Urgently Needed—More Harvest Workers!
“The harvest, indeed, is great, but the workers are few. Therefore beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”—LUKE 10:2.
1. How might you reason regarding Jesus’ words at Luke 10:2, but what would you be well advised to do?
AS YOU read these words of Jesus, do you feel that they involve you? Since they were spoken over 19 centuries ago, you might be inclined to reason that they are no longer significant. Such a hasty conclusion would indeed be a mistake. To see the full import of Jesus’ words, let us look back at what happened when the statement was first made, and then examine our own situation today.—Compare 1 Corinthians 10:11.
2. What situation demanding urgent action faced Jesus in 32 C.E., and how did he handle it?
2 In 32 C.E., with the Festival of Booths past, only another six months remained before Jesus faced death on a torture stake. To help speed up the work of preaching, Jesus sent out 70 disciples “by twos in advance of him into every city and place to which he himself was going to come.” They went off with Jesus’ words ringing in their ears: “The harvest, indeed, is great, but the workers are few. Therefore beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”—Luke 10:1, 2.
A Great Harvest Results
3. Describe some of the results of increased preaching during the last few months of Jesus’ ministry.
3 What was the result of this increased preaching effort? We read: “Then the seventy returned with joy, saying: ‘Lord, even the demons are made subject to us by the use of your name.’” What a marvelous display this was of God’s power over the demons! Such a fine service report surely thrilled Jesus, for he said: “I began to behold Satan already fallen like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:17, 18) Jesus knew that Satan and his demons were ultimately to be cast out of heaven following the birth of the Messianic Kingdom in the heavens. But while Jesus was yet on earth, this casting out of unseen demons by mere humans served as an added assurance to him of that coming joyful event. Jesus therefore spoke of this future fall of Satan from heaven as a certainty.—Revelation 12:5, 7-10.
4. What was the purpose of the harvesting work done by Jesus and his disciples prior to Nisan 14, 33 C.E.?
4 The harvest Jesus spoke about was not one of grain or fruits but one of people, sheeplike people who would readily respond to the Kingdom message. Already the fruits of such a harvest were becoming manifest. However, the harvesting accomplished by Jesus and his followers in those few remaining months before Nisan 14, 33 C.E., was only the laying of the groundwork for a far greater harvest following Jesus’ death and resurrection.—Compare Psalm 126:1, 2, 5, 6.
5. What exciting events took place at Pentecost, 33 C.E., and how did these affect the harvest work to follow?
5 The time now was the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E. About 120 of Jesus’ followers were met together in Jerusalem. “Suddenly there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. . . . And they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance.” This was the start of a phenomenal harvest! “On that day about three thousand souls were added.” (Acts 1:15; 2:1-4, 41) “Day after day they were in constant attendance at the temple with one accord, . . . praising God and finding favor with all the people. At the same time Jehovah continued to join to them daily those being saved.” (Acts 2:46, 47) Later we find: “Believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.” Still later: “The word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.”—Acts 5:14; 6:7.
6. What effect did opposition to the preaching work have on Kingdom fruitage?
6 Opposition to the Kingdom message now grew intense. Did this slow down the harvesting work? No, for “those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” Philip went to the city of Samaria; crowds listened to him eagerly; the demon possessed, the paralyzed, and the lame were all cured. No wonder that “there came to be a great deal of joy in that city.”—Acts 8:1-8.
7. To what extent was Jesus’ command to his disciples at Acts 1:8 finally carried out?
7 The resurrected Jesus had told his disciples: “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The vastness of the field of activity called for more workers—urgently! What a harvest of disciples was now to be expected! And it was already happening—all under the guidance of God’s holy spirit. Following the conversion of the murderous-minded Saul, we have related for us: “Then, indeed, the congregation throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria entered into a period of peace, being built up; and as it walked in the fear of Jehovah and in the comfort of the holy spirit it kept on multiplying.” (Acts 9:31) As the harvesting of sheeplike ones gained momentum, no doubt those early disciples constantly recalled Jesus’ words: “Beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Did Jehovah, “the Master of the harvest,” answer that prayer? Indeed he did! Otherwise, how could it have been recorded: “The hope of that good news . . . was preached in all creation that is under heaven”?—Colossians 1:23.
