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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Jesus: International Harvester

(see Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)

What kind of world do we live in?

Jesus often uses analogies from agricultural. We live in a post-agrarian age, we prefer different metaphors. The law court is popular, or consumerism, or therapeutic acceptance. God is a judge, or a good deal (because of grace) or a benevolent counselor who loves and accepts us just as we are. We are also motivated by quick fixes.

There is no instant gratification in the fields. There is only the back breaking, tedious labor each day under the relentlessly hot sun. All work is done under the threats of nature: locust, drought or flood. Losing the harvest is possible.

What if God sees the world as a field? What if God sees us as a farmer views his grapes? How would that change things?

Jesus seems to think in this way when He says that He is the vine and we are the branches. We abide in Him (and He is us) so we produce fruit, which glorifies the Father. Fruit/harvest is a different view of life than getting saved from sin or being loved unconditionally. And Jesus seems to lean toward bearing fruit...

Hear Jesus:
The harvest is (truly) plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

First off, God is central. It is His field. He sends out the laborers. We ask/beg Him. Yet, aren't we also the answer to our prayers? Can we ask God to provide workers while we do nothing?

[notice, Jesus never speculates on why we have to pray. He just tells us to do it. The Father does not do it on His own, He does it through us. The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few, pray God sends more help.]

The word for harvest Katsiyr appears 54x in Jesus’ Bible. It usually means harvesting a field. However, there are three metaphorical uses when harvest is equated with judgment: Isaiah 17:4 (Israel will be brought low like when harvest & reaping strips the land), Jer 51 (Babylon will harvest you), and Hos 6:11 (For you also Judah a harvest is appointed). In addition, the Isaian parable of the vineyard was clearly in line with this idea.

Jesus expands on the symbol usage (of judgment) with numerous parables of seeds, sowing and gathering; bearing fruit being central. Jesus even curses the fig tree for not bearing fruit as He enters Jerusalem; both a living parable and prophetic act of judgment on the city. (and an image of His own lifeless body hanging on a tree, carrying our judgment.)

Harvest is also an apocalyptic image, which refers to God’s judgment now (prophetic) and at the end of time (eschatological). Remember, with God, time collapses and past, present, future and eternal co-exist and interpenetrate.

We see these three uses illustrated below:
Jn 4:35 “Behold I say to you lift your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for the harvest” (now)
Mt 13:39 Jesus says that in his parable “the harvest is the end of the age” (future)
Rev 14: 14-15 The Son of Man sits with a sharp sickle in his hand and the angel calls to him thrust your sickle and reap for the harvest has come. (Both)

In one parable Jesus says that the world is a field where God’s seed (message of Kingdom) has been scattered. Jesus’ mission is to bring in the harvest. Jesus’ mission (authority and power) are transferred to His 12 apostles. Luke mentions the 70; like 12 a significant Biblical number. Let's look at some of the occurences and what it might mean.

1.   Gen 46:27 & Ex 1:5 “all the persons of the house of Jacob numbered 70" (Primary referent is to the extended family of Jacob/Israel. It is a symbol of all the descendents).
2.   Exodus 15:27, Israel cried out for water because the place they had was Mara (bitter) and God said I am your healer and they came to Elim which had 12 wells and 70 palm trees. (//Num 33:9) (Typology: The 12 sons of Jacob and the total of 70 in the family.)
3.   Moses had 70 elders who served as his advisors and aides. (Typology: Jesus is the One like Moses.)
4.   The Gentile nations in Genesis 10 number 70. (Typology:  mission to the whole world. Hence “eat and drink whatever they provide” (vs. Jewish dietary practice)
5.   Numbers 7:10ff Each tribe presented offerings at the consecration of the tabernacle including a silver basin weighing 70 shekels. (type: Church is New Temple)
6.   Seventy is the number of years of the exile and is considered the length of a full life. Hence 70 is an image of fullness and completeness (7 x 10)

When Jesus is doing His ministry, a time of judgment hangs over Jerusalem. The city and its temple are under threat. Jesus feels a sense of urgency (do not to talk to anyone on the road; like a fireman headed to a fire, focused, no time for chit chat) so Jesus “appointed” the 70. Appointed, in Greek anadeiknemai, means to proclaim to everyone some one has been raised to a high office. I.e., They proclaim Jesus and the Kingdom. They are an advance team, pairs sent to prepare for Jesus (then).

It is a template for us now.
We too live under judgment here and now and on "The Day" when the final judgement happens. The pending judgment on our land must be declared.
We also declare Jesus is Lord so everyone knows and understands.
We are the answer to our own prayer, by God’s grace, gathering the harvest as His laborers and the local church is an employment bureau set up to hire laborers sent by God into the abundant harvest.
be back in a week with next installment....

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