We are continuing the story told to us by the apostle John about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well. Jesus has been engaged in conversation about living water with the Samaritan woman. Jesus has just revealed to the woman that he is the Christ whose arrival they have been long awaiting. As a reminder, Jesus has exposed her sin to awaken her from her spiritual blindness so she will see that she needs the living water leading to eternal life that Jesus is offering.
True Satisfaction (4:27-34)
As Jesus is speaking with the Samaritan woman, the disciples return from the city. Remember that they had gone into the city to buy food (cf. John 4:8). The disciples are astonished that Jesus is talking to this Samaritan woman. But they respect Jesus too much to question what he is doing. So it is evident that Jesus’ disciples need some instruction which is about to happen. The Samaritan woman, in her excitement, leaves her water jar, goes into the city and tells the people to come and see a man who could be the Christ. She has been moved from her spiritual darkness and blindness and is seeing what Jesus is offering. Therefore she is sharing the good news to the people in the city about who she has encountered.
But the story leaves the woman and focuses on the training of the twelve. The disciples approach Jesus and urge him to eat. The disciples had gone into the city and have food for lunch. The chapter began by telling us that Jesus was weary from the journey to Samaria. So they urge him to eat and recover from the journey. Jesus responds, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” Jesus uses the same guarded language that he used with the Samaritan woman, trying to engage their spiritual hearts and minds. So the disciples naturally ask if someone brought him food to eat. Their purpose was to get food and now Jesus says that he has food that they don’t know about. So Jesus explains, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” The work of Jesus, as we have seen in throughout this gospel, is to give eternal life. Jesus has come, not to condemn the world, but to save the world and give eternal life. Jesus is the light that has come into the darkness of the world to bring sight to the blind so that they will not perish.
Jesus is exemplifying the words he quoted when Satan was trying to tempt him in the desert. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 ESV) Jesus’ works are God’s works and that is his satisfaction. His food is doing what God has called him to do. There was greater satisfaction in teaching the Samaritan woman than any food the disciples could offer. Jesus is so engrossed with the woman’s spiritual well-being that he does not care about anything else. Consider that Jesus went out of his way to teach his disciples something with this response. Jesus could have taken a bite to eat so that none of this discussion occurs. But Jesus wants his disciples to know something. Jesus wants to direct their hearts to higher, spiritual matters. Serving God and doing God’s will is the ultimate priority. It is a greater priority than any physical demand.
The work of God sustains the true disciple. Marriage does not sustain us. Food does not sustain us. Wealth does not sustain us. Nothing in this world brings us satisfaction except doing the work of God. That is what upholds our life. This is what it means to say that a person does not live on bread alone but by every word from the mouth of God. Jesus is showing this truth to us. Our joy and our life is to do the will of the Father. As the psalmist declares, “I have come to do God’s will” (cf. Psalm 40:8). We are here for the express purpose of doing his will. In doing God’s will we are doing God’s work. Jesus said that in verse 34. Jesus is accomplishing and completing God’s work. Disciples must also continue and complete the work of the Lord. Christ is the head and we are the body and all members of that body (cf. 1 Corinthians 12). True life is living in full submission to the Father. Our food is too often junk food: entertainment, worldly pleasures, fame, wealth, success, and anything else that is physical and worldly. These things are empty. They do not satisfy. They do not sustain. We were saved to conform to his will and serve him.
True Urgency (4:35-38)
Jesus then teaches his disciples about the urgency of their task. Typically when a seed is planted it takes many months before the harvest is ready for reaping. In fact, they apparently had a saying at that time, “Four months and then comes the harvest.” But this is not the case right now. “Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” This is not simply a theoretical metaphor. Verse 30 revealed that based on the woman’s proclamation to the city, the people were leaving the town and coming to Jesus. Imagine this multitude of people leaving the town and coming toward Jesus and the disciples. Jesus is telling the disciples: Look and see the fields are white for harvest. Here they come. The time is now. The harvest is now. This is the food of Jesus: to do God’s will which specifically is to teach these Samaritans so they can have eternal life. Verses 36-38 describes what is transpiring. The disciples have done none of the sowing but will be doing the reaping as the crowd comes to Jesus. Jesus and the woman have done the sowing. Their work has lead to the reaping.
