Pastor Gary Wong, May 2, 2021
34 Jesus told them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four more months and the harvest will be here’? Pay attention to what I am telling you. Open your eyes and look at the fields, because they are already ripe for harvest. 36 The reaper is getting paid and is gathering grain for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. 37 Indeed in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows, and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap a harvest for which you did no hard work. Others have done the hard work, and you have benefitted from their labor.”
I like watching old movies, especially westerns. A frequent story line in westerns is the cattle drive. A cowhand’s day often started before sunrise and ended after sunset. There was so much work in driving their herds that they didn’t have time to stop to eat. Instead, they washed down a few bites of beef jerky with a couple of swigs of water from a canteen while sitting in their saddles. So, you can imagine how they looked forward to the one hot meal they would get at the end of the day. A grizzled cook next to the chuck wagon would clang a couple of pieces of iron and yell, “Come and get it!” That clanging was music to the cowboys’ ears. It told them that it was time to eat. As soon as they heard it, they would gallop in to enjoy a well-deserved meal. That food satisfied their hunger and gave them strength for the next day’s work.
In today’s lesson, Jesus teaches us about hunger for and finding satisfaction in the spiritual food God gives us. In today’s lesson, John tells us that Jesus and his disciples had come down from Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. After celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus stayed in Judea about nine months sharing the gospel. Many of the Jews believed Jesus’ message; others, like the Pharisees, rejected Jesus as the promised Savior. Because of Jewish opposition and since it was not yet time for Jesus to complete his work of salvation, Jesus decided to return to Galilee. Although we aren’t specifically told, Jesus’ disciples probably weren’t very happy that Jesus was leading them straight through Samaria. That’s because, as John tells us, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). Yet, it was there that Jesus taught an invaluable lesson about sharing the gospel.
When Jesus and his disciples arrived at the site of Jacob’s well, they were tired, hungry, and thirsty. Jesus sent the disciples into town to find food while he stayed at the well. When they had left, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus immediately initiated a conversation with her. Fully aware of the social dos and don’ts that Jewish men were supposed to follow regarding women, especially Samaritans, she was quite surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. Jesus then proceeded to lead her from her physical need for plain water to her spiritual need for “living water that wells up to eternal life” (4:14). At the point where Jesus declared himself to be the promised Messiah, Jesus’ disciples returned from their shopping trip.
As surprised as the Samaritan woman had been that Jesus had engaged her in conversation, Jesus’ disciples were probably even more surprised; so much so that not one of them dared to ask Jesus, “Why are you talking to her?” And rather than talking to the woman themselves or asking her, “What do you want?” they ignored her. Addressing Jesus, they offered him the food that they had purchased and said, “Rabbi, eat something.” Much to their surprise, Jesus said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (v.32). Knowing how hungry Jesus must have been and mistakenly thinking that he was talking about physical food, Jesus’ disciples couldn’t figure out why he didn’t take them up on their offer.
Jesus, the Master Teacher, then began to explain his cryptic statement. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (v.34). Jesus was saying that he hungered for something more important than just daily bread. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that while food is vitally important for our physical health, “food does not bring us near to God” (1 Cor. 8:8). If we don’t eat at all, we will die. But even if we were to eat healthy food every day of our lives, we’re still going to die. That’s because we were all born sinners and we commit countless sins each and every day. The Bible teaches, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). That’s the bad news. The good news is that God so loved the world that he graciously provided a plan to save mankind from eternal death.
God’s plan is centered on his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus left his home in heaven to do his Father’s will. Never having sinned, Jesus satisfied God’s demand for perfection. Jesus then satisfied God’s demand for justice by dying on the cross. Through his perfect life and innocent death, Jesus has won the victory over sin, death and the devil. All who believe in him have the priceless gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. Practically speaking, how does a person come to faith in Jesus? St. Paul declares, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Whom does God want to hear that message? Everyone! St. Paul wrote, “God wants all [people] to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 4:2). Jesus certainly knew that it was his Father’s will that everyone would believe in him. That’s why Jesus initiated the conversation with the Samaritan woman. When she had first come to the well, she knew nothing about the living water that wells up to eternal life. But when Jesus opened her eyes to see that he was the promised Savior, she completely forgot about her physical thirst. Leaving her water jar at the well, she ran to town to tell everyone that she had found the Messiah and invited them to come and see for themselves. What were the results of her witness? Many people came out of the town and were making their way toward Jesus!
