John 4:27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” 33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Jesus is talking to a Samaritan. A Samaritan woman! The disciples are just as surprised as the woman was in the first place (v9). The emphasis on her gender rather than ethnicity (v28-29) may suggest that she was identifiable as a woman of ill repute. Why would Jesus be talking to her???
But this is irrelevant to Jesus, just as is the food that his disciples have brought back from the town. Jesus’ food is doing God’s work. He is harvesting for God with great urgency (v34-35). Jesus sees the harvest, even in the Samaritan town! He urges his disciples to recognise that it is these places —even the Samaritan villages— that are ripe for harvest. Just as Jesus has challenged the Jew/Samaritan division with the woman, so also the disciples need to see the work of God includes the Samaritans.
Jesus’ language suggests that the disciples have a vision problem and so he uses three ‘looking’ words: ἰδοὺ (behold!), ἐάρατε τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς (lift up your eyes), θεάσασθε (see, wonder!). They should recognise that now is the time for harvest, with all its associated urgency and toil. They need to identify the places that are ready for harvest and apply themselves to the task.
In verse 38, Jesus seems to be saying that there has been a preparation (sowing) for the gospel in the history of the Samaritans. Some of those seeds have taken root. Even the Samaritan woman had an expectation of the Messiah coming and revealing all things (v25). The Samaritans might have got the ‘worship in Jerusalem’ bit wrong, but the seed has been sown and now is the time for the disciples to reap, to enter into the labour of those who have gone before them.
As we return to the narrative of Sychar in v39-42, we see that many from the town hear Jesus and believe that he is the Messiah. The harvest is ripe. Many believe. And yet, many Jews did not believe (see Jn 1:11-12).
Among your circle of friends and acquaintances, who would you say is the least likely to receive Jesus? Perhaps they are a bit like the woman of Sychar– a stranger to God, with some confused religious ideas, struggling with a messy past, just trying to get by. They are exactly the kind of people whom Jesus must meet. The harvest is ripe!
Dear Father, give me eyes to see the harvest as you do. Lead me to the people whose hearts you have prepared to receive Jesus and give me such wisdom and courage, that I might engage them in a way which will bring them to you. Amen.