Jesus is clear that we don’t always know our role but we have to tell everyone the Good News. It may just be sowing a seed for later on or it may be time for the person to come to Jesus. Our job is to know our purpose. God is to chose the right timing.
God’s goal: Our job is to be faithful. God’s job is to bring the message home. Our job is to be faithful to the work regardless. It is easy to get distracted and miss the outcome of executing what God has in mind.
One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.
English Standard Version. (2016). (John 4:37–38). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
In the larger context of John’s book, Jesus as the one whom God sent is also based on Jesus as the Word who preexisted with God in heaven, and on Jesus as God’s Son. Because a son was expected to take up his father’s trade and carry on his father’s work.
Jesus talks about completing his Father’s work. Here we have an anticipation of where John says that on the cross Jesus knew that “all were now finished,” and where Jesus says just before his death, “They’re finished!”
And what is the Father’s work that Jesus must complete? It’s the work of accomplishing salvation for all who believe in Jesus as the one through whom God does the work of salvation. You have only to believe.
As reapers, the disciples had the great and rewarding privilege of leading people to faith in Jesus the Messiah. Others had already done the work of sowing. This perhaps refers to the ministry of the Old Testament prophets or to John the Baptist’s ministry of preparation. Both kinds of workers—the sower and the reaper—get their pay. Reapers harvest the crop for eternal life, that is, Jesus’ disciples were involved in ministry to others, in the issue of death and life.
Harvesttime in the ancient world was a time of joy. There is also great joy at the time of salvation. The disciples had the greater joy of seeing the completion of the process. A sower has a harder time because he sees no immediate fulfillment. John the Baptist stirred a nation to repent but he died before the day of Pentecost, when the disciples in great joy saw thousands come to faith in Jesus.