The Lord of the Harvest

Title: The Lord of the Harvest

Bible Book: Matthew 9 : 35-38

Author: J. Mike Minnix

Subject: Soul Winning; Witnessing; Testimony; Harvest Time


The Lord of the Harvest

J. Mike Minnix

Matthew 9:35-38

"Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

One of the clearest illustrations used by our Lord to explain the condition of the lost, and the duty of the saved to share the means of being saved, is found in the analogy of a ripe harvest and the need for harvest workers. Since so few of us live on farms these days, we may not immediately catch the significance of this teaching. In the days of Jesus many people lived off the land and grew their own crops, so they understood clearly what Jesus was talking about.

Imagine with me a field of vegetables ready for picking, with the crop growing ripe. In that case, the vegetables must be picked immediately or they will be lost for good. Each vegetable is worth money to the farmer and he is anxious to get them picked and out to the market before they ruin. Now, imagine that he calls on his workers to go quickly into the field to gather the crop, but instead of moving out to reap the harvest, the fieldhands sit around waiting for their next meal or complaining about conditions on the farm. Needless to say, the farmer would be looking for new workers.

Now think of something far more critical. Consider the field in this passage as the souls of men and women who will perish if they are not brought to the saving grace of Christ in a timely manner. Christ is Lord of the field - of the harvest - and He knows that each soul is in danger of being ruined - being lost. The souls are ripe but must be harvested now. He calls on those who are the fieldhands - the members of His family - His Church - to go out and harvest the crop. What do the field hands do? Many of them sit around waiting for the Lord of the Harvest to bless them with more spiritual food. Some are complaining about things don't like on the farm (the church). All the while, the crop (the lost soul) is rotting in the field. The loss is great. The price is horrifying. The Lord of the Harvest is grieved beyond measure.

That is the picture we have before us in this passage. The owner of the field is God Himself. Jesus tells the disciples to plead with the Owner, the Lord of the Harvest, to thrust out workers into the fields before it is too late. Note with me three important points which I trust will cause us to become workers in the field of souls which are ripe for harvest.

I. The Passion in the Harvest Work

Jesus was and is filled with passion for souls. He said of Himself, "I came to seek and to save that which was lost." His passion took Him all the way to the cross of Calvary, where He laid down His life for the sins of the world. Note with me the visible signs of His passion.

A. The Eyes to See

First, He had the eyes to see the need. The Bible tells us that Jesus often lifted up His eyes and looked with compassion on the people as being sheep without a shepherd. Sadly, the eyes of His servants are often fixed on personal, selfish, and earthly things rather on that which is of interest of their Savior.

Christ had His eyes fixed on heavenly and eternal things. He saw the suffering caused by sin and cared about each person. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He still looks out into this world with eyes of love and desires that workers be thrust out into the field before the souls perish. He calls on us to lift up our eyes to see the harvest before us and to get busy about sharing the gospel with our generation.

And, don't say that it is a lot harder now to wintess and win souls than it was then. Jesus was crucified for sharing His message of grace and salvation. Every disciple of Jesus was put to death, with the exception of Judas, who committed suicide, and John, who was exciled and whose form of death is unknown to us. Paul, the writer of so much of our New Testament was put to death by the order of Nero in Rome. No one has ever threatened to kill me because of my witnesss. Sure, sharing your faith may not make you popular with some people, but your goal is to please the Lord. Jesus sees our lost world and cares for each soul, and He calls us to care as well - and to do something about it.

Not only does Jesus have eyes to see, but notice ...

B. The Heart to Feel

Jesus was moved with compassion in His heart for the lost in the world. This phrase "moved with compassion" means to feel deeply within about something and to be moved to do something concrete about those feelings.

When Jesus wept at Lazarus tomb, the people standing by said, "See how He loved Him." Yes, Jesus has a love that glows and shows.

We will never witness for Christ unless we are close enough to Jesus to feel as He feels and to care as He cares. When the human heart is fixed on pleasing self and getting things, there is little room for caring about those dying without Jesus. When we draw close to Christ, we will feel His heartbeat and sense His love for a lost world.