Greater Urgency Today
8. Why in the 1980’s is the need greater than ever for more Kingdom workers?
8 Today, in the 1980’s, the need for more harvest workers is greater than ever. Why? Because the scope of the world field is much greater. As a result, the crops to be reaped and gathered in are far more numerous. This is in harmony with what Jesus foretold. He said that his followers would do greater works than he had accomplished on earth, as far as the preaching of the good news was concerned.—John 14:12.
9. (a) How is the urgency of today’s preaching work emphasized in a vision of John, described in Revelation 7:1-3? (b) What significant conclusion can be drawn from the expression “firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” at Revelation 14:4?
9 The sense of urgency in today’s preaching work is highlighted in the dramatic setting described in a vision given to John, as recorded in Revelation chapter Re 7:1-3. There, “four angels standing upon the four corners of the earth” are seen “holding tight the four winds of the earth.” How long is their grip on those “four winds” going to last? Only ‘until after the sealing of the slaves of our God in their foreheads.’ How long will that take? An indication is given by the fact that at the celebration of the Memorial on April 15, 1984, only 9,081 professed to be members of the 144,000. The anointed today are the last members of those described in Revelation 14:4 as being “bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” So it would appear that most of the “firstfruits” have been gathered in. But does the expression “firstfruits” mean that there are other fruits to follow? Why, of course! This was well symbolized by the abundant crops of other fruits gathered at the end of the Jewish agricultural year at the time of the Festival of Booths.—Deuteronomy 16:13-15.
10. What two harvestings have been in progress in modern times, and how does this fact underscore the urgent need for more harvest workers?
10 Therefore it becomes clear that, as the harvest of the remnant of anointed ones drew to its close, another harvest ingathering was due to open up. Is this not reflected in what John next saw in vision? “After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” John was told: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:9, 14) There is only a limited time left to complete the gathering of the “great crowd.” Once those “four winds of the earth” are let loose, signaling the start of “the great tribulation,” it will be too late! Can you not see the urgent need for more harvest workers to bring in the multitudes still to be found?
Thousands Now Responding
11. (a) To what extent are Jesus’ “other sheep” sharing in the harvesting? (b) What is indicated by the attendance at the 1984 Memorial?
11 Jesus foretold this widening out of his harvesting work of sheeplike ones when he said: “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:14, 16) Already there are more than 2,800,000 of these “other sheep” who have actively identified themselves as belonging to that “one flock.” Of that number, there were 179,421 who were baptized in the service year of 1984! Yet, the attendance at the celebration of the Memorial was 7,416,974. What does this tell us? That there are many others who have heard the Shepherd’s voice, but for one reason or another, they have not so far responded to Jesus’ warm invitation: “Be my follower.”—Luke 5:27.
12. What important questions should we now ask ourselves?
12 Where do you stand in relation to this vital harvesting work at the ‘conclusion of this system of things’? (Matthew 13:39) Are you counted among the happy throngs of those who are now sharing in harvest joys? Or are you still an onlooker, mentally inclined to draw back from openly accepting the Fine Shepherd’s invitation: “Be my follower”? Surely none today would want to make excuses like those three men in Luke chapter 9, discussed in our previous article. Think of what those three men missed out on—the joy of Kingdom service, including possibly a sharing in liberating some of those who were demon possessed!—Luke 9:57-62; 10:17.
13. How does faith play a vital part in your being a willing harvest worker?
13 The apostle Paul said: “Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.” (Hebrews 11:6) Oh, yes, it does take faith on the part of everyone to put self-interest aside and willingly dedicate one’s life to God as a harvest worker. For example, it may be that you have a serious health problem; perhaps some members of your family are violently opposed to Jehovah’s Witnesses; maybe you feel that you are too old to make the needed changes in your life; on the other hand, you may consider yourself unable to face up to the peer pressure you experience at school. Whatever your circumstances may be, never forget that Jehovah understands your problems better than anyone else. Also, he is ready to draw close to you and to strengthen your resolve to serve him if only you will take certain necessary steps yourself.—Psalm 103:13, 14; James 4:8.
