Bonhoeffer :: Chapter 21 The Harvest

Good morning.  We are shifting gears a little this morning as we get back into Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.  Bonhoeffer has just finished discussing the sermon on the mount and last time we read Jesus’ final teaching from Matthew chapter 7 about the house built on the sand and the house built on a strong foundation. 

Again, I would like you to put yourself in the shoes of the disciples and consider what might have been going through their minds at this time. Jesus is done with his sermon and we as disciples have a lot to think about.  We have been called to a completely new way of living and challenged to have a new set of values.  What are we to think about our new status as disciples?  First I suppose there might be a sense of pride: after all Jesus picked US.  He has lots of followers, but the twelve, we are specially chosen to be close to the master, to be trained and instructed by him, to see first hand what he is going to do.  Now we recognise that it is grace that we are called by him, that it is not because of our own overwhelming superiority that we have been selected to be disciples.  Still, we are human and along with our sense of pride must surely be a little bit of elitism.  After all, in the sermon we just heard Jesus said “Go in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. But narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

So along with our feeling of pride is this sense of separation from the common man.  We are the ones going through the narrow gate.  We are the ones who have been chosen by Jesus.  We are the ones who truly understand what it takes to be a disciple and we are the ones to whom Jesus thought it worthwhile to explain discipleship.  How does this affect how we view everyone around us?  Might we look down on the masses?  We are the few, they are the many.  It isn’t worth it really, to spend much time worrying about them or trying to tell them the good news.  In fact, Jesus seems to have this thing for the people, but he is really spending to much time on people that don’t appreciate him the way we do.  Everyone should just go away and let him focus on those who want to hear his teachings…

Does this sound familiar or plausible?  Consider the disciples’ responses when parents brought their children to Jesus to be blessed Matt 19.  It says the disciples rebuked the children.  Jesus is tired!  Run away and play, we don’t have time for you.  But Jesus said “Allow the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.”  Or consider the curious account in Mark 9:  Jesus has just come down from the transfiguration mountain and his disciples tell him they just ordered a man to stop who had been casting out demons in Jesus name.  Why?  John told Jesus “we forbade him, because he does not follow us.”  Jesus’ response?  “Do not forbid him...  He who is not against us is for us.”  Finally, consider the disciples response to rejection.  In Luke 9 Jesus attempts to enter a Samaritan village, but is rejected because he is bound for Jerusalem.  James and John are on top of things though!  They turn to Jesus and say “Lord, do You desire that we command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did?”  Luke records that Jesus rebuked them saying  “You do not know of what spirit you are. For the Son of Man has not come to destroy men's lives, but to save.”  Elitist?  Superior?  Separate and apart?  You bet!   The disciples definitely had an attitude. 

And how did Jesus look at the masses?  How did he want his disciples to view the lost multitudes?  With compassion. 

Matt 9:35-38

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

For Jesus, the lostness of souls is a matter for compassion, not scorn.  Jesus doesn’t seek an elite and he wasn’t trying to set up a religious clique.  When Jesus saw the masses he saw a harvest that lacked only laborers.  What do you see when you look at a world full of lostness?

It has been my custom to try to make direct application to our lives, personal and corporate, from the chapter each week.  The application for each one of of us this week is perhaps clear enough without too much additional commentary on my part.  I will instead leave you with two questions to ask yourself.  First: Have you ever stood between the busy masses and Jesus?   Have you ever metaphorically shooed people away from Savior who loves them?  Do you demonstrate, even if only through inaction, that you believe Christianity to be an exclusive club for the elite?  Secondly:  When you look at the lost do you see a harvest, waiting for workers?  Do you pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send workers?  Are you willing to consider that the worker who is sent may be you? 

We are disciples by God’s grace alone.  May we each struggle to truly live and think as disciples through this next week.