Protecting the Harvest: Fellowship Before Ministry, Following Before Labouring

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses one through twenty-one of the tenth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the apostle matthew transitioning from writing concerning the ministry of Jesus Christ alone and by Himself to now writing of the inclusion of the twelve disciples in the ministry. Please note that up until this moment in time all the ministry we read about in this gospel was performed completely, entirely and exclusively by Jesus Christ and Him alone. What truly marks this passage as amazing is what we find written in the opening couple of verses, for by the time we come to the tenth chapter of the gospel written according to Matthew we find Jesus now accompanied by twelve disciples. If you journey back to the fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus you will find the calling of two sets of brothers—the first being Simon peter and his brother Andrew, as well as James and his brother John who were sons of Zebedee. When you come to the ninth chapter of this gospel you will find it recorded how Jesus passes by Matthew Himself sitting st the receipt of custom, and upon seeing him, called unto Him that he might follow Him. If you pay attention to the math you will note that with Matthew that only makes five disciples who we have record of Jesus calling to follow Him. In each case we find Jesus calling these men to one thing and one thing specifically—to follow Him. It’s worth noting that there was nothing else that was mentioned when calling these disciples—other than when Jesus spoke to Simon and his brother Andrew that they would be fishers of men. Five different men and yet all five men heard one thing and one thing above everything else—namely to follow after Jesus Christ. What marks this as so incredibly unique and powerful is that Jesus makes no lavish promises unto the disciples to follow Him. When Jesus called ahis disciples unto Himself, He didn’t promise them health, wealth, prosperity, or anything else we in this midden age have directly connected to the gospel.

I have to admit that I am wonderfully and powerfully captivated by the call which Jesus issued to the disciples as recorded within the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for the main message Jesus gave to His disciples was nothing more than to follow Him. Even when He declares unto Simon Peter and his brother Andrew that they would be made fishers or men, Jesus made no promise unto these disciples concerning what they should expect when they made the decision to follow Him. Jesus didn’t reveal or release any information concerning what the life would be like when they made the decision to follow Him. In all reality, I am convinced that this is actually most necessary, for more often than not we d western Christians in the midst of western Christianity feel as though the call to follow Jesus needs and requires additional perks and promises. In our modern society we have come to call men to follow Jesus, and have told them of Jesus’ call to follow Him, and yet we directly connect that call and command to follow Him with a number of bells and whistles that somehow make following Him more attractive. We promote following Jesus as something that is going to radically and dramatically change and alter their lives in such a way that they will be able to live their best life now. We promote following Jesus as something that will bring into peoples lives health, wealth, prosperity and promotion, and pay absolutely nothing to how dangerously deceiving this is to those who perhaps know nothing about the gospels and what Jesus actually requires of those who would follow after Him. I am wonderfully and absolutely amazed and impressed by Jesus call to the disciples to follow Him, for He made no promises to them concerning their decision to follow Him. What’s more, is that when Jesus called Simon and Andrew, when Jesus called James and John, and when Jesus called Matthew, He didn’t provide them with any glimpse into what life following Him would be like. When Jesus called these five disciples He made them no wonderful promises that would somehow sustain them within, during and throughout their time following Him.

THE CALL TO FOLLOW WITHOUT ANY PROMISES! THE CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS WITHOUT ANY REVELATION OF THE COST ASSOCIATED TO FOLLOWING! When I read the four gospels concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, I can’t help but be absolutely and wonderfully captivated by the fact that when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He did so by calling Him to follow and to follow Him alone. Oh that we would pay close attention to this reality, and that we would recognize and understand that when Jesus calls men and women to follow Him, He calls them to follow Him with no promises, nor any strings attached. I am utterly and completely confident that more often than not when we issue the call to men and women to follow Jesus, we do so by adding various strings and various promises to that call while not even aware of the fact we are actually deceiving men and women into what it really means to follow Jesus Christ. What is actually unique about Jesus’ call to follow Him, is that while He merely called Simon and Andrew, James and John, as well as Matthew to follow Him, He didn’t really give them any clue as to what it would actually mean to follow Him. When Jesus called these five men to follow Him, He provided them with no glimpse into the future as to what following Him would be like—only the call and the command to follow Him. Essentially, that which Jesus was doing was calling them to follow Him and to follow Him alone without any strings or attached. What I mean by this is that when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He was calling them to follow Him for the sake of following and knowing Him rather than following Him for what they could somehow get from Him. When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He called them to follow Him without giving them any indication or clue as to what following Him would mean for their lives, their families, or even those around them who knew them throughout the years. Moreover, when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He called them to follow them without even promising them any part in what He Himself was doing and would do in the earth. Jesus didn’t call the disciples to follow Him and promise them the ability to heal the sick or to cleanse the lepers. Jesus didn’t call the disciples to follow Him and promise them the ability to cast out demons or to raise the dead. Jesus didn’t call the disciples to follow Him, and as a result of following Him, they would trample snakes and scorpions. What’s more, is that when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He didn’t even promise them authority, dominion and power over anything within the earth. In fact, it wouldn’t be until He had already risen from the grave and was preparing to ascend to the right hand of the Father in heaven that He declared how all authority in heaven and on earth had been given unto them, and then instructed them to go into all the earth teaching and preaching the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and, lo, He would be with them always.

I feel compelled to once more bring your attention to the examples we find in Scripture concerning the calling of Simon and his brother Andrew there by the sea while they were finishing up after a long night’s toil to catch fish, as well as the account of Jesus calling the brothers James and John to follow Him. What’s more, is that I feel it absolutely necessary that we also include the account of Matthew being called from the receipt of custom to follow Jesus, and what happened immediately after that. Beginning with the seventeenth verse of the fourth chapter we find the following words written by the apostle Matthew concerning the calling of Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, as well as James and his brother John. Consider if you will the account of these two sets of brothers being called to follow Jesus Christ, and to leave everything they’ve known in order that they might follow Jesus:

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed Him. And going on from thence, He saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed Him” (Matthew 4:17-22).

Please note that within this passage—when Jesus called Simon also called Peter, and his brother Andrew to follow Him, the only additional words He gave them was that by following Him, He would make them fishers of men. Jesus didn’t go on to explain what that would look like, or even how that would translate in the earth during their generation. Jesus commanded, instructed and invited them to follow Him, and upon hearing the call to follow Him, they were faced with a decision to follow Him. What I so love about this, is how the apostle Matthew records how straightway they left their nets, and followed Him. Matthew seems to indicate that there was no hesitation on their part to rise from that place by the sea in order that they might follow Jesus. I am convinced that this is absolutely significant, for when we read the account of these disciples being called to follow Jesus, we don’t find any of the modern vernacular that we normally find connected to and associated with the modern day call to follow Jesus. When we read the account of Jesus calling these two sets of brethren to follow Him, we don’t find Him making any promises concerning their lives and what their lives would or could be like by following Him. What’s more, is that Jesus didn’t invite them to follow Him, give them time to think about it—perhaps the rest of the day and the evening to think about and figure it out—and then come back and ask them what their decision was. When Jesus allied them to follow Him, there was a sense of urgency and immediacy that was directly connected to that call and invitation to follow Him. I love the fact that Matthew records how Simon and his brother Andrew “straightway” left their nets, and rose up to follow Him, and how James and John “immediately” left the ship and their father, and rose up to follow Him. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this awesome reality, for when Jesus called and invited the disciples to follow Him, He called them to follow Him for the sake of following Him and Him alone. Oh, the more I read and consider this call to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the more I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the third chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written to the Philippian congregation. If you begin reading with and from the seventh verse in the third chapter you will find the following words written by the apostle Paul concerning His own call to follow the Lord Jesus Christ:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the los of all things, and do count them by dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may. Know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:7-21).

