John 4:31-42: Real satisfaction.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’32 But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’33 Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’34 ‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.37 Thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.’39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I’ve ever done.’ 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.42 They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.’ NIV
You may remember from verse 8 that ‘His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.’ When they returned, they naturally wanted Jesus to ‘eat something’ (31). I’m sure they knew that he was ‘tired…from the journey’ (6). They were being kind and caring. But Jesus sized the moment for a teaching opportunity (32). He wanted to convey the deep inner satisfaction He felt from doing the will of God (34). The disciples were confused because they took His words in a materialistic fashion (33) – much as the Samaritan woman had done previously (11-15).
Someone preaching on this passage said something like this: ‘Imagine an artist at work in his studio. At lunch time his wife brings him a drink and some sandwiches. When she returns to collect the empty’s a little while later, it’s barely been touched. Her husband is so absorbed in his work.’ That’s a good illustration. Obviously, it has stayed with me. Jesus found unparalleled satisfaction in doing ‘the will’ of the Father. That particular day it involved a ‘witnessing conversation’ with a deeply dissatisfied woman. And what a chain reaction it set off (39-42) It’s been suggested that when Jesus said, ‘I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!’ (35), He was pointing to the Samaritans streaming across the fields towards them (40). There was a contrast to be drawn between the natural harvest, still four months away, and the spiritual one right before their eyes (35).
‘These Samaritan fields are ripe. It’s harvest time!…Without lifting a finger, you have walked in on a field worked long and hard by others.’ The Message.
There is nothing more satisfying for a Christ-follower than to point people to Jesus. And if you see success in some form; if people respond positively, better still. But all evangelism is team work, whether we are sowing or reaping (and in a lifetime you’ll probably do a bit of both.) The bottom line truth, of course, is that God gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7). So to Him belongs all the glory.
‘No single individual can claim credit for the success of any spiritual mission. The harvest belongs to the sower as much as to the reaper. It is possible that the others referred to the long line of prophets who had prepared the way, of whom John the Baptist was the last.’ Donald Guthrie: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.1035.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I not fail to play my full part in your harvest.