Scripture: John 4:27, 31-38
Today’s focus will be the disciples and their role within the visit to Sychar. It’s easy to miss the work of God if we don’t look for it. Many of us would like to have great purpose, and as believers, to find a lot of purpose within our faith. Like many of the big issues of life, we can wait for it to come and take no action and wonder why it never came. Could you imagine if Jesus just let the disciples lead through this story? They very likely would have done as most of us do: picked up their food, ate and gone on their way. Many people from Sychar, including the woman, would believe on Jesus for eternal life, and all they really thought to care about was their basic needs. We really need to notice in this full scenario that basic needs were the the focus for all parties until Jesus chose to go beyond His own.
“At this point,” refers to the place in Jesus’ conversation where He tells the woman that He is the Messiah. An incredible revelation was unfolding and the disciples came, their minds on shallow things at that point in time. The verse highlights two things about them, one being an active response, the other a passive omission.
First, they marveled that He talked with a woman. The word for “marveled” speaks to being incredibly impressed or surprised. Knowing what they already knew about Jesus and seeing Him work as He did, it should be a bit surprising that they weren’t more attuned to the potential of Him doing this wherever they went. We ought to notice that their first response mirrors the response of the woman: both were amazed that He would talk to her, which was against culture for multiple reasons. They weren’t looking for Him to care about the people or to do anything for them, especially a woman, because they had already discounted the Samaritan people; pride makes us do that.
Second, no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” This verse is highlighting this absence of response as a problem. It’s drawing upon their failure of consideration in contrast to their wonder with the conjunctive use of the word “yet.” Consider it like this: it’s one thing if they neither marveled nor asked, but because they marveled, they were moved but may have not wanted to engage. Their observation drew a response, but not enough of a response. If we get too fixated on our own agendas, people will become less of a mission to us and more of an impediment. In parallel fashion, Matthew 19:13-15 says these words: “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”
Verse 35 tells us that the people were coming out of the city to see Jesus after the woman informed them of Jesus’ presence. Verse 36 further reveals the disciples’ failure:
“In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat of which you do not know.’ Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.'” The disciples were focused on hunger and had paid little attention to the exchange at the well and the fact that people were starting to come out towards them. “You need to eat” is countered with a “food” that they were not seeing: the will of the Father. Jesus was fulfilled by submitting to the desire of God the Father and accomplishing that work. Jesus will eat food many times throughout the Gospel accounts, so He wasn’t saying that He didn’t eat food; it’s more about His desire to please the Father than to please His immediate wants.
Water and food are both hang-ups in this passage: the woman is wondering where the living water is and the disciples are wondering where His food is. This lesson is still applicable today as both the followers of Jesus and people who don’t follow Jesus can easily become quite the same when their focus is on the temporal to the neglect of the eternal. How many of our concerns, dreams, or plans will matter in fifty or 100 years? Eternity will cast a whole new light upon what we fixated on in this world, one way or another.
“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest ‘? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: `One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” Multiple commentators have mentioned the imagery between fields white for harvest and the people coming out of the town, comparable to grain ripe for picking. Jesus is calling out something here: His disciples act as though there is time, that the opportunity wouldn’t be there for a good while, but it was on their doorstep and they were missing it. Probably in a larger sense the grain had been sown long ago, what with the rich history of God’s work here and the teaching of His word by a priest in 2 Kings 17. The people here did know of the coming Messiah and lived with some degree of anticipation of it just as the Jews did.
In a far more narrow scope, Jesus had just sown the seed with the woman who then went into the town and spread the word of the Messiah’s arrival. The people were responding to the announcement and were coming to see for themselves. The disciples would soon be a part of the reaping over that which they wanted nothing to do with in the sowing. Nevertheless, both Jesus and His disciples would soon rejoice over the believing response that would soon take place. The disciples entered both into the labors of Jesus with the woman as well as the long-term labors of seeds sown long before their time.
The Samaritans awaited the day of the Messiah, as complicated and diverse as their beliefs were, and now He was there to set things straight. While it doesn’t tell us what took place after Jesus left, very likely all of those old beliefs mixed in with the truth fell to the wayside; that’s how it is today, and isn’t it a joy when we hold to truth and let go of those beliefs and values that just don’t align with Scripture? Syncretism (a mixing of beliefs) will always challenge the body of Christ, and Christ will always challenge the body to commit to the truth in its purity.
Pray that God would help us to keep our eyes open to the opportunities in front of us, and to keep us ready to be a part of the sowing and the reaping, the planting and the watering and the wonder of watching God bring the increase of faith in the hearts of men, women, and children. Never lose the joy of seeing a person give their life to Jesus; it’s a powerful, joyful event to behold. Nothing is as fulfilling as being a part of the work of God, however He may use us.
Prayer from Pastor Sam: