Look: “Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.” (John 4:36) This chapter of John’s Gospel is one of my favorites, a touchstone to which I return time and again.
When I prayed that God would show me some new truth here though, I confess to being skeptical that could happen because the passage is so familiar to me.
But, in John 4:36, a truth appeared that I had never really noticed.
Before this, Jesus has encountered the Samaritan woman and, after He told her everything about herself and revealed to her that He was the Messiah, she forgot her dread of encountering the people of Sychar, running back into the village and telling people about Jesus. (The woman went to the well during the hottest time of the day, when none of the other women would be drawing water there. She didn't want to face condemnation for her sinful lifestyle, living with a man to whom she wasn't married.)
At the tail end of the encounter, the disciples return from their food-gathering errand. After that, the woman leaves on her “mission” and the disciples urge Jesus to eat. He says that He already has food and that His food is to do the will of God.
But then, He says: “ Do 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.” (John 8:35) It seems an incongruous thing to say, but Jesus is teaching in a teachable moment when His disciples expectations are being upended, when their understanding of "proper" behavior is challenged.
There are, Jesus is telling them, people ready to be "harvested," brought out of the mission field of a deathbound world and brought into Christ’s eternal kingdom. Here, even in Samaria, the fields were white with ready souls. Jesus tells the disciples to “look,” to see this reality.
It’s something I need to see, too. Those people who are hostile or indifferent to Christ aren’t enemies! They’re the mission field, a crop in varying stages of readiness to be harvested for Christ’s kingdom: People who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will be at varied places in their receptivity to the gospel of new life through Jesus.
It's here that Jesus says: “Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.”
Listen: It never struck me before: Jesus moves from a universal statement about the field to a specific statement about what’s happening at Sychar that very moment.
Jesus is surrounded by His apostles, the sent ones, who will carry the gospel and lead the Church after His death and resurrection.
But the first “reaper,” the first evangelist to gather in the harvest, receiving her wages by gathering the fruit of eternal life through Jesus is this woman from the wrong side of the tracks.
The woman’s slight and embryonic faith--”Can this be the Christ?” (v. 29)--which, despite its seeming incompleteness and her seeming incompetence, compelled her to witness is being rewarded in many ways, two most notably.
(1) First, she reaps a harvest of believers in Christ;
(2) She no longer is ashamed. She can face those from whom she once hid. The Jewish man--Jews had no dealings with Samaritans and men never spoke to women from outside of their families in public, who was at the least, in her reckoning, “a prophet” had spoken to her, had offered her eternal life, living water that never gives out.
She experienced the grace and forgiveness of God that swallows up guilt and shame and makes those who trust in Christ new.
The first evangelist was a Samaritan woman of questionable character. The first to carry the good news of resurrection on Easter (the first Easter sermon) was carried by women.
But never before had I realized so clearly that the Samaritan woman--never named--was the first to give the disciples an object lesson in how the Gospel was going to be carried into the world.
Never before, perhaps, had they seen that Jesus was the sower and all we need to do is simply, humbly, without eloquence or “cuteness,” reap His harvest.
The woman who had gone to the well at the time of day when she wouldn’t have to be around the respectable women who drew water in the morning or the evening, became a bold evangelist. She could do that because she wasn’t commending herself or protecting herself or looking out for herself. She was just sharing the message that the man at the well--the Messiah, had just changed her life forever.
I'm not qualified to share the Gospel because of what I've done; I'm qualified by what Christ has done for me...and every other human being on the planet!
So cool![Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]
Respond: Lord, help me to share this truth with the Church, so that their self consciousness will go away. Help me to live this truth. Help me be prepared to reap the harvest that is planted by Your eternity-chanting Word! In Jesus’ name.