John4v27to42: JESUS: THE LORD OF THE HARVEST
(A) Introduction. (Read the reference.)
The passage is interesting because it affords us a rare glimpse of Christ's elation as he anticipates the success of his saving work. The response of the Samaritan woman to his wonderful words of life suggested that there were many 'out there' who had been prepared for the gospel message. Jesus looked down the centuries and saw the innumerable fields that would become ripe for harvest.
(B) The disciples all at sea.
We need to start with the reaction of the disciples to the unfolding events at Jacob's well. There are four things to note:
(1) Their surprise.
(2) Their reticence.
Christians should never lose their respect for Jesus. I have just finished reading an article about modern Samaritans. For 2000 years the Samaritan religion has been preserved in Palestine in spite of intense persecution from Christians, Moslems and Jews. They still practice animal sacrifice and keep the strict rules about diet and cleanliness. Only 500 remain. Only 500 compared to the billions who follow Jesus. At the end of time every knee will bow to him.
(3) Their disappointment.
There are times when we are disappointed that Jesus does not seem to appreciate the effort we make on his behalf. What we do in his name is unblessed and apparently unappreciated. We may be like Martha who was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made to entertain Jesus and his followers. She came to the Master and said, "Lord don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work myself?" Lk10v40. But Mary had chosen what is better. She sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. I sometimes feel discouraged by the lack of reaction to my website. Perhaps I need to be reminded to spend more time with the Lord in prayer.
(4) Their confusion.
I am puzzled by the lack of conversions in Britain during the last 40 years. I cannot understand why so many churches where the gospel has been faithfully preached have been allowed to decline and die. I am troubled because my own church is in this predicament. Why aren't people flocking to church to express thanks to God for their many blessings? What does Jesus say to me in my confusion? I think he says, "Look to those other parts of the world which after many years of preparation are experiencing spectacular church growth and be glad."
(C) Jesus is satisfied.
Jesus informed his disciples: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." v34. Jesus found satisfaction in doing:
(1) Valuable work.
I had a letter at Christmas from one of my loveliest old pupils. She is a nurse in the intensive care ward of St Thomas' Hospital in London. Her boyfriend is an executive with Microsoft. Last year Victoria accompanied her boyfriend to a conference in Portugal. No expense was spared. The executives were accommodated in the same luxury hotel as the England footballer's wives during the European Cup Competition. Victoria could not help comparing the treatment she received as a nurse with the pampered lifestyle of the well-heeled businessmen. She was in danger of forgetting her valuable work of saving lives.
Jesus knew that he was doing saving work - seeking and saving the lost. He, the Great Physician, had ministered with outstanding success to a lost soul and was awaiting the arrival of many more.
There is nothing more satisfying for the Christian than to lead a sinner to Jesus. It is the greatest privilege of all. It is wonderful, in the words of the old Sankey hymn, to have some stars in our crown.
Will there be any stars, any stars in my crown,
Will there be any stars, any stars in my crown,
(2) Good work.
There are many tasks that I do without doing them well - like cleaning the house, sewing and gardening. I keep my garden tidy but what a contrast there is between my delphiniums and Peter Webb's. Peter does good work in his garden. Everything grows splendidly. His dahlias and chrysanthemums are gorgeous. Peter gets immense satisfaction from gardening.
Jesus did a good job with the Samaritan woman. He showed incomparable skill in wooing and winning her. Jesus gave a master class on how to witness to the profoundly lost.
Our Christians service - whatever it is - should be done well - as unto the Lord. I may rush the decorating and skimp the cleaning but I have never preached an ill-prepared sermon.
(c) Finished work.
There is joy in finishing any important work whether it be gathering in the harvest, painting a picture, writing a novel, erecting a bridge or composing an oratorio. Samuel Johnson must have experienced enormous satisfaction when the monumental task of completing his dictionary was achieved.
Consider all that was involved to produce the Authorised Version of the Bible in the 17th century: The most learned men in the land were chosen for this work and the complete list shows a high proportion of men with a profound knowledge of the languages in which the Bible was written. Of the fifty-four who were chosen a few died or withdrew before the translation was started and the final list numbered forty-seven men. They were divided into six companies and a portion was assigned to each group. Everyone in each company translated the whole portion before they met to compare their results and agree upon the final form. They then transmitted their draft to each of the other companies for their comment and consent. A select committee then went carefully through the whole work again, and at last two of their number were responsible for the final checking. What a work that was and great the joy when it was complete.