Faith Moves ‘Mountains’
14. Explain what Jesus meant by his words recorded at Matthew 17:20.
14 Jesus said: “If you have faith the size of a mustard grain, you will say to this mountain, ‘Transfer from here to there,’ and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you.” This has been the personal experience of many of those hundreds of thousands who have responded to the call for more harvesters during the 1980’s. Personal problems and difficulties that appeared mountainous to them at one time have been overcome with Jehovah’s help. (Matthew 17:20; 19:26) Consider the following experiences:
15, 16. Describe how a young man in the United States and a Catholic husband in Brazil overcame big problems standing in the way of their baptism.
15 A young man in California, U.S.A., was a polio victim, severely handicapped and sadly neglected by his family. Then one of Jehovah’s Witnesses calling from house to house found him. A Bible study was started. But he was so shy that when the Witness arrived to conduct it, he would wheel his chair into a corner of the room and face the wall so that his face would not be seen. It took this young man months to overcome some of his problems. He did, however, and now he is a happy, baptized Witness.
16 A Catholic couple in Brazil were dissatisfied with their religion and eventually began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They felt that their spiritual needs were now being satisfied, but there was a big, a mountainous, problem: The husband, Antonio, was an inveterate smoker. He had smoked for 48 years, since he was seven years old! Over the years he had tried to break the habit but to no avail. This time, however, it was different, as Antonio relates: “Now I learned that if I wanted to please God and dedicate myself to do his will, I would have to quit. After much prayer, I was finally able to do so.” How happy he was to be able to symbolize his dedication to Jehovah by water baptism!—Psalm 66:19; Mark 11:24.
17. (a) What evil influence encountered by Jesus and his disciples is stronger than ever today? (b) How was demon possession dealt with by Jesus and his disciples in the first century, and how is it handled now?
17 Demon possession of Jews was a problem that Jesus and his disciples continually encountered. The same evil influences are at work today, especially now that Satan and his demon forces have been hurled out of heaven down to this earth. (Revelation 12:7-9, 12, 17) In contrast with Christianity in its infancy, Jehovah has not given his people today the miraculous powers to cast out demons. However, the spiritual armor that he has provided for Christians can act as a protection against demon influence, and it can also be used as a means to free others from demonic control. (Ephesians 6:10-18) From Ghana comes this report: “By the determined efforts of the brothers, many are being freed from the grip of the demons.” One Witness met a woman in the ministry, and as soon as a Bible discussion was begun, “the woman started weeping.” What was the problem? The Witness related: ‘A spirit possessed her, and whenever it did, it made her weep, and any money she happened to have on her vanished.’ A regular Bible study helped her to break free from this demon harassment, enabling her to dedicate herself to Jehovah.—John 8:32.
18. What experience illustrates that angels are active in directing the preaching work?
18 Problems like those described above might become so big in a person’s mind that suicide is contemplated. Take the case of a young woman in New Zealand. The Witness who first called on her noticed that she was “uptight emotionally and obviously worked up over something.” Later this person admitted that “she had been going to commit suicide and had decided to pray to God first to ask him to help her.” At that point the Witness knocked on her door, so she really “thanked God for answering her prayer.” Was this a coincidence? Then why do similar things happen so often? What did Jesus say? “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, . . . he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31, 32; see also Revelation 14:6.) The angels are helping Jesus in the shepherding work, and they direct the Master’s “fellow workers” to those who are crying to Him for help.—1 Corinthians 3:6, 9; see Acts 8:26-39; 16:9, 10.
19. What worldwide situation exists today, calling for what action on our part?
19 Today, no matter where we may be living, there are thousands of people who are burdened down and depressed with the same problems that many of Jehovah’s people have already overcome. Some of them may be living just next door to you! They are urgently in need of help. Truly, as Jesus said: “The harvest, indeed, is great.” We are begging the Master of the harvest now to send out more workers into his harvest during the year 1986. May your heart move you to respond to the call: Urgently Needed—More Harvest Workers!
Questions for Review
□ Who is the Master of the harvest?
□ What two harvests have been in progress?
□ What are the greater works that Jesus said his followers would do?
□ Why is faith needed by all harvest workers?