What do tending sheep and harvesting crops have to do with church?
Let’s look at some farm lessons that apply directly to the local church.
Let’s look at two agricultural metaphors for the church’s work in Matthew 9:35-10:8.
Matthew 9:35-36 Shepherdless Sheep
In Matthew 9:35-36 Jesus saw a crowd and was “moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” One common word for a church leader is pastor, meaning a shepherd. In Old Testament Israel, the ideal national leader was pictured as a shepherd who feeds and cares for his sheep. When shepherds do not feed and care for the sheep, they become “ἐσκυλμένοι καὶ ἐρριμμένοι” (Nestle Greek), “harassed and helpless” (NIV), “distressed and dispirited” (NASB), “weary and scattered” (NKJV). Jesus saw people burdened by their shepherds with vain traditions and doctrines, weighed down in ignorance, neglected and scattered abroad without care and attention.
Matthew 9:37-38 Bountiful Harvest
In Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus used a familiar metaphor for the Great Commission of a harvest, using that now famous line, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” A bumper crop and a scarcity of field workers is familiar to farmers. Jesus encourages us to pray the Lord would “send out laborers into His harvest.” The sense is rather forceful in this context, meaning “to drive out” workers into the fields, or to “thrust out, force them out, as from urgent necessity.”1 Jesus calls us to a compelling mission. Perhaps one of the major problems of the Church is that we don’t see this as so important.
1Vincent's Word Studies. Marvin Richardson Vincent. 1886
Matthew 10:1-4 Twelve Disciples
Why were there 12 disciples? Does it remind us of the 12 Patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 gates through which we may enter New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. He called them apostles. Apostle means an envoy or “one who is sent.” In Matthew 10:1-4, “He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.” By doing so, Jesus gave them a little of the power that He revealed during His earthly ministry. As the 12 Patriarchs were the Fathers of Israel, so these men were to be the Fathers of the Church.
Matthew 10:5-8 Mission Trip
Unlike the Great Commission, the disciples’ short-term missionary trip in Matthew 10:5-8 was only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” We read in Romans 1:16, “the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Some commentators suggest, they were not yet spiritually mature enough to look beyond their national borders. How were “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” lost? Were they not being led “in the paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23)? Was it because “Their [national and religious] shepherds have led them astray” (Jeremiah 50:6)? Had they “gone astray like a lost sheep” (Psalm 119:176)? Have our modern day shepherds been misleading us?
Who is Lost?
Who is lost in our community? Just look around. Who does not go to church? Who has an unkempt lawn and no friends? Who has loads of money but no true friends? Who is an addict? Who is depressed and suicidal? Who is a foreigner far from home and feeling abandoned and unwanted? Who believes that life is all about the materialistic gods of this world? Who has ruined their lives and their family because of sexual immorality? Who drives through town like they have murder on their hearts? Who is deceived into thinking that theft is an appropriate way to live? The lost are everywhere and they are our assignment.
Revelation 14:14-20 Final Harvest
In Revelation 14:14-20 “the Son of Man” is ready for harvest. In verse 16 we read He, “thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.” Then a heavenly angel prepares for the grape harvest. He “threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.” Grape juice was called the blood of the grape and the terrible bloodshed may picture the final battle between good and evil, pictured by Armageddon, the Valley of Megiddo (Revelation 16:12-16; Joel 3:13). The Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Matthew 13:36-43) shows the righteous and unrighteous growing together until harvest. May we be among the righteous!
Urgent tasks in the church are still to care for and seek lost sheep and be enthusiastic workers in bringing into the kingdom of our dear Lord the harvest of lost souls. Let’s not be lazy Christians, but care for and seek out the lost in or communities.
Matthew 9:35-10:8; Revelation 21; Romans 1:16; Psalm 23; Jeremiah 50:6; Psalm 119:176; Revelation 14:14-20; Revelation 16:12-16; Joel 3:13; Matthew 13:36-43
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Vincent's Word Studies. Marvin Richardson Vincent. 1886