The Apostles Rejoin Jesus

John 4: 27-38

DIG: Why were the twelve surprised to find Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman? Why did she leave her water jar? How is Messiah’s figure of speech once again misunderstood (see Yochanan 2:19, 3:3 and 4:10)? Why does He continue to speak like this? In what way is God’s will like food to Him?

REFLECT: Considering your interest in spiritual things this week, have you been more like the talmidim or the woman? Why? What distracts you from your walk with the Lord? How does doing the will of God supply the same essentials in your life that food does? What do you learn about being a witness from the parable in verses 35-38?

The apostles had gone into town to get some food for themselves and their Rabbi. The Lord desired to have some time alone with this Samaritan woman for the purpose of evangelism. If they had stayed they would have merely been in the way. But now the purpose of this had been accomplished. Grace had achieved a glorious victory.

Just then His talmidim returned and were clearly surprised to find Jesus talking with a woman. The Jewish impression of women was very demeaning. The rabbis taught that no man should talk with a woman in the street, not even with his own wife, and especially not with another woman. But even more than that, the rabbis said that each man who talks with a woman causes evil to himself, puts an end to the Torah, and, in the final analysis, inherits Gehinnom. This obvious breach of Jewish social norms could have been extremely awkward for the apostles, let alone the Samaritan woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her” (John 4:27)? It was bad enough to talk to a Samaritan man, let alone a Samaritan woman!

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town (Yochanan 4:28a). She had come to the well for literal water to satisfy a physical need. But when she found the living water of eternal life (John 4:14b NCB), she had no more need of it. It is the same today. Once we perceive Yeshua clearly; once there is a moment of spiritual clarity of the soul; once He is known and received as our Lord and Savior there will be a turning away from that which our carnal mind was centered on beforehand. Her mind was on Christ and she had no thought of the well, water, or her water jar. The Messiah’s glory was then her only goal. She had a single purpose because she knew Him, not from a second-hand source, but from personal experience. Immediately, she began to tell others.364

Her response was typical of new believers, one of the evidences of authentic faith. The person who has just had the burden of sin and guilt removed always wants to share the Good News with others. The woman’s excitement would have been palpable. No longer was she avoiding the facts of her sin. She was basking in the glow of forgiveness with no shame.365 And she said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” It was like He could read her mind. “Could this be the Messiah,” she asked (John 4:28b-29)?” The Greek construction of this sentence anticipates a negative answer. It was as if she were saying, “He couldn’t possibly be the Messiah, could He?” Then, however, the Samaritan woman presented evidence to suggest that she, in fact, did believe Yeshua to be the Meshiach.

The interlude between Jesus’ discussion with the woman and His ministering to the rest of the town allows us to see why John includes this incident in his Gospel. Yeshua had to pass through Samaria (Yochanan 4:4) to redeem that woman, who brought her entire town to Christ with her testimony. But, just as important, He had to pass through Samaria in order to give His talmidim critical training in evangelism. This was the Lord’s purpose in coming to the earth and the calling of His apostles. Furthermore, it was a tangible lesson on the first rule of the new Kingdom: Obedience to the Word of God is more important and more satisfying than fulfilling any mere physical need (Deuteronomy 8:3; Mattityahu 4:4; Luke 4:4).366

Verses 31-38 form a parenthesis and tell us something of what happened during the interval that followed the woman leaving the well and the Samaritans coming to Christ (see Cc – Many Samaritans Believe) because of her testimony about Him. They record a first hand account that took place between the Lord's and His talmidim. They had returned to hear His closing remarks to her, a notorious sinner, about her five husbands and the effect it had on her as she ran off to evangelize the town of Sychar.

A little earlier in the day the apostles had left the Rabbi from Galilee sitting on the well, tired from the long journey. Meanwhile, they left, bought some food and returned with it. But He showed no desire for it. Instead of finding the Lord weary and faint, the twelve discovered Him to be full of renewed energy. He had received food that they could not understand. But they persisted and urged Him, saying: Rabbi, eat something (Jn 4:31). His words puzzled them - why wasn’t He hungry?

Jesus once again moved from the physical to the spiritual. He already had His spiritual food. But He said to them: I have food to eat that you know nothing about (Yochanan 4:32). Christ’s heart had been fed. His spirit had been invigorated. The great Giver of gifts had received one Himself. Peace and joy are a part of the blessing that comes from doing the will of ADONAI. And the obedient believer receives that which the world cannot understand. This was a teachable moment for His talmidim.

