The Harvest is Plentiful

This is an outline of the notes that I used to teach my Wednesday evening class of the sayings and the life of Jesus. Feel free to join us on Wednesday at 6:15pm.

The heart of it all today: the fact that Jesus calls twelve disciples to follow Him, out of a larger group of seventy. They are warned that it will take no less than total commitment but the reward is great.

Key Verse to Remember: “Come, follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” — Matthew 4:19

Key Term for Today, Called: meaning to leave their earlier life behind and commit themselves to the kingdom of God.

Fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22): We often overlook the fact that these men were called to follow out of their daily work schedule rather than during some spiritual experience.

  1. These four (Peter, Andrew, James and John) had seen Jesus before, John 1:35 tells that Andrew (with possibly Peter) had been a disciple of John, but at this encounter, there is a decisive call to follow Jesus. They leave their nets and begin the journey.
  2. Luke 5:10-11 adds that they would be from now on catching people, or taking men alive. “Follow Me” was different here because they would not just be taught with ideas and thoughts, but with deeds. They were not going to be debating theology, but catching men, leading them to salvation.
  3. Mark 1:20 tells us the brothers left their father in the boat with the hired hands. These were more than just working class men, but business owners. God likes to use the working class, like Amos of the Old Testament. Amos 7:14-15 tell us that he was not a prophet of from a prophetic family, just a shepherd from Tekoa, tending his flock when God took hold of his heart.
  4. In Luke’s version, Jesus had already healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). Then after a night of catching nothing, Peter is told to drop the nets into the deep water (Luke 5:4) before bringing up a huge catch (Luke 5:6). Peter is witness to two miracles and he sees himself in a proper light, a sinful man not worthy to associate with someone like Jesus (Luke 5:8). The others are astonished but only Peter drops to his knees (Luke 5:8-9). Peter’s awareness of his own failing and sinfulness was one of his finest qualities.

Workers for the Harvest (Matthew 9:35-38, John 4:35): Jesus and Paul had a similar method of first teaching in the synagogues, which were local centers for teaching and instruction.

  1. There was no music and singing, just prayer, Scripture reading and exposition. There was no minister, but rather an administrator or ruler, who would call on a competent man to speak.
  2. There was a vast difference in the way Jesus and the religious leaders viewed the people. Jesus had compassion on the people (Matthew 9:36) whereas the religious leaders had contempt for the people and believed them to be cursed (John 7:49). The people were harassed, neglected, ignored and abused by their “shepherd” while Jesus saw them not as losers, but as a rich harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).
  3. Many Old Testament prophets had this same view of people, like Jeremiah 50:6 says they are like lost sheep being lead astray; and Zechariah 10:2 says they wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd. First Peter 2:35 continues the theme, and John completes the picture in Revelation 7:17. In John 4:35, the people were ripe for harvest.
  4. This was spoken in Samaria during the encounter with the woman at the well. A spiritual harvest was beginning in of all places, Samaria, a place the Jew despised and avoided. Jesus calls us to go to the outcast, and in essence asks us today, “why not you?”

Beginning the New Israel (Matthew 10:1-4): It is here that the term disciple (Matthew 10:1) is changed to apostle (Matthew 10:2). The meaning of apostle is “sent out one.”

  1. We know little about the twelve, but it was a diverse group, from fishermen to a tax collector (partnering with Rome) to a Zealot wanting to overthrow the Romans. We know little about them because it is likely their work was more important then themselves.
  2. Why twelve? It was a special number for Israel, representing the twelve tribe of Israel. In a way Jesus was beginning a new Israel, not based on family heritage but on devotion to God. Revelation 21:14 says their names are twelve are inscribed on the city’s foundation.
  3. Luke 6:13 tells us that these were chosen from a larger group of disciples.
  4. In Mark 3:16-17, Andrew is not placed with Peter, but the men of inner circle are listed first (Peter, James and John). Mark also adds a detail about the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). I discovered the Boanerges means “Sons of Thunder” in Aramaic (ben = child or son, regaz = rage or wrath). Perhaps this is due to their fiery personality (Mark 9:38, Luke 9:54, Mark 10:35-36), or the fact that their father is left standing in the boat (Matthew 4:22 – daddy might have been the fiery thunderous one as the boy left him with all the work).
  5. Two or three had Greek names, Philip and Andrew; the third may be Bartholomew (bar – Ptolemy). Both Andrew and Peter were likely able to speak Greek.
  6. In John 12:20-21, some Greeks wanted to see Jesus and they go to Andrew as the gatekeeper. Bartholomew was likely Nathanael (John 1:45), and Philip brings him to meet Jesus. This is a different Philip than the one in Acts 6:6, 8:5-40).
  7. Matthew and the second James may have been brothers because James is called the Son of Alpheus” (Mark 2:14 – a tax collector named Levi being the “son of Alpheus”). This James is often called James the Less, since the greater James was the brother of John.
  8. Thaddeus is in the list for Matthew and Mark, but in some manuscripts he is called Lebbaeus. To confuse us further, Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13, List neither Thaddeus nor Lebbeaus, but mention Judas the son of James (not Iscariot) who is at the end of all the lists.

