Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
In the late summer, the rolling hills of Eastern Washington are covered with the light brown color of wheat ready to be harvested. Growing up in Walla Walla, Washington, I had many friends whose families where engulfed in the harvesting of this wheat. In a matter of just weeks, the wheat could go from prime for harvest to over-ripe and no good. The only thing worse than running out of time to harvest one’s land was rain that would either cause the wheat to rot or smash it as it came down. Timing was everything when it came to harvest.
I remember one summer when some family friends where short-handed. They must have been, because they hired me to come out to the farm and help. What a risk they took. I started out driving the truck that hauled the grain from the harvesters to the grain elevators. At this point in my life I had never driven a stick shift, so right off the bat driving this huge truck was going to be a challenge. This is not to mention that hauling a truck full of grain from the field to the elevator meant maneuvering the rolling hills. I was so nervous about driving this truck that I wasn’t very good about shifting from gear to gear. The result was a truck that overheated and almost caught some wheat on fire. Instead of taking a chance and having several thousands of acres go up in flames, I was moved from the wheat truck to the water truck. A definite demotion!
The harvest that Jesus is talking about is not only for people’s souls, but also for people’s needs. In the early verses of today’s passage, we see that Jesus is traveling from town to town working to meet people’s needs. In His statement about the harvest, it is obvious that Jesus is feeling overwhelmed with all the needs He sees, and frustrated that few are stepping up to help.
When Jesus calls each of us to be a part of the harvest, He very well understands that there are lots of things that could prevent us from being successful harvesters. Not the least of which is our own self-doubt. When it came to driving that wheat truck, my biggest struggle was not a lack of knowledge, but fear. Fear of failure, fear of tipping over on a hill, and fear of looking stupid in front of the farmers who had been doing this all their lives. Fear and self-doubt are two the most dangerous ingredients when it comes to serving Jesus Christ. We fear rejection, we fear looking stupid, we fear that we may not know what to say or do, and we fear that maybe people will think we are some off-the-wall Jesus Freak (you know, there are worse things be known as).
Remember, if Jesus calls you, as He does, then He also equips you. The workers being few is not the result of Jesus not calling and equipping us, it is the result of too many people unwilling to step up.