I grew up surrounded by the cornfields of Minnesota and now I live encompassed by the ones in Kansas. Truth be told, they’re my favorite landscape. I know some people prefer the mountains of Colorado or the seacoast beaches. I’ve even met some people whose preference lies in cityscapes—I still can’t figure that out. As for me, I love the rolling green hills blanketed by a sea of golden tassels trembling on stalks of corn. And as summer slowly yields to autumn the silks, shucks, and stalks begin to turn varying degrees of brown as the dry out. To the unknowing eye it may seem the corn is simply dying. But to those who have harvest eyes it’s a good indication that the corn is ripe for the picking.
It’s remarkable to me that this is the way the greatest evangelist who ever lived saw people. I’m not writing about Wesley or Whitefield, Moody or Graham, but of Jesus. Everywhere Jesus went he saw a field that was ripe for the harvest. It didn’t matter where he was. Jesus evangelized in the high-population urban centers of government, commerce, education, and religion. He also spent time in those tiny out-of-the-way villages—a great reminder to us ministering in rural contexts. But wherever he ministered he saw a harvest of souls ready to be picked.
Perhaps the best instance of this is found in the Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 9:36 we read: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” The rag-tag band of people who were following him weren’t too much to look at. Not only where they diseased and afflicted, but they were aimless and without a guide, they were harassed and helpless. That’s not unlike many people we come into contact with. Their lives bear the many scars of Adam’s fallen race. They’re diseased in body and soul, they’re sick and dying both physically and spiritually, they walk in darkness with ignorance as their friend, death is their only shepherd, and they live without hope, life, help, and peace.
And it’s fascinating to see how Jesus responds. He didn’t hold them in derision or insult them. He didn’t walk at an arm’s length or regard them as an inconvenience. Rather, he had “compassion” on them. Jesus had a remarkable heart even for sinners. But it’s not just his compassion that astonishes me. It’s what he goes on to say to his disciples. As these diseased and afflicted, harassed and helpless people press around him, he says: “The harvest is plentiful” (v 37). That’s remarkable! There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about that group of people. By the world’s standards they weren’t the movers and changers. They were despised. They were outcasts. They were vagabonds. And what does he see when he looks at them? He doesn’t see a worthless pile of refuse. He see’s a harvest!
Isn’t that just like Jesus? He builds his church in the most unusual of ways often using rusty nails and warped boards. As Paul said, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). All the world is a field–from the least to the greatest–if we only have our Savior’s harvest eyes to see it.