Freely Giving (Matthew 10:5-15): Jesus restricts their ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6). This is not for exclusion but rather a matter of priority.

  1. They were not yet equipped to carry the message past their own culture.
  2. They were to freely give, like the example of Moses where God taught him, and he was to freely pass it on to the people.
  3. They received good teaching, so they must pass it on.
  4. They were not to peddle the Word of God (2 Corinthians 2:17). “Take no bag for your journey” might refer to a leather shoulder bag, typically with enough provisions for a day or two. They did not need unnecessary supplies because God would supply their needs.
  5. The money belt (Matthew 10:9) was generally concealed and prevented one from entering the temple, in fear of transacting any business while inside.
  6. Their seeking a “worthy person” seems to be a contradiction since Jesus tended to be drawn to the outcasts in society (Matthew 10:11). This person of peace was likely be the gatekeeper in the community.
  7. “Shaking the dust from one’s feet” (Matthew 10:14) may refer to things that cling to a person, like the dust of idolatry. If people were unresponsive, this action would be a testimony against them (Mark 6:10).
  8. The fate worse than Sodom and Gomorrah seems a bit harsh (Matthew 10:15). The point is that rejection of the gospel is serious. In Genesis 19:5, the evil men desired to abuse God’s messengers; so this seems to be similar. They were an example to those who reject God (2 Peter 2:6).

Wannabees and Would-Have-Beens (Luke 9:57-62): Jesus could attract a crowd, but true followers were rare. People needed to know the cost involved; this was not a life of ease and comfort.

  1. “Let me bury my father” was not likely said by one who had just lost his father. It was a polite way to say no thanks but no thanks; good intention without commitment. His calling was higher than family obligations. Rather than focus on death, we are to focus on real life.
  2. “Hand to the plow” probably refers to the story of Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 19: 20). Elijah was willing to wait for Elisha, and Elisha did not disappoint him, but Jesus challenges us to not look back; we are not as dedicated as Elisha. Paul has something to say about this topic, (Philippians 3:13).

Builders and Kings (Luke 14:28-32): The radical idea here is to give up everything, and this life is not going to be easy.While Jesus attracts large crowds, He is not pander to the people. Evangelism was done the hard way. Don’t attract the greatest number of people, but those with the best commitment and dedication.

The Seventy (Luke 10:1, 17-20): The discussion is usually about the number (70 or 72?). Seventy is more likely for these reasons of symbolism:

  1. There were 70 elders to assist Moses (Number 11:16)
  2. The Sanhedrin consisted of seventy men
  3. There were seventy men who translated the Septuagint (LXX)
  4. There were seventy nations listed in Noah’s genealogy in Genesis 10
  5. Some rabbis said that there were seventy bulls sacrificed during the Feast of Tabernacles.
  6. Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin, but these seventy would proclaim the kingdom rather than try to destroy it.
  7. They returned with news of joy. Jesus did not say they were to cast out demons, but what a pleasant surprise (Luke 10:17, Matthew 10:7-8).
  8. They were to continue in humility; even Satan falling from heaven may have been a reminder of his pride at the beginning and being tossed out of heaven (Ezekiel 28:14-17).
  9. “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20) stresses the importance of worshiping God and not ourselves of our accomplishments. These records were like in any city on its citizens (similarly Philippians 4:3, Hebrews 12:23 and Revelation 20:12).
  10. “Nothing will harm you” could be interpreted literally, or perhaps the fact that the disciples can overcome anything, Satan, demons and other enemies. Demons were a reality in this time and culture; He was not saying not to fear demons, but to overcome them.

Next time we will look at “salted with fire” and the hazards of being a disciple.

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