One evening a man who lived in the western part of the United States was walking home across an open field. Looking up he saw his little son running through the tall grass to meet him. Suddenly the boy disappeared. The father thought he had just stumbled, but when he came nearer he heard a gurgling cry and found that the child had fallen into an open well. He was almost too late, and was barely able to save him. When the little fellow finally regained consciousness, he looked up and said, “Daddy, why didn’t you hurry?” Those words, and the child’s gurgling cry for help, rang in the father’s ears for many days.
We’ve spent much time studying the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well. At the end of that conversation she believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and, leaving her water pot behind, she hurried back to her town to tell the men about Jesus. I think she jogged the half-mile or so to her town of Sychar and probably made it there in less than 10 minutes. Verse 30 tells us that the men of the city listened to her, believed her words, and were following her out of their city and coming to meet Jesus. Have you ever done any speed walking or power walking? I don’t know how effectively you could walk in such a way on dirt roads, and wearing long robes and sandals, but she was doing her best to make haste. Not only is this woman an evangelist to her people, she’s also their personal guide and pace-setter! She wanted to get everyone there before Jesus and His disciples left the well and continued their journey. I imagine that the pace slowed down a bit once Jesus and His disciples came into view.
I. TIME TO HARVEST (verse 35)
Meanwhile the Lord Jesus was having a discussion with His disciples. In verse 35, Jesus uses a popular saying: “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest.’ ” It may have been a saying that a farmer would use in order to let people know that his seed had been sown and the crop would be ready to be harvested in four months. That’s the normal growing season for grain in that part of the country in those days. The farmer may also be using it to spread the news, and have others spread the news, that he’s going to need help harvesting his crop in four months. So those words “there are yet four months, and then comes the harvest” would be passed along in people’s conversations. Along with those words goes the promise that he will pay a day’s wages for a day’s work when harvest time comes. You could say that this was a way of advertising and “spreading the good news”. The Lord Jesus is saying these words to His disciples as both an illustration and a contrast to what is about to happen. Once again Jesus is using physical realities in order to lead into and explain spiritual realities.
The Lord Jesus continues the conversation by giving them some startling and convicting news. “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” He probably used the words “lift up your eyes” because the grain fields were on higher ground which slopped down toward them. The term “white for harvest” means that the grain is already mature and dried out, ready for immediate harvesting. He directed their gaze away from Himself by stretching out His hand and pointing in a sweeping motion in the direction of the city, to the grain fields along the way. As they look, they begin to realize the difference between physical harvesting and spiritual harvesting. What do they see? At first glance they see green fields of grain that are not mature because it is not yet that time of the year. What they see next really startles them. The fields are beginning to turn white as droves of Samaritans, dressed in their white tunics, are walking toward them down the hillside along the paths through the grain fields, and they are being led by the Samaritan woman. What the Lord Jesus has just said to them is literally coming to pass: the fields are “white” for a spiritual harvest!
II. SOWING AND REAPING (verses 36-38)
While the Samaritans are still a short distance from the well, the Lord Jesus uses this opportunity to teach His disciples about sowing and reaping, and about the rewards that come as a result. He says in verse 36, “Already he who reaps is receiving wages, and is gathering fruit for life eternal; that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” Usually it’s the reaper who gets the glory here on this earth. But the sower works hard cultivating the ground, then planting the seed and watering it. It’s a responsibility that requires patience, persistence, and faith. There are prayers to God, often with tears, that God would provide favorable, growing conditions and rain at the proper time. All this work is done without seeing any immediate results, and without the assurance that he will see any results for his efforts. Harvesting is also hard work but the results are immediate and the joy is immediate.
In this case, Jesus is pointing out that the spiritual harvest of souls has followed closely behind the sowing of the seed of the gospel message. The woman believed and is bringing the men of the city to meet Jesus and to hear what He has said to her. But even in this case, there were others who may have had a part in preparing the ground and sowing the seed. The Old Testament prophets predicted His coming and gave information concerning the coming Messiah. John the Baptist may have been baptizing nearby and many Samaritans may have observed him and listened to his words.
In verses 37-38, the Lord Jesus uses His explanation of what is happening before their eyes to teach them two principles about sowing and reaping a harvest of souls for the kingdom of God. “For in this case 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 labor.”
Each step in the process of a spiritual harvest of souls is equally necessary and equally valuable in God’s sight. It’s a team-effort, even though we may not know, and may not have met all of the members of the team. The popular saying “one sows, and another reaps” gives us principle #1: OUR RESPONSIBILITY IS TO BE FAITHFUL AND OBEDIENT WITNESSES FOR CHRIST. THAT’S WHAT HE DESIRES OF US, AND THAT SHOULD BRING US JOY BECAUSE OUR LABORS WILL NOT BE IN VAIN. GOD WILL BRING THE HARVEST AND WE WILL BE REWARDED FOR OUR FAITHFULNESS. As the apostle Paul said in I Corinthians 4:1-2, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”
In many eastern countries, professional weavers often are unable to complete the extensive tapestries assigned to them during their lifetime. As one of them dies, however, another weaver picks up the threads and weaves on according to the original pattern until the masterpiece is completed for all to see and admire. In a similar way, God wants Christians to be faithful witnesses for Him by their words, their prayers, and their example so that others may enter into their labors to continue the work. Thus, even after we die, others will be reaping where we have sown and watered the seed of God’s word.
