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Envisioning The Harvest

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Envisioning The Harvest

John 4:27-38

The Greatest Missed Opportunity In History

Bob Weiner wrote in Forerunner magazine, towards the end of 1993, “Recent events in Russia remind me of another historic moment, when the leader of another super power wrote these words to Christians:  ‘Send me 100 men skilled in your religion...and I shall be baptized, and then all my barons and great men, and then their subjects.  And so there will be more Christians here than there are in your parts.’

“Those words were written by Kublai Khan, ruler of China, the largest empire in history, to Marco Polo in the year 1266.  The emperor’s heart had been touched by the news of Christ’s death for the world’s sins, and he wanted his whole empire to be evangelized!

“How did the church respond to this incredible chance?  After many years, only two missionaries came forward who were willing to endure the hardships necessary to bring the good news of Christ to the Chinese Mongolian empire.  And even then they turned their back halfway into their appointment before reaching their destination.  They left behind the legacy of the greatest missed opportunity in history.”

[The Forerunner, Nov/Dec 1993.  Page 18.]

The church during that era, like the church during our time, could not see the tremendous potential of the harvest.  Jesus talked about this in the 4th chapter of John.  We have just studied the circumstantial and historical background to this chapter in the sermon “I Have To Pass Through Samaria.”  Jesus was traveling on one of His missionary journeys from Judea to Galilee, but on this journey he had to pass through Samaria.

·        He had a divine appointment with a woman at a well.

·        He had a divine appointment with destiny.

·        He had a divine appointment with a pivotal, watershed moment in history and in eternity.

·        He had a divine appointment with the Samaritan people.

He was interested in initiating a well of living water in one woman that would become a great river and overflow to a whole nation of people in revival.  Jesus had just revealed to this woman His true identity.  He had just let her know that He was the Messiah, the divinely appointed Author of eternal salvation.  This is where we pick up the story.  Notice with me please John 4:27-38.


        The disciples walked up just as Jesus was revealing Himself to this woman as the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, the divinely appointed Author of eternal salvation.  They were shocked that He was talking to a woman.  No self-respecting Rabbi would be caught talking to a woman, and beyond being a woman she was also a Samaritan!!!  She had two strikes against her and the third was the fact that she was a sinner who had many husbands.  The disciples could not figure out what Jesus was doing talking to “this” woman!!!  Yet, no one spoke to Him about what He was doing.

       So, this woman, left the well and her waterpot and went into the city and witnessed to the men saying,

John 4:29, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?”

And this woman started a revival among the Samaritan people!  People were coming out of the city and coming to Jesus Christ.

(This is where we come to what I want to talk about and what I believe God wants to say to us.)

        In the meantime, “Back at the ranch,” in the midst of all of this evangelistic and revivalistic activity, the disciples were asking Jesus to eat.  Is there anything wrong with the disciples’ concern?  Well, certainly not on the surface.  Jesus was ministering to people on such an ongoing basis that He often did not take time to eat, relieve Himself, or sleep.  So, the disciples’ concern seemed genuine enough, but Christ’s response was penetrating, revealing, and instructive.  He said, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

        The disciples did not understand His statement at all, because—as usual—they were concerned with temporal things, instead of eternal things.  They were concerned with material things, rather than spiritual things.

        The misunderstanding of the disciples gave Jesus the opportunity to clarify His statement and deliver a discipleship lesson.  He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”  With one statement, Jesus has transcended time and space.  He has raised life from the minor key to the major key.  “This does not mean Jesus had no need of physical food, but rather that His great passion and desire was to do God’s will (cf. 5:30; 8:29).  He knows that man does not live by bread alone, but ‘by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord’ (Deut. 8:3).  His priority is spiritual, not material.  It is the Father’s work which must be done (cf. John 17:4).”[1]  He turned the attention of the disciples from their needs to the needs of the world.  He modeled to the disciples a deeper passion than food.


This is why we are on this earth.

·        We are not on this earth for selfish reasons, but for spiritual reasons.

·        We are on this earth for anthropological reasons, but for theological reasons.

·        We are not on this earth to be consumers, but contributors to the kingdom of God.

We were put here for one ultimate purpose:  to do the will of the Father and accomplish His work.  We are to follow His Word; do His will; and accomplish His work—in His way!!!

        Can I talk about this a little bit?  We live in a world that is addicted to food, that is the nice, new way of saying that the world is full of people who are trapped by the sin of gluttony.  Because of this, their talk, their thoughts, their desires, their passion has to do with food.  They don’t eat to live; they live to eat.  Their “food,” i.e. their substance, that which satisfies them, that which nourishes them, that which preoccupies them is food.  Go to Montrose, Chapel Hill, Rolling Acres, what do you find?  Not only retail shops, but fast-food places, restaurants, and grocery stores by the dozens.

        But Jesus said, “I’ve got food to eat that you do not now about!”

·        There is a greater source of food.

·        There is a higher kind of food.

·        There is a heavenly food that fills the intellect, emotion, will, and spirit.

·        There is food that engages the heart, pervades it, fills it, and leaves it with little time for temporal things.

·        There is a different quality of food that never runs out, it has no calories, it is not fattening, and it brings reward to the eaters and eternal benefits to the world.

What kind of food is that?  Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”  Excuse me, but I’ve got to testify!  I believe that I know what Jesus is talking about.  I believe that I have tasted of this spiritual gourmet!  I have partaken of this food and it is filling and satisfying.  Just a little bit of this food will take care of your needs and your desires.  I have a passion to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.  This passion crowds out my appetite for all other things!  This passion fills me up and leaves no room for the appetites of the flesh.  This passion even fills me up with respect to food sometimes.  I get up in the morning and I don’t even eat, because I can’t wait to pray, read the Bible, and get to my computer and begin to receive sermons that will do His will and accomplish His work.

        As Jesus stated, most of us are unaware of this kind of food being available to me or to ourselves.  Don’t you ever wonder why your life is unfulfilling?  You have a house, car, clothes, food, etc., but your life is mundane.  You need spiritual food.  So, let me invite you to this spiritual feast!!!  When we walk into this reality there is a preoccupation and a fulfillment that most have never known.  I hear Jesus saying to us, “House of the Lord,” it is time to eat food that the world knows not of.

(Jesus does not stop at this point, but He also gives further explanation and illustration of what He is talking about, by pointing to the harvest.)

        Jesus draws a contrast between something that the disciples and/or the people were saying with what He wanted them to say.  They were saying, “There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest.”  This saying was probably some kind of local proverb that pointed to the harvest as yet future, and the need to wait for it.  But, Jesus challenged the proverb and focused the attention of the present and the need to move at the moment.

        In typical Sermon on the Mount language, i.e. “You have heard it said…but I say to you,” Jesus commands their attention and prepares to elaborate on what He was saying to them with the words, “Behold, I say to you...”  In this elaboration are important instructions for us at this pivotal time in our church history.  Jesus first says, “Lift up your eyes.”  The season of harvest was already upon them, but they were unaware of it, because of the blindness or lack of focus.  The statement may have been a common idiom, but does it not hint at the fact that the disciples were looking down instead of up.  Their eyes were focused earthward on food, instead of heavenward on spiritual food.  Their focus was misdirected.  Jesus exhorted them to lift their eyes away from their past focus to a new present focus.

        The same is true of us today.  We need to lift our eyes from the sorry, mundane, low things of this temporal world.  We need to stop looking at the leeks, onions, and garlic that are growing out of the dirt of this world and look up at the grapes, pomegranates, figs, milk and honey of the Promised Land of victorious Christian living.  We need to change our focus from the food or time-limited things that occupy, preoccupy, and fill our eyes and our minds.  We need a change in focus.  We don’t want to focus on this world, but on the Word, will, and work of God!!!  The eye is a powerful gate to the heart, and the writer of the Proverbs tells us to guard our hearts, because from them flow the wellsprings of life.  We guard our hearts by watching what we allow into our hearts.  If we are going to guard what enters our hearts, we must watch the focus of our eyes.

        Jesus does not stop there, but exhorts the disciples to focus on the fields.  The parables of Matthew 13 identify the field as the world.  Jesus wanted them to start to focus in on what God was doing in the field of the world.  This would take more than the human eye.  This would take spiritual vision.  They were looking at the same field that Jesus was looking at, but they could not see the same things.  They needed spiritual vision and perception.


        For all the looking that we do, I do not believe that most of us have the spiritual vision and perception to see what God is doing in the field of the world through The House of the Lord.  Let’s us start to focus on the mission field of the world and perceiving what God is doing.  I am praying for you, like Paul prayed for the Ephesians, that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened.

