Leaders Harvest Purpose
Matthew 9:36: “But when he saw the crowds, His inner man drew out a deep groan for them, because He saw they were grieved and distressed enough to pull out their hair, neglected as insignificant and without value as if they were sheep not having a shepherd.”
Jesus’ discussions of “harvest” and “laborers in harvest” bear strikingly different assumptions to those used by modern Christianity. Jesus is talking about a leadership deficiency more than a purely evangelistic one. His deep spiritual groaning, characterized by the terms applied to digestive function answer to the same sort of groaning He experienced at the raising of Lazarus. His expressions tell us He experienced the birthing of purpose as in the same way we give birth to purpose: described by Paul in Romans 8 as groans Holy Spirit assists us in bringing to full expression.
“We do not know how to pray what is necessary.” Creation is groaning and so are we, then Holy Spirit helps our limitations, He enters into the birthing. Creation groans for purpose. We groan for purpose. God groans for purpose. “He assists us in our limitations.” What is needed and what is being birthed remains hidden in the womb of spiritual identification with God’s will until the groaning manifests the preserved and reserved purposes of God. “With groaning and deep sighs.” Jewish metaphors and Greek words combine as language seeks to explain and express this experience. The sense of the root word is “to draw.” In this sense, to draw out from the deepest places. The movement is felt in the belly like the strongest release; we are reminded that “out of your innermost being shall flow.”
Again, the shepherding metaphor for people who need a new beginning, a leadership dynamic in their lives to bring them into a place of knowing their purpose. Without a shepherd? Sheep running wild, afraid, terrorized, lacking any proper direction, utterly incapable of finding a place called “home.”
Note this backdrop from which Jesus addresses harvest. The metaphors of sheep mix with the metaphors of harvest, but all the discussion is about leaders and purpose. I say this because the vision of “churchanity” makes this passage sound like “harvest” means rounding up sheep like cattle, appropriating them for meat and wool, expecting an increase of their own production as a measurement of success and wealth. Nothing is further from Jesus’ mind when He uses the sheep without a shepherd metaphor, and He make this clear from this and other passages. The metaphor has been made “to walk on all fours.”
Sheep penned or pastured is another way of leaving them in the same condition Jesus addresses here. “Neglected, thrown down” with the sense of scattering because they lack leadership to take them somewhere they need to go to become the people they were created to be so they can fulfill the purpose of their lives.
Their present leadership issue is what moves Jesus to groan with birthing because He recognizes that their purpose individually and as a culture isn’t being fulfilled. Jesus groans to give birth to a new kind of leadership, a kingdom leadership since He is a King establishing a kingdom, a spiritual leadership since His kingdom is SpiritFirst, and a purpose-producing leadership since He has accepted responsibility to redeem and restore what He created in order to fulfill the purposes of the Father.
Harvest Time Comes with Maturity
Matthew 9:37: “Then he said to his disciples, There is much grain but not enough men to get it in.”
The harvest isn’t birthing babies. The harvest is reaping maturity, producing the fullness of purpose in the individual and the culture. Accumulating believers doesn’t measure the fulfillment of purpose as if Jesus is merely interested in populating the heavenlies! No such sentiment every escapes His lips. Jesus Christ is not an accumulator of followers but a Discipler of leaders. His measurement of success is the maturing of people for the fulfillment of purpose.
Harvest involves reaping what is mature or ripe, ready for harvest because it has reached its highest release of its design and destiny. Great harvest comes when the planted seed grows a mature harvest measured by what that seed contains by Created design. His concern was not that too few people existed in His generation, but that no leaders were available to bring these people into the fulfillment of their created destinies and their culture into the fullness of its purpose. He wasn’t measuring the success of Israel in how many people were being born, but how many people were fulfilling Father’s purpose in their lives.
Jesus picks up another Jewish metaphor in which their leaders reapers and the harvest the fruit of their instruction. Other Jewish leaders had used this metaphor to describe their process of maturing their students, and Jesus is saying that their methods and measurements were obviously faulty and failing. In fact, He is saying that these leaders wanted to accumulate the produce of the “soil” as if they had the right to consume it themselves. In other words, they were measuring success by how many students they accumulated to their particular brand of teaching instead of producing leaders who could populate the culture in ways that would bring the fulfillment of God’s purposes for these individuals and the nation.
The harvest isn’t designed to populate the heavenlies. It is designed to fulfill God’s purposes in the earth. The harvest He envisions is leadership that can bring these crowds of people to maturity, to the fullness of Spirit that will produce the fulfillment of destiny. As any true Apostle, He can see the purpose of God in people and places. As a true Prophet, He can see what is in men’s hearts. What He sees isn’t a statement about the disorganization of the crowded mass of humanity, that they need to be better organized and managed – crowd management isn’t on His mind.
The harvest is the maturity of these people, and the reapers are those sent into the field at the time of that harvest. Jesus doesn’t share our view of harvest in terms of multiplication alone. He isn’t measuring strength with numbers but leadership and purpose. The world is filled with numbers but lacks the leadership to produce mature purpose!
Matthew 9:38: “That’s the reason I charge you to pray to the Lord of the harvest, that He would send workers into His harvest.”
Jesus identifies that the Harvest is Father’s purpose, and that leadership in the kingdom is always about getting people into maturity. The people aren’t the harvest in the sense of numbers because there is already crowds, numbers, accumulation; He is saying that people are here in numbers but we lack leaders to bring them to maturity. It is the maturity Father wishes to harvest, the purpose Father put into the people is the harvest He seeks.
Father recognizes when the harvest is ripe because His harvest comes in matured purpose. We must mature leaders in order to fulfill purpose.
Our response? Pray. We pray so The Lord of harvest – that isn’t us – to send the ones into the fields who can produce the maturity so Father gets His harvest. The prayer is necessary because the leaders needed require a spiritual inspiration, a strong grip of God that “thrusts them out” into the harvest.
The term here is rather emphatic, aggressive, nearly violent. “Pray the One in charge of harvest will shove leaders into this crowd. They are lying around neglected, in despair, without proper leadership, used as props in a political game that measures success simply by accumulating numbers, adherents. The laborers must go into the fields, the crowds must be engaged. The Lord will not be going into the crowds, the laborers will go.
Of course, the analogy doesn’t follow through “on all fours” anymore than the sheep metaphor. Shepherds and sheep are both people. In the same way, the crowds and the laborers are all people. The metaphors speak to the activity and role of leaders functioning on behalf of the owner of the sheep and The Lord of the harvest. In each case, leadership is lacking for the maturity of personal and regional purpose because of a lack of properly functioning leadership. The season is ripe, but the process of maturing hasn’t been nurtured. The people are scattered, neglected, and leaderless in the sense that they have not been properly prepared for the season. Messiah is here but the people are not ready for Messiah.
John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah to “prepare The Lord a people.” Jesus says that when they rejected John, they rejected Him because they were not prepared for His arrival. “He came to His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as did receive Him, to them He gave the right (authorization) to be God’s children.” Recognize that Jesus is going to send 70 into the cities immediately after this third circuit of the nation to announce “kingdom come.” He has a deep groan of longing that they be prepared to properly respond. They will not.
Harvest prayer is about the groaning that produces a spiritual shove in those in the grip of God. It is giving birth to a new leadership initiative that will bring maturity to the crowds, involving them in bringing personal purpose to fullness so they can bring regional purpose to fulfillment.