It can be confusing to talk with Jesus. We’re talking this world and He’s talking about God’s world.
Jesus challenges us to see things from God’s perspective; from His world. So it can be confusing, when we talk about food that isn’t the kind of food He is thinking about.
This seriously messed with His disciples when He was here. It can confuse us today if we aren’t careful.
God’s goal for us is that we focus on His Kingdom. He is in control. He has a plan for us. We need to get our nutrition from Jesus and God.
May I see things His way and not my way.
In the meantime the disciples kept urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But he said, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”
The disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,” Jesus told them. “Don’t you say, ‘There are still four more months, and then comes the harvest’? Listen to what I’m telling you: Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are ready for harvest. The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.” Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Jn 4:31–38). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
When the disciples returned from obtaining food, they were shocked that Jesus was conversing with a woman, and especially a Samaritan. They did not interrupt. They were learning that their Master knew what He was doing and did not need their counsel. But, after the woman left, they urged Jesus to share the meal with them, because they knew that He was hungry.
“I have food to eat that ye know not of” was His reply and, as usual, they did not understand it. They thought He was speaking of literal food, and they wondered where He got it. Then He explained that doing the Father’s will—in this case, leading the woman to salvation—was true nourishment for His soul. The disciples were satisfied with bread, but He was satisfied with accomplishing the Father’s work.
“Seek your life’s nourishment in your life’s work,” said Phillips Brooks. The will of God ought to be a source of strength and satisfaction to the child of God, just as if he sat down to a sumptuous feast. If what we are doing tears us down instead of builds us up, then we may well question whether it is the will of God for us.
Our Master did not look on the Father’s will as a heavy burden or a distasteful task. He viewed His work as the very nourishment of His soul. Doing the Father’s will fed Him and satisfied Him inwardly. “I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes,Your Law is within my heart” (Ps. 40:8). The Samaritan woman was now doing the Father’s will and finding excitement and enrichment in it.
Jesus then changed the image from that of food to that of the harvest, which is the source of the food. He quoted the familiar Jewish proverb about waiting for the harvest, and then pointed to the villagers even then coming out to the well to meet Him, thanks to the witness of the woman. The disciples went into the village to get food for themselves, but they did no evangelizing. The woman took their place!
The image of the harvest is a familiar one in the Bible and is often applied to the ministry of winning lost souls. Both the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Tares (Matt. 13:1–30) relate to this theme, and Paul used it in his letters (Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 3:6–9; Gal. 6:9). We plant the seed of God’s Word in the hearts of people who hear it, and we seek to cultivate that seed by our love and prayers. In due time, that seed may bear fruit to the glory of God.
No doubt the disciples had said, as they approached the city of Sychar, “There can be no harvest here! These people despise us Jews and would have no use for our message.” But just the opposite was true: the harvest was ready and only needed faithful workers to claim it. For some reason, when it comes to witnessing for Jesus, it is always the wrong time and the wrong place! It takes faith to sow the seed, and we must do it even when the circumstances look discouraging.
There is no competition in the Master’s harvest. Each of us has an assigned task and we are all a part of each other’s labors. One sows, one reaps; but each worker gets his honest reward for the work he has done.
John 4:38 indicates that others had labored in Samaria and had prepared the way for this harvest. We do not know who these faithful workers were, nor do we need to know; for God will reward them. Perhaps some of these people had heard John the Baptist preach, or perhaps some of John’s followers had reached into this difficult field.
Some archeologists have located “Aenon near Salim” where John baptized near the biblical Shechem, which is close to Sychar and Jacob’s well. If this is the case, then John the Baptist prepared the soil and planted the seed, and Jesus and the disciples reaped the harvest. Of course, the woman herself planted some of the seed through her witness to the men.
The disciples were learning a valuable lesson that would encourage them in the years to come. They were not alone in the work of the Messiah, and they must never look on any opportunity for witness as wasted time and energy. It takes faith to plow the soil and plant the seed, but God has promised a harvest.
In a few years, Peter and John would participate in another harvest among the Samaritans (Acts 8:5–25). Those who sow may not see the harvest, but those who reap will see it and give thanks for the faithful labors of the sowers.
The Greek word translated “labor” in John 4:38 is translated “wearied” in John 4:6. Sowing, cultivating, and harvesting are difficult tasks, not only in the physical realm, but also in the spiritual. There is no place in the harvest for lazy people. The work is too difficult and the laborers are too few.