The first priority of the life of every disciple must be a spiritual priority. Specifically, pleasing the One Who calls us into service. Jesus makes this point to the Samaritan woman and the disciples.
John 4:31-38 New King James Version (NKJV)
31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”
For Jesus, as He serves in His earthly ministry, He says His highest priority was accomplishing the work of the Father, and this was all the satisfaction Jesus needed.
That’s what He means by saying this is the food He is satisfied with. He wasn’t even willing to delay obedience for the sake of a meal. He was more interested in serving this woman than He was feeding His body. He hadn’t stopped at this well to get water or to get food. He stopped here to reach a Samaritan woman. And through that contact, Jesus knows He is going to reach an entire community in this area with the Gospel. Because that’s the work the Father sent Jesus to do, and He wasn’t going to get distracted by it.
The disciples have the same mission, in fact, they will have this mission long after Jesus departs the Earth. Their priorities are totally backward or so it would seem. Jesus starts to lecture them, He says, you wouldn’t say to one another the harvest is still four months away. This is a colloquialism, this is a phrase of His day, and it was said to mean we have a long time to wait before we have to expect a harvest. It was a way of encouraging patience in agriculture among farmers. But Jesus changes it here, you say that but when it comes to serving the Lord and serving the spiritual needs He’s put in your walk you need to have a different mindset. Your mindset needs to be the harvest is continually ready. Of course, He’s speaking here of a harvest of souls, men, and women.
Interestingly, at this time, we know the people of the city are coming out to the well to greet Jesus. The Samaritan people customarily wore solid white robes as a sign of their spiritual purity. It was really another attempt of them to take a stab at the Jewish rivalry. They wanted to emphasize they were the pure race, not the Jew, so they wore this all-white garment which was a completely counterfeit notion, obviously. They were not pure but that’s the way they wanted to portray themselves. So they wore this white garment as a rule. Solid white. So it could be the case as Jesus was speaking these words about a white harvest and directing them to look up, the fields are already white. It could be the case as they looked up they would have seen in a distance this white crowd moving toward them. Literally a white field of people coming their way to meet them at the well.
In verse 36 Jesus says the harvest has already begun. In other words, the message of salvation is already going out in the world. These disciples of Jesus are already on duty. They are already expected to share what they know and to bring others to understand the kingdom. This is not the time for them to be waiting for something more to happen. The time is now. It reminds us the reaping of the harvest is the responsibility of Jesus’ disciples. And more than, not just these men but all believers who come after them are responsible for assisting in the harvest.
It is not just the pastor who reaps the harvest. It is not a missionary or an evangelist that reaps the harvest. Every Christian is called by Christ to participate in the reaping of the harvest. We receive those the Lord is saving but we do so by proclaiming the Gospel. And baptizing those who believe. And disciplining all who confess so they themselves can go out in the field and do the next round of the work. It’s really not that complicated. It’s a lot of work, it can be tiring, it can be a life of struggle at times. But the process? The process of reaching the world for the Gospel. To be an honest disciple doing the work God has called us. That’s not very complicated. Preach the Gospel. It’s really hard to reap a harvest when you never preached the Gospel when you never explain your faith when you never seek to share it with anyone. When you look like these disciples who come upon an opportunity and pass it by. The labor of a disciple in the world is to represent Christ by proclaiming the Gospel, but these disciples haven’t internalized that responsibility yet.
That’s such a shame because Jesus says the disciple who fails to serve in the field, in this reaping of the harvest is sacrificing their own wages. Did you see that? Notice in verse 36, Jesus says a reaper will receive wages for their service. We know from other Scripture the wages being discussed here are the eternal rewards the Father holds out for us as rewards for serving Christ. We’re like workers picking up fruit in the field, except Jess says this is eternal fruit. It’s eternal in two ways. It’s eternal in that we are saving souls for eternity by the work God does through us. Also, it is eternal for our own sake in the rewards He holds out for us.
Jesus says there are those who sow and those who reap, and in this context, we know both of those refer to disciples. In other words, within the body of Christ, there are roles and people play different roles all toward the same goal. It’s similar to the analogy Paul raises in 1 Corinthians chapter 3 when he says he was planting and Apollos watering but it was God Who was causing the growth. The idea is each of us takes part in the process of reaping in different ways. But in the end, we will all have the same chance to rejoice together and to earn rewards.
Jesus sums up His expectation by saying that He expects our cycle of sowing and reaping is to continue in a selfless fashion. Jesus quotes a saying, one sow, and another reaps, this is another colloquialism of His day, and what it meant in the day was both roles were required for either party to benefit from the labor. It’s easy to understand. If one expects to harvest a crop but no one goes out and sows the planting, then it is not going to work. Or if somebody sows and no one returns to harvest, no one is going to get a crop. It’s only if both do their job that both see the benefit. By that same token, it’s really easy to be the one motivated to go out harvesting, so to speak, because you get to take the benefit of what you did right in your home and eat it the same day or thereabouts. It is much harder to have an attitude of planting because planting is something by its nature that you know you’ve got four months before you are going to see anything come from it. It requires you have a motivation knowing at the end in the harvest you will share in the crop.
