The crop is ready. The conditions are favorable. Do you linger at the local café chewing the fat with the townies? Do you go to bed early and sleep in? Do you watch TV all day? I’m not a farmer, but I know this much – harvest time is bustle time. Long hours in the field – early mornings and late nights. The window may be small; the weather may turn; the opportunities may dry up like a drop of rain in the Sahara. So, the farmer hustles and bustles and brings in the harvest.
Luke 10:1-7 is about the harvest in the kingdom of God. The master, that is Jesus, appointed seventy people to be sent out. Why seventy? There were seventy translators of the Septuagint; the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. There were seventy men on the Sanhedrin. There were seventy elders in Moses’ day upon whom the spirit descended and they were enabled to prophesy. In Genesis 10 there are seventy nations listed. Some have seen the number seventy here representing the ministry of Jesus reaching out to all the nations. Others will make the comparison to the spirit being poured out on the seventy elders and would then see this as a symbol of divine commission. Maybe it is both of these. These seventy are given a divine appointment and they may symbolize the spreading of the message to the nations. Like the messengers of 9:52, they are sent ahead of Jesus to go to all the cities that Jesus was intending to go to.
“The harvest is great,” said Jesus, “but the workers are few.” It is bustle time but there are not enough workers. And Jesus’ advice here is not “so get out there and get to work you slackers.” Nope. His advice is to beg the lord of the harvest to send out workers. The word “send out” often implies force. This is not a motivational speech for rolling up your sleeves. It is an encouragement to see the harvest as urgent – even if the harvest includes the nations. Beg the lord of the harvest to force the laborers to get busy. He is the Lord – the master – and if you belong to him and he says, “Go!” you go. Jesus also said that he was sending them out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Now that sounds cozy. Having a divine commission is not about cozy. And it is not about you fighting the wolves. You, sir and madam, are lambs. Ministry is about vulnerability. Wolves are stronger and more vicious than you. As before, he tells them not to take things. Again, this is a prophetic symbol of haste. The ministry is too urgent for you to waste time packing. But it is also about trust. Can you trust the lord of the harvest to provide and protect? And differently than the earlier accounts, Jesus tells them to not greet anyone. Several sources mention that greetings at this time were no simple matter of saying “Hi!” Urgency leaps out of from Jesus’ words.
And whatever house they enter first they are to pronounce kingdom peace upon the household. This is more than a Jewish greeting. It is that, but it is more. If a son of peace is in that house, your pronouncement of peace will rest upon him. As spirit empowered messengers their pronouncement of peace brings peace. But if there is no son of peace in that house, don’t worry, the peace will return to you so that it can then be pronounced on another. Don’t be stingy with peace pronouncements! There may just be a lesson here for us. If we say “peace be with you” and peace doesn’t rest there, that is not on us. There is no consequence for proclaiming unrested peace.
Again, the messengers are commanded to stay in the first house in which they had been welcomed. That house becomes a base of operations and therefore a supporter of the harvest. Some are sent out as messengers and some provide the needs of the messengers. Both are equally important to the harvest in the kingdom. And for goodness sake, don’t disrespect the one who welcomed you by moving on to another house; one that is more comfortable and has better food. This is the first half of the section (the second half being 10:8-16). Harvest in the kingdom is much like physical harvest. There is a time of urgency; of hustling because the crop is ready and the conditions are good. The Lord of the harvest knows the times and seasons better than we do. So, we beg him to send the workers in good time. And if he is our Lord, when he says “Go!” we will not argue; we will not hesitate; we will not go home to grab some money or weapons. We will trust in the Lord of the harvest to provide and protect. Yes, there are wolves out there. Jesus is not calling you to be a wolf. He is sending you out to be a lamb; to be vulnerable. If he is the Lord, we don’t argue. We go, all lamb like. Bustle time! Grace.