Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:

That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered."

The Pharisees focused on the external while neglecting justice and love for God. They were preoccupied with "image," and in fact were the source of defilement. The teachers of the law focused on righteousness established through the keeping of their rules. Legalism is about control. The Law is about love.

Another thing about sheep:

  1. They are Helpless - The word used here refers to the weariness and fatigue that results from labor and being burdened. He saw the people burdened with the rites of religion and the doctrines of the Pharisees; sinking down under their ignorance and the weight of their traditions; neglected by those who should have been enlightened teachers; and scattered and driven out without care and attention (See Jeremiah 23:1,2). Application: No wonder Jesus was moved with compassion for the crowds. Who would wish that yoke on anyone? I heard about a guy who attended a legalistic college where students were to live according to very strict rules. They weren’t supposed to do any work on Sundays. None! Guess what? He spied on his wife and caught her hanging out a few articles of clothing she washed on a Sunday afternoon. He was so upset, he turned her in to the college authorities. I’ll bet she was fun to live with for the next few days. He should have read Proverbs 10:14 - " the mouth of a fool invites ruin."

II. The Opportunity of the Harvest.

Changing the metaphor from a flock to a field, Jesus now envisions a large crop of ripe grain that is waiting to be harvested for the kingdom (See John 4:35). Now I wasn’t an agricultural major, but it seems to me that timing is everything when it comes to reaping a harvest.

  1. Harvest time is a time of great consequence (See 2 Corinthians 6:1,2). There is a sense of urgency when it comes to bringing in the crop. It is possible for a farmer to wait too long and to lose the fruit of his labor. Application: There are some of us who have been ’sharing’ Jesus with the same people for years, but we’ve never asked them to receive Christ. One might wonder if we ever will.
  2. Harvest time is a time of great effort (See 1 Corinthians 15:58). We must work if we’re going to reap the harvest. It will not come to us; we must go to it.
  3. Harvest time is a time of great joy (See Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Acts 15:3). When we are blessed with the fruit of our labors, the response is overwhelming joy!

Illus: Do you remember the amazing rescue of the nine miners trapped in the Quecreek mine in Pennsylvania in July of 2002? They were trapped 240 feet beneath the surface for a total of 77 hours. I recall staying up into the early morning hours and watching on that final day as they were hauled out of the darkness to safety one-by-one. But the rescue was anything but easy. A drill bit broke in the rescue shaft they had started to drill. They couldn’t get the broken pieces out so after a new one was flown in they had to start another shaft. Communications was disrupted for a while and the miners themselves almost gave up and wrote notes to their loved ones. Their rescue was the result of a coordinated effort by hundreds. I remember cheering and stopping to thank God when they were finally rescued. God says that there is the same response over one sinner who repents (See Luke 15:3-10).



III. The Challenge of the Harvest.

The workers are few. Jesus is only one laborer. He can only personally share with a small number of people. His plan for reaping the rest of the harvest is to commission His followers to join in preaching the gospel.

  1. This includes the twelve disciples (See Matthew 10:1,7). Note that they had a verbal message, the proclamation of the nearness of God’s kingdom, and a visual message in which they were delivered from anything that stood in the way of their following Christ. Their works placed on display the power of God as it was at work in and through their lives for all to see. In short, their mission was to multiply the activity of their master who performed the works of God.
  2. This includes all His disciples (See Matthew 28:18-20). Three participial phrases (going, baptizing and teaching) explain how the commission was meant to be fulfilled.

IV. The Hope for the Harvest.

The Lord of the harvest will send workers in response to our prayers. Actually the word translated "send out" can also be translated "thrust out." And so here it could refer to those who are yet to be send and to those who have already been sent but who need to have a fire lit under them (See Acts 1:8; 4:29 8:1). This happens as we pray for laborers.

Conclusion:

We are great planners. We like to spend many hours drawing up complex organization charts, carefully constructed diagrams, and in depth plans for building the church. Most of these never come to fruition. Many are just "pipe dreams." Would you be interested in an uncomplicated, yet profound, plan that will help you build the church? Here’s a simple plan for us to consider:

  • Get a Goal. That’s logical. You can never know if you’ve arrived at the place you wanted to go unless you first had your target pinpointed. Right? Here’s a goal for you to consider: Let’s ask God to work in us in such a way that every person in this church would engage in evangelism this year.
  • Get a Plan. Planning is drawing a map as to how you are going to reach your goal. Ever have someone try to tell you how to get to someplace and have them say, "Get me a piece of paper." He draws you a map that tells you how to get from where you are to where you want to be. That’s what we do when we plan. Here’s the plan I have proposed for us:
  • Create a 10 Most Wanted List of those people you would most like to see come to faith in Christ and pray for them regularly.
  • Demonstrate the transforming love of Christ through good works.
  • Invite people to church events. My dream is have someone sitting in every seat during every service on every Sunday.
  • Share your story. Tell people how God has changed your life for the better.
  • Share the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation to them that believe.
  • Get Busy. Somebody always has to foul up a good idea. This is our biggest stumbling block. We’ve got lots of goal setters and planners, but are short on workers. But this is where the "rubber meets the road." We cannot afford to sit idly by and watch as people perish around us. Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, famous evangelist, said that the New Testament tells of forty people, each suffering from the same disease, that were healed by Jesus. Of this number, thirty-four were either brought to Jesus by friends, or He was taken to them. In only six cases out of forty did the sufferers find the way to Jesus without assistance. Of the vast number of people who find their way to Jesus today, most of them reach Him because the friends of Jesus are concerned about the welfare of their souls...they engage in bringing in the harvest!