The disciples of Jesus are to have a sense of urgency about doing the work of the Lord, particularly sowing and reaping with the word of God. Can you sense the excitement in the words of Jesus? I believe Jesus is trying to teach his disciples something very important. This teaching began with the disciples wanting to know why Jesus is talking to this woman. It is clearly something they would not have done. She was low on the social ladder and would have been ignored by most Jewish rabbis. Jesus’ food is saving souls. Therefore, the disciples of Jesus must also have the same urgency and intensity in saving souls. Return to John 3:17. What is the reason for Jesus coming? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” The Father gave the Son to save people. Saving people only happens by talking to people. The good news of salvation cannot be transmitted any other way. We have been led to believe a misnomer that if we live good moral lives then people will see our lives and become Christians. But people will only glorify God by our good works and holy lives if we tell them that this is the reason we are living our lives the way that we do. If we are quiet and do good, people will not know that you are a disciple of Jesus and this is the reason for your lifestyle. The disciples are not going to save this woman from her sins by ignoring her. It is our work that we plant the seed of God’s word.
True Work (4:39-42)
The turnabout is very stark. The disciples don’t understand why Jesus is talking to the woman and the woman is talking to the whole town that she thinks she has found the Christ. She goes into the city proclaiming that there is a man at the well who was able to know her life story. Listen to verse 39: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.'” (John 4:39 ESV) The people are believing because of the woman’s testimony. She has been the catalyst for this throng of people coming to Jesus. I want us to consider what she did. Did she know everything about the Law of Moses. Did she know very much to tell people about Jesus? She is not a Bible scholar. She simply tells the people to come and see this man (4:29). Anybody can do that. All of us can say, “Come and see the place where I worship the Lord.” All of us can say, “Come and listen to a Bible lesson online.” All of us can ask people to come with us to the upcoming series of lessons in our lectureship. All of us can tell people about how Jesus has changed their life and ask them to come and experience the same. We can tell people about the new birth that is available. We must never underestimate what we are able to do because it is the power of God and his word that saves. We are simply inviting people to come and see.
This calling of people to come and see will be a natural extension of our lives when our satisfaction and sustenance is in doing the will of the Father. When our joy in life is doing God’s will, then we will have an urgency to share the good news which will lead us to tell people to come. We must lift up our eyes and focus on what must be our highest priority. We have to penetrate through that physical, materialistic thinking so that people can see they need a Savior. We must use our conversations to move people to not think about the comfort and conveniences of the physical but think about eternal, spiritual things. We need to ask people questions about what they think happens after death. Ask people if they believe there is a God. Ask people if there is a purpose to this life. Ask people about all kinds of things with an eternal impact to cause people to think beyond the now and break free of the spiritual blindness.
Many more Samaritans also come to believe as Jesus stays there in Samaria for two days. John records for us an important truth as this section ends. The Samaritans recognize that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Jesus is not the Savior for the Jews alone. He is not a Jewish Messiah. He is the Savior of the world. He has come to save every person, regardless of heritage and background, not just the Jewish people. The theme of universal redemption continues to be a key theme for John in this gospel.
The secret to satisfaction is to do the will of the Father. Jesus told the woman that the water he offers will cause us to never thirst again. Jesus taught his disciples that he has food that they do not know about because he is sustained by doing the Father’s will. Now it is time for the living water to continue to flow through us from Jesus to the rest of the world. Experiencing grace and recognizing God’s will to save the world compels us to tell others to come and see the changed life that can be found in Jesus. You are the light of the world, shining in the darkness, trying to open the eyes of the blind. Do not turn off your light. Do not hide your light.