A second principle may be drawn from Jesus’ words in verse 38: WHEN GIVEN THE PRIVILEGE OF HARVESTING SOULS, REMEMBER THAT OTHERS HAVE PREPARED THE WAY FOR US, AND THAT ONLY GOD DESERVES THE GLORY. Speaking of the harvest of souls in the city of Corinth, the apostle Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (I Corinthians 3:6). Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit of God, as He empowers the Word of God, there would be no salvation, and there would be no changed lives as a result. Let’s give God the glory when He gives us the privilege of bringing others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and as we witness the changed lives that are a result of that commitment. Remember, only God can make things grow; only God can change the heart of a person and impart spiritual life.
A Chinese National, Christiana Tsai, told of her ministry to her family after years of suffering pain through many illnesses. One day, one of her brothers, who had rejected the gospel, assembled the members of the family without them knowing the purpose behind it. He then said to them, “I have been to see Christiana many times and wondered how she could endure all this suffering. Now I can see that she has been given some sustaining power and can only explain it as coming from God. So, I have decided there must be a God after all. I have read the Bible and realize that I am a sinner. So here and now I want to tell you that I have accepted Christ as my Savior, asked Him to forgive my sins, and promised to follow Him.”
Christiana commented that “the brother who tore up my Bible and persecuted me in the early days at last confessed my Lord. In all, fifty-five of my relatives have become God’s children and expressed their faith in Jesus. I have never been to college, or theological seminary, and I am not a Bible teacher; I have only been God’s hunting dog.” (Christiana Tsai, Queen of the Dark Chamber, p. 184). I like her description of herself. As a “hunting dog” she has stayed close to her Master, obeyed His every command, and is always ready to retrieve what belongs to Him. No advanced degrees or professional licenses are required – just a willingness to be of service and a deep love for the Master and for all whom the Master loves.
III. MINISTRY TO THE SAMARITANS (verses 39-40)
By this time the crowd of Samaritan men from Sychar, who were seen coming toward them, had arrived at the well. Verse 39 says, “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all the things that I have done’.” So many of these Samaritans had already believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, based on the testimony of the woman, before they even met Jesus. Such is the effect of a personal testimony empowered by the Spirit of God. An important principle can be learned from this verse of Scripture, and evangelist Billy Graham expresses it very clearly and powerfully. He says, “As we look at history time and again, we are struck time after time by the fact that God has used the most unlikely and the most unworthy instruments to bring about spiritual awakening.” First Corinthians 1:27-29 says, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.”
Billy Graham continues by giving a challenge: “If God could use such a woman two thousand years ago to bring a revival to the city of Sychar, how much more can He use you and me today, if we would put ourselves in His hand! He can use us in our community, our town, our city, our country!” (Unto the Hills, pg. 166,167)
Verse 40 says, “So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.” What a generous and enthusiastic response by the Samaritans! They were treating Him like a King with His royal officials, and were eager to show their hospitality and learn more about Him! Never had Jesus received such treatment before, and never would He receive it again during His three years of ministry; and it came from Samaritans, not Jews! You might say that a revival was taking place in Sychar, Samaria, and Jesus gladly accepted their invitation. He had already shown them that He was free from racial and social prejudices. Those two days in Samaria included more than just holding meetings, sharing God’s Word, and answering questions. Jesus and His disciples were getting to know the people of the city personally, on a first-name basis – visiting their homes, meeting their families, eating their food with them, and sleeping in their beds. What a learning experience this must have been for His disciples! Many of the Jewish rules and traditions were being set aside because people are more important than traditions.
IV. THEIR RESPONSE (verses 41-42)
What was the result of their time spent with the people of Sychar, Samaria? Verse 41 says, “And many more believed because of His word.” Not just “more”, but “many more”! You know how it is when something really unusual and exciting is going on – people from outlying areas come to the city to find out what’s happening. Good news spreads fast, doesn’t it? Especially when the good news is that the Messiah is here in Sychar – “Come and see”! Notice that the Samaritans didn’t ask for any signs. Jesus performed no miracles for them. They didn’t need any miracles because they believed who Jesus was, and eagerly received the words He said to them.
After spending two days with Jesus, the men of the city said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” This is the first time that the title, “the Savior of the world”, is used when referring to Jesus, and the title was given to him by the Samaritans. Jesus had said to the woman at the well, “Salvation is from the Jews”. By using that title (“the Savior of the world”) when referring to Jesus, the Samaritans were saying: “We have found, not just salvation but a Savior, and not just the Savior of the Jews but the Savior of the world.”
Is the Lord Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior? If not, why not? Can you face that question honestly and be honest with yourself and with God? You are in the process of sinking into the mire of your own sins by your own choice, and you’re the only one who can choose to be pulled out of it by the grace of God through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ in your place. The saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is true. Delayed intentions are “non-intentions” in the sight of God. He doesn’t accept “promissory notes” as proof of repentance and commitment. The saying, “You’re playing with fire; you’re going to get burned” is also true. Please, don’t put off until tomorrow what you will eternally regret if this turns out to be your last day on this earth. If there was something that you really wanted to do, more than anything else on this earth, and there was nothing standing in your way, would you put it off? I don’t think so. If you say to yourself, “I’m working on it”, what’s left to be done that can’t be done right now? Please don’t put off for another moment the joy of being a new person – a child of God, and the assurance of spending eternity with Him in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.
If you are a Christian, are you concerned about those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? If you saw a little child fall into a well, you would do everything in your power to save his physical life, wouldn’t you? What are you and I going to do today, and every day, for those around us who are drowning spiritually and eternally? Be sure to apply this lesson from the response of the Samaritan woman at the well: IF YOU WANT OTHERS TO KNOW WHAT CHRIST CAN DO FOR THEM, LET THEM SEE AND HEAR WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE FOR YOU.
May God give you the desire and enabling to do what you know He wants you to do as a result of studying this passage of Scripture.