Gospel Analysis, The Harvest is Great
SYNOPSIS OF THE
FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, pp. 89-90.
PASTOR EDWARD F.
Grace Lutheran Church
Des Moines, Washington 98198
This Bible study
is from THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations
beginning in 2005.
#98. THE HARVEST
IS GREAT Matthew 9:35-38; Mark 6:6b, 34; Luke 8:1,
10:2, pp. 89-90.
The transition from
healings to teachings (about discipleship) is seamless and smooth.
Notice what a wonderful transition Matthew makes from the series of
fourteen healing miracles (chapters 8-9) into Jesus’ teachings
about the need for more disciples. In Matthew 9:35-36, we hear of
Jesus’ infinite compassion and healing of all people. These people
were like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he says to his
disciples: “We need more workers and laborers in God’s world.”
In Matthew’s logic, it was time to find more workers of healing
and compassion and give them authority over the unclean spirits,
diseases and infirmities. The presence of God in Jesus was not
enough. Jesus needed more people who were filled with the loving
presence of God who would go out and preach, teach, and heal. Jesus
needed more people who were willing to be instruments of the gospel.
-Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in
their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and
curing every disease and every sickness. “Words
and deeds.” That is, Jesus preached the gospel and healed every
disease. Jesus’ first disciples were to do the same: share the
gospel and do deeds of mercy. Today, Jesus’ disciples are to do
the same: share the gospel and do deeds of mercy.
he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, The Greek
word for compassion refers to deep, emotional feelings located in
“the bowels” of one’s humanity. We find that Jesus was
compassionate in many circumstances and the word,
“compassionate,” is used to describe him. Jesus was moved to
compassion when he saw the sick (14:14), the blind (20:34), those
gripped by demons (Mark 9:22), the mother at Nain whose son had died
(Luke 7:13), when Jesus saw the hungry crowd of 4,000 people to be
fed (15:32). Christians, who are effective evangelists today, also have
compassion for people around them who may not know the gospel.
Christians have compassionate attitudes to such people rather than
carping criticism or petty faultfinding against those who are not
followers of Christ. Compassionate people do not threaten others
with hell and damnation for people who believe, think and act
differently than themselves. Jesus preached the word of the gospel and
did deeds of mercy with the spirit of compassion, and we Christians
are to do the same today.
they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. A
dominant metaphor in the Old Testament is that God and the leaders
of God’s people are compared to a loving shepherd. Jesus, of
course, becomes the good shepherd who loves the people so much that
he is willing to die for them. Meanwhile, the masses of humanity are
like aimless and helpless sheep, who are in need of a loving and
guiding caretaker. The Latin word for shepherd is “pastor.” Some
sheep do not have a “pastor” to feed them, care for them, defend
them, and lead them on the narrow paths of God-pleasing right
he said to his disciples, With this verse, we see that
Jesus begins to focus on his teaching about discipleship to his
inner core of disciples. Turn to page 97, #107, Matthew 11:1, which
says, “When Jesus finished instructing his twelve disciples.” So
we can easily conclude that chapter 11 is filled with teachings
about discipleship for his twelve disciples. Jesus is teaching his
first disciples about the fundaments of discipleship, and twenty-one
centuries later, we are still listening in on that conversation.
Jesus’ advice to his disciples two thousand years ago still rings
harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the
Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." This
was certainly true in Jesus’ day: a myriad of people were ready to
belong to the kingdom but what was needed were more workers. Jesus
then told parables that the harvest was ripe and ready, but he
needed workers and harvesters. Here in the state of Washington where
I live, it reminds me about when the strawberries are ripe and ready
to be picked. You need the workers to do the job or the strawberries
will start rotting on the vine.
believed that the masses of humanity around him were ripe and ready
for the gospel, ripe and ready for the kingdom, ripe and ready for
God to rule their lives. The time was ready. The time was ripe. The
same is true today in the twenty-first century: there is a whole
world of people all around us who are ripe and ready for God to
begin to rule their lives. The laborers are few. That is, there are
numerous people who are “part of the crowd” who want to be a
member of the church, sing in the choir at church, be on the council
at church, work on social projects at church, and do everything at
church but work at helping someone to know the love of God in Christ
Jesus. The church here in America has plenty of people who are
willing to do church work in order to keep the church
running smoothly, but there are very few disciples to do evangelism
work to help people know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
This theme still rings true today.
-Pray to the
Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
What is the first thing the church is to do when seeing so many
millions of people who are ripe for the gospel? Pray to the Lord of
the harvest to send workers. Prayer for workers is a crucial part of
making new disciples for Jesus Christ.
principles of evangelism that are derived from this story are:
The disciples were to each out to people who knew their need
of God and the ways of God.