Friends, think about what happened at the well and compare Jesus’ actions with those of his disciples. Jesus reached out to the Samaritan woman with the gospel. As a result, she became a believer and then a witness who led many others to Jesus. If Jesus hadn’t spoken up and instead left it up to his disciples, do you think the same thing would have happened? I don’t think so. The disciples didn’t say a word to the Samaritan woman. Because of their prejudice, the disciples didn’t think that they should even engage a Samaritan in normal conversation, much less share the gospel with her. Jesus used this incident at the well to chide his disciples and teach them about taking advantage of every opportunity to be a witness.
Jesus said, “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (Jn. 4:35). Jesus, of course, was talking about a harvest of souls. Our Savior was exhorting his disciples to open the spiritual eyes of their hearts and see that there is a whole world full of people starving for the Bread of life and thirsting for the living water of God’s Word. Yet, they will never be able to find Jesus on their own. Someone has to tell them. It can start with just one person. If Jesus hadn’t spoken, the woman would have drawn water from the well and gone back to town. She probably wouldn’t have mentioned to anyone that she had met some Jewish men at the well. But look what happened because Jesus shared the gospel. Not only had the woman come to faith, she was leading many others to Jesus.
Jesus told his disciples to open their eyes and they would see that the fields are ripe for harvest. Jesus is saying the same thing to us. The time to witness is now. The first thing we want to do is open our eyes. As we do that, we’ll see countless people whom God has placed in our lives who need to hear the gospel. It may be a Christian neighbor who is grieving over a spouse’s death. You can comfort that neighbor with the gospel that assures us that those who believe in Jesus shall not die but have eternal life. You can encourage a friend who thinks that she is all alone and unloved of Jesus’ promise that he is with us always, that God loves her so much that Jesus lived, died, and rose for her so that she would be a member of God’s family through faith in him.
Not only is it time to open our eyes, it’s time to sow the seed of the gospel and reap the harvest. When it comes to crops, a farmer has to wait a period of time from when he sows the seed to when the crops are ripe for harvest. When it comes to harvesting souls, there is no set waiting time. Granted, we may not see immediate results as we share the gospel. Not everyone comes to faith as quickly as the Samaritan woman or the thief on the cross. It may take weeks, months or years before the Holy Spirit creates faith through the Word that you shared. That’s exactly what happened in my life. My roommate began sharing the gospel with me when we were attending dental school. We maintained our friendship after graduation. Russ and his wife continued to patiently witness to me. But it wasn’t until ten years later that the seed sowed by my friend was harvested by Pastor Geiger. I humbly stand before you as a brother in Christ who is privileged to serve you as your pastor. The Word works! I see it working in the lives of our members. I see it as young men and women bring their fiancés to a Bible Information class. I see it as Christian parents bring their children to the baptismal font. It’s a proven fact that the most effective outreach is when members personally invite their non-Christian neighbors and friends and come with them to church.
Friends, Jesus tells us that the fields are ripe. It’s time to open our eyes and see the opportunities God gives us to share the gospel. It’s time to feast on the Bread of Life and share that food that gives eternal life. For our confirmands, today marks a milestone in your journey with Jesus. You have feasted on a rich diet of God’s Word in Sunday School, catechism classes and worship. Your congregation now invites you to partake of the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of your faith. It is our prayer that you continue to feed your faith with the gospel in Word and sacrament and that you open your eyes to see and take advantage of opportunities to tell others about Jesus. Whether we sow or reap, we, like the angels in heaven, we rejoice whenever a sinner comes to faith. Therefore, we give ourselves fully to doing the work of the Lord, for we know our work is not in vain. “So, whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, let’s do it all for the glory of God.” It’s time. Amen.
“Speak, O Savior; I Am Listening” (CW 283)
Text: Anna Sophia of Hesse-Darmstadt; 1638-83, abr.; tr. composite
Speak, O Savior; I am list’ning, As a servant to his Lord.
Let me show respect and honor
To you holy precious Word,
That each day, my whole life through,
I may serve and follow you.
Let your Word e’er be my pleasure
And my heart’s most precious treasure.
Oh, what blessing to be near you
And to listen to your voice!
Let me ever love and fear you;
Let your Word still be my choice.
Many hardened sinners, Lord,
Flee in terror at your Word,
But to all who feel sin’s burden
You give words of peace and pardon.
As I pray, dear Jesus hear me;
Let your word in me take root.
May your Spirit e’er be near me
That I bear abundant fruit.
May I daily sing your praise,
From my heart glad anthems raise,
Till my highest praise is given
In the endless joy of heaven.