Jesus is saying both those who work in labor in one way or another are going to see the same result in the end. Because the reaping is a consequence of all that work lined up. Now we also know it is coming in the power of God, He works through men, that’s obvious. But the fact God is the one bringing faith doesn’t deny the equally obvious fact He works through men and women to accomplish those things. He doesn’t have to work through us to do those things but He chooses to work through us to do those things. Which is our incentive to be a part of that work for we know God is prepared to use us.
So a disciple as the ambassador of Christ in the world is called to serve in this reaping process. It is tempting or at least it is possible for some Christians to fall back on the thought, you know we have our salvation, we have our fire insurance, we know where we are going to be and so there is really no reason we have to work that hard. We don’t need to evangelize or seek the lost. There is someone else who will do it. But Jesus says no Christian is free to take a pass in the work of the Gospel. He reminds those who were listening in His day and to us as well. He says you were brought into the faith through the work of another. Someone else had to selflessly work to ensure you and I became part of the harvest. Once again, God did the work through them. But they had to make that commitment and investment in the work of the kingdom in order for someone like you or I to receive what benefits come from it.
In fact, all disciples work this way. No one has saved themselves. Everyone is being saved as the result of someone’s earlier work of planting a seed, to bring the truth to us in some form and fashion. Even the disciples of Jesus’ day could say that same thing. Jesus spoke to them in those words. Others had labored before them as God called and equipped them. They were in some cases the Old Testament prophets who brought the word to them who the Messiah would be. Or it was John the Baptist in some cases who we saw already. Who called these men into repentance and prepared their hearts. There are faithful men and women in Israel who were guarding the word of God in their families and teaching it to their children. There were believing priests and faithful rabbis somewhere in Israel with true hearts who were teaching people about the coming of the Messiah. There was work going on in Israel all around in that day and that work was coming to fruition as men and women encountered Christ and came to know Him.
Clearly, Jesus is chastising His disciples for their apathy in not sharing what they
know about the Messiah and not willing to engage people like the Samaritan woman.
We might be tempted to cut these guys some slack, they haven’t been disciples for all that long. They’ve only been following Jesus a short time. They really don’t have much experience and they probably hadn’t thought about it very much at this point. So maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on them. Well, as little a time these guys have spent with Jesus, that time is still an eternity compared to the brief encounter the Samaritan
woman had. Yet, we see what she went off and did.
John 4:39-44 (NKJV)
The Savior of the World
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word.
42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
Unlike the disciples, the simple courage of this woman to go out and speak her testimony in the city has drawn out a large crowd we are told from the city. All she told them, remember, is Jesus had the ability to know her innermost secrets. All she said about Him was this was the guy who told me all the sins I did. That’s not the most compelling testimony, at least not in earthly terms. Nevertheless, it was enough to bring out this crowd. Of course, we know what brought them out was the prompting of the Holy Spirit. But that is the whole point. The whole point of what Jesus said, that harvest is white is because when we don’t know exactly what to say or how to say it even when our words aren’t very elegant, it doesn’t matter because the Lord is capable of taking even the most meager testimony and using it to change a heart. It’s the incentive we have to be a disciple and ambassador to know it doesn’t rest on our elegance. Paul says he didn’t come with cleverness in speech in Corinth. He came with Christ and Him crucified.
What she said to these people is I have found someone who convinced me He is the Christ, come and see. The very same imitation we saw earlier in chapter 1 when each of the disciples introduced another of their friends to Jesus. Come and see what I have found. I think sometimes we make this process so complicated as a defense for our laziness. Or for our insecurity or fear. We tell ourselves we are not capable because we tell ourselves it is so complicated. It takes someone with practice, knowledge, technique, and experience. And while those things are helpful and I would certainly not talk anybody out of becoming better at their craft. But at the same time, we never want to turn our craft into being some secret sauce that is an explanation as to why people are being saved. People aren’t being saved because we are so good at what we say. It’s not our elegance, it’s the power of God in the message of the Gospel. He’s just asking us to be the ones who deliver it. Notice when the people who came out to meet Jesus, they said they believed in what they heard. And they tell the woman their faith in the Messiah is no longer based solely in her testimony. Instead, now they see for themselves that the word of Christ is testifying to His own claims, hearing it from His own mouth. They are now convinced by Jesus Himself that He is the Messiah. The woman played an important role in the way God brought these people to this moment. But in the end, we need to notice this, the truth of Jesus’ claims did not rest on the credibility of this woman or any other person.
