Posts Tagged ‘sowing’

Series: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

We’ve been looking at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman and the conversation they had, recorded for us in John 4

It moves from the depths (Jacob’s well) to the heights (Mt. Gerizim). It is certainly spirited at times, especially in relation to the differences between Jews and Samaritans. She challenged Jesus with several questions: Why would you, a Jew, ask me to give you water? Are you better than Jacob? Which is the right mountain to worship on? And she raised these divisive issues knowing that they could cut off the conversation.

Although Jesus for his part is clear that the Jews are right on the old issues that divided them,  he invites her to be a part of the new thing that God is doing through him, which transcends the old arguments between Jews and Samaritans.

The conversation also is operating on different levels at points:

• She was focused on which was the better source of water – Jacob’s well or this new well that Jesus seems to be talking about. But Jesus was talking about the living water of the Holy Spirit.

• She was focused on which was the right mountain to worship on – Gerizim or Zion. But Jesus was talking about worshiping in the Holy Spirit and truth.

The conversation also turns on veiled and unveiled identities. For her part, she tried to hide her identity, at least when it came to her personal life. She told Jesus, “I have no husband.” But Jesus revealed her personal story; she has had five husbands and the one she now lives with is not her husband.

For Jesus’ part, his identity is veiled to her at the beginning of the conversation. He says, if you knew who I was you would ask me for living water. But by the end of the conversation, Jesus unveils his identity to her. He says to her in the clearest way possible that he is the Messiah or Christ.

And this is where we pick up the story today in –

John 4:28-42

“28So 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?’ 30They went out of the town and were coming to him.”

The woman is so captivated with Jesus and the revelation of his identity that she sets aside the whole reason she had come to the well in the first place – in order to tell others about Jesus.

She invites those in her city to “come and see.” This is the same phrase that Philip used in chapter 1 when he spoke to Nathaniel. She is taking up the part of a disciple and a sower of the gospel.

When she talks about Jesus as the one “who told me all that I ever did,” well, this is an overstatement. Her whole life was not her various relationships with men. But you can understand her amazement. This was miraculous.

She asks somewhat cautiously, “Can this be the Christ?” The hesitancy isn’t due to unbelief, but because of her lack of standing in the community. She is not exactly an ideal witness given her moral life. So she invites them to evaluate the issue for themselves – Can he be the Christ? As we will see at the end (vs. 39, 42), the people take her words as a positive testimony to her faith in Jesus.

What happens next is that this scene in Sychar moves to the background, and Jesus’ conversation with his disciples at the well moves to the foreground. Jesus is preparing them for the Samaritans that are coming to him. As it says in v. 30 – “they were coming to him.”

Delmar and Harold will cover this material. As you can see from your handout, there are two parts to it, and Delmar will now teach us about the first part.

[Delmar Lehman] Vs. 31-34 say, “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.”

Let’s take a look at some of the significant points of these verses. In v. 31 the disciples want Jesus their teacher to eat. This may seem a little strange to us, but it was the job of the followers of the teacher to take care of the food and lodging of their teacher. They were really just doing their duty. They knew Jesus was tired and probably hungry from travel (v. 6). He has sent them into town to get food. We also know that he was thirsty because he asked the woman at the well for a drink.

In v. 32 Jesus suddenly announces that he is refusing the food they have brought and states that he already has food. Teachers at this time used food as metaphor for spiritual food. We see this in a couple of places. When Ezekiel was called to be a prophet, he is told to eat a scroll. And Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” This metaphor was a common thing.

In v. 33 the disciples are obviously perplexed. Like the woman a couple verses earlier, they immediately respond in the natural thinking of literal food. They question where Jesus could have gotten food from (this was their job). I believe Jesus was a normal guy. He was not always going around quoting Scripture. While they were walking they were probably talking about the basketball games from the night before. Just when they think they are ready to eat, Jesus says he’s full. (In fact, we never hear that Jesus ever gets anything to eat or drink.) But Jesus is setting the stage for a teaching moment for his disciples. This is one of the only times in the first part of the book of John where he does this.

In v. 34 Jesus begins the real teaching; the real point. There are several things that I see as important. First Jesus uses the metaphor that food is required for work. In physics, work from energy is measured in calories. That’s why when you look at the back of a box or a bag you look for what? How many calories are in it. So food is required for work – the question is the kind of food.

Next we see that Jesus is performing the will of the sender. Jesus is saying I get filled by doing what God has for me to do. Jesus knows his mission; the Samaritans are on their way. Notice that he doesn’t say God’s will or the Father’s will but the Sender’s will. He says this in other places: John 5:30 – “I can do nothing on My own initiative…., because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” And also in John 6:38 – “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus makes it very clear that he was sent for a purpose and it has nothing to do with him, but it has to do with the will from the Sender.

And we see here Jesus’ devotion to God’s work. What is God’s work? God’s work is creation, sustaining creation, and ultimately redeeming creation. If God’s work needs done eating (natural food) will have to wait. This is referred to in Deuteronomy 8:3 – “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” If you remember, this is the same passage Jesus used when being tempted in the wilderness. So when Jesus is hungry, the Sender’s will become more important than eating. His hunger turns into spreading the good news. His work is the harvest.

Harold is going to come now to talk more about the harvest.

[Harold Metz] “35Do 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. 36Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Let’s take these verses one at a time. Two things from v. 35. First, Jesus is quoting a Jewish proverb ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’. He quotes this to contrast it with the current situation that he and the disciples are in. Normally you invest time in sowing and then there is a delay before the harvest.

Second, when he says, “the fields are white for harvest” – white can be interpreted as ripe; and barley looks white when it’s ready to be harvested. Another interesting thing is that modern day Samaritans are known for wearing white, and it’s possible this was also the case in Jesus’ day, so that literally a crowd dressed in white is coming toward him and the disciples. This is not a certainty but it is possible.

In v. 36 I would point out that the use of the present tense and the word “already” might be a bit confusing. Who is right now reaping and receiving wages? Jesus seems to be using “already” and the present tense as hyperbole to emphasize the fact that the Samaritans are almost here. It’s like when the pizza guy is coming up the sidewalk but is still not at the door, but you say, “he’s here” – but he’s not literally at the door yet. The disciples are right on the cusp of what is about to happen; its already going on. There’s no time to eat the food the disciples brought.

Also in v. 36, who are the sowers and who are the reapers? Sowing has to do with the initial investment of sharing the gospel with someone. Jesus has sown the word to the Samaritan woman and the Samaritan woman has sown her testimony to the other Samaritans. The reapers are the disciples (see v. 38).

And then, what are the wages and fruit? Gathering fruit refers to bringing the Samaritans into God’s kingdom. The wages have to do with the blessings from God for doing His work.

We will take vs. 37-38 together because they have one basic idea. Jesus quotes another Jewish proverb, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ This proverb is similar to the situation that Jesus and the disciples are in, whereas the first proverb pointed out a contrast. Often, to accomplish God’s work multiple people are involved. This is a reoccurring pattern in the Bible. See Hebrews 11:13. For instance Moses brought Israel out of Egypt but he didn’t take them into the promised land. Joshua did this; this was his role. We all have different roles, and no one person can accomplish everything.

Finally, the past tense in verse 38 has a similar affect to the use of the present tense in verse 36. When Jesus says, “I sent you” and “you have entered into” the labor of others, he means that this is about to happen and it is so close that he can speak of it in the past tense.

Next, the background comes to the foreground as the Samaritans come to Jesus and they are all together. William will talk about this.

“39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.”

They are impressed by her testimony of a miracle,  his knowledge of her life, and believe. And as was customary in that day they sought to provide hospitality for Jesus and his disciples. So Jesus stayed there with them for two days.

“41And many more believed because of his word. 42They 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.’”

When they say to the woman it’s no longer because of you that we believe – it’s not a put down. It’s just a comment on the importance of Jesus and meeting him for themselves. Their faith has moved from her testimony about a miracle to a direct encounter with Jesus, which confirmed her testimony as true. And everyone at some point has to move from someone’s testimony about Jesus to encountering Jesus in person for themselves. This is a part of the Christian journey.

The title, “Savior of the world” was used for Roman emperors. In fact, this whole scene is quite similar to how a city would welcome an emperor. They come out of the town to meet him, escort him back into town and then host him for a time.

This title also emphasizes that though “salvation is from the Jews” (v. 22) it is for everyone (v. 42). He saves Jews, but also Samaritans, and also women, and also those whose lives are messed up and burdened with failures. He saves people like you and like me.

Let’s end with –

Some lessons on being a part of God’s mission

– that we learn from this passage

1. The Father sent Jesus, and Jesus sends us. In v. 34 Jesus speaks of “him who sent me,” referring to the Father. Jesus is very conscious of being sent by the Father and talks about it a lot, and he is very focused on completing God’s mission and work in this world. But Jesus will go away back to the Father.

And this is why he also sends us. In v. 38 he says to the disciples “I sent you.” We now fill the role of Jesus; we represent him, just as he represented the Father. And it is now our job to complete the mission and work of the Father in this world. That is the purpose of the church and God has given each one of us roles to fulfill personally to make this happen. Do you know what your role is? How are you doing?

2. The priority of God’s mission. We see Jesus’ absolute devotion to God and his will in this passage. Although weary, thirsty and hungry, he sets aside his personal needs in order to do God’s work.

Now, this was a bit of an unusual situation. Here there is not time between sowing and reaping, but the point is that he was willing to do this because his true food is doing God’s will and completing his mission.

What priority does God’s mission have in your life? What is your level of devotion to doing God’s will and accomplishing his mission? Is your food to do God’s will? Jesus is our example here.

3. You too can share about your encounter with Jesus. The woman simply shared her experience with Jesus. And if you have been touched by Jesus you are fully qualified to share as well; to sow seeds into the lives of others.

You don’t need to have a set of arguments lined up. You don’t need to have all the answers. All you need to do is share your experience with Jesus. This is your testimony, and others can listen or not listen.

4. It’s a team effort. In this case, Jesus and the woman did the sowing, and now the disciples are involved in the reaping.

We are all working on a team and we all, as Jesus said, enter into the labor of others.

• This is true personally in that we have different gifts and roles in the work of God.

• And it is true between churches. For sometimes others sow seeds and then people come here and are harvested. And sometimes we sow seeds and people go somewhere else and are harvested.

But we are all a part of the work of God and God uses all of us to fulfill his mission.

5. Be alert to the opportunities around you

Jesus said in v. 35, “lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” Now he is talking about a specific situation here. This won’t always be the case, but yet there they were concerned about food and were unaware of what was happening around them.

And we too can be caught up in the normal routines of life, unaware that there are those around us who are ready for harvest. And so we need to “lift up our eyes, and see.”

Along these lines, how did this week go for you? Did you have any divine appointments? What would you share this morning with the congregation?

William Higgins, Delmar Lehman, Harold Metz


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