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Sun, Oct 26, 2014

56 - Discipleship [b]

Matthew 8:18-22 & Matthew 9:9-17 by Robert Dean
Have dinner with a bunch of low-class losers? Not on your life! Listen to this lesson to learn how Jesus calls a hated tax collector to be His disciple. See how this upsets the religious crowd and hear Jesus' grace-oriented answer to them. Learn that all believers are called to be disciples and it may involve uncomfortable changes in our life. Evaluate what kind of disciple you want to be and what kind you are now based on your priorities.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:55 mins 26 secs

Discipleship
Matthew 8:18–22; Matthew 9:9-17, 36–38
Matthew Lesson #056
October 26, 2014
www.deanbibleministries.org

We are looking at the issue of discipleship, and this really begins at this point. If we look at the structure of Matthew, in Matthew chapter four we see that Jesus begins to call His disciples. He chronologically called all of His disciples by the time He gathers them together to teach them in the Sermon on the Mount. Starting in Matthew chapters eight and nine we have almost a transition section where we learn about the words of Jesus, His teaching (Matt. 5-7) and then the works of Jesus (Matt. 8 & 9). As we read through this we see that when we come to Matthew chapter ten it almost comes out of chronological order, but remember Matthew is writing topically; He is not writing in chronological order.

Chapter ten is another discourse of Jesus, the second that we have, and it is related to the training of the twelve disciples. In Matthew 10:1-4 we are told by Matthew—and this is basically to remind us of what has already happened—that "Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness." Then He lists the names of those disciples. Starting in verse 5 He gives them specific commands and more training. So the structure here is important, because what we find in chapters eight and nine is a collection of miracles—miracles of healing in chapter eight, Matt. 8:1-17, and then a shift in topic to the two types of disciples that we focused on last time, the over enthusiastic disciple and the disciple who is unenthused. Then there are three miracles of power that are described followed by a little bit longer section related to disciples. Then we have three more miracles of restoration (Matt. 9:18-34) and another conclusion that focuses on the need for workers in the harvest. That immediately transitions into a reminder that Jesus has called His disciples, and He sends them out with reference to the harvest.

We see just in terms of this structure and the flow of Matthew's thought that what he is trying to point us to is that the miracles that Jesus performed entail a certain response on the part of the believer, and that is to recognize His authority and then to submit to His authority and to follow Him as disciples. He intersperses those three episodes with the disciples in order to build to His focal point, which is in the next chapter on the role and ministry of the twelve disciples (chapters 11 & 12). Then we begin to see this increased opposition to Jesus as the Messiah, culminating in the claim by the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 12 that He is performing His miracles from the power of Beelzebub.

So what we see here, just in thinking about the disciples and what He has said, is first of all that Matthew has already told us that Jesus has called the disciples (chapter four). The first called were Simon Peter and his brother Andrew.

In Matthew 4:18ff we see that Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee up in the north-west quadrant of the Sea. "He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men'." Here He gives the command that is the focal point of a disciple. The word "disciple" means someone who is a learner, a student, a pupil of a particular teacher. In the ancient world, if someone was a teacher (a rabbi, a philosopher) those who became their students who were committed to following their teacher were referred to as disciples. In the Bible there are different groups of disciples mentioned. One group we see are identified as disciples of the Pharisees, another as disciples of Moses, and another as the disciples of John the Baptist. Then we have those who are the disciples of Jesus. So the term disciple is a general word referring to a student or follower of some teacher. It is not a word that is synonymous with being a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ. We can all think of one of the twelve disciples who was not a believer, and that was Judas Iscariot. So there is one example of someone who was a disciple but never had trusted in Christ as savior.

There were other disciples who were simply somewhat curious. They were interested in what Jesus had to say but they were not really convinced that He was necessarily the King. Some of them may have been believers; some may have not. Some of them may have trusted in Him to begin with and then, as we will see later on in the parable of the soils, fell away after they were initial believers and did not continue in the faith. They were nevertheless saved. So some were not believers, they were simply curious. There were others who were more than curious and were convinced of Jesus' claims to be the Messiah. The King of Israel, and they followed Him even more. Then there is a final group that is fully committed to following Him and all of His commands. These are the ones who are fully convinced of His Messiahship as well being as truly committed to follow Him.

The implied challenge to each of us in this section dealing with disciples is, where are we in this process? We need to ask ourselves two questions. First of all, what kind of disciple do we want to be? Jesus says, "Follow me". Do we understand that? Do we want to be someone who is fully committed to Him, or someone who says, well, I just want enough out of the Christian life to be able to have stability in my life and a measure of happiness? Or, do we want to be someone who is fully committed to God's plan and purpose for our life in every dimension of life, in every area of thought as well as practice?

So the first question is, what kind of disciple do you want to be? The second question is, what kind of disciple am I? What kind of disciple at this present time? For most of us, I would hope, we want to be a fully committed disciple on the one hand, but we recognize that too often we are not quite where we wish we were. And we need to figure out what the plan is to get from where we are to where we ought to be. If we want to be a mature committed disciple and we are not there yet, we need to have a plan. In order to do that, we have to go through a process of change in our thinking, and change that really matters only come from the Word of God. We have to change our thinking, and in the process we will change our priorities; we will change our schedule; we may change our geographical location so that we can get personally involved in a local church.

We live in a world today where there are fewer and fewer qualified local churches in the world. That is a said reality. There are people, though, who get involved around the country and find some congregation where things are not too bad—they understand the gospel and some other things—and they get involved. But sadly, there are many places today, even in large metropolitan areas where there may not be a single congregation anywhere where the Word of God is being taught as it should be taught. I do believe that it is important, if that is where you live, then you need to make a plan to get you and your family to a place where you can be part of a local church, part of a local congregation. I know several people who live stream where they have groups. That is a local church, a local group; and because there are ten, fifteen, twenty people maybe who are involved in a live streaming local church, that is the best they can get right now. There are other people who are in jobs, e.g., the military, in different kinds of careers where they have to be wherever they are for a certain amount of time, and thankfully we have the technology through the Internet to live stream and to have teaching available; but that is less than optimum. The picture in the New Testament is that we have to be involved in a local group of believers. That is the context in which training takes place for the Christian life and for Christian service.

We need to think about that in terms of the decisions that we make. What kind of a disciple do we want to be? What kind are we? What is our plan to get from where we are to becoming a spiritually mature believer where we are effectively serving the Lord?

One of the things that we have to understand is that it is not just about where we are right now. It is not just about going through the process that we are going through where we just sort of get in the habit of going to church, going to Bible class, and making that part of our Christian life. We need to think in terms of pushing ourselves to another level within the Christian life, and we need to understand what that means. That always means that there is more to do, or that we can do, depending on where we are right now in terms of our own spiritual growth and spiritual effectiveness. And so as we study this and thinking through what our Lord teaches about discipleship, are we willing to accept that challenge to be a disciple in terms of what Matthew presents and in terms of what Jesus presents in the Gospels?

Last time we saw two examples. The first example is of a disciple who comes and is overly enthusiastic. He has seen the miracles, has gotten tremendously excited about Jesus, has trusted in Jesus as the Messiah, but he really hasn't come to understand what Jesus will teach in other parables: the importance of counting the cost, that there is a responsibility incumbent upon us if we are going to be a disciple, that there are responsibilities in terms of our own spiritual life and spiritual growth. And if we are going to say, Yes Lord, I will follow you; there may be things that are involved in that that may be rather uncomfortable.                      

So we have this scribe. Scribes are usually mentioned in a negative light in the Gospel of Matthew, but there are two passages (Matthew 13:52; 23:34) where scribes are listed among disciples. So there are two examples there where some of the disciples, some followers of Christ, are identified as scribes.

Matthew 8:18, 19 NASB "Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side {of the sea.}Then a scribe came and said to Him, 'Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go'."

What is going on here is this scribe says, "Teacher, I'll follow you wherever you go." He is responding to that command to follow Jesus, and Jesus rather abruptly says, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air {have} nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

We know that Jesus had a permanent residence in Capernaum because we are told earlier in chapter eight that He had moved to Capernaum and was dwelling there. He also had places during His itinerant ministry where He would stay friends. For example, when he was near Jerusalem He would stay with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany, which is just outside Jerusalem. There were times where He had a comfortable place to live but there were many times when He was traveling in His itinerant ministry when there was not a place to lie. He would be camping out; it wouldn't be comfortable; it would be a little stressful; there would be some opposition. And so He is pointing out that things are not always as someone might hope. Here is Jesus, the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah, and they might get the impression that if they follow Him then they might get some glory, have comfort, and have convenience. Jesus is pointing out that that is not necessarily true. There may be deprivation, suffering, loss, opposition and persecution that we face because we are committed to follow Christ in each and every way.     

We don't see a lot of persecution in this country, although I think there are some storm clouds on the horizon in terms of our culture. There has clearly been a target laid against Christians for a variety of belief that Christians hold, and we see more and more things that happen in the culture that are opposing what Christians stand for. It is very likely that in another decade or so that we will see churches under much more overt assault than we have today; and even in the work place, that if you are taking a stand for Christian values then you may be unwelcome as an employee at a place of work. We have to be prepared for that.

So Jesus tells this overenthusiastic disciple that there is a reality here and that is that it may become very difficult to follow Him. It may be uncomfortable and it may be inconvenient. Matthew 8:20 NASB "Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have holes and the birds of the air {have} nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head'."

The under-enthusiastic disciple comes, and he has an excuse. He says, not right now. Matthew 8:21 NASB "Another of the disciples said to Him, 'Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father'." He has some family responsibilities.

Many times we can come up with what sounds like a legitimate excuse for not being able to go to Bible class on a regular basis, not being able to listen to the Word on a regular basis. We have children, they have needs, we need to get into soccer practice, piano lessons and dance lessons, the traffic is terrible; and we can go on and on as to why we can't. But a good leader, someone who is really positive, doesn't just generate reasons why they can't; they figure out ways to overcome whatever obstacle there might be to grow into spiritual maturity and studying the Word. They know that is the priority and they need to be involved. One of the reasons we are in this location is because on the Beltway it has easy access from a wide area of west Houston.   

This man is coming up with an excuse based upon the commandment to honor your father and your mother. He said he had to take care of burying his father. As we have seen, he is probably not talking about the immediate burial because under Jewish custom this would take place very quickly. They had to be in the ground within 24 hours, and so if his father had just died then he would have already buried him. What he is saying is that he had responsibilities and it would be at least a year before he was available. Matthew 8:22 NASB "But Jesus said to him, 'Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead'."

What Jesus is teaching us: a) We need to count the cost of being a disciple, that it is not easy, it may be difficult at times and it may cost us even our own life; b) We need to put our priority on following Him and not be distracted by the everyday cares or responsibilities of life. This emphasizes that for a disciple there are specific priorities, and the first priority is following Jesus exclusively. That doesn't mean you can't have your hobbies; it doesn't mean you can't have a large family and deal with those responsibilities, but it means that you have to keep your priorities in focus. That is, that your spiritual welfare and the spiritual welfare of your family is the most important determinative decision that you should make, and that should govern all other decisions.

In chapter nine we have the two examples that come up at the end of the reflection upon the miracles of power. Jesus stilled the sea, stopped the storm; He showed His power and authority over demons and angelic forces by casting the demons out of the two Gergasene demoniacs, and then He heals a paralyzed man to demonstrate His authority to forgive sins. If He is who He claims to be, if He is the creator God who has the authority over creation, authority over the angels and the demons, and the authority to forgive sins, which only God can, then that puts an incumbent responsibility on each and every person who believes that; and this is, to follow Him exclusively.

Matthew 9:9 NASB "As Jesus went on from there [from Capernaum], He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, 'Follow Me!' And he got up and followed Him."

The word here that is used for tax collector is the Greek word TELONES, and the TELONES in Capernaum would be responsible for the collection of a variety of taxes that were levied by Herod Antipas who is the tetrarch of Galilee, one of the sons of Herod the Great. At this point the Romans were not collecting taxes directly in Galilee; Herod Antipas did it. Matthew would have been considered a customhouse official. Capernaum is located at a major port on the Sea of Galilee, a major fishing commercial center. It was also located on a highway that came down from Damascus to the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, the proceeded along the shore for three or four miles, and then headed off across the Esdraelon Valley. So there would have been need to have various customs officials collecting taxes from caravans that were moving through the area, as well as probably a customs house on the docks that would collect various taxes on the fish that were caught. Matthew is one of these customhouse officials, and Jesus comes to him and calls him to follow him.

Earlier we talked about Matthew chapter four when Jesus initially called Peter and Andrew, James and John. In John chapter one we see their initial meeting. There is a distinction between Jesus' initial meeting with Andrew and Peter described in John chapter one. When He comes back to them later on He calls them to be a disciple. We see that same pattern here. This isn't the first time He would have met Matthew. Matthew would have been a believer already, so Jesus is coming to him and is ratcheting up the responsibility of Matthew and calls him to follow Him. Immediately Matthew arises and follows Him. This is remarkable, because as a tax collector he would have been considered by the Jews to be completely hopeless spiritually. He would have been considered spiritually unclean. Tax collectors were classed among people such as prostitutes, those who charged interest for loans (forbidden by the Law), gamblers, thieves, dishonest herdsmen, and others. They were considered lawless, hopeless, and excluded from all religious fellowship. Any money that he had was considered tainted; it would not have been accepted by the temple. So this man and other tax collectors would have sat completely outside of the sphere and influence of the religious leaders in Israel.   

Jesus is setting Himself apart by calling a man of this class to be one of His disciples.    

Matthew 9:10 NASB "Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining {at the table} in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples."

Matthew has invited others to come to his house. The "his" here is rather ambiguous. It could refer to Jesus' house or Matthew's house, but from the parallel accounts in Mark and Luke we know that Matthew hosted this banquet at his house. "Many tax collectors" tells us that there were quite a few in that category in Capernaum, and that would indicate that it was a significant commercial center; "sinners who came" refers to a different class. This was generally a term which referred to the every-day common laborer and worker in Israel who was not involved religiously, did not observe the scribal laws of the Pharisees or the Sadducees; they were just considered hopeless and helpless and without any hope of salvation. It is to these people that Jesus ministers. The term disciples here would refer to the twelve.

The Pharisees watch this is their self-righteous legalism because this was outside anything that they would do, anything that they would approve of, anything that they would accept, because this was a class of person that was totally divorced from God; in their view they were helpless, there could be no salvation for this type.

As we saw earlier, according to the religious thinking of the day, if somebody appeared on the scene claiming to be the Messiah, the first thing the Pharisees would do would be to send an investigative team to observe what the claimant was doing. They wouldn't interrogate him; they wouldn't talk to him; they would just observe it. That is what we see in the earlier miracles. This fits that same example here. Matthew chapter twelve is where we see the interrogation of Jesus with reference to His claim to be the Messiah, but what we see here is that the Pharisees are outside of the house (they would not be caught inside the house) observing this. Instead of asking Jesus (that is not their role at this point) they ask His disciples.

Matthew 9:11 NASB "When the Pharisees saw {this,} they said to His disciples, 'Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?'"

Jesus over hears them. This may be an example of His omniscience, it may be that it is not a large area.

Matthew 9:12 NASB "But when Jesus heard {this,} He said, '{It is} not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick'."

There are several examples in the ancient world where there have been different people who have uttered proverbs similar to this; that a physician's responsibility is to go to the sick and not just to deal with those who are well; and that is the point that Jesus is making. The people, the sinners, the tax collectors, those who are apart from God, those who are not blinded by their own self-righteousness, are the ones who need grace, the ones who need salvation. So He has come to those who will respond to the grace offer, and not those who out of their self-righteousness will reject the offer of salvation. 

Jesus then directs them to go to the Scriptures to learn.

Matthew 9:13 NASB "But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

The command to "go and learn" was a typical phrase, an idiom in rabbinic thought, to go to the Scriptures and study them. He quotes from Hosea 6:6 NASB "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." Again and again in the Old Testament there is this indictment of the religious and legalistic leaders in Israel who put ritual observance over any kind of reality in the individual relationship of a believer with God. And so they have sacrificed grace and they have sacrificed compassion on the altar of ritual observance. They are more concerned about maintaining the letter of the Law than understanding the underlying emphasis on compassion and grace.

What we see in this particular episode is that Jesus is emphasizing two things that must be present in the life of a disciple. First, he must be grace oriented. The disciple must come to understand that our relationship with God is not based on works, on ritual, or any set of standard of externals that can be counterfeited. It is based on an internal understanding that our relationship with God is not based on who we are or what we have done; it is not based on our credentials; it is not based on success or whatever details of life we may have; it is based exclusively upon the work of Christ on the cross. So not only is our salvation based upon dependence upon God's grace, but our spiritual life also. Consequently we are going to deal with people not on the basis of who they are but on the basis of who God is and what Christ did on the cross. There are many people who are not socially acceptable, many people who are not very loveable, not politically acceptable; but we as believers are to reach out to every category of person to bring them the gospel. No matter what their background might be, no matter what kind of unbeliever, they all stand in need of the grace of God. 

So the first thing that we see in this episode is the importance of grace orientation, and secondly what develops from it, which is service to God. Service to God means service to those who are undeserving, those who are sinners, those who are in rebellion against God, those who are already not acceptable by us in whatever social standards we might have. We are to focus on them as those who are desperately in need of the grace of God.     

Then we move on to the next section, which focuses on this question of the disciples of John the Baptist. 

Matthew 9:14 NASB "Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, 'Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?'"

This is one of those other categories of disciple. These were those who had followed John the Baptist. And remember, Peter and Andrew, James and John were also disciples of John the Baptist until John baptized Jesus in the Jordan. Then when John the Baptist identified Jesus as the one who was to come, the Messiah, they began to follow Jesus when Jesus called them to follow Him.

Here they have observed something; that there is a distinction in the behavior of the disciples of John and the Pharisees. They are not pointing out something that was legalistic. Fasting was something that was not commanded in the Scripture but it was evidently practiced at various times. Fasting today is often misunderstood and treated as if it is something that has almost a magical power; that if we fast then that somehow impresses God with whatever we are bringing to Him in prayer and He will necessarily respond and answer it.

In the ancient world eating was a time-consuming proposition. The preparation of food took time; it wasn't just going to the grocery store and picking up an already-prepared meal. You had to go out and slaughter the animal, milk the cow to get your milk, tend the garden all of the time to keep the weeds out; so it took a lot of time to prepare food. So if you were going to dedicate time to really bring prayer before God then it would have to take time away from your normal daily routine where you spent a lot of time in food preparation and clean-up. Rather than doing all of that you are going to pray. These days it takes five minutes to prepare something to eat, so it doesn't consume a tremendous amount of time. So this idea of fasting today loses the whole situation that occurred in the ancient world. But fasting had taken on a sort of legalistic, ascetic value as well. This would be truer of the Pharisees than it was of John's disciples. But fasting was considered normative in terms of emphasizing how important you felt your prayer request was.      

Matthew 9:15 NASB "And Jesus said to them, 'The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast'."

Jesus is referring to Himself as the bridegroom. This is an image that will develop through several parables. If Jesus is the bridegroom what we learn is that the bride of Christ is the church. Jesus often uses this marriage illustration and analogy to refer to Himself as the bridegroom. There is the idea of a wedding, and as the wedding approaches there is a feast to celebrate the marriage union between the bride and the groom. In this first illustration Jesus is saying the groom is now with us. They understood that and so it is a time for celebration. But there will be a time when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and that is one of the first hints that we have in the Gospels of Jesus' rejection and crucifixion. Then they will fast. He is simply making an observation that at that point there will be sorrow and sadness in contrast to the joy of having the Messiah in their midst.

He then uses two more illustrations to focus on the significance of the message of the kingdom. The first is an example related to clothing.

Matthew 9:16 NASB "But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results." If you have a garment that has been washed many times and has shrunk, and it is not going to shrink anymore, then if you were to take an unshrunk piece of cloth (that wasn't preshrunk) and were to patch it into the initial garment, then the next time you washed it that new piece of cloth would tighten up and cause damage to the garment.

What He is emphasizing here is that something new is taking place, so that which is old is not going to fit the new scenario. The scenario is the coming of the kingdom. And He says the same thing about putting new wine into old wineskins.

Matthew 9:17 NASB "Nor do {people} put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."

Wineskins were made out of leather. Over the course of time the leather would become more dry and brittle. It would still hold the original wine, but then if you put new wine in it, even though it had been in the barrels and the first stage of fermentation had taken place, when you put it into the wineskins there would still be some more fermentation that would take place. The gases that develop during that stage of fermentation would expand and the leather would not be as supple as it was when it was new, and so it would cause a rip to occur in those wineskins.   

What He is illustrating here is that in terms of the question about fasting is that fasting is something that is taking place and has been part of the normative procedure in the spiritual life of Israel up to this point, but there is something new coming and they are not going to be operating in the future according to the same standards they had been operating on. It is one of the first times He is hinting to the fact that a dispensational change is about to take place. Something new is going to come into being.  He is emphasizing the fact that in terms of discipleship the disciple needs to be focused on what God is doing in terms of the plan of the ages.

Then we come to the last section, which ties them all together and sets the stage for chapter ten.

Matthew 9:36 NASB "Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd."

The text says He was moved with compassion. He understands that they are sinners; He understands the fact that they are fallen; He understands all of the heartache and problems that we human beings face in a fallen world, especially in the masses of Israel because they no longer have religious leaders that are leading them according to the Law of Moses. There have been many passage sin the prophets where Israel is condemned for a lack of having shepherds that are following God. In Ezekiel 34:1-16 Israel is presented as sheep that are oppressed and scattered because of the failure of the shepherds in Israel. This also echoes various other passages. For example, 1 Kings 22:17ff the prophet Micaiah represents Israel as a flock of sheep that are scattered on the mountains, and they have no shepherds. Also passages such as Zechariah 10:2, 3 indicating a lack of prophetic leadership for Israel Zechariah 13:7 talks about the loss of the messianic shepherd that leads to the scattering of the sheep. All of this is the background for understanding what Jesus is saying here.

They are weary and scattered; they have no one to lead them; they have no one to feed them. The function of a shepherd is to lead and feed spiritually. But they don't have that and so are scattered. They need someone to step into that gap. Well he is the chief shepherd presenting Himself as the leader of Israel and the only one who can feed them the truth. Consequently His disciples fit into that pattern, and so He is laying the groundwork here that in order to solve the problem of leaderless, shepherdless people who are scattered they need workers. 

Matthew 9:37 NASB "Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few'."

It is a call to be a disciple, to step to the plate, to be involved in leadership and Christian service. The workers are few—being involved in the process of training disciples and leaders for the next generation.

Matthew 9:38 NASB "Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."

At this point He is not telling them to do anything; that comes in the next chapter. Here He is saying that this is what they need to be praying for now; that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers. This is similar to what Jesus said to the woman at the well and to the disciples in John 4:35-38. 

John 4:35 NASB "Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and {then} comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest'."

So in both of these passages He is saying there are many people out here who are ready to respond to the gospel but there is no spiritual leadership. The harvest here is talking about the harvest of the saved, giving them the gospel so that they will respond.

John 4:36 NASB "Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together."

This is not talking about salvation or getting saved, this is talking about rewards. Salvation is free but rewards are earned. This is talking about the quality of life and rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, it is not talking about getting into heaven but that quality of life for the believer now.

John 4:37, 38 NASB "For in this {case} the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor." He is talking to His disciples. Others have labored and you have entered into their labors.

The point in both passages is that the call and requirement responsibility of the disciple is to be involved in the process of what Matthew quotes Jesus as saying in Matthew 28:19, 20. That is, to make disciples. We can do that in many different ways. It is not just the role of a pastor. It can be the role of a parent, a Sunday-School teacher, a Prep-school teacher, the role of someone working with the Child Evangelism Fellowship group, the role of someone working with a vacation Bible school. There are many different ways in which we come together to serve in that overarching goal of making disciples.

The question that we need to ask, almost on a daily basis, is what kind of a disciple do I want to be? What kind of a disciple am I? What is the difference between those two? And what am I doing to further my own discipleship and becoming a more committed and mature student of the Lord Jesus Christ?