thing that amazed me from Starks book is this: we judge success in individuals and we get discouraged. God judges success in centuries - He’s far more patient than we are. Starks did some research into the growth rate of the early church and what he found surprised him (and me). Starks shows that with a growth rate of only 40% each decade, Christianity could have risen from a few thousand in Palestine to over half the population of the Roman Empire in 300 years. Do you know how much 40% over ten years is? Less than 4% a year. Think about that. We have about 100 people in this congregation this morning that could lead a person to Christ and disciple them, and lets say that in a year, out of the 100 we sent out, 96 of you said, sorry we failed and got discouraged in evangelism. Doesn’t seem like much of a harvest. Wait a second - that’s 4%! We won! See we’re a team - just because you personally didn’t see anything this year - don’t give up - next year might be your year.
- Jesus Promises a Harvest: As I said, this is the only one that matters. Jesus promises it. There is a harvest. Jesus promises it. Trust him when you go out to share your faith
The Problem of the Harvest: The laborers are few. The problem of the harvest is not that it the field are barren, it is that the laborers have gone home, or never shown up, or given up. And this is a problem because there is only so much time. this is why the farmers would go and hire any of the unskilled workers they could find - because time was urgent. It wouldn’t do to see any of the crop lost. Look, I am not going to stand here an guilt any of you into sharing your faith, guilt trips don’t work. The proper motivation for sharing your faith is not guilting yourself into it. The proper motivation is this: Love of God, Love of your neighbor, and Understanding the time.
- Love of God is expressed in our desire to see worship of Him increased. I love God and want others to know Him and His excellencies.
- Love of neighbor is expressed through our desire to see them saved from hell. J.I. Packer puts it this way, “What greater need has any man than the need to know Christ? What greater good can we do to any man than to set before him the knowledge of Christ? Insofar as we really love our neighbor as ourselves, we shall of necessity want him to enjoy the salvation which is so precious to us.”
- Thirdly, We understand the time: THE URGENCY. We know that the time is short, for Christ shall indeed return, and may return soon. Christ said these sign shall mark his return: false teaching, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famine, natural disasters - look, it could be any time. Also you don’t know the urgency of a life that could be taken at any time. Hebrews says that it is appointed to a man once to die and after that the judgement. Ray Comfort tells the story of a fireman who had remained in his truck even as people in the burning house behind him screamed for rescue, but he couldn’t hear them because he was listening to his iPod. We need a sense of the urgency and need to be aware of the spiritual state of the souls around us. I was at the bus stop the other day and I was listening to my iPod and noticed a man next to me. I asked him for the time and it led to the starts of a spiritual conversation that we both said hope to continue. Got his number. This doesn’t need to make us obnoxious. Here is a good rule, from an old book on personal evangelism called “Taking Men Alive”: “Whenever I am justified in choosing my subject of conversation with another, the theme of theme (Christ) shall have prominence between us, so that I might learn of his need, and if possible, fill it.” Whenever I am justified in choosing my subject of conversation
Jesus solution to the problem of the harvest: Pray and Proclaim
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.” We are to Pray and Work. Now some of you are prayers and some of you are doers. The funny thing here is that Jesus tells them to pray, and then sends them out! they don’t have the option of being a pray-er or a doer. They are in fact, an answer to their own prayer. How do we see praying and working operating together? I’m going to unpack this a bit, and I’ve been greatly helped by a short little book by J.I. Packer called “Evangelism and Sovereignty”
We Pray Because God is Sovereign Over Salvation: Jesus says, pray to the Lord of the Harvest. The Harvest belongs to God and God is the one who works through us to bring the elect to Himself. God knows who is to be saved, God calls, God gives faith, God regenerates, God awakens the soul, God raises to life, and God knows the final day and the hour of Christ’s return.
The greatest statement of God’s sovereignty over salvation is found in Rom. 8:29-30 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God’s Sovereignty is Our Hope for the Harvest: All of our evangelistic pursuits would be fruitless if it were not for God’s graceful work in the hearts of sinners bringing them to repentance. Packer: “Can you or I by our earnest talking break the power of Satan over a man’s life? No. Can you or I give life to the spiritually dead? No. Can we hope to convince sinners of the truth of the gospel by patient explanation? No. Can we hope to move men to obey the gospel by any words of entreaty that we may utter? No. Our approach to evangelism is not realistic until we have faced this shattering fact, and let it make its proper impact on us.”
God’s Sovereignty Makes Us Bold and Patient: Because salvation belongs to our God and not to us, we are freed from the burden of “making” converts. So our prayers make us bold because ecause God can work miracles, we can boldly share our faith to any one, any where, any time in the hopes that God will open up their hearts, yet also, our prayers make us patient, because peoples hearts are closed to God, we expect them to be opposed to the God until He so opens them in His time, and so we keep praying and become even more bold and patient. So do we just pray? no we go to work as well
We Go Because God’s Sovereignty Does Not Make Our Work Less Necessary: See people pit God’s sovereignty against our responsibility all the time. If God is author of salvation, why is it necessary for us to go and tell? The classic instance of this way of thinking is found in the response to William Carey, when we sought to found his mission society: “Sit down, young man, when God is pleased to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid, or mine!” Listen, how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility fit together is a mystery I won’t try to explain today. Yet what I can confidently say is this, God’s sovereignty does not undermine human responsibility in any way, for though Romans 9:16 says that God’s plan of salvation “does not depend on human will or exertion but on God who has mercy” only one chapter later the same author of scripture writes “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?”
God’s Sovereignty Does Not Make Our Work Less Urgent: That we don’t know who the elect are does not make our work less urgent. We need to find them! Whatever one believes about election, the fact remains that without Christ they are utterly lost and going to hell unless they repent. I was recently sharing at another church about the Bible Study I had this summer with a non-Christian friend, and this guy in the church questioned me as to why I would read the Bible with a non-Christian, since I might be wasting my time if he is not elect. Whether he is or whether he’s not elect is none of my business. My business is to put my hand to the plow and tell them how to find life in Jesus Christ.
God’s Sovereignty Does Not Make Our Invitation Less Sincere: Some would question how I can sincerely press a non-believer to receive the Lord if I don’t know that are elect. Again, that’s none of my business. The fact remains that whosoever believes in the Son has life, and I will press my friends and neighbors to believe. So I’ll want to pray like a Calvinist and preach like an Arminian. Inwardly, I’ll rest myself in God’s sovereignty over salvation, and outwardly I’ll work as if it depended on me.
So let’s pray and let’s work together this fall and see if the Lord might bring in a harvest.
September 28: Rock the River (Youth and YA)
September 27-29: Mandarin Evangelical Meetings
October 21: Mandarin Outreach @ MET
November 3-9: My Hope With Billy Graham
November 10: Harvest Sunday @ OCBC