As Jesus announces the coming of the kingdom of God, he often speaks of it as a harvest. It’s an “abundant” harvest, he says today in Matthew’s gospel– bigger than you think. That’s because it’s God’s harvest. You need plenty of laborers to bring it in.
In one of his harvest parables, Jesus describes the owner of a vineyard calling workers into his vineyard. He’s obviously underestimated the size of the harvest. The first crew he sends at 9 in the morning aren’t enough, so he calls more workers at noon, then 3 in the afternoon. At 5 in the afternoon he’s still adding to his workforce.
Though it’s not the main point of that parable, I think we can surmise that the vineyard owner didn’t grasp how big the harvest was. Neither do we grasp how “abundant” God’s harvest is, how great is the Kingdom that comes. We don’t see it.
Yet, the harvest is abundant, Jesus says as he goes through the towns and cities along the Sea of Galilee. Even as Pharisees and scribes oppose him, as he faces a lack of understanding from his disciples and his own family, as the towns where he ministers reject him, Jesus sees the coming of God’s kingdom.
He’s not looking at statistics; he doesn’t need a pollster or opinion polls to tell him the situation. He sees a harvest in the yearning for God, the desire for God, the workings of God in the people he meets.
According to John’s gospel, the woman he meets at Jacob’s well in the middle of the afternoon is enough for him to see God’s work. His disciples wonder why he’s talking to her, a Samaritan woman. Jesus answers that he sees fields ripe for harvest in her.