I am praying like Elisha prayed for his spiritually blind servant, who was afraid of attack of the enemy.  The Bible says in

2 Kings 6:17, “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’  And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

        Then Jesus tells the disciples what they should see.  He says that they should be able to see that the fields are white for harvest.  If the disciples would look around, they would see people with spiritual hunger.  The Samaritans in their white garments coming from the village (v. 30) may have visually suggested a wheat field ripe for harvest.[2]  The point of citing the proverb is to contrast it with the present situation:  the waiting time is over; the time of harvest has arrived!  Since harvest is a common eschatological symbol (e.g., Isa. 27:12; Joel 4:13; Mark 4:1–9, 26–29; Matt 13:24–30; Rev 14:14–16), the saying of Jesus represents the gathering of people into the kingdom of God.[3]

        This was a pivotal moment in history.  The harvest was ripe and the disciples needed to maximize the moment by gathering this ripe harvest.

        Can you hear Jesus talking to us?  I see, in the field of the world, people who are hungry for something spiritual.  In this church, this point of view is sometimes obscured by people who are fat and satiated with the food that they get here.  But if we could look around and beyond these people we would see a world full of spiritually hungry people.

A couple of months ago, 26 people came to the altar in one service.  There has been a steady stream of people coming to the altar for salvation.  We are about to open up a new Worship Center that will undoubtedly draw in more people.  “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”  We need to envision the harvest of Jesus Christ.  Envision what the harvest is going to look like!  Envision what service in the new building is going to look like.  Envision thousands of people being saved.  That is the first step.


(Then we need to move to the next step.)

In a tape entitled “The Ark Has Landed,” T. D. Jakes talks about maximizing the moment.  Before I go any further, let me say that I am not touting T. D. Jakes.  I don’t know T. D. Jakes and I have some problems with some of the things that he says, but from afar, God seems to be granting Him a great door of opportunity to preach the Word of God.  T. D. Jakes has a marvelous gift from the Lord, i.e. the ability to apply and illustrate biblical truths to the lives of people.

Back to where I was.  This is a pivotal moment in history and we need to maximize this moment.  We need to take full advantage of this strategic moment in God’s timing.  We need to be like the men of Isaachar; men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.  We need to spiritually envision the harvest, know the times, and know what we should do.  But we need even more than that.  We need to gather in the harvest.  And in order to do that, we need workers.  Jesus covers that in two other very similar Scriptures.  The Bible says in

Matthew 9:37-38, “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”

Beseech means to want, entreat, beg, or pray.  Luke also records these words in

Luke 10:1-2, “Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.  And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”

We need to pray, as we have never prayed before, that God would send labors into this harvest.  We have planned, recruited, trained, ordained, and released labors and we still don’t have enough.  Maybe it’s time to do what Jesus said?  Maybe it’s time to pray?!

        Jesus further strengthens His point by elaborating about sowers, reapers, and the wages that they would be paid.  The arrival of harvest is underscored in v 36: the harvester is already receiving his “wages” and gathering produce “for life eternal”; i.e., he is bringing men and women under the saving sovereignty that has arrived, that they may enjoy the life eternal of the kingdom.[4]

        Jesus uses the saying to indicate the difference of roles in the service of the kingdom of God.  The part that each plays is important for the mission of the kingdom in the world, and each worker may rejoice in the success that “the Lord of the harvest” gives to their labors.[5]  We all have an important part to play and we all can receive a reward that will glorify God.

In this passage, we can also see the fact that harvest time, in the ancient world, was a time of joy (Ruth 3:2, 7; Isa. 9:3).  The disciples had the greater joy of seeing the completion of the process (John 4:38).  A sower has a harder time because he sees no immediate fulfillment.  John the Baptist stirred a nation to repent but he died before the day of Pentecost, while the disciples in great joy saw thousands come to faith in Jesus.[6]

We are about to enter into a time of great joy!  Those of us who remain and work the fields will see a great harvest of souls for the glory of God!!!

(Now is the Day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, Now!)

Invitation

Call to Discipleship


----

[1] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[2] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[3] Beasley-Murray, George R., Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 36: John, (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, Publisher) 1998.

[4] Beasley-Murray, George R., Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 36: John, (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, Publisher) 1998.

[5] Beasley-Murray, George R., Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 36: John, (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, Publisher) 1998.

[6] Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

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