Now let me share something important with you in regard to seeing and feeling the lostness of our generation. In a world where the secular society has set the boundaries or lack thereof for moral behavior, it is easy for the Christian community to become negative and even hateful toward sinners. If we are not careful, we become like the Pharisees that Jesus confronted again and again in His ministry while on earth. Because of their self-righteousness, they cared little for those struggling in sin and dying unprepared to meet God. They set themselves up as judges rather than loving believers who were serving a loving God. Listen, dear people, our duty as Christians is not to make America or the world more moral but rather our calling from God is to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ. We must see the lost souls of men and women through the eyes of Jesus - through the eyes of love and compassion.

And then notice ...

C. The Mind to Understand

The words "to see" in the text come from a Greek word meaning by implication "to know". Jesus did not just look at people, but rather He saw them through eyes of love. He did not just see what they were wearing or gaze at their station in life, but rather He looked within and saw their needs. He understood the condition they were in. He saw what sin was doing to their lives and what it meant to their eternity.

The word used to describe the "fainting" of the people living in sin speaks of their having been flayed, as if their skin had been torn. Jesus was not speaking of an outward appearance but of an inward pain. It was not the Law that hurt them, it was the sin they had committed that created the "fainting" within. In other words, the Law of God was like alcohol on an open wound. Rather than bringing relief, it created even more pain. The Pharisees poured on the alcohol, but it only brought agony and resentment from the sinful population. The open wound was still there. Jesus came to pour on grace, the Balm of Gilead, that heals the wounded soul. He came to heal and to forgive. He came to bring peace to the heart and healing to the soul.

  • We who are saved know that Jesus did not come to condemn us but rather He came to convert us.
  • He did not come to penalize us but rather He came to pardon us.
  • He did not come to forsake us but rather He came to forgive us.

Our minds often judge people by outward appearance. We can easily get caught up in climbing a social ladder or gaining our esteem from our home or income. There is nothing wrong with success in this world; however, success is dangerous if we lose sight of the hurting person right in front of us. No person ever became a harvest witness who didn't make up his or her MIND to do so. If we have the mind of Christ, we will determine to share our faith with others. Nothing makes us more like Jesus than seeking to help save that which is lost - to help bring those who are unsaved to the Savior.

But consider one more thing ...

D. The Will to Work

Why do we not take the harvest of souls seriously? We do not have the WILL to work in God's vineyard, that is our problem. A member of a church I pastored a number of years ago told me that he did not have the spiritual gift to be a witness. I shared that there is listed in the Bible the gift of evangelism, which every Christian does not possess. However, every Christian is to witness and work toward the harvest of souls, and can win souls to Christ. He just could not accept that fact, until one day he forced himself to show up at our visitation night. He went out to see a man who was lost - a man who would not even talk to me because I was a pastor. In fact that man had driven me off his porch one day when I tried to visit with him. But, that layman knew the man and he was able to talk to him. Amazingly, within a few months, the man many said would never be saved - the man with a hard heart - came to Jesus and was born again. The witness of a man who said he could never witness was the answer.

Listen to me, some of you who say you can never witness are the very ones God has chosen to speak with someone who is lost. Perhaps no one else can reach that person. You must have the faith and commitment to do what God asks you to do. It all begins when one person has the "will" to work in God's vineyard.

We've look at the Passion for the Harvest work, so let's look at ...

II. The People To Do The Harvest Work

A. The Believers To Do The Harvest Work

A strange story appears in Mark 5 regarding our Lord as He came to the coast of the Gadarenes and was confronted by a man possessed with a legion of demons. He cast the demons out of the man and into a herd of swine. The swine ran straight away over the side of the hill and into the water where they were drowned.

Two prayers were offered after the swine ran over the mountainside. First, the people who owned the swine came out of the nearby city and prayed for Jesus to leave their coast. They asked Him to depart. Strangely, Jesus answered their prayer with, "Yes." He departed.

The second prayer is amazing as well. The man who had been gloriously delivered and saved asked Jesus if he could go with Him and be near Him. Jesus refused his request by saying, "No." Strange isn't it? Jesus answered the prayers of the evil ones and denied the prayer of the delivered! Why?