As I am sitting here reading and considering Jesus’ call to the disciples to follow Him, I can’t help but be absolutely captivated by the awesome and tremendous reality that when and as Jesus called Him to follow Him, He didn’t promise or promote anything. When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He didn’t make any lavish promises unto them, nor did He promote any grandiose ministry or grandiose calling that would be on the other side of following Him. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves when we think about and consider the reality of following Jesus Christ is whether or not Jesus is enough to follow alone. Is Jesus enough to follow in and of Himself, and all by Himself? Is Jesus enough to follow without all the bells and whistles that are normally promised and promoted when men and women are called to follow Him? Is Jesus enough to follow simply for the sake of following Him, walking with Him, having fellowship with Him, and knowing and learning Him? Perhaps one of the greatest questions I can’t help but think about right now is whether or not the disciples would have been content with following. Jesus—even if they were never invited into the same ministry which Jesus Himself was called to. If the disciples had never been called to partake in the same ministry which Jesus Himself was called and sent to fulfill and accomplish, would that have been enough? Would and could they have been completely and totally satisfied in Jesus and Him alone? Would they have been content and satisfied to follow Jesus simply because by doing so, they would learn and know who Jesus Christ truly was? Let’s present the question among us within this generation and ask ourselves whether or not Jesus is enough to follow by Himself, or whether we need all these fancy promises and promotions that are normally connected and associated to the gospel. Is Jesus enough for you, and so much so that He can call you to follow Him and you immediately leave everything you have known in order that you might follow Him? Is Jesus enough for you to follow, simply so by following Him you can know and learn of Him and have fellowship with Him? When we think of the call to follow Jesus, I am convinced that more often than not we don’t think of it as being directly connected and tied to delighting ourselves in Him, and following Him simply out of delight and pleasure? Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this reality, for I am utterly and completely convinced that when we speak about following Jesus Christ, we must do so based solely on desiring and delighting In him above everything else. I can’t help but bear reminded of the words of that old familiar hymn where it is spoken, “Take the world but give me Jesus.” Oh, are you one who can truly and without hesitation and reservation declare that they can take the world, and that you can and you will be satisfied with Jesus and with Him alone?

The more I think about and consider the call of Jesus to follow Him, the more I am convinced that one of the very first things He did after emerging from the wilderness is seek out fellowship and relationship with those whom He would call to follow Him. Immediately after emerging from the wilderness we find Jesus calling men and women to repent, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand, but right after that we find Jesus calling two sets of brothers to follow Him. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of this, for when we think about Jesus’ call to follow Him, we must recognize and understand it from a standpoint of fellowship and relationship more than simply from the standpoint and viewpoint of ministry and calling. More often than not, when we think about the call and invitation to follow Jesus, we think about it in terms of ministry and a calling that is somehow placed upon our lives, and yet we pay absolutely no attention to the fact that the call and invitation to follow Jesus has absolutely nothing to do with ministry and even calling, but has everything to do with fellowship and relationship. When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He was not merely inviting them to partake in the ministry for which He was sent to the earth, but rather to walk with Him, to talk with Him, to fellowship with Him, and to experience true, authentic and genuine relationship with Him. When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He called them to follow Him simply out of and from a place of desire, delight and pleasure rather than from a place of calling and ministry. What’s more, is that if you read and study the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew, you will find that Peter and his brother Andrew were called in the fourth chapter, as well as John and his brother James were also called in the fourth chapter. It isn’t until we come to the tenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel that we find the disciples being called unto Jesus Christ and given instruction for being partakers in the ministry which Jesus Himself had been engaged in. Think about it—up until this moment in the gospel, all ministry that had taken place was done solely by Jesus Christ, and Him alone, and the disciples merely followed Him wherever He went, and watched as He performed His various miracles. Jesus engaged Himself in healing all manner of sickness, all manner of diseases, casting out devils, and even raising the dead, and yet now when we come to the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus calling the twelve disciples unto Himself, and doing so in order that he might release them into ministry as an extension of that which He Himself was called to do. Oh that we would recognize and understand that what we find here in this passage of Scripture is the disciples being called and invited a second time to partake in the ministry for which Jesus Himself was sent by the Father into the earth. I can’t help but be reminded of three specific passages of Scripture found within the New Testament gospel of Matthew which describe Jesus doing the work of the ministry alone, and the disciples doing nothing but following Him, walking with Him, and observing all that He taught, preached and did.

