“The Harvest is Plentiful – Volunteers are Few”

Matthew 9:35-10:23

June 14, 2020 – Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 9:35-10:23

(Text: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=458795397) (Video: https://youtu.be/FzHKpODSaP0)

Prayer.

From now until Thanksgiving,

Sundays are nearly always

All Matthew, all the time.

So, let’s get comfortable.

This Gospel was authored by the generation that followed the disciple’s generation.

Matthew was most probably developed in a small house church

of former Jews turned Christians

living in modern day Syria.

It was taught to generations of Christians by rote memorization,

Called the oral tradition,

Until it was written down approximately 50 to 70 years

After the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, of Jesus and

Approximately ten to thirty years

After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem,

Slaughtered the Jewish population,

And scattered the few surviving Jews throughout the world.

The earliest manuscript archeologist have found

Dates to between 200 and 300 AD, and

It is written in Greek.

My challenge to you: get comfortable with the Gospel of Matthew.

Make it your summer challenge to read it from start to finish.

Up through the tenth chapter of Matthew,

Jesus had only called four disciples.

Today he calls the remaining eight,

Making a total of twelve,

Reminiscent of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Remember, Matthew probably came from a small group of former Jews

Who carried forward their Jewish values into their Christian discipleship.

Twelve is a comfortable number.

Jewish values are deeply embedded in our Christian faith.

This is a key characteristic of St. Matthew.

Think in your mind’s eye …

of the parallels of Moses and Jesus;

Law and Grace;

Success / Failure and Forgiveness;

Slavery / Freedom and Salvation.

Moses commissions Joshua and Jesus commissions the twelve,

Naming them Apostles.

Matthew has the 20,000 feet perspective of Jesus,

Both during his life and in the ten to thirty years afterwards.

Therefore, the Gospel of Matthew enjoys the ability

To place two commissioning sequences:

The first, here this morning in chapters 9 and 10, and

Secondly, at the conclusion of the gospel in chapter 28.

Today’s first commissioning is important.

Jesus passes his authority and power from himself to his disciples.

How does this translate to you and me today?

Confidence, my friends. Confidence.

Let me build up your confidence.

You and I,

Brother and sister disciples of Jesus Christ,

We are given the power and authority of Jesus to do the works of God.

The power of Jesus equals the change of our effort over time.

So, if the kingdom of God is incomplete,

It’s on us.

Name a sin.

Any sin.

Jesus has given you and me the authority to address it and

The power to overcome it.

Racism.

Sexism.

Privilege.

Entitlement.

Lust for power.

Wealth.

Jesus gives his disciples the authority and power to overcome them all.

So, why are we still being swept away with evil and injustice in our world today?

Disciples of Jesus are commissioned to finish God’s kingdom.

Time is passed due

to get to work.

“But work is hard,” I whine.

It means I have to do something.

It means I have to take responsibility for my relationship with Jesus and

Be willing to be held accountable.

Which is exactly why the harvest is plentiful, but the volunteer laborers are few.

Jesus uses harvest as a common metaphor for judgment.

When Jesus says harvest, think accountability.

We are held accountable for our Christian action, or lack thereof.

When it comes to Jesus holding his disciples accountable for our words and actions

Think the 80/20 rule of churches my father taught me:

20% of a church family do the work, pay the bills, engage in mission, and lead people to Jesus.

The other 80% try to fade into the shadows and hope no one notices.

The harvest of potential new followers of Jesus is rich and abundant.

So, where is everyone?

The pool of potential new disciples is harassed, helpless, and wondering,

Looking for a leader.

Introduce them to Jesus.

Christianity on a half-shell will always be held accountable.

Jerry rigged Christianity on the cheap,

Isn’t Christianity at all.

Serve the Lord.

Serve with nothing short of excellence.

Don’t wait to be asked.

Look for the need; meet the need; exceed the need with abundance.

Serve in the name of Jesus.

Leave the rest up to God.

Jesus starts small, but

He’s building the foundation to go global.

And so, too, should we.

In this first commissioning of his beloved Twelve

Jesus gives them all the power and authority,

But he limits their scope to only the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

That is, go only to Jews whose religious authorities have misled them.

That is pretty much every Jew and family who had been

exploited by the Temple theology of the corrupt Priesthood, or

robbed by the Temple economy by the crooked Pharisees and Scribes.

They were leaderless;

Fresh for the harvest.

This commission is narrow,

Exclusive of Gentiles and Samaritans.

It is in the second, post-resurrection and ascension, concluding words in the Gospel of Matthew where

Jesus opens the floodgates and

Lets the whole world in.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”

Jesus re-commissions.

– (28:19)

Jesus wants an integrated, inclusive, global Church

Making disciples and serving in his name

Building God’s kingdom.

He doesn’t want a privileged, exclusive, group of former Jewish converts for disciples.

The Samaritan world was filled with people being falsely led.

What about them?

The Gentile world was filled with people chasing false idols and Greek and Roman Gods.

Go after them!

Our world is filled with people chasing wealth and power, lust and gluttony, evil and sin … searching for a leader.

Hunt them down like a hound dog and introduce them to Jesus Christ.

The harvest was plentiful in the time of Jesus, and

The harvest is plentiful today.

Already following Jesus?

Good, roll up your sleeves and join me

harvesting disciples,

teaching disciples, and

developing disciples.

Reality check!

Jesus tells us in full disclosure mode.

Leading people to Christ can be bloody.

Some will slam the door in your face or friendship.

Others will treat you badly.

Sometimes even your family will disown you, or worse.

Don’t take it personally.

Wipe the dirt off your shoes.

Turn around and leave town.

There’s lots of other fish in the sea.

There is no more room for Christianity on the cheep

Then there is for timid Christianity.

Don’t be timid!

I wouldn’t dare call anyone timid;

Though I know I can be at times.

Jesus calls and commission disciples to be bold!

Be bold in faith, because nothing grows confidence better than confidence.

Discipleship and disciple making is like learning to ride a bicycle;

The first couple of attempts might be dicey.

But, by the time you free wheel the first time, you’re on a lifelong journey.

Looking for a leader?

Allow me to introduce you to Jesus.

That first person who accepts the invitation comes as quite a surprise.

Know this, God has been long at work before you or I came calling.

Others may have planted the seed years ago.

God is patient.

God nurtures, waters and feeds that which is planted.

In time, God’s time, comes acceptance.

Here is another dose of confidence for you:

Invite people to meet Jesus and follow as a disciple.

Even though you and I might be initially rejected,

God may be using us to plant seeds for a future disciple to harvest.

Okay, now what?

Don’t worry.

God’s got this.

God will give you the words to speak.

God has given your heart to listen.

The heart of Christ disciples, and

I’m talking about you and me,

Is the same heart of Jesus who looked out on the crowds with compassion.

In place of fake, corrupted, bad news,

Jesus witnessed to them good news.

In place of viral disease, injury, or death, Jesus cured, healed, and resurrected every last one.

In place of wondering aimlessly, being misled by false gods, Jesus invites the world into a loving, vibrant relationship with each other and with himself.

Come with me.

Let’s follow Jesus together.

Beloved, the world is ripe for harvest.

There’s more than enough searching people

Ready and waiting for your call,

Your personal invitation

To become a disciple of Jesus.

God has set the stage,

The rest is up to us.

Amen.

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