HIs claims were self-evidently true, and He is more than capable of making Himself known to anyone who would seek Him. And that fact is not one to overlook. We are not called to be disciples and to go out so by our own credibility or elegance we will bring someone into the knowledge of who Christ is. We are called to go and make an introduction, to preach the Gospel, Christ crucified. When we do that, those who follow and come and see as we instruct will find as they reach the word of God the testimony they need to believe in. They won’t believe in us, they believe in Jesus. It’s not our credibility, it’s His. It’s not our word, it’s His. Yet, in His grace and mercy, He has invited us to be a part of that process to make the introduction. When we do, we are blessed.
These details remove any objection a Christian might offer for why they refuse to serve
as an obedient disciple and as an ambassador with the Gospel. We know from chapter 3 that saving faith is a product of new birth accomplished by God in the heart of men. And yet we also know the Lord called His disciples to follow His example of living to
serve and please the One Who has called them. That work is principally a work of sharing a testimony of Jesus in the world. There are a lot of ways we can be involved in serving Christ. A lot of functions in the body, a lot of areas for service, a lot of ways we can make the body of Christ better and edify, etc. But at the end of it all, its focus must be on sharing the Gospel. For that is what the church is all about. Our testimony is the principal means by which that sharing is going to take place. A testimony of Christ and Him crucified. Of Who He is and what He did and of what we know about that in our own lives. Our testimony is merely bringing someone to an encounter with Christ, it’s in that encounter through the word of God that He makes Himself known and they are saved.
As we accomplish these things we are called to do, we have the potential according to Scripture, to earn eternal rewards. When you stack up all of these details of how it happens, why it happens, through Whom it happens, and what is at stake? We find no reason to place earthly priorities above the Lord’s priorities. We have no reason to serve ourselves over Him. That’s why Jesus tells His disciples not to worry about earthly things. Not to focus on earthly food, so to speak, focus on heavenly food. Don’t feed your flesh, serve the Lord.
He was finishing His teaching and the crowd was coming up from Sychar. I imagine the disciples would have been amazed to see this friendly crowd of Samaritans approaching Jesus. Anytime you would normally be in Samaria as a Jew, you see a crowd coming your way, usually, that is not a good thing. But in this case, it was. I suspect it was beyond their comprehension to even understand at that moment why their rabbi would be uniting Jew and Gentile in such a fashion.
Remember, two years later in Jesus’ earthly ministry these same disciples are suggesting to Jesus there be fire called down from Heaven to destroy Samaritans who were refusing to give Jesus hotel accommodations at that time. As dramatic as this moment has been and as much of an impression it must make on these disciples, nevertheless, it doesn’t get through to their hearts, evidently. Because it isn’t but two years later they are still holding these prejudices. In fact, if you go all the way to the book of Acts, you still see evidence of prejudice in the hearts of the apostles as they are working in their ministries. Remember in chapter 8 of Acts where you have Peter and John traveling into Samaria to validate the ministry of Philip whose been down there saving Samaritans. They can’t believe God is extending the Gospel to Samaritans. They have to go and check it out for themselves. Peter needed a dream at one point in his ministry just to be willing to even eat with Gentiles.
As you look at what the people say when they come and greet Jesus, it is interesting they remark Jesus is the Savior of the world. Only John uses this phrase, and it is important to understand what they mean when they say the Savior of the world, it reflects John’s desire to explain things beyond what the earlier Gospels explained. By the time John wrote his Gospel, the first 3 Gospels had already been written. And they chronicle the story of Jesus’ coming and His coming principally for the Jewish people, though they rejected Him. But now, by the time John writes, the world has come to see clearly that the Gospel is going out to the Gentile world and primarily to the Gentile world. The Jews are hardened and not receiving it. That’s the sense of this phrase, of this meaning, when it says Jesus is the Savior of the world. It means Jesus is saving more than just Jews. He’s saving Samaritans, He’s saving Gentiles. The Samaritans notice this, obviously at an early point in Jesus’ ministry. They are saying the Christ has come, not just for one people, but all peoples. He is saving the world in that regard.
We are told Jesus ends up staying here for two days at the request of the Samaritans. That’s a bit of a surprise. Remember Samaritans don’t like Jews. They would not normally allow a Jew to stay.even one night in the region but now they let Jesus hang around for they are taken with Him. As a result, we are told even more believed. Another sign the Gospel is changing hearts here in this part of Samaria. These people, because of what the leaders inspired them to do and now what they hear from Jesus, they are now worshipping in Spirit and in Truth and showing love, the love of God in them. This is a remarkable turnaround and this is in marked contrast, I should add to the Jewish leaders who when they saw Jesus at the Passover in Jerusalem, they preferred their dead religious system to what Jesus offered them and that’s why He gained no audience there.
John 4:43-44 (NKJV)
Welcome at Galilee
43 Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. 44 For Jesus, Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.
So after two days, Jesus sets out to return to the Galilee where He’s been headed. The Galilee is in the northern part of Judea and it is largely considered a backwater region in Israel.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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