Summary: The harvest is ripe for us to win people to Christ.
It’s Time to Harvest: pray for workers. MT 9:36-38
1. Jesus Saw. 2. The workers are few. 3. We are commanded to pray.
Jesus declared, "The fields are ripe, and the harvest plentiful. It’s time to begin reaping." At that moment, the great, final spiritual harvest began. It started as a harvest among the Jews and Gentiles of Jesus’ generation. And this same harvest will go on until Christ returns. What did Jesus see in his time that caused him to say, "The harvest is ready, so now is the time to reap"? Did he see a spiritual awakening in Israel? Was there revival in the synagogues? Were priests turning back to God? Were scribes and Pharisees being convicted? What evidence was there that the harvest was ripe? The Gospels don’t reveal much evidence of any spiritual move toward God. If anything, they show the opposite. Jesus was mocked in the synagogues. The nation’s spiritual leaders rejected him, questioning his integrity and divinity. One religious crowd tried to throw him over a cliff. As for the multitudes, they were em-broiled in confused despair. "When he saw them...they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd." Here was a society that was fearful, stressed out, depressed. The people ran about wildly, like scattered sheep, looking for help anywhere they could find it. Yet it was at this very point of great distress that Christ declared, "The fields are ripe, and the harvest is plentiful."
Do you think Jesus’ words about a ripe harvest apply today? Where do we see evidence that fields are white and ready to be reaped? Are nations repenting? Is there a great stirring in our town? Do you see the organized church waking up? Are they hungering for revival and seeking Christ any more? Is there a cry for holiness in our generation? I haven’t seen these happening. Jesus was moved by the sad conditions he saw on every side. He looked and people were plagued with distress. His tears were over the hardness and spiritual blindness he saw. Here were a people headed for judgment, with no peace, only fear and depression. Jesus actually gives us a picture of what the last days would look like. Now, this period began at his ascension, and it will end only when he comes again. We’re getting very close to that point now. And Jesus described it to his disciples when they asked him what signs to look for. They wanted to know the condition of things as the very last days were approaching.
Christ answered by speaking of famines, earthquakes, tribulations, nations divided. False prophets and false christs would deceive many and lead multitudes astray. Believers would be hated for even mentioning Christ’s name. And the love of many would grow cold, with some falling away because of the bold increase of sin and lawlessness. Jesus was describing the most anxious, depressed, stressed-out generation of all time.
Are we seeing this? Think about it: this generation is full of anxiety and worry. Multitudes are fearful as they watch incredible disasters unfold: hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, tornados. Entire nations tremble with fear over the threat of terrorism. Did you know that heart failure is the number-one killer in the world today?
Hear Jesus’ words: "The fields are white. The harvest is plentiful." He’s telling his church, "People are ready to hear. This is the time to believe for a harvest. Now is the time for you to start reaping." Christ is the Lord of the harvest. And if he declares the harvest is ready, we must believe it. It doesn’t matter how wicked this generation becomes. It doesn’t matter how powerful Satan seems to have grown. Our Lord is saying to us, "Stop focusing on the difficulties around you. It’s time for you to see that the harvest is ready."
Jesus understood man’s heart, knowing we forget God in times of prosperity. Christ knew that in times of distress and calamity, people are forced to face eternity. Suffering, fear and hard times ripen people for hearing and receiving the gospel.
This truth has been demonstrated throughout the history of God’s people. Moses reprimanded his generation, saying, "God led you. He increased your numbers. And he greatly blessed you, giving you green fields, honey, butter, milk, sheep, oil, fruit. But you grew rich and rebelled. You lightly esteemed the Rock of your salvation, and forsook him."
Trouble, distress and perplexity have always labored a cry for help. This has been the pattern throughout the centuries. You remember what happened after the twin towers
in New York fell: churches were packed. Prayer meetings were held in Yankee Stadium. Congressional leaders gathered on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, praying and singing, "God Bless America." For a season, God was the talk of the nation. Fear and distress had made people think about finding truth. In Indonesia and Sri Lanka, radical Islamics had refused to allow any outsiders into their territory. But after the tsunami disaster, many opened their doors to Christian relief workers. Why? God saw fields that were white and ready to be harvested.