November 8, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 4:27-38.
At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”
The disciples and the Samaritan woman provide an interesting contrast. The disciples are still imprisoned in their minds; they are contemptuous of Samaritans who had given up their Jewish purity centuries earlier by intermarrying with foreign Gentiles. The Samaritan woman on the other hand has opened her mind enough to see that salvation was coming from the Jews, from the man Jesus, the Messiah of God, in spite of her culture’s rejection of the Jews. She was so enervated by her encounter with Jesus that she overcame whatever shame she might have harbored as a many-wedded woman now living in sin. She was on fire to tell her fellow townspeople about Jesus; she was on a mission in the same way that Jesus was on a mission. The disciples by this time had spent considerable time with Jesus while the Samaritan woman had spent perhaps less than an hour with him. Yet she had “progressed further than they in the development of her understanding of Jesus,” according to Moloney in The Gospel of John. Why was that? I think it may have been that she was the greater sinner or at least that she recognized that she was a sinner in need of rescue. In story after story we are told that Jesus came to redeem the sinners, not the righteous.
The Samaritan woman had become the missionary of Jesus. He had sown the seed of hunger for the kingdom of God in her. Barclay writes, “The Christian life if based on the twin pillars of discovery and communication. No discovery is complete until the desire to share it fills our hearts; and we cannot communicate Christ to others until we have discovered him for ourselves.” The disciples were not yet ready to share the good news with the Samaritans or Gentiles. However, Jesus saw a great harvest ready for reaping. According to Barclay, “Sychar is in the midst of a region that is still famous for its corn.” Jesus told his disciples to look up and see the field ripe for harvest. It didn’t matter that they were in midst of Samaritans; they were all ripe for conversion, for harvesting into the kingdom of God. It was the conversion of the Samaritan woman that fed Jesus’ spirit, that supplanted his hunger for physical nourishment. He was doing the work his Father had commissioned and the gratification of reaping one more sinner for the kingdom was nourishment enough.
I hope to become like the Samaritan woman, willing to proclaim that she has discovered the Messiah, the Son of God. It’s not enough to confine myself to talking with those who already believe in God like the disciples with the Jews. If I have truly discovered Jesus, then my heart should be so on fire that nothing can constrain me from telling everyone, believer or not. It may be that I am only sowing the seed of belief, of conversion, but I may also reap the harvest, the fruit of someone else who sowed the seed before me. In that way, the sower and the reaper can rejoice together. I am realizing more and more this mission that Jesus has sent me on, to be a part of finishing his work. Just has I have been privileged to share the fruits of other’s work in proclaiming the good news.