THE HARVEST - ARE YOU READY?
John 4: 27 to 41
1.Introduction: Are you ready?
Jesus says the fields are ripe for harvest (John 4:35) – are you ready for the Harvest? Especially when the signs are that the time is getting shorter to reap the harvest. As Matt Redman sings, “Time is so short, we can not squander this love”.
The Harvest may be ripe but you know there are a number of telling examples of people who found it difficult to get to Jesus – some had to go to extraordinary measures just to get to Him. Perhaps that’s why we could have an alternative title for this sermon today:
“Do we make short people climb up trees to see Jesus!”
Remember Zacchaeus ~ rather on the short side and a hated tax collector. He so wanted to see who Jesus was, but Luke (19:3) tells us “being a short man he could not, because of the crowd”. Zacchaeus however, was so determined nothing was going to get in his way ~ he simply climbed a tree just to see Jesus. And Jesus knew exactly where to find him!
Or consider the group of men carrying their paralysed friend on a mat to bring him to Jesus. Mark (2:4) tells us “They could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd”. Again that wasn’t going to stop this enterprising group – they actually made an opening in the roof and, after digging through it, lowered their friend thru the roof to get him to Jesus.
Sometimes we can crowd people out from getting to Jesus. You know being part of the crowd can be thrilling ~ anyone enjoying the football matches would know the excitement of being part of the crowd. BUT crowds are hardly quiet places and we can get in the way ~ crowding out people desperate to get to Jesus
2. Other examples:
Quite often people didn’t meet the stringent Jewish religious rules of the day and found it difficult to get to Jesus.
· Think of the Samaritans “not quite right”! But Jesus shared the good news with them and actually stayed in their village.
· Or the woman subject to bleeding. As she was too afraid to approach Him directly, perhaps because of her condition she merely touched the edge of His cloak. But Jesus knew someone had touched Him.
· Lepers had to live outside the city because they were unclean. But Jesus actually touched them – and they were healed with compassion and love.
· Mothers bringing their children to Jesus – the disciple’s thought Jesus should not have to be bothered by them – are we the same? Jesus took time to bless them and held them in His arms.
· Nichodemus came by night - it obviously wasn’t a good career move to be seen coming to Jesus. Yet the things Jesus said stayed with him, and we know later on Nichodemus openly followed Jesus.
· Or the two blind men in Matthew 20 (29 – 34) when they heard that Jesus was going by shouted “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” But “The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet”. I just love the next bit; it says “but they shouted all the louder”! I’m glad they did, because Jesus touched their eyes and they received their sight. And more importantly “ they followed Him”.
3. What about now?
You know its rather telling that there are numerous examples of people who found it difficult to get to Jesus in the Bible – but is it any different today?
Our dear friend Ruth was giving out invitations to people shopping in Bristol to come to a Christian outreach event. Not for the faint hearted! Especially as two men told her “You won’t want us love – we’re gay!” Ruth was inspired to say that Jesus would want them. But quietly she thought how right they were. No they probably would not be wanted. Isn’t that sad when Jesus came into the world to save sinners?
Maybe we have managed to attract the good “sinners” what about the bad!!
In Matthew (22:10) we are told that God wants us to go out and invite everyone “good or bad”! The Father Heart of God wants everyone to be there “make them come in, so that my house may be full”. We may be surprised about the people Jesus wants us to go to – maybe people we don’t like! But then think of the people Jesus reached out to with love and compassion. The despised Samaritan woman ~ divorced five times and living with someone else, the detested tax collectors or the woman embarrassing caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t have any reservations about the kind of people He cared for and spoke to. He still doesn’t! .
Or consider GANDHI. Gandhi was turned away from a church meeting because his skin colour was not white. Commenting on Gandhi’s experiences in South Africa, E. Stanley Jones concluded “Racialism has many sins to bear, but perhaps its worst sin was the obscuring of Christ in an hour when one of the greatest souls born of a woman was making his decision.”
A dear friend of ours, Walter Owen, prayed that he would never be a stumbling block to anyone ~ lets be stepping-stones to Jesus.
4. Barriers to Jesus
Jesus says He won’t cast anyone out - do we unintentionally?
“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”. John 6:37
We need to pray and see if there are any barriers we need to take down that stop people coming to Jesus.
Maybe it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault ~ we just need to be creative in our approach. For example if young people are not attracted to a more traditional type church based service, they may be willing to come to a barbeque at someone’s home – a neutral place where relationships can slowly be built.
The Church of England is currently discussing the traditional robes worn by the clergy that maybe a bit off putting. Mind you it could be a case of new versus the old – some would prefer things to stay the same. But if it’s appropriate, prayerful and thoughtful measures could help break down unhelpful barriers.
Have you ever seen the House Doctor programme, she comes in to see why a house is not selling; makes lots of little changes and lo and behold the house is sold within days. She often talks of a lack of kerb appeal. It’s where potential viewers drive past the house, take one look and never come back! Perhaps we need some kerb appeal! Happy people coming in, a welcome mat, who knows some nice hanging baskets, flowers and lights and perhaps our buildings will look like places people want to visit.
It’s sometimes the very small things that put people off. Are strangers welcomed when they come in? Is someone designated to greet visitors? Although anyone can take the initiative and sit near and welcome a person coming in for the first time. This is pretty basic and practical stuff. But I believe it can make a difference. A difference between someone coming in and hearing the life saving good news about Jesus. It can’t get more important than that.
Other practical measures that may need to be considered is physical access for the disabled, I understand that all public buildings are increasingly required by law to be accessible for everyone. Joni’s ministry to the disabled is appropriately called “Thru the Roof”. Your roof may stay intact but some structural changes may need to be taken!
5. Are we able to help?
Some people coming to us may have deep rooted spiritual problems. The people God sends may be emotionally damaged, broken, hurting, worn out; an unknown quantity.
They may be prodigals ~ ashamed with low esteem but our Father wants them to be given the best unlike the attitude shown by the older son.
Yes this harvest may be very messy, with our churches resembling an Accident & Emergency ward or special baby care unit, even a refugee camp.
Jesus says are you still ready for My Harvest!
We are going to need His power and love to cope, to help, to heal. Remember the disciples in Mark 9 (14 to 29) could not heal the little boy with seizures? They were told this kind could only come out with prayer and in some manuscripts it says “and fasting”. They had been powerless to cast out those demons. We are going to need God’s power. Prayer and, maybe fasting, will empower us to help the people God sends to us to care for.
Are you ready to go?
What about those we have to go to because they can’t or won’t come to us? They may be housebound, fearful of not fitting in or being wanted. Maybe they feel they are not good enough to go to Church – yet Jesus came to save sinners.
The despised and rejected are still here with us today waiting for someone to come and show them Jesus loves them. May be God wants to open doors to us both as individuals and Churches to help and support ministries to the homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes, and the poor. They probably won’t come to us. They think we don’t want them. They need to know Jesus does.
Lets not be fearful or feel out of our depth because Jesus says in Matthew 28 (18&19) “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore” and He promised, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world”. (Matthew 28:20)
We may not know who what where when but the harvest is ripe.
Be expectant – Jesus says be ready for His harvest.
6. The Gospel
Can I say to you today that Jesus has a personal invitation for you to come to Him? Whoever you are whatever you have done or not. Jesus says just come. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Are you like the Roman Centurion? Although he thought Jesus could help him with a problem, he felt he was not good enough for Jesus to come to his house. “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof” (Luke 7:6). You may have barriers of your own today to get to Jesus – a tree to climb or a roof to come thru but come, come to Jesus.
7. Lets learn from Israel
You know it seems in Old Testament times, God’s chosen people, Israel, never really completed God’s vision. In a telling confession in Isaiah 26:18 it says:
“We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth; we have not given birth to people of the world.”
Or even more appropriately for us consider Jeremiah 8:20
“The harvest is past, the summer has ended and we are not saved”
Maybe their vision was too limited and exclusive. But God has such a big vision for salvation. Do we see it? We need to have His passion for this world He so loves in our heart.
Its amazing to read in Revelation 14 (: 6 to 11) that there will be angels proclaiming the eternal gospel to those who live on the earth in the very last days. At a time when perhaps it is going to be difficult to physically reach everyone, God will have Angels declaring the eternal gospel ~ God is never giving up! And nor should we!
Maybe you hardly have to be told about this today, you know all too well, it’s happened to you. You have been rejected, or felt unwanted. Let God use your pain, and brokenness to reach out to others. You are equipped with the experience to help and comfort others. Maybe you are even going to help someone get thru the roof!
Father, thank you that anyone can come to You thru Jesus. No one is too good or too bad. Help us to receive those you send to us with your love, and give us Your power to go to those too broken or fearful to come to us. Amen