Calvary Road Baptist Church

“TIMELY SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTION”

John 4.30-42[1] 

This is not a Gospel sermon in any sense of the word. This a sermon about the lessons taught by the Savior and the lessons it is hoped the disciples of our Lord learned upon their return to Jacob’s well with food.

You will remember from our investigation of the Savior’s journey through Samaria that He stopped at Jacob’s well while His disciples were dispatched to nearby Sychar to fetch food. We know the Lord was tired. We know He was thirsty. That He dