Harvest is in full swing here in Minnesota. Around here, soybeans and corn are rumbling down the road by the truckload.
There’s something satisfying about seeing all the fields being emptied, the dry husks tossed aside and the precious crop collected into bins. You can hear the pleasure in a farmer’s voice when his yields are high.
Recently I drove my husband’s lunch out to him in the field, my two-year-old granddaughter beside me. Together, she and I watched our combine fill a waiting truck with a stream of soybeans.
“Ooh, look!” she squealed, “boy beans!” (I wonder where she thought the girl beans went?)
This season, our men have been navigating some unusual harvest obstacles. It wasn’t just that our combine caught fire. It’s also that we’ve had record-setting rainfall. The guys have had to leave patches of standing soybeans where the ground is just too muddy to drive heavy implements. Maybe they’ll be able to get back in there before those precious seeds simply fall to the ground. Maybe they won’t.
I thought about those patches of standing beans when I read John the Baptist’s description of Jesus in Matthew 3:12—
“His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor;
and He will gather His wheat into the barn,
but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Christ won’t leave any beans standing in His field. There will be nothing left on Christ’s threshing floor. Nothing will escape His winnowing.
Are you ready for harvest?
Where I live, threshing and winnowing are all done by machines. Big, moving, motorized machines. They thresh the grain, separating seeds from husk or cob. Then they winnow it, blowing everything that isn’t grain away. The valuable grain collects in a huge hopper, and the worthless chaff flies out the back in a dusty cloud.
When Jesus walked the earth, threshing and winnowing were done by hand. Some people used (and still use) shallow bowl-like “fans” while others used “forks” to toss the grain up in the air so the wind could blow the chaff away. The heavy grain fell into a pile to be collected. The grain was the good stuff. The chaff was fit only to be burned.
Counting on Escaping?
The thing that struck me is this:
When Jesus starts winnowing, that threshing floor is going to be “thoroughly cleared.” Nothing will slip past Him.
What’s the big deal? What is Jesus winnowing?
He’s winnowing us.
Let’s look at the context of that verse I quoted. John the Baptist is talking to some religious leaders who have slipped in among the people flocking to him for baptism. These were people who had heard John preaching that it was time to get ready for the coming King. The kingdom of God was near and they needed to prepare themselves.
His main message: “Repent.”
While John was more than willing to baptize truly repentant people, he knew the religious leaders had only come to check him out. They were posing as genuine seekers while actually standing aloof as self-righteous judges.
“You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;
and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham for our father’;
for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”
(Matthew 3: 7-9)
John was serving notice to those who thought their traditions and heritage made them righteous. They were wrong. After him, John said, was coming Someone who had the authority to separate those God accepted from those He did not. Just a few verses later, we find that John meant that Someone was Jesus.
These leaders were like some of us today, believing that because we grew up in the right country, or went to some church, or lived pretty good lives, we are okay with God.
John tells us differently. Our lives give us away. If we think we can stand on our own merits, it’s because we haven’t yet understood that God is holy. If we compared ourselves to Him we would recognize our hopeless state. Compared to the true goodness of the righteous God, all the best produce of our lives belongs in the compost pile.
We’ve been threshed and found to contain no valuable grain. We’re about to be winnowed, our worthlessness exposed to the wind.
Only a self-sacrificing Savior—Jesus Christ—can turn chaff like us into the valuable grain He treasures.
So I urge you, consider whether you’re ready for harvest.
Are you like those patches of standing grain, quaking in the breeze, hoping the combine will never come for you? Are you living a life you hope is “good enough” while ignoring your persistent dread that it may not be?
Or has Christ transformed you with His forgiveness and grace? Are you seeing your life “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”?
He is already winnowing. You will not escape His notice.
And you are not too far away for His love to save you.