“The Lord of the Harvest Sends Laborers”

(Luke 10:1-9, 16 – Pentecost 7 – July 24, 2022)

Luke 10:1-9, 16 – 1After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 2Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. 4Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. 5But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. 7And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ … 16He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:

I was reading up a little on the problem many farmers face in getting workers to help with the harvest. Imagine spending all the cost and effort to plant and tend great fields of grain, vegetables, or fruit. At the end of the season, the farmer rejoices to see the abundance ready to be harvested. But the only thing lacking is the manpower to bring it in. How sad it would be to see the harvest go to waste because there was no one available or willing to help gather it in.

In a spiritual sense, this is the kind of shortage Jesus saw when it came to the work of His Kingdom. As the Son of God, He had come from heaven to win salvation for all people. He was on His way to suffer and die on the cross to take away the sins of the world, to win forgiveness for all. Then He would rise again from the grave as the firstfruits; so that all who believe in Him receive the benefits of His forgiveness and salvation, and will rise with Him in everlasting life.

So Christ has paid the cost and done all the work needed to save sinners. All that remains is for souls to be gathered into His Kingdom, like a farmer gathering his abundant crop. But as Jesus looks on the world He has come to save, He issues a call for help: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (vs. 2). So let us consider how “The Lord of the Harvest Sends Laborers,” asking these questions: 1) Whom does He send? and 2) How is the work to be done?

1) Whom does He send?

In the immediate context, we see Jesus sending laborers into a specific mission field, as it says: “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go” (vs. 1). Already earlier, Jesus had called His closer group of 12 disciples, commissioning them to help in the full-time work of proclaiming the Gospel and gathering souls into His Kingdom (Matthew 10:1 ff.). Now in addition, Jesus chose these 70 out of the larger group of His followers, sending them ahead into the region He was about to visit. There was such a large are to be covered and so many people to be reached. Even then, Jesus went on to note how few the laborers were, saying: “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (vs. 2).

There is always a need for help in the work of His Kingdom, in the noble task of sharing His Gospel of forgiveness and salvation for sinners. Whom does Jesus send to do this work today? Maybe first we think of those whom Jesus calls and sends in the full-time ministry of His Word. As we read in Ephesians 4:11-12: He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” To this day the Lord of the Church continues to send public ministers of His Word, whose calling it is to preach in behalf of Christ and His Church, to proclaim the Gospel by which sinners are brought to faith and by which believers continue to be strengthened in faith. Therefore we pray that the Lord of the Church would send pastors, teachers, and missionaries – those who are called publicly to preach and teach.

But we also note that in addition to such called workers, there is a need for help in bringing the Gospel to every place. Not everyone is called to serve in the public ministry of the Word, and such public ministers are not able to reach every person in every place. Their work includes “the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,” equipping all believers to share the faith. In a general sense, every believer in Jesus is called to go before Him as His witnesses in the world. As Christians, we all can point others to Jesus and share His saving Gospel in our daily vocations, in the place He has called us to serve, among the people He puts us near to us. As parents in the home, we are called to share the Gospel with our children. God places us among employees in the company, students in the school, citizens in the community, and in various places where we may let our light shine (Matthew 5:16) – the light of His Gospel. We may do so even in the simplest way, as we sang in the hymn (Hark! the Voice of Jesus Crying):

If you cannot speak like angels, If you cannot preach like Paul,

You can tell the love of Jesus; You can say He died for all.

If you cannot rouse the wicked With the Judgment’s dread alarms,

You can lead the little children To the Savior’s waiting arms.

As we pray for the Lord to send laborers into the harvest, we pray that He would use each of us as we are able, to share His saving Gospel by which souls are brought into His Kingdom.

2) How is the work to be done?

Now the next question is, how is the work to be done? Here, Jesus explained to the 70 how they were to carry out their specific mission as they went ahead of Him. We read in verses 3-9: “Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ “

First, they were to go trusting the Lord to provide what they needed as His witnesses. In this specific mission, they were not to take along extra provisions, because they would be provided for along the way by those who received their message.

Today too, it is the will of the Lord of the Church that those whom He calls and sends to work in the ministry of His Word should be provided for this way. Just as those who work in the field to bring in the harvest make a living thereby, so it is in the harvest of the Kingdom as Jesus says: “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (vs. 7). As the apostle Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 9:14: Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.” I can attest that this congregation has fulfilled the will of the Lord in this matter. You honor Him by taking good care of your pastors, not only providing well for them but showing Christian love and care for them in many ways. And for this we are thankful.

