In John 4 we read about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. She was astounded that a Jew was asking her to serve Him – because she was of the Samaritan race – a race that Jewish people were always avoiding.
Jesus didn’t look at her sinfulness, and He didn’t look down on her religious shortcomings, instead He used the opportunity to take hold of her faith and turn it into an opportunity to share the gospel.
He had chosen to stay alone by the well while His disciples went to buy food in the nearby town, and when they returned, they were astounded that He was speaking to a Samaritan woman. The woman herself was astounded by it, and what’s more, Jesus had shown a sign by telling her she has had five husbands.
She regarded Him as a prophet, and many have been prophets that have brought the title into disrepute, so she attempted to despise Him by saying that she was waiting for the Messiah who would reveal all things. Jesus took hold of that opportunity to say “I am the one you are speaking about!” .. and at that very moment, His disciples arrived. That was the clincher for her. Her doubts had been suddenly shattered and replaced with devoted belief.
The woman had not gone looking for the Messiah that day. Nobody ever expects that they will meet the Messiah of God, because anybody who doesn’t already know Him cannot recognise Him. Even though God is spirit and He speaks to us often, they only see the carnal man.
The Samaritan woman was seeing Jesus with her natural eyes, as a natural man (Ephesians 2:7), and despite that He was saying to her as clearly as possible “God is spirit” and “I, the one who is speaking to you, I am He!” – she was still unable to perceive that the spirit of Christ in Jesus was the one who was speaking to her. She ran to the village and told everyone “come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did!” and “He can’t be the Messiah, can He?”.
The Samaritans were unable to perceive the spiritual things because they had never known them (John 4:22). In the same way, the people of the world today do not understand what spirit is because they have not come to know it (1 Corinthians 2:14-15).
His disciples were urging Him to eat, because they knew He was tired and that’s why they had gone to get food (John 4:6). Although Jesus knew that the food was good for His body, He declined to eat, telling them “I have food that you know nothing about!” – what was that food? The disciples were astonished, saying “did somebody already bring food for Him?”
Jesus was doing wisdom in that situation. He knew that the woman was going to bring people from the town to meet Him, having left everything to spread the message that the Christ had come. Now, the townsfolk had not been convinced as she had, but rather were just as skeptical as she had first been. If they had arrived and seen Him feeding His flesh, they might have been inclined to scoff, because they would not have seen anything special about Him. Instead, He was waiting for them expectantly, ready to make every advancement against their doubt, maintaining His form and being prepared for the very first moment of eye contact.
Jesus knew that they did not understand what He meant, and He told them “my food”, (the thing that sustains us), “is the doing of God’s will, and to finish His work”. Jesus understood faith, that it grows or fades depending upon how successfully we do the things that glorify God. He was choosing to fast for the purposes of God (Isaiah 58:6).
He went on to explain what He meant, saying that the world (in particular, the situation at hand with the coming townsfolk) was ready for harvesting. The harvesting He was talking about, is the gathering of souls into real faith – that is, to bring their religion into fruition: receiving a first-hand relationship with God while they had previously been hoping in the prophets and growing in expectation of that day.
He described the world as being like a field where the people are the plants and their faith is the stage of growth. We all begin at a stage of zero knowledge. We keep learning about who God is, by hearing what others have to say and by discussing the things we already know. The Samaritan woman had been of that stage when she met Jesus (John 4:20,25), but after she had spoken with him for only a minute, her faith had flourished and produced a crop (Mark 4:20, John 15:5). Jesus was, in that moment, harvesting the faith of that Samaritan town just as a farmer harvests a field!
Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, that they are white for harvest already. The one who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, in order that the one who sows and the one who reaps can rejoice together.Jesus Christ, John 4:35-36 (LEB)
Jesus was saying “I’m not here to feed myself, but I get my true fulfillment by doing the works that inspire faith where there is hope”.
Notice in John 4:29, the Samaritan woman is so overjoyed that she in fact tells a lie through her enthusiasm. She says “come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!”.
We know that the only thing He told her about what she ever did, is that she has had five husbands and is not married now. But Jesus didn’t stop her from saying the untruth. He might well have been entitled to (1 Corinthians 10:23), but He wasn’t interested in correcting her (John 6:40). He was pleased that she was trusting Him and had become an enthusiastic worker – bringing everybody into an awareness that God is in their midst (Matthew 18:20).
I think we all need to be mindful of that, because it’s the real difference between sowing to the flesh (our own needs) versus sowing to the spirit (God’s needs). What does God need from us? He needs an ear that listens to Him and respects what He says. What would Jesus have achieved if He had corrected the Samaritan woman? He would have provoked their pride and they would have stopped listening to Him! They would have only seen it as disgraceful (ie: without grace) that He is criticizing the woman who was praising Him for having spoken God’s words to her. In that spirit of judgment, the words of love would have not prevailed (1 Corinthians 8:1).
Another interesting thing in this parable, is where He tells the disciples “one is reaping what another has sown”, and “the one who reaps gathers fruit for eternal life so that the one who sows and the one who reaps are rejoicing together”.
If a field is continually sown but the crop is never harvested, the sowers grow weary because they never benefit from the fruit of their work.
When you are out there sowing, do you not grow weary? How can we expect to find any interest in the Word of God? Only because of the value of the testimonies that are the basis of our enthusiasm: that is the fruit of the labour of others who have sown before us. That is what we stand upon when we declare the good news of salvation. In that way, we see how important it is that the reaper reaps so the sower may sow.
For in this instance the saying is true, ‘It is one who sows and another who reaps.’Jesus Christ, John 4:37 (LEB)
There is also another function in farming: pulling out weeds. In Matthew 13:24, we read about a field that was sown with good seed, and then when the seed began to grow, weeds were discovered among them. It turns out that the weeds were sown by an enemy “while the men were sleeping”.
The Greek words used in the original text, τῷ καθεύδειν, are literally talking about the time appointed to sleep. So it means that the field is the world and the workers who sowed the good seed are the ones having been employed by God. We know that whenever we speak with someone about God, the conversation ends and then we go on to speak with other people, and it is in those times when there is nobody with the courage and knowledge to defend God’s word, the enemy slips in and sows the words that will ultimately compete with, and try to choke the good seed that was sown.
We need to be aware of the weeds when we are sowing and reaping, being careful that we aren’t in fact sowing the wrong seeds. Most of the non-Christians coming into the world these days have only heard about Jesus through themes on television and in movies. In the same way, preachers and evangelists are incorporating ideas from television and movies into their teachings, and those ideas are growing throughout society, choking out the good fruit that can come only by the pure, wholesome teachings of God (John 15:3).