“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest that he send out workers into his harvest.” (Luke 10)
If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s hard to know when you’ve arrived. One of the drawbacks of being a finite being bound by time is not knowing the difference between the Mission and the Training. We dwellers of the valley, on our first trip from birth to death, can only see the hill in front of us. Jesus, walking with us, having had an angel’s eye view of the whole landscape or rather having designed and built the entire landscape, tries to tell us here what’s on the other side of the hill…
Listen, he is not saying this before choosing the twelve…he’s chosen the twelve. He’s not saying this before sending out the twelve, he’s sent the twelve and they’ve returned already. This precedes the sending of the seventy-two (were the twelve counted among them?). If he wants these disciples to go out into the fields of the world and pray that God sends workers for the harvest, then this isn’t the harvest! This is the training!
Realizing that we can go back to Luke 9 and see it for what it is: preparation, sorting, training. Beginning with the sending of the twelve with nothing but the shirts on their backs and the sandals on their feet. Coming back elated from what must have felt like the mission, the twelve empty-handed, hungry disciples are told to feed five thousand men, their wives, children, uncounted women and servants. One of the only miracles recorded in all four gospels. In John 6 we see how Jesus uses even this miracle to winnow down his disciples and to purify the motives of the remaining. “66 For this reason many of his disciples drew back and were not walking with him any longer.”
But he’s not finished. He bolsters three with the Transfiguration. He decries their lack of faith with the demon possessed boy. He tries to warn them this is not the mountain, by telling them about his trial and execution to come. He rebukes Peter for thinking about this in worldly terms. He rebukes them for denominationalism. He rebukes them for seeking their own glory. He rebukes them for racism. Far from letting them become hands of vengeance against Samaritans who reject Jesus, he tells them by another Samaritan well, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, that they are white for harvest already. 36 The one who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, in order that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together. 37 For in this instance the saying is true, ‘It is one who sows and another who reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you did not work for; others have worked, and you have entered into their work.” (John 4)
In all these stories he is laying out the guidelines, the job description, the classified ad he is running for the job of “worker.”
Wanted: lamb-like child to send among wolves. Must be wily as serpent, innocent as dove. Must seek to serve all and be willing to love boss more than family, security, home and life. May include some martyring. Will train and supply all tools and meals*.
*Meals may include but are not limited to: “food is that I do the will of the one who sent me and complete his work.”
And we the applicants come and ask, “What shall we do that we can accomplish the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God: that you believe in the one whom that one sent.” (John 6) “13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you speak correctly, for I am. 14 If then I—your Lord and Teacher—wash your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that just as I have done for you, you also do. 16 Truly, truly I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you understand these things, you are blessed if you do them.” 34 “A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another—just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.” (John 13)
If you believe in the one God sent, rejoice, “rejoice that your names are inscribed in heaven.” (Luke 10) You are called, you are chosen! He will never lose you or reject you! So, “go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9) And if you fail, if no one listens, if no one cares, if it feels like you’re wasting your time or worse, if you succeed, if all listen, if many come, if all is going well remember this:
This could just be the training hill.