September 8 – John 4:27-42
We can take this passage in three parts: the disciples’ confusion over what Jesus was saying and doing (v.27,31-33), belief among the Samaritans from the Samaritan woman’s testimony (v.28-30,39-42), and at the center of it all, Jesus’ teaching on what he calls the “harvest” (v.32-38). We should try to grasp the image Jesus was giving the disciples; there they were, on the outskirts of town at the well of Jacob, and following the Samaritan woman’s testimony the whole town started walking out to where the disciples were. And we should try to put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes and imagine what that must’ve felt like, particularly to a group of Jewish men in the middle of Samaria with a big group of Samaritans advancing on them. Whether they were scared or just wondering how things were going to go down, you can imagine the questions bubbling up in their minds.
To this Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest.” Jesus wasn’t just saying, “look, there’s a bunch of people who might become Christians.” He said this in the momentary context and the cultural context, knowing that the tensions produced both by the scenario and by bad blood between Jews and Samaritans would pressure the disciples to consider this town a trash heap instead of a field for harvest. When Jesus tells us, “I sent you to reap,” it might be to the least likely patch of earth we could imagine. Jesus makes it his business to save the least, the last, and the lost; the many Samaritans who came to believe in him testify to this.
And this image of harvest is a particularly interesting one. Jesus tells the disciples to reap what they had not sown and what they hadn’t labored for, indicating that someone else had planted and labored, that someone being God by himself and through the leaders and prophets of Israel prior to Jesus (these are the “others” of v.38). In Jesus’ call on our lives to go make disciples, the same is true for us: we reap what we don’t labor for. Paul takes up a similar theme in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” And this should give us such great hope, knowing that we don’t have to manufacture faith in people’s lives or somehow produce converts.
Questions for Discussion
• Turn to John 4. Can someone summarize the story from verses 1-26?
• Can someone read John 4:27-42?
• What stood out to you from this section?
• What do you think Jesus is talking about here on a spiritual level?
• How can we get involved with the same sort of sowing and reaping?
• What kind of help do we need for this sowing and reaping?
• Looking at verse 36, how can our sowing and reaping be characterized by rejoicing?