This statement was made by Jesus directly to his disciples, as Jesus was seeing large crowds gathering to hear his lectures.
Prior to his statement, Matthew states:
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:35-36)This clarifies that Jesus' focus was on teaching people. Jesus' intent was to teach them about the Supreme Being. He wanted to introduce them to God. He wanted God to be their "Shepherd."
Notice that this has nothing to do with anyone dying for their sins. Jesus was wanting to save these people, not by dying for them, but by teaching to them. This teaching of the Truth and the bringing of people back to God was the "harvest" Jesus mentions in his statement.
After all, if simply dying for them would save them, then why would Jesus bother to teach at all? Why didn't he just appear on the planet and then die?
This metaphorical statement by Jesus regarding the harvest is very clear. Jesus is recognizing that people needed to hear his message, and it was his teachings that had the ability to save them.
Furthermore, Jesus recognized that he could not physically teach everyone directly, but needed his students and disciples to also reach out to people and preach. This is the meaning of his statement:
" Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
This is indicating that Jesus is enlisting others to help him preach his message.
And this is also indicating that Jesus is not considering himself the "Lord of the Harvest." He recognizes that the Supreme Being is the Lord of the Harvest. This is confirmed elsewhere by Jesus:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
This illustrates, together with Jesus' statement above that Jesus sees himself a "worker" and is trying to enlist others. Jesus confirmed himself in this way elsewhere:
"As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4)The phrase, "we must do the works of Him who sent me" again clearly indicates that Jesus considered himself a "worker" - doing the "works of Him who sent" Jesus.
Note also that Jesus is illustrating that the Supreme Being empowers those who teach on His behalf. This is confirmed with his statement, "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers..."
Why couldn't Jesus "send out workers" himself?
Because Jesus knows that only the Supreme Being can empower His representative. While God's representative will always pass along the teachings of those previous representatives of God, only God can empower His representative.
This also means that councils of cardinals or deacons or any other group of people or person cannot choose or empower God's representative. It is not a position that is chosen by men - or councils of cardinals or deacons. And as Jesus shows here, it is not even a position that can be chosen by Jesus.
It is a position that can only be chosen by the Supreme Being.
Because so many of today's ecclesiastical institutions and their teachers do not represent the Supreme Being, they do not realize that Jesus is representing God. They do not even see God as an individual person, let alone someone who can choose who represents Him. They see God as some sort of nebulous force or combination of forces. In other words, they do not know the Person God.
Jesus spoke of this regarding the ecclesiastical Jewish institution and their teachers:
"Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but He who sent me is true. You do not know Him, but I know Him because I am from Him and He sent me." (John 7:28-29)"You do not know Him" is a clear statement. To "know" someone means that someone exists as an independent person. While many have tried to cloud Jesus' clear statement here by taking the phrase "I am from Him" out of context, Jesus is clearly stating that not only is the Supreme Being an individual separate from Jesus - someone who Jesus knows and they don't know - but that individual person - the Supreme Being - sent Jesus. And Jesus states, "I know Him."
This means there are two individuals being spoken of by Jesus: himself and the Supreme Being. Jesus is the knower of the Supreme Being while the Supreme Being is the person who is known by Jesus. And the Supreme Being is the sender and Jesus is the person being sent.
Furthermore, Jesus stated that his authority was given to him by God: "I am not here on my own authority, but He who sent me is true."
To confuse Jesus and the Supreme Being - as though Jesus is the Supreme Being - is to completely ignore the existence of the Supreme Being. It is an offense not only against the Supreme Being, but against Jesus - His perfect loving servant.
And this is what Jesus was railing against above and with this statement:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)The form of empowerment being spoken of by Jesus with "Ask the Lord... to send out workers" is diametrically opposed to the process of appointment taking place in today's modern Christian organizations with respect to their teachers. Here teachers are being chosen by councils of men who think that they can choose who will represent the Supreme Being. Do they even know the Supreme Being?
No. Their criteria is based upon the person's resume and political savvy. Their intention is to attract followers to their institutions, so they pick their popes and priests accordingly.
As such, those who have been appointed to these posts do not represent God. They represent the groups who selected them.
Not even Jesus felt qualified to select God's representative. While God's representative will teach to everyone, only the Supreme Being can empower His representative to teach to others:
"Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)