Jesus did not deliver the poor demon possessed man just to make Him comfortable. He brought him out of the kingdom of the devil and put him in the Kingdom of Heaven. He meant to make the man useful. He knew that the delivered man could go back to his home and share what God had done. Imagine the testimony this man had wherever he went. He could tell of the awful nights among the tombs. He could relate the experience of shattering the chains which held him. He could show the scars where he had cut himself with stones. Then, with tears and joy, he could tell of the precious Lord Jesus who had come to him and delivered him out of his sorrow and madness. Somehow, I believe that this man must have told this story hundreds of times to crowds who listened with rapt attention. That, ladies and gentlemen, is just what we must do. We must tell what Jesus has done for us. Our story may not seem as dramatic, but our salvation was and is just as important.

You see, Jesus did not take the redeemed man with Him because He intended to send him out to be a witness. Could it be that Jesus has not called us to be with Him in heaven just yet because He has work for us to do right where we are? Sure! He has me here to serve Him and make Him known and the same is true for you. Are we doing that? Every believer has a story to tell of salvation and grace - of the joy we know in serving and living for Jesus - of the peace we have through His presence with us. Perhaps that is why we have two or three hours of public worship a week in His house but we spend the bulk of our week out in the everyday world. You see, it is out in the world where the mission field is and that is where He sends us to share our story of salvation with others.

Note also ...

B. The Bounty Within The Harvest Work

Jesus pointed out that the harvest was ripe and plentiful. The impact of Jesus' words relates that the harvest is far too vast for the few workers who are available. Jesus is calling for more workers because the harvest is so great. The harvest is greater today than ever before. There are more people around us without Christ now than ever before, yet in many of our churches we are baptizing less people each year. The harvest is growing, but sadly the harvesters are declining. There is a bountiful crop out there and we must get in the field and labor while it is yet day, for the night comes when none of us can work in this earthly field for Him again.

Now let me share something very important with you. We know that some people are atheist - that is, they do not believer there is a God. Then there are others who are agnostics - they simply admit that they do not know for sure if there is a God. Reaching an atheist or agnostic with the gospel of Jesus is our task, but there is a new group in our age that is even more troubling. The new group has been given the title, APATHEIST. That means they simply don't care one way or the other. They are apathetic regarding the existence of God. They feel that it doesn't matter one way or the other and it isn't worth their time to attempt to even consider the idea. This is the fastest growing group of non-believers in America and around the world today. As Christians, we must have Jesus so real in our lives that the apatheists will have to take note of it and consider the idea that there is a God and His Son is Jesus!

Also, consider ...

C. The Burden For The Harvest Work

One can almost hear the burden of our Lord as He looks out on the fields of human life and sees so few helping to bring them in. We must re-double our effort to reach the lost. We will usually become active and do whatever creates a burden within us. I heard a woman telling about her experience of seeing here husband after he came home from one of our middle east wars. He horribly wounded. He has lost an arm, a leg and one eye. Instead of seeing her life as now being burdened with caring for him everyday, she was moved with energy and love to do so. She never sees it as something she is "stuck" with but rather as a great opportunity to commit her love in an even greater way to her husband. God bless that dear wife - that precious woman. We need that when we see our broken and hurting world.

Without a burden, we will sit idly by and miss our opportunity. I have noticed that a report directly to a church from a missionary who has been in a place of difficult service will always increase offerings to missions. I wondered, how can I give you a report of the lostness of our age - a report that will move you to join the effort to witness and evangelize? It is easy - look at your morning newspaper. Just listen to the stories of suicide, murder, rape, theft, greed, hate, bitterness, drugs, abortion and a multitude of other actions and emotions plaguing our communities. Sometimes we can see these things in our own families. When we see these situations, we must not fall into the trap of criticizing the problems and the people, but rather we must determine that Jesus is the only answer for our times. We have that answer - the answer is Jesus! We must have the burden to take that message to our world.

We must look at ...

III. The Prayer For The Harvest Work

A. The Sovereign Of The Harvest

We need to understand that the harvest of souls does not belong to us; it is the Sovereign Lord who owns the fields. It is He who has sent us out into them. Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, so send I you." Jesus said, "All authority is given to me, in heaven and in earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Reaching out to people who need grace and forgiveness in Jesus is actually His Church doing His work. We are responsible to HIM. My duty is not to the lost but to the Sovereign Lord who saved me and calls me to serviced in the harvest field of human souls. No Christian has the right to be AWOL (absent without leave) in this great work. If we are obedient, we will be busy in this matter of witnessing for Him.

