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John 4:27-38 NIV

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 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. 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. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. 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 labor.”

Introduction. This passage of scripture is often seen merely as a link, a join between Jesus encounter with the Samaritan women at the well and her return with the villagers for them to encounter Jesus for themselves. But it is much more than that, the disciples had travelled to purchase food and on their return, Jesus’ takes the opportunity to give them an important lesson about the coming Kingdom of God. In doing so he sets up a contrast between how our lives our sustained by water and food and the importance of the water and bread of life (eternal life). We can notice how the woman leaves her water Jar to go in search of the villagers to bring them to Jesus. John 4:28-30 NIV

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. We notice how Jesus resists the pleas of his disciples, who concerned for his welfare, trying to get him to eat something. John 4:31-34 NIV. Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.

The contrast having been set up; Jesus teaches them an important lesson. While they went away to by food Jesus has been sowing the seeds of eternal life and now, he and they will become both sowers and reapers. To understand this, you must imagine Jesus saying these words to the disciples as the villagers are walking towards them. John 4:35 NIV. 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. 

In the agricultural economy of the time, there was often just as big a separation between the sower and the reaper as in our time. Hand sowing was relatively easy and might be done by the tenant of the land, reaping the harvest was backbreaking work and hiring labour for this was common. In between late Autumn and early spring was the 4 months for the harvest to appear. Jesus is pointing the disciples to the amazing scene that is before them, as the villagers appear, having sown the seeds of eternal life just moments before they are about to be part of reaping a harvest of eternal life. John 4:36 NIV 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.

Jesus is collapsing sowing and reaping into one event. He is saying this is what the coming Kingdom of God can do. The villagers are about to encounter God’s Messiah and receive the gift of eternal life. The prophet Amos predicted such a day. “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the plowman [the sower] shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” Amos 9:13

By way of application there are two things I want us to consider. The first is to be clear about what Jesus is not saying. On this our Harvest Service Jesus is not saying that food and water, the things that sustain our physical life don’t matter. Jesus constantly uses examples from the natural world, precisely because he knows his Heavenly Father has put these things in place to sustain our world and because he knows those, he is talking too can relate to them. 2,000 years on we could legitimately create new and different parables for our time, for example, about those vast trawlers from Russia and China who on an industrial scale are removing all the fish from our seas. They are reaping what they have not sown. Remember also this is the Jesus who recognised the need to feed the 5,000 before he spoke to them. You cannot expect people to begin a spiritual journey, while they still lack the basic means of survival. Isn’t that also the lesson from the wonderful work of BMS in that hospital earlier. 2,000 years on if we care for our children and grandchildren and want them to hear the words of eternal life, we must leave them a world in which this can happen. This does mean that at a practical level we too must be sowers and reapers. Aware of where our food comes from on our plates. It means being thoughtful about the resources we use; it means modeling to our children and grandchildren that we care about the world continuing to be sustainable. It means being people of hope, it was good to hear of Prince William and David Attenborough launching a new award scheme looking for brilliant projects to help our world. 

Secondly Jesus is most definitely saying that sowing and reaping the good news of a restored, eternal relationship with God is the most important thing we can do.  I fear that in the western church too many followers of Jesus have become reapers of the benefits of the kingdom of God but no longer willing to put in the hard miles to sow the seeds of the Kingdom. Content with their salvation they no longer look out across the harvest fields as Jesus urges us too. Please do not get me wrong there are seasons in all our lives when perhaps due to age or illness or the circumstances of life we inevitably become more of a reaper than a sower. God knows and understands that, but the general principle holds true. In our reading today Jesus is both sower and reaper at the same time. He is orchestrating the entire event by working as sower and reaper—speaking the word and reaping its fruit. 

As our text comes to an end Jesus makes the point to the disciples someone always must do the sowing. John 4:37-38 NIV. Thus, the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true.  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 labor.” During and post the Pandemic we must seek to sow seeds. Make a list of those you have contact with who have no faith in Jesus. Pray for them on a regular basis, ask for opportunities to sow seeds of faith in their lives. Do not worry if someone else reaps the benefit of leading them to Christ. There always must be sowing.

Conclusion. When we speak of a harvest of souls in this way, we are speaking of focussing people’s attention on Jesus as the Saviour of the World. The Samaritan woman at the well is drawn to Jesus, the villagers have the privilege of having Jesus stay with them for two whole days. The result is found in the verses that follow our reading. John 4:40-42 NIV. So, when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers. 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 Savior of the world.” There is an important lesson in these words, no one ultimately believes because of us, they believe because they encounter Jesus. People have all sorts of questions about things that easily sidetrack us. When sowing seeds of faith in Jesus, keep in mind the question that Jesus himself asked in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew 16:15 NIV. “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


First published on: 10th October 2020
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