“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’” – Matthew 9:37
Luke 10:1-12 (NIV) Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 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. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Although we grew up in Chicago, my husband and I lived in a small farming community in southern Illinois for ten years. Corn and soybeans fields were planted as far as the eye could see from any direction. The farming world was a whole new experience for us, and thankfully, we encountered farmers who were willing to teach us their trade. I was taught more about harvesting than I could have ever guessed existed, and I just barely scraped the surface.
One of the things I found most interesting was the fact that many farmers planted both corn and soybeans for very specific reasons. To put it simply, corn is fed by soybeans, and soybeans are fed by corn. In a September 25, 2013 article in Corn and Soy Bean Digest (yes this is a real thing) a list of how rotating corn and soybean planting is beneficial. First, and most importantly, rotation of planting allows for higher crop yields. It also reduces the amount of tillage needed on the fields, allows for the fieldwork to be spread out, and breaks the cycle of diseases, insects, and weeds in the ground.
I’m sure you are thinking what’s with all the farming talk? Well, I find something beautiful in the harmony of soybeans and corn, and I think it is part of the reason Jesus sends out the 72 in pairs. Can you imagine the mix of excitement and nervousness that must have filled the hearts and heads of the appointed 72? What an honor to be commissioned by Jesus to spread the gospel, and yet there were some pretty specific boundaries around this calling. Jesus warns the apostles they are being sent out like sheep among wolves. Yikes!
This pairing was done partly so that the apostles could protect, encourage, and support each other along their ministry journeys. I also think there was some additional strategy involved. “The harvest is plentiful” makes me think that each person had plenty of work to do. Their days were likely filled with curious people eager to hear about Jesus and have their questions answered. When I think about my education in corn and soybeans I have to wonder if Jesus sent out the apostles in pairs for an additional reason. When He was matching people, I wonder if He considered how each pair would complement each other. Were pairs matched so that they would bring higher yields in the form of reaching more people? Were they matched so that infections like fear and negativity would be weeded out? We aren’t given the whole story, but I have to wonder if part of the reason a farming reference is used here is so that the depth of all Jesus was doing in this matching and sending could be understood.
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” brings another thought to mind, I wonder if the 72 were sent out in pairs partly so that those they encountered would realize their own ability to become a harvester was nothing to be feared. There is always strength in numbers, and Jesus used that to his advantage in this commissioning.
Matthew 28 reminds us that we are all called to go and make disciples. Jesus’ reminder that the workers are few is just as true today as it was so many centuries ago. Who is God calling you to partner with to further His story? Begin to pray and ask God to open your eyes to the field he desires you to begin harvesting. Ask Him to partner you with someone who will support and balance you as you share the gospel.