Last Week we talked about the proper way to worship God. We learned the proper way to worship the Father was the way the Father directs us. This worship is not in a particular place, whether man made temples or nature. God’s temple is made in the heart of the believer by God Himself where the Holy Spirit resides. We cannot dictate the terms of how we will worship God.
The Exposition of the Text
We are still at the well of Samaria in which Jesus has just revealed to the woman that he is the promised Messiah (Taheeb). Now the disciples are returning with the food which they went to a Samaritan village to get for Jesus. This in itself would be very unusual for and Jew to do. The Jews considered anything touched by a Samaritan to be unclean for eating. But disciples of a Rabbi were expected to obey the teaching of their master completely. But this does not mean that they were not shocked by what they saw.
Due to what the disciples considered to be an emergency, they were willing to go to the Samaritan village. After all, they needed to save Jesus’ life, or so they thought. They left him half dead at the well. But what they now saw was truly shocking. Jesus was talking to a woman. Jewish Rabbis thought it was disgraceful to talk to a woman about the things of God, even one’s own wife in private. To talk to even one’s own wife in public was suspect, and to talk with some other woman was scandalous. Not only was Jesus talking to a strange woman in public, but a Samaritan woman. And not only was he talking to a Samaritan woman, but one of the lowest repute. How many questions must they have had in their hearts.
We don’t know how much the disciples heard of the conversation. But the timing of their return was providential. The woman left her waterpot full of water for Jesus to drink from. This shows how much she had been transformed. The Christian duty is to look out after the needs of others, so this became her first deed as a Christian. Now it was the disciples turn to play savior. Jesus looked famished and weak. They had gone way out of their way to get food to save Him. They begged Jesus to eat to get His strength back. Jesus now surprised the disciples as much as he had previously surprised Nathaniel, Nicodemus, Jesus’ mother at Cana, and the Samaritan woman. He told the disciples that he had food to eat already which they did not know about. This got the disciples to talking. “Who got him food?” I can imagine them saying within themselves; “He sure looks weak and hungry to me. Is He in his right mind? Has the heat got the better of Him? After all, he just finished talking to a Samaritan woman.”
The disciples show that they, too, were as much in the dark about spiritual matters as the Samaritan woman. They were thinking about earthly food as much as the woman was thinking about earthly water and Nicodemus of earthly birth. Now Jesus again turns the table around. Just as the woman found out that it was she who was truly thirsty, the disciples find out it is they, not Jesus, who are truly hungry.
Jesus now shows the disciples what the true food of God is. His hunger was not for earthly food but rather to do His Father’s will. It wasn’t as important for Jesus to be fed earthly food to sustain His body as it was to feed others with what the Father wanted them to have. He tells them “Do you not say that there is yet four months until the harvest.” In this Jesus is either saying a parable common to them that there was a four month separation between sowing the seed and harvesting the wheat, or he was referring to the surrounding fields. If it is the latter, then this meeting at the well would have been in December. At any rate, it was not the correct time for the harvest of earthly grain. But Jesus says that the time to harvest God’s field was now. The disciples clearly saw that the surrounding fields were not ready. What could Jesus have been talking about?
Jesus made this clear to his disciples in saying the harvest is one of souls for eternal life. What Jesus was asking them to do was not to harvest wheat, but people prepared for the Kingdom of God. Jesus had told them earlier that their mission was not to fish for fish, but rather for men. Jesus wanted the disciples to hunger for the lost souls and not for earthly food. Even as Jesus spoke, the woman was returning with the men of the village who were dressed in white clothing.
In verse 38, Jesus commanded the disciples to reap the harvest, a harvest which someone else sowed. Here again, the word “labored” appears 3 times. In the Greek, it is the same word translated “wearied” earlier. And it is in the same tense. Just as Jesus had been wearied by the journey to the well to the point of death, Jesus was about to be wearied to death itself on Calvary. We think of the same Jesus here, recently so wearied that he begged a drink of water from the Samaritan woman was soon to beg for a drink from the cross. Jesus was calling the disciples into the harvest field to reap the crop which he was to be sown and fertilized with his own blood and body along with the prophets of the Old Testament. Their job was indeed the hard job. Sowing was always seen as a time of weeping and harvest a time of joy. He ws asking the disciples to do the easier and more joyful labor. But harvesting is hard work too. It is labor. Jesus here reminded them of that when he said that He was calling them to join them in the labor.
And now the harvest comes in. The Samaritans impressed by the testimony of the woman come to see for themselves, if Jesus was indeed the Christ. And in the two days they spent with them, He convinced them that He was indeed the promised Messiah. Truly, the first gospel harvest was put up in God’s storehouse. And it was of Samaritans! Indeed it can be said that God works in mysterious ways.
The Application of the Text
We can learn several things here. First of all, we learn something about witnessing. The Samaritan woman was no theologian who had studied the Scriptures all her life. In fact, as a woman and as a Samaritan who only held to the first five books of the Bible, she probably knew very little. What she did do is to tell what she did know and had experienced. She told the others to come see this man who told her everything she did with a leading question “Could this man be the Christ? It has been shown that new converts are the most effective witnesses, because everyone they know sees the contrast of the before and after. Everyone could see that this woman was a different person, so everyone wanted to know what happened. They came to Jesus and were themselves convinced and changed.
The difficult travel of Jesus to win a single soul was the start of a great ministry in Samaria. In the same way, it is hard labor in today’s skeptical world who seems to have no time or love for God. Yet it is nice to know that if we can win that one soul that it can serve as a bridge to winning others. There are a lot of ministers who can preach great sermons, a lot of dedicated and well prepared Sunday School teachers as, well as other dedicated workers for Christ who greatly desire to be as effective to leading people to Christ as this woman. We must learn that we must not look past the one to the many, for the one may be the bridge to the many. We have to win the lost one person at a time.
Finally, we learn that Jesus means it when he tells us in the Great Commission to tell everyone, even those who are different from us. We can clearly see that Jesus’ hunger for the lost was even greater than his physical hunger. This was Jesus’ sole food as in only. We think of how Satan tempted Jesus to turn the stones into bread to feed His hunger when he fasted forty days in the wilderness. Jesus’ answer there is appropriate here as well: “Man shall not live by bread alone (only or solely), but by every Word which comes forth from God.” Oh if we could only have this hunger! If Jesus could go into hostile territory and tire himself to the point of death to tell a woman of low reputation where to find the living water, surely we can go across the street to tell a neighbor about Jesus. We need to pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send workers into the harvest. Could those workers we are praying for be us? Do we like the apostles need to pray for boldness. We have all heard the song “My House is Full, but My Fields are Empty.” We could take a little comfort if God’s house were full. But all too often, the churches have many empty pews on Sunday. There are plenty of fields out there ready to harvest. It is hard work, but there is plenty to be done. And we dare not trust this harvest to migrant workers. Fields without workers become empty churches. And empty churches make the Lord of the Harvest weep.