This mission is possible. Jesus called and trained 12 permanent disciples (Luke 9:1-6). But it soon became clear that the task was too great for such a small group. He then recruited 70 secondary disciples to partner with them (Luke 10:1-12, NKJV).* Before giving them their assignment, He said, “The harvest is plentiful,” referring to souls who, like crops, were ripe and ready and must be quickly brought into the kingdom of God (verses 1-3). In the natural harvest, if crops are not harvested when ready, they rot and are good for nothing. So in the spiritual realm the enemy will spoil them.
“Plentiful” means abundant, overflowing, bumper crops. But in the original language it also means good produce, those who were not Teflon, who were sticking-with-the-cause kind of souls. They were solid, stable seekers on whom the expansion of the kingdom could be established. The plentiful harvest also indicates that there was more than enough work for many laborers in this urgent mission.
“But the workers are few” (verse 2). The estimated population in the region then was more than 3 million. Jesus had only 12 permanent plus 70 secondary disciples to evangelize them. We have a similar situation today. Out of 7.325 billion people on our planet, an estimated 2 billion people claim to be adherents of Christianity. This is a disparate and desperate situation from a natural perspective. But from God’s vantage point, His mission is possible if we:
“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers” (verse 2). The original word translated “ask” literally means to beg or plead. It connotes urgency and fervency. Jesus also used a very strong word, ekballo, to send, throw, drive, or turn out with no room for return (see also 1 John 4:18).
The word “sent” or “send” appears three times in verses Luke 10:1-3. In verses 1 and 3 it is apostello, to send out, from which we get our word apostle. But in verse 2 Jesus used ekballo. Why? Could it be that laborers were already called, appointed, and trained, but had become so complacent they needed “a swift kick” to wake them up to realize the harvest is ripe and ready? Maybe it’s not that there’s a lack of laborers, but that a lot are merely spectators in the church.
There are laborers who faithfully attend church, tithe, and give generous offerings, but when it comes to going out into the highways and byways, they make excuses to avoid participation (cf. Luke 9:57-62). If we don’t “go” (Matt. 28:19), God will provide workers, even those who are not of our fold (cf. Luke 9:49, 50).
The harvest is the Lord’s, not ours; we are just His laborers. It is not our field; it is our assignment to fulfill all that is instructed by the Lord of the harvest. But how dependent are we on the Lord of the harvest? The greatest laborers work in faith, and, like children, are totally dependent, trusting fully on the Lord for the resources to bring in the harvest.
Notice the difference when the disciples submitted faithfully to Jesus’ formula: they discovered for themselves that this mission is possible (Luke 10:17-20).
*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.