Therefore, the Twelve said to each other, “Could someone have brought Him food?” They were thinking in terms of the physical, not the spiritual. Yeshua said: My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work (John 4:33-34). The word My is in the emphatic position in the sentence. The work that Jesus did was no mere human work. It was that of One sent by God. Quite often in John’s Gospel, The KING of kings declares that the work He does is that which the Father has for Him to do (Yochanan 5:30, 6:38, 7:18, 8:50, 9:4, 10:37, 12:49-50, 14:31, 15:10, 17:4). The heart of God hungers to reach out to those who do not know Him. That’s what drove the Suffering Servant. In fact, the verb to finish (Greek: teleioso), is similar with that used on the cross in John 19:30 when Jesus cried out: It is finished (Greek: tetelestai).367

He was God-sent. Again and again John speaks of Yeshua’s being sent by Ha’Shem. There are two Greek words the inspired author uses for sending. There is apostellein, which is used seventeen times, and pempein, which is used twenty-seven times. So there are forty-four times in Yochanan where the Lord speaks about being sent. Yeshua Messiah was One who was under orders. He was God’s man.

Don’t you quote the proverb, “There are four more months and then comes the harvest?” The Jewish agricultural year was divided into six, two month, periods: (Oct-Nov) seedtime, (Dec-Jan) winter, (Feb-Mar) spring, (Apr-May) harvest, (Jun-Jul) summer, and (Aug-Sep) the time of extreme heat. In other words, He was saying, “You have a proverb; if you sow the seed, you must wait for at least four months before you can hope to begin and reap the harvest.” Sychar is in a region famous for its corn. Agricultural land was very limited in stony, rocky Palestine; practically nowhere else in the country could someone look up and see waving fields of golden corn. As Jesus looked up, He saw the Samaritans come out of the town and make their way up the hill toward Him. Few crops are white at harvest time, certainly not corn. So it seems that the Samaritans were wearing white garments, which stood out against the golden corn and the blue sky. As the Lord swept His gaze and His hand around, He said: I tell you, look up and see that the fields are already white (the Greek word used here is white, leukos, not “ripe” as some have translated) for harvest (John 4:35 NET)! It had taken four months to grow; but in Samaria it was time for harvest! And this was the harvest that He wanted His talmidim to see.368 The long awaited Messiah had come. God’s time was now. The Word must be sown, and the spiritual harvest was waiting for them, as they saw before their very eyes.

This was Evangelism 101 taught by Jesus in His apostolic college. He said: 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 (Yochanan 4:36). To the Israelite sowing was a sad and backbreaking time; it was the harvest that was the time of joyfulness. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them (Psalm 126:5-6). An incredible thing had happened because of this new spiritual food. The sower and the harvester could rejoice at the same time.

Thus there is another proverb, and it is just as true, “One sows and another reaps” (John 4:37). Then our Savior went on to make two applications. First, He said: I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. The Lord told His talmidim that they would reap a crop that was not produced by their labor. By this Messiah meant that He was sowing the seed. There would come a day when the apostles would go out into the world and reap a harvest that Yeshua’s life and death had sown.

And secondly, others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor (Yochanan 4:38). The Nazarene told the twelve that there would come a day when they would sow and others would reap after them. There would be a time when the believing remnant would send out workers into the field but they would never see the harvest. Some of them would die as martyrs, but as the second century Church Father Tertullian once said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” It is as if Christ said, “There will be a time when you will labor and see nothing come of it. Some day you will sow and you will pass away before the harvest is reaped. But don’t let your hearts be troubled (John 14:1). The sowing is not in vain; the seed will not be wasted. Others will witness the harvest that was not given for you to see.”369

The Samaritan woman’s testimony had an undeniably positive effect. The people of Sychar came out of the town and made their way up the hill toward Jesus. They were irresistibly drawn to the Man who was possibly their Savior (Yochanan 4:30).

The apostles revealed several attitudes that frequently keep us from entering the harvest fields. First, we are put off by prejudice or bigotry. When the apostles saw the Master talking to a Samaritan woman, they couldn’t accept it. To them, she was at the bottom, the very bottom, of the social ladder. When we are truthful with ourselves, we must face the fact that we care about the salvation of some people more than others. And although its hard to admit, we hope some contemptible, vile souls never escape the darkness of hell. Thankfully, our Creator doesn’t rank us on the scale of worthiness. We are all unworthy of salvation (Romans 3:23), yet equally loved by Him.

Second, we are consumed with the everyday details of life. The talmidim couldn’t stop thinking about food long enough to notice their Rabbi’s excitement. They left Him weary, hungry, and thirsty from travel. But when they returned, they found Him bursting with energy. Anyone the least bit perceptive should have set aside the food and asked the Lord what made Him so energetic, but not those shortsighted apostles. We spend most of our day dealing with so-called necessities of life: taking care of our children, keeping schedules, making a living. Jesus had a strategic plan for His evangelism. Do you? Make a “Ten Most Wanted” list of people to pray for and watch the Holy Spirit go to work.

Third, we are lulled into inaction by the promise of tomorrow. The twelve didn’t appreciate the urgency of their calling. Yeshua used a popular proverb among farmers of His day: There are four more months and then comes the harvest, to stir them into action. He said, in effect, the time is now! No more waiting. But we procrastinate. We presume upon tomorrow. Meanwhile, death continues to reap. Furthermore, the time before the Lord returns draws shorter and shorter.370


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