Luke 10:2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus declared that the harvest is “plentiful,” carrying the meaning of “much” or “many.” But he lamented that “the workers are few.” Down below at the end of this article we will see what he meant by this.
In John 4:35 Jesus also declared the harvest to be ripe:
“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
Yet today we use the term “gospel-resistant” to refer to certain people groups which are difficult to reach. This conflicts with what Jesus declared above. According to Jesus the harvest is plentiful and ripe. A plentiful harvest does not refer to just a few fruit here and a few fruit there, but rather an entire ripe field to be harvested. The words of Jesus apply even more today during these Last Days when the Great Commission must be fulfilled.
Why are there “gospel-resistant” groups today—billions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and idol-worshipers in the Third World who have yet to hear the gospel of the kingdom even once? This situation contrasts sharply with the “plentiful and ripe” field that Jesus declared is ready for the harvest.
One reason for “gospel-resistant” people groups today is the sad history of colonialism in the Third World by European nations—all of which were “Christian” nations. But there is another factor which is generally not considered.
Luke 9 provides the context behind Jesus’ words declaring the plentiful harvest in Luke 10 above.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Before Jesus sends the Twelve workers into the harvest field to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom of God, he gives them supernatural power and authority over demons and diseases. This power and authority enable the Twelve workers to heal the sick miraculously as compelling and irrefutable evidence to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah.
Armed with this supernatural power and authority, the Twelve workers reaped a harvest of souls for the kingdom of God at that time.
Luke 9:6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. (Workers today don’t really do this.)
Then in Luke 10 Jesus called 72 (or 70) more workers, sending them out also to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God.
Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
These 72 workers then went into the harvest fields proclaiming the kingdom of God with power and authority, reaping joyfully.
Luke 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” (Does this usually happen with workers today?)
Thus in both Luke 9 and 10 we see the newly-trained disciples reaping good fruit in harvest fields which were already ripe. The well-honed sickle given to them by the Lord—supernatural power and authority over demons and diseases—enabled them to reap plentifully with each sweep of the sickle.
Moreover, based on a careful study of the miracles performed through the disciples in Acts, we can conclude that the disciples continued to use this very same power and authority very effectively and fruitfully as they reached out to the Gentiles.
[Note: This power and authority to be used in proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost is not to be confused with the very different “gift of healing” which was not given until much later at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended bringing His supernatural gifts (including gifts of healing)—the primary purpose of which was to build up believers in the body of Christ. Much is written about the gift of healing, while relatively little teaching is available on exactly what Scripture teaches about the effective use of power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons as incontrovertible evidence of the gospel to the lost. Power and authority to heal vs. the gift of healing]
Workers today, however, are generally lacking or not taught precisely how to wield the sharp sickle in their hands—supernatural power and authority—which should result in consistent and not simply occasional miraculous healings as evidence of the gospel. Many are not even aware of the sickle. As a result, they go into the harvest field lacking the very tool necessary for effective reaping. At best, the sickle they are using is effectively dull. They generally end up preaching the gospel of the kingdom with mostly words alone, sprinkled with a smattering of good works—as in “friendship evangelism.”
As noble as such good works are, they do not follow the pattern laid down by Jesus Christ when he sent out the Twelve and then the 72 into his harvest field. Good works do not visibly demonstrate the supernatural authority and presence of the kingdom of the One True God being proclaimed.
Actually, few if any people groups today are “gospel-resistant” when workers proclaim the kingdom of God to them as Jesus commanded his workers in Luke 9 and 10. When they witness the extraordinary and incomparable miracles done as evidence that Jesus is the only Lord and Savior, many so-called “gospel-resistant” people will confess Him.
Today in the Third World the Lord’s harvest fields are indeed plentiful and ripe—just as he declared 2,000 years ago. However, not properly equipped with the sickle, workers today must resort to other methods. They are forced “to use their bare hands” to pick the fruit manually one by one—for example, through good works. That is the reality most workers in the harvest fields face today.
But now during these Last Days, the Lord is graciously restoring to His workers understanding of the extraordinarily effective sickle He has already placed in their hands for reaping abundant harvests in very ripe fields.
We must now train and send forth an army of workers into the Lord’s ripe and plentiful harvest fields.
To do this we should re-evaluate our singular focus on the local church and its local harvest fields, and turn our attention on unreached regions where the workers are very, very few. Few workers dare to go to such seemingly impossible fields. But if you dare to go—properly equipped with a sharp sickle from the Lord—you will indeed see a plentiful harvest just as He declared.
The field is already ripe. Who will dare to pick up the sickle and then go?
The meaning of “the workers are few” in Luke 10:2
We can understand what Jesus meant by this when we look at the context of his words. He actually meant few trained workers, those who are properly trained in the use of a sickle—that is, in the use of the supernatural power and authority over demons and infirmities he gave to the Twelve in the first verse of the preceding chapter Luke 9. Today there are tens of thousands of workers (or more) in the Lord’s harvest fields around the world. But very few are trained to use the Lord’s power and authority effectively as overwhelming evidence to the many who are “ripe” for the harvest. But now—during these Last Days—we are able properly and effectively to train an army of workers for the endtime harvest and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. We can be an answer the prayer which Jesus commanded: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
(This of course is to work hand-in-hand with the approach of contextualization in Third World mission fields.)