The disciples had an attitude of compassion and not criticism
The disciples were not religious professionals but common and
The disciples prayed to the Lord of the harvest to give
workers who would do the work of harvesting, not people whose
primary passion was working to maintain the church.
The disciples were sent out two by two. (next story)
QUESTION: HISTORICALLY AND EVEN TODAY, WHY DO MEMBERS OF THE
LUTHERAN CHURCH AND OTHER MAINLINE DENOMINATIONS DO SUCH A POOR JOB
COMMISSIONING THE TWELVE Matthew 10:1-16
He called the twelve The
twelve disciples become the hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds of
Jesus. That was the way it was originally and still is true today.
For Jesus to complete his mission in today’s world, he needs
hands, feet, legs, hearts, and minds. The harvest is overwhelmingly
great and Jesus needs willing hands, willing hearts, willing minds
and willing spirits. Jesus gets work done today through his
disciples who are committed to doing the work.
is the same number as the twelve tribes in the Old Testament and
twelve disciples of the New Testament.
were not twelve religious professionals or rabbis, etc. The word,
“disciple,” means learner or pupil, and disciples are people who
learn from Jesus, our master.
began to send them out two by two. (Mark)
“Sent them out two by two.”
Here in this passage, the twelve disciples are sent out two by two.
We find this same theme of two by two in Luke’s version of a
similar story of the sending out of the seventy. (See page 165,
#177.) Today, we think of young Mormon missionaries going out two by
two by two? It gives courage, confidence and strength to go out with
a partner. One reason Mormon missionaries are the most effective
missionaries in the world today is because of this simple method:
training in missionary faith for two years and then they go out two
by two. That simple formula made for effective evangelism two
thousand years ago and formula is still effective today. Some
scholars would trace the roots of the concept of going out “two by
two” to the Old and New Testament injunction to have two witnesses
in order to ascertain the truth (Deuteronomy 19:15; Numbers 35:30,
QUESTION: WHY DO YOU THINK THE DISCIPLES WERE SENT OUT TWO BY TWO?
(Have a group secretary to record the answers and turn them in after
ANSWERS TO THE
ABOVE DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHY DID THE DISCIPLES GO OUT TWO BY TWO?
ONE CLASSES’ RESPONSES:
Support and encourage each other
A shared synergy and energy
Safety in numbers; draw strength and security from one
Shared knowledge about Christ
Two heads better than one; two people see things differently
Keep each other from straying from goals
Hold each other accountable
Learn from each other e.g. a new witness learns from a more
Perseverance, less willing to quit
Flexibility in dealing with varieties of people
Easier when two handle everyday details e.g. food, lodging
Help each other out during times illness or death
summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean
spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every
sickness. Luke adds one of his
favorite words, “power.” People are more effective when they
know that they have been invested with authority. They spoke the
gospel with authority. They told about the power of God in their
lives with authority. The opposite of having power and authority in
one’s faith is to have a doubting, half believing faith that lacks
credibility, power and authority.
Jesus himself had an inner spiritual authority, and people
listen to him because he had that authority. This principle is still
true today. When lay people speaks with conviction about Jesus
Christ, there is authority in their voice and in their stories and
their reasoning. Being authoritative is not being autocratic or
domineering. This turns people off.
are the names of the twelve apostles: The
word, “apostle,” means sent, and Jesus sent out twelve disciples
out to preach, teach, and heal.
Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of
Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and
Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon
the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. The
twelve disciples were varied in their personality and disposition:
four fishermen, two people with hot tempers, a government tax
collector who worked for the Romans, a political zealot. It can be
imagined that there were various personalities and dispositions
among the disciples so that they could relate to various
personalities and dispositions among the people with whom they
twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go
nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but
go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The
first thing the Jewish disciples were to do was to go to their own
people, with their own customs and their own language. That was the
most natural thing to do. Acts 1:8 gives the paradigm for Christian
evangelism: “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea,
Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That is, evangelism starts
with its “own kind” and then branches out. So it was for these
first disciples who were all Jews so they naturally went with the
gospel to people of their Jewish culture. It will be noted that only
Matthew’s gospel tells the disciples to go first to the lost sheep
of Israel. That was not the concern of Mark or Luke in their version
of the story of the call of the first twelve disciples.
you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come
near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out
Word and deeds. The message
of preaching is the reign of God, the kingdom of God, and that God
wants to rule people’s hearts, minds and lives. We all need to be
ruled by the wisdom, peace and sanity of God and God’s ways. And
we are to be agents of healing, especially healing the sin that
permeates and destroys all of our lives. Jesus’ advice to his
original set of disciples still rings true for us today.
are signs of the reign of God, that God is ruling a person or a
family or a city or a nation. As has been said previously, these
signs were reported to John the Baptist in order to persuade him
that Jesus was the Messiah.
are the equivalent signs today that Jesus reigns and rules in an
individual, a family, a city or a nation? Perhaps such signs today
of God’s rule are good homes, good schools, good hospitals, good
medical care, good government, good jobs, good faith…for all
the people and not just for a minority or even a sizeable majority.
received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or
silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two
tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. The
Spirit of Christ is given to us, and we cannot buy that Spirit of
Love. The Spirit of Christ and his love is freely given and is not
for sale nor can it be purchased with any amount of money.