We all have God's work to do. Let us aim to say at last with Paul: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2Tim3v7.
(4) Approved work.
It is very satisfying when our work is praised by someone well qualified to judge it. On Saturday, March 5th I read an article in the Daily Telegraph about a cheese sandwich. American food writer Ruth Reichl who came to England to review restaurants for the million selling Gourmet Magazine said that the highlight of her trip was a £3 toasted cheese and onion sandwich from a market stall in Borough Market, London. She was knocked out by it. It was so delicious that she had to have another one. Mr Oglethorpe who made the sandwich said, "I am so proud that she liked my sandwich. To be up there with the likes of Heston Blumenthal (chef at the Fat Duck) and all those people is such an honour. It is very nice to be appreciated... ."
Jesus worked on behalf of his Father in Heaven. No-one could be more highly qualified to judge the merit of work done in his name than God, himself. Paul wrote this of Jesus: Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord. Phil2v9and10. God was pleased with Jesus at every stage of his life. Jesus knew it and this knowledge was the food that sustained him.
What Peter writes of the elders of the church is applicable to all who serve Jesus: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be .... . And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1Pet5v2to4. If Jesus finally approves my work that will be glory for me!
(D) Jesus is excited.
Jesus is so excited by unfolding events at Jacob's well that his spirits revive and he is no longer hungry. He is too elated to eat. I wonder when we were last like that?
Jesus was excited about:
(1) The present harvest.
It is wonderful when men and women are ready for the gospel. When they are just waiting to respond to the good news that Jesus saves and to be gathered into the Kingdom where they qualify for eternal life. I have witnessed this on a limited scale at the Christian camp where I served for 20 years. Young people came to us who were ripe for plucking. All that was needed was a little gentle shake and they fell like sweet apples into the Kingdom basket. It was a great experience to watch folk coming forward at the Billy Graham crusades. Those who attended all those years ago were like a field of golden corn ready for the reaping. Since then there have been tremendous harvests in African, South American and Asian fields. Praise God.
(2) The future harvest.
It seems strange that Jesus should speak like this before the disciples had done any reaping. He hadn't as yet sent them to do any reaping. The heart-warming response of the Samaritan women and the inhabitants of Sychar was hardly anything to do with the disciples. Jesus on this occasion gathered in the sheaves.
I think that Jesus looked ahead. He was so elated that he anticipated future events. The apostles, equipped by the Holy Spirit, preached the gospel to Jews and Gentiles alike. They entered fields white unto harvest. There was spectacular church growth in the first century after Christ. Many others had prepared those fields: Greeks whose language was used throughout the Mediterranean world, Romans who built roads and maintained law and order, philosophers who brought some enlightenment to the educated, Jews who established synagogues in so many cities throughout the Roman Empire and who preserved the Scriptures, enlightened Jews who introduced many Gentiles to the one true God and Gentile proselytes who sympathised with many aspects of Judaism.
This has happened again and again throughout history. After long periods of preparation fields become ripe for harvest. It happened recently in Africa. From the 19th century onwards much missionary work was done in that continent. Church growth was slow for nearly 100 years but in the last 30 it has been spectacular. The same could be said of China and parts of South America.
What is true for countries is also true for individuals. Conversion is often the culmination of a long process. The seed is sown, watered and weeded before the reaper gains the benefit.
Jesus was elated at Jacob's well because he saw the truth of another Sankey hymn:
(3) The final harvest.
I am indebted to Rev B. Thomas for his outline on the REWARD OF THE HARVEST:
(a) The reward is partly present - especially for the reapers - gathering in the souls ripe for salvation.
(b) The reward is chiefly in the future because the crop is destined for eternal life. There will be a final, great harvest home when all is safely gathered in.
(c)The reward of the future is gladness. We shall all experience a high and perfect happiness. It will be the unalloyed happiness of:
(II) Abundance. There will be a great number there.
(III) Safety. This is why we praise God for the natural harvest:
(IV) Gratitude. After that ultimate harvest home there will be a triumphant thanksgiving service. We shall sing a new song in praise of our glorious Saviour.
(e) The reward is eternal. It is the ultimate reward. The crop is gathered in for eternal life. Our happiness will be as eternal as our life. It will be as lasting as the fruit. It will never pall, diminish or end. In the words of the children's hymn, 'There is a happy land,' I sang in Sunday school: