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What does it mean that the harvest is plentiful (Matthew 9:37)?

harvest is plentiful

Matthew 9 lists a number in incidents, in somewhat “rapid fire” fashion, that involve Jesus ministering while the Pharisees are being critical:

verses 1–8 — Jesus heals a paralytic.

verses 9–13 — Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector, and is chided by the Pharisees for spending time with “sinners.”

verses 14–17 — The Pharisees criticize Jesus and His disciples for not fasting enough. Apparently, Jesus’ followers are too social.

verses 18–26 — A woman with chronic bleeding is healed, and Jesus raises a young girl back to life.

verses 27–31 — Jesus heals two blind men.

verses 32–34 — Jesus heals a man unable to speak, but the Pharisees say He heals by demonic power.

All of these incidents lead to the final section of Matthew chapter 9, verses 35–38: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”

Jesus could have spent every waking hour healing and teaching. There was no shortage of people who needed the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed to them. In His earthly existence, He was limited by His human body. He could not be everywhere at once, nor could He meet every need. He grew tired and hungry. Practically speaking, He needed others to go out and preach the gospel. People are the harvest—lost souls waiting to be saved and brought into God’s kingdom. The problem was not that there were not enough people to harvest, but that there were not enough laborers to do the work.

If a man owned a farm, there are two problems he might encounter when it came time to harvest. The first is that he might hire a lot of people to work in the fields but there would not be enough work to keep them busy. The second might be that there is so much to harvest that he just can’t find enough people to do the work.

The same set of problems could be evident in any church or Christian ministry. There might be so many volunteers and donors that the needs are fully met and many of the helpers just stand around with nothing to do. On the other hand, there might be so many needs that everyone who turns out to work is stretched to the max, with many needs remaining unmet. In reality, the second scenario is far more common, and the first is virtually unheard of.

In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the disciples to begin the harvest. That pattern continues with the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28. All Christians are supposed to be working in the harvest. The problem is not that there are not enough needs to meet and souls to harvest but that there are too few workers to do all that needs to be done.

In Christian ministry, we need to pray for more workers to go out into the harvest fields to work. Practically speaking, instead of praying for more people to be saved, we should pray that more people actively share the gospel. When praying for a lost loved one, we should pray for him or her to encounter more believers who will reach out with truth and love. If we are dissatisfied with the way things are, we need to pray that God will send us out to make a difference. If any Christian is not involved in gospel ministry, it is not because there is nothing for him to do; rather, is that he has chosen to sit on the sidelines instead of joining in the work that surrounds him. The harvest is plentiful.

May God use this small article to motivate Christians to join the harvest workforce!

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What does it mean that the harvest is plentiful (Matthew 9:37)?
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This page last updated: February 27, 2024