The disciples are
told to carry no gold or silver with them and they are to dress
simply. One tunic. Two
pairs of sandals. That’s
all. What is behind
this? I am convinced
that Jesus is aware that some people may be attracted to
Christianity for the wrong reasons e.g. Christianity will make you
healthy, wealthy, and popular.
Fancy clothes and bulging wallets may send the wrong message.
The only thing the disciples have to offer is the kingdom of
God, the power and presence of God to heal their lives, to make a
difference in the way they live.
Nothing more. Jesus’ advice to his original set of
disciples rings true for us today.
Scripture is not part of the appointed lectionary for Pentecost 4A,
but this Scripture is part of Aland’s SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR
town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay
there until you leave. To welcome guests and
travelers into one’s home was a common courtesy during New
Testament times. These traveling missionaries were to stay with
families who welcomed them into their households.
If a family was hospitable and trustworthy, the first
missionaries were to give them a blessing as they left that
hospitable home. If the family in the house was cold, indifferent
and unreceptive, the early missionaries were to wipe the dust off
their feet as a sign to the inhospitable family that God would
punish them for their rejection of the gospel and their rejection of
the missionaries of the gospel. These people had the opportunity to
listen and accept the gospel and they missed their opportunity. A
poet once said, “Three things can not come back: the spoken word,
the spent arrow, and the lost opportunity.”
-As you enter the house, greet it. If
the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not
worthy, let your peace return to you.
-If anyone will not welcome you or
listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave
that house or town.
I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and
Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. We
will hear this same theme of judgment for towns that rejected Jesus.
We see this on page 100, #108, and the woes pronounced on the
Galilean cities. We will study this theme of God’s judgment and
wrath for those who do not repent when we study page 100, #108. Let
us simply be reminded that Sodom and Gomorrah were a New Testament
symbol for evil (Matthew 11:23-24, Luke 10:12-13; 17:29; Romans
9:29; II Peter 2:6; Jude 7). These towns rejected Jesus, the message
of Jesus, and the kingdom of God, and their rejection resulted in
the punishment of God.
I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise
as serpents and innocent as doves. The disciples were going out into a world that was
incredibly evil and dangerous and that dangerous world is still with
us today. In this kind of hazardous world today, disciples need to
be incredibly wise, and still have a genuine innocence to them.
Jesus’ advice to his original set of disciples rings true for us
Churchill embodied a crafty wisdom. One time, when approached by a
Frenchman as Great Britain was being bombed and defeat seemed
inevitable, Winston Churchill used the analogy of a lobster.
Churchill said to the effect that there was a time in a lobster’s
life when it shed its hardened shell and became extremely vulnerable
to its enemies in the depths of the ocean. The lobster, without its
shell, crawled into a crevasse in the rocks for safety and hid until
its armored shell grew back. When the shell grew back, the lobster
would ready to face its enemies. So too with Great Britain. It
needed to be in a defensive position until Great Britain grew a new
armored shell and was ready for battle.
… Yes, Christians are called to be as crafty as serpents
and as wise as doves
version of the same story on page 165-167. Notice that Luke sends
seventy disciples out two by two. We recall that Moses appointed
seventy elders in Exodus 24:1,9-14. Moses needed help to do the work
of the Jewish nation and Jesus needed seventy disciples to go out
ahead of him. Notice the parallels in commissioning of the seventy
in Luke 10:1-16 to the to the commissioning of the twelve in Matthew
10:1-16. In Luke 10:17-20, on page 167, you will notice that the
seventy return from their mission and report that even “the demons
are subject to us in your name.” That is, the power of evil was
finally confronted and destroyed…even by the disciples. Jesus said
that he saw “Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (See
Revelation 12:7-10, 20:1-3 where St. Michael and all his angels
defeat Satan and throw him out of heaven and down to earth.) This is
the first time in Luke’s gospel that Luke labels the power of evil
by calling him/it Satan. This is a clear indication that Satan is to
be finally being defeated and bound here on earth. This defeat of
Satan in Luke 10:17-20 constitutes the first of six healing miracles