I am convinced that in order for us to understand what is found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we turn our attention to three specific passages found within this gospel, which point to the tremendous invitation that was being given unto these disciples when Jesus called them unto Himself. What’s more, is that I am convinced that if we even seek to have an understanding of the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, we must first direct our attention to the words and verses which precede it in the ninth chapter. The words we find at the very end of the New Testament gospel of Matthew bring us face to face with Jesus continuing to engage Himself in public ministry within the earth, and yet we read absolutely nothing about the disciples being called to partake in that same ministry. Up until the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus alone healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, casting out demons, raising the dead, and healing all manner of sickness, disease and infirmity. Consider if you will the words which are found in the ninth chapter of this New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew:

“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and 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 on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:35 -38).

Did you catch the words which Jesus spoke within this particular set of verses? Did you catch how Jesus not only declared that the harvest was plenteous, but the labourers were few? What’s more—did you catch the fact that Jesus called for prayer unto the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth labourers into His harvest? I am convinced that this is the crux and the linchpin upon which what we find written in the tenth chapter is built and founded upon, for how absolutely incredible it is that immediately after declaring that the harvest was truly plenteous and the labourers were few, Jesus then called His twelve disciples unto Himself, and gave them power against unclean spirts to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Jesus had just finished calling for prayer to the Lord of the harvest, and that the Lord of the harvest would send labourers out into the harvest, and then—almost as if without missing a beat, or breaking a breath—Jesus calls unto Himself His twelve disciples and gives them power, authority and dominion upon the earth against unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. If you are patting attention to the chronology of the New Testament gospel which was written by the apostle Matthew, you will find that up until this point, It was Jesus and Him alone who had exercised dominion and authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, as well as to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. It was Jesus alone who had engaged Himself in this work and ministry within the earth, and up until this point the disciples had absolutely no part in this ministry other than following Jesus wherever He want, and watching and observing Him closely. Consider if you will two other specific accounts of Jesus engaging Himself in public ministry within the earth—the first being found in the fourth chapter, and the second being found in the eighth chapter:

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them. And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:23-25).

“When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:16).

By the time we come to the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus alone healing the sick, healing all manner of disease and infirmities, cleansing the lepers, casting out evil spirits and unclean spirits, raising the dead, causing the blind to see, causing the dumb to speak, and those that were paralyzed to rise up, take their mat and walk. When we come to ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus looking upon the crowds and having compassion upon them because He saw them fainting and scattered as sheep without a shepherd. What’s more, is that Jesus saw that the harvest was truly plenteous, but the labourers among the harvest—the labourers among those who were faint in heart and soul—were truly few. Jesus recognized that there was a great need for additional labourers in the harvest of the Father in heaven, and as a direct result of the harvest being plenteous and the labourers being few, Jesus calls unto Himself His twelve disciples, and immediately gives them authority and power over unclean spirits to cast them out, as well as authority and power to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. FELLOWSHIP BEFORE MINISTRY! FOLLOWING BEFORE MINISTRY! I can’t help but feel compelled within my spirit to emphatically declare to you who were reading this that more often than not we are called to a life of fellowship before we are officially and finally released into public ministry as an extension of the ministry which Jesus Christ Himself was engaged in. I am convinced that one of the main reasons—if not the main reason—why we find Matthew waiting until this moment within the gospel to show Jesus calling the twelve disciples unto Himself and releasing them as an extension of His ministry is because fellowship must precede ministry, and following must precede calling. There would be many among us in this day and this generation who would want to immediately be released into ministry, and to immediately be released into the calling that is upon our lives, and yet we know absolutely nothing about following the Lord Jesus Christ. There are many among us who would love to be released into ministry in the earth right now, and yet we haven’t learned how to truly and properly follow the Lord Jesus Christ. I am convinced that it is absolutely imperative we learn, recognize and understand how to follow Jesus the Christ in the earth, and to do so faithfully, before we can be released by Him, and entrusted by Him as a labourer in the harvest. FOLLOWER BEFORE LABOURER! When the Father sought to accomplish His greatest work and greatest ministry in the earth, He did not send a prophet, He did not send a judge, He did not send an earthly king, He did not send any earthly individual, but chose instead to send a Son—His eternal and only begotten Son. Please pay close attention to this awesome and incredible reality, for when Jesus seeks to send men and women into the harvest, He doesn’t merely seek labourers for the sake of the labour, but He instead seeks to send followers who can be transformed into labourers. It was true that the harvest was indeed plenteous, and that the labourers are few, but even with that being said, I would dare say that the Lord of the harvest doesn’t want to send labourers into the earth who have not first learned how to follow Him first. The earth doesn’t need more labourers who know how to work, and know how to engage themselves in good deeds and works, but rather, that which the earth needs is followers who have been brought into the place of labouring for the Lord of the harvest in the fields which are white.

It is true that you may have a desire to cast out unclean spirits, and it is true that you might have a desire to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. It is true that you might have a desire to preach the kingdom of heaven being manifested in the earth. It is true that you might have a desire to heal the sick, to cleanse the lepers, to raise the dead, to cast out devil, and to give freely as you have freely received, and yet even with that being said, the Lord of the harvest isn’t interested in sending out labourers who have not first learned how to be followers of the gospel concerning the kingdom of heaven. The Lord of the harvest is not interested in sending and releasing labourers into the harvest who have not first learned how to follow Him wherever He goes, nor does He have any interest in sending and releasing those into the earth who are not following Him out of a place of desire, delight and pleasure. When we come to the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, we do find Jesus the Christ calling the twelve disciples to Himself, and I am convinced that He first calls them to follow Him, and then there is a second calling that takes place after—namely, the call to be an extension of the ministry which He Himself performed and exercised in the earth. I am convinced that there is first a call within the four gospels to follow Jesus simply from a place of desire, delight and pleasure, however, I also believe that there is a secondary calling that is found within the four gospels. The more I read the four gospels which were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the more I am convinced that there is a second call—one that centers around the harvest, and one that involves healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, casting out devils, and freely given as we have freely received. What we must recognize and understand is that this secondary call—this call to public ministry and service within the kingdom of heaven—can only be given if we have first heard, obeyed and responded to the first call to follow Jesus the Christ in order that we might walk with Him, in order that we might know Him, and in order that we might have fellowship with Him. FELLOWSHIP PRECEDES MINISTRY! FOLLOWING PRECEDES MINISTRY! We dare not be in any way uncertain concerning this point and concerning this reality, for there are far too many men and women who have entered into the harvest having never learned, nor ever engaged themselves in following Jesus Christ wherever He went. The harvest right now has a number of labourers and workers who are good at performing and good at doing, but are absolutely horrible at following. Show me a labourer who is also a follower, and I will show you one who can truly turn the world upside down and on its head for the kingdom of God. Show me a man or a woman who has first learned how to follow and have fellowship with Jesus the Christ, and I will show you a man or a woman who will be entrusted as the disciples were to heal the sick, cleanse to lepers, cast out devils, and raise the dead. Please make no mistake about it—the harvest doesn’t need men and women who are interested in labouring without and apart from fellowship with Jesus Christ, as well as with the Lord of the harvest.

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