Jesus Sends Reapers
Even though Jesus has set his face towards Jerusalem, he is still determined to minister in those places he has yet to visit. Some think that it was the area known as “Trans-Jordan,” that is, across the Jordan River, east. If so, these inhabitants would have been Jews, who had been forgotten by the leadership in Jerusalem, and also gentiles. But the point is that Jesus will not let anyone be forgotten. Regardless of the fact that his time is short, and he hardly has time to meet his own physical needs, he will leave no one behind; these must hear the good news of the Kingdom as well.
Then Jesus gives instructions to the seventy (and, –two, depending on translation), first and foremost, to pray that the Lord will send laborers into the harvest. These disciples might have said to themselves, “In the Trans-Jordan? Really?” Won’t it be shameful on Judgment Day if the Lord says to us, “There was indeed a harvest to be had in your place; why did you not labor to bring it in?” So we must also pray for laborers – and be laborers in the place the Lord has placed us. And then there is the warning about the reality all Christians live: “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” This is certainly more real in Muslim and Communist countries than it is in ours, but it is becoming more a reality in America. Then again, it was always supposed to be this way; we are to share in the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10).
As Jesus sent them on an urgent mission, he gave specific instructions to them: take few provisions, stay in one place, eat whatever they offer you (i.e., graciously receive hospitality), do not waste time along the way (as greetings along a road in the ancient East could be lengthy), and preach that the Kingdom has come near to them. If you are rejected, do not be bothered by it; God will judge when the time comes. You are to preach the coming of the Kingdom – and be quick about it!
There are legitimate questions as to what of this pertains to us. We are not all called to leave our jobs and move to Africa; but we are called to be missionaries where we are, and to use our resources more for the Kingdom than for ourselves and our families. God might not give to us the gift of healing the sick, but he has called us to pray over the sick that He would do so (James 5:14-15), and to pray for our pagan neighbors. We often complain about our country, and perhaps the church in America is shrinking. But perhaps the fields are ripe for harvest, and we are too cynical to see it.