“The Workers are Few” (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship 25 September 2011

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Reference: Luke 10 v1-24

The main theme of this passage is that there is plenty of work to be done for Jesus, but there are not many workers. That was the case then, and it is the position today in every place where Jesus is served. There are often plenty of people prepared to ally themselves with Jesus and to declare allegiance to Him – but not necessarily to work in his harvest field.
The image of the harvest is highly significant. It talks of blessing, opportunity, and hard work. But, importantly, it also talks of urgency. When the harvest is ready it has to be brought in – tomorrow may be too late. The farmer and his workers have to use every possible minute of daylight and every ounce of energy to make sure that harvest is brought in.
So our main challenge today is that there is plenty of work to be done…but not enough people to do it.
Four points:

1. An Amazing Commission

As Jesus continues on the road to Jerusalem he sends some of his disciples ahead of Him in order to prepare the way for Him. There is rich symbolism here. There were thought to be 72 nations in the world at the time of Christ. The fact that the otherwise odd number of 72 was chosen represents that the ordinary disciple will be sent into all the world. We, like the 72, are chosen to go into all the world. And we, like the 72 are sent to prepare the way for Jesus.
What else can we say about this commission?
Jesus says that we are being sent out to do a job that means we will have to trust him for provision (“take nothing for your journey”) for protection (“lambs among wolves”) and that it is a mission on urgency (“Greet no one on the road” and “do not move around from house to house”). Our mission is a mission whereby we bring peace between Go d and man, and where the kingdom of God is demonstrated in power. Nothing has changed!
There is a solemn note to our commission. Those who reject our message are rejecting the God of heaven who has sent us. And to illustrate this, Jesus speaks of those areas that have rejected His message and the fate that awaits them for doing so. The gospel is not only a gospel of grace – it is a gospel of judgement.

2. An Astonishing Consequence

The excited evangelists return to report an astonishing consequence of their mission. Even the demons have to go in the name of Jesus. In reply Jesus tells them that the enemy of their souls, the one who had illegally occupied planet earth pretty much unchallenged since Eden was on the retreat. This is the same thought that is behind the statement recorded elsewhere when Jesus says that the gates of hell will not stand against the church. The kingdom of darkness is on the retreat, and we are a part of the rout!

3. An Astounding Choice

Jesus acknowledges the joy that his disciples have in the victories that they experience. But he points out that there is a greater joy than that. The fact is, that we belong to Jesus and we are headed for heaven. Our salvation is a greater miracle than anything else that we will experience in this life. Jesus rejoiced in the fact that this has been given – not to the “wise” and the intellectual but to the lowest of the low, the children who would be despised by the world. We are in His kingdom and a part of His plan because we are those to whom God has chosen to reveal his purpose. What a privileged people we are!

4. An Awesome Challenge

Finally, we return to the main thought of the day – the fact that there is plenty of work to be done, but few to do it. What are we to make of Jesus’ assertion that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few?
Firsly we have to rejoice in the workers that are already there. We need to give thanks for every person, both in our local setting and round the world for those who sacrifice their time , their energy and sometimes their very lives for the kingdom of God.
Having said that, we have to acknowledge the reality of what Jesus says. The kingdom of God is a sphere of limitless opportunity, which means that there are never enough workers.
How do we respond to this challenge? It is possible to respond defensively, by saying that we can’t possibly do any more. It is possible for a preacher to respond aggressively by bullying his congregation into giving more. But surely a responsible response is to follow Jesus exhortation and to bring the need to our Father in heaven. We have the extraordinary position here of having a prayer requests from Jesus! So when we come to Him with our request we know that he will be responding to us and hearing what we ask, and, in His own time and His own way, providing the need.
The sting in the tail here is that as we come to our Father asking fervently for Him to provide workers…he often comes to us with a solution: what about you? Are we available, not only to ask, but to go ? This does not mean that everyone will be called to go abroad. It is more than likely that the sphere of mission service will be in our workplace, our family, our street. And, of course, there is a huge need in the local church for the different jobs that need to be done. But there will be some who are called to give up their lives to serve God in a place that is far away from home. He is the Lord of the harvest – so He decides. But the question is – will we pray? And will we go?

John MacDiarmid
September 2011

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