Also as a congregation, it is good to know that the Lord of the harvest will continue to provide for and bless you, as you continue in the work of His Gospel. Like many congregations in our Evangelical Lutheran Synod, we see our small number and may wonder how it all will work out. But He who has established His Word and Sacrament ministry among you here will continue to strengthen your faith by these means of grace. He will continue to send ministers “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” As you share in the work of His Kingdom, the Lord of the harvest will see to it that you are provided for and equipped as you share His Gospel, as you build one another up in faith and bring His saving Gospel to others.

When it came to the work of the harvest, the great work of bringing souls into His Kingdom, Jesus gave those whom He sent the message they were to proclaim: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.'” It was more than a standard polite greeting. It was a blessing that offered the true peace established by the work of the Messiah who had come among them. They brought peace from Jesus as the Savior of sinners, the peace proclaimed in His Gospel.

Jesus’ message of peace is desperately needed by all people. As we live in a fallen world, we deal with the effects of sin every day, with troubles and conflicts, pains and sorrows, sickness and death. These things leave our souls restless and without peace. Moreover, since God has written His Law in every heart, we all have an conscience that tells us we do not live as we ought before God (Romans 2:15). We know when we have spoken and acted in selfish and hurtful ways toward others, and we feel our guilt. We know when our thoughts and desires are impure, and we hide them in shame. If left in our sinful condition, we would have no peace before God to whom we must give an account; our souls would be restless with guilt and fear of everlasting condemnation and punishment.

Therefore what a difference it makes as God sends His messengers to proclaim His peace on us and our homes in the name of Jesus, who has come to us as the savior of sinners. God’s Gospel declares that He sent His Son into the world to bear all our sin away the cross. Jesus felt all the burden and unrest caused by our sin, as He took all our guilt, shame, and condemnation. He felt the death and damnation our sins deserved, so He could release us from all that.

Now in the name of our crucified and risen Savior, we are given true and lasting peace. It is the peace of having all our sins forgiven. It is the peace of having a new a new relationship with God through faith in His Son. It is the peace of knowing that He cares for us as His children. So nothing can separate us from His love for us in Christ, no powers of evil, no trials of life, not even death. Jesus says in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

As the 70 whom Jesus sent out brought His message of peace to homes, the true children of God would benefit from it by faith. As Jesus said: “If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you” (vs. 6). Where the Gospel of peace worked faith in the heart, there the disciples were to continue their work. They would heal the sick, demonstrating Jesus’ true power to bring healing for eternal life. They would continue the Gospel outreach to others, proclaiming to all: “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (vs. 9). And by the power of Christ’s Gospel, souls would be brought into the great harvest of the Kingdom.

At the same time, Jesus knew there would be others would not receive His peace. As He said: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (vs. 3). Not everyone would receive them and their message; there would be opposition and persecution from enemies of Christ.

As we take part in the great work of the harvest today, reaching out with Jesus’ Gospel of blood-bought peace for sinners, the work is not always easy. Perhaps we have faced opposition, perhaps we do not always see the fruits of our labors we would like. So just like those 70 whom Jesus sent out, we need to hear His words of reassurance: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (vs. 16). When we share His Word, the way people respond to us is the way they respond to Him who sent us.

This is why our work begins with prayer, acknowledging that He is the Lord of the harvest. He is the one who gathers souls in His Kingdom, by the power of His Gospel and the Holy Spirit who alone works saving faith in the heart by His Word. Therefore we pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. We pray for His guidance in faithfully sharing His Word. We share His Gospel of peace as He leads us, and we leave the results in His hands.

What great joy it gives the farmer when at last the abundant harvest is brought into his barn; and he shares that joy with his laborers. As we hear Jesus’ words and see the work of the Kingdom through His eyes, we can say: “The harvest truly is great”; and noble is the work. Just how great and noble it is shall be seen at last, when we are gathered as wheat into His heavenly barn. We shall join multitudes gathered from every nation on earth, all who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus (Revelation 7:9-14). We will join in singing praise to Him who came to win our salvation, who sent messengers to proclaim His Gospel of peace to us, and who faithfully brought us home to share in the everlasting joy of the harvest.

Glory be to the Father and the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.