B. The Sending Into The Harvest

Thus, He sends us out into the fields. Note that the Great Commission is a command and not a suggestion. It is an obligation and not just an option. We are not encouraged to go, we are called to go.

A moment ago we looked at the demoniac who pleaded to go with Jesus and was sent home to share his witness. We noted that it is better and more honorable to go in His service than to simply sit near Jesus. Yet, in the Church Age we can do both. We can go for Him and be with Him. That is what He said. "Go and I will be with you."

I think this morning of the angels that were sent to Sodom and Gomorrah to warn Lot and his family. When Lot's family hesitated, the angels seized them by the hand and brought them out. We cannot make people come to Christ, but we can urge them. We can plead with them. We can help them along.

There could be someone here this morning that you know to be lost or someone who has never made public a decision for Christ. Perhaps during the invitation, you should gently but loving let them know that you are willing to walk forward with them when they are ready. That hand on the shoulder may be all that is needed to make the difference. Do you remember how frightened you were when you stepped out for Christ? It is a bit intimidating. A friend by one's side can help relieve that anxiety.

There could be someone here this morning who knows that another is praying for you but they are not present to urge you. It could be a praying mother that you remember. It could be a witnessing friend who has urged you to respond to Christ. As surely as a real hand would urge you, let their prayers and hopes call you to the altar today.

Yet another could be here who has the greatest urging of all. It could be that the Lord of glory has been calling you and you know that. You know it is His voice down in your heart. He is telling you that He died for you and rose from the dead for you. He is calling you because he cares for you and does not wish for you to perish. Listen to Him and obey. Come to Him today.


Pastor Billy Strayhorn tells about an experience he had several years ago: "I was standing in line at the grocery store. In front of me was a boy about eight or nine years old. He was looking over the display of candy bars. I remember thinking `Good choice!' When he picked a big old Baby Ruth and laid it on the counter. The cashier rang it up and told him how much is was. The boy reached in his pocket and pulled out a bunch of pennies, nickels, and a single dime and plopped them on the counter. The cashier gave him one of those looks and started counting. Then the chasier looked up and said, `You're 12 cents short. You need another 12 cents.' The boy's shoulders drooped, his face dropped, and he went from grin to groan in less than a second. "Just as the cashier started to tell the boy the put the candy bar back, I reached in my pocket and put 12 cents on the counter. The boy's face lit up like Christmas. He said,`Thanks, mister.' And he took off, but then he turned around and came back. "He held up the candy bar and asked, `Hey, mister, you wanna bite?' "I said, `No thanks, you eat it.' "Then he looked at me real careful, like he was studying me, and asked, `How come? How come you did that?' Before I could answer, he got a look of recognition on his face.`Oh, I know you, you're that preacher. Jesus made you do it, didn't He?' "What could I say but, `Yes, He did.' "Then he said, `I sure like Jesus, and I'm glad Jesus makes nice people like you. Bye.' Then he was gone.

"I don't know who touched whom more. I DO know that I've never gotten that much pleasure out a 12 cents before or since. I didn't do anything special, but with God's love and 12 cents I was able to touch a little boy's life and bring glory to God simply by obeying Christ's command to love our neighbors as ourselves." [Parables, Etc. Dec 1995. Page 1.]

There is a world out there that needs to know that Jesus is real. They need to know that Jesus makes people different. They need to know Jesus in a personal way. The harvest is plenteous, but the workers are few. Would you pray to the Lord of the harvest for workers to be sent? If you do, don't be surprised when he answers your prayer by thrusting you out into that ripe, ready, harvest!

There are some Christians here today who want to witness and you try occasionally, but you find it difficult. Remember this, you are not called to be successful but to be faithful. Why don't you just come forward this morning, bow here and renew your willingness to go to the field of harvest and work. He is calling workers. Can you hear Him? How many are listening? I pray many will listen this morning and will respond to Him by making a new, public commitment to be a harvest worker in the field of the world that is ripe for harvest.

Let us respond now! Each one, come as God calls you.

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