John 4:27–42 (ESV)
27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
My friend and pastor Henry Greene would often encourage me and other leaders of the church to “get out of the engine room and step onto the bridge.” He was speaking of the need to take a step back from the day-to-day work of the ministry in the church, to look around, and see where the Lord might be leading. That’s something that came to mind as I read the passage for this morning.
This passage is a continuation of the conversation that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman. Remember that Jesus’ conversation with the woman was one that was breaking every cultural norm; a Jew speaking to a Samaritan, a woman, known for her moral failing. A conversation that any “respectable” Jewish person would strive to avoid.
That’s why the disciples marvel when they return and find Jesus speaking with the woman. In fact, it’s beyond marveling, the disciples are stunned, so stunned that they can’t even get out a question. But the woman doesn’t stay, she leaves and that’s when the real moment of marvel happens as the woman goes and speaks with the people in the village.
Remember that she is a “known sinner” in that community. She has been mocked and shunned, and I’m sure she was the constant subject of village gossip because of her several “relationships”. So, it’s an absolute marvel that she goes to those who have rejected her and invites them to come and see Jesus. Something has stirred deeply within her as a result of her short conversation with Jesus and she can’t contain it. For her, everyone must come and see Jesus.
This is also a teaching moment. After the woman leaves, the conversation turns to the disciples who still haven’t had the courage to ask about the woman. Instead, the conversation turns to food. The disciples are concerned that Jesus hasn’t had anything to eat, but Jesus responds to them by firing off a farming proverb, “Still four months until the harvest.” An equivalent proverb in our day would be to say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” In other words, be patient and wait, it takes time for things to happen.
Then Jesus abruptly changes the image, because waiting for a harvest doesn’t apply to the Gospel message and Christian mission. When the Gospel is shared, the Gospel message immediately goes to work on a person’s heart. So, Jesus tells His disciples something is happening right here, right now, at this moment, lift up your eyes and see, the harvest has come!
I imagine Jesus at this moment gesturing toward the Samaritan village and at the people who are coming out to meet Him. The woman had invited people to come and they were coming! The harvest is here, and the stunning thing is that it’s happening with the Samaritans!
And then there is this monumental moment. The Samaritans come to faith in Jesus. What’s more, they actually get it right in calling Jesus the Savior of the world. Many times in John’s Gospel people fail to see Jesus for who He truly is, but here, with little teaching, and without miraculous signs, these Samaritans catch hold of the Messiah.
Contrast that with the disciples who did nothing to sow the Gospel message but are going to reap a harvest. God has done all the work and now the disciples get to share in His joy as these Samaritans take their first steps into the kingdom of God.
A harvest has happened in a place, with a people, where it was completely unexpected.
N.T. Wright in his commentary on this passage asked a hard question. He wrote, “When were you last looking with the eyes of Jesus, at the harvest waiting to be gathered?”
Often we walk through our days with blinders on; a self-imposed limitation to see only those things that are right in front of us, never lifting our eyes, never looking around. It’s like going on a cruise and never leaving the cabin, never taking in the ocean views, or stepping off the ship to explore a port. We become content to see the same four walls.
My friends, step out on deck, take in the views and horizons, go and visit that “other” port, lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest, for you carry within you, not only the Gospel message, but the very presence of Jesus.
God bless you and know that you are constantly in my prayers.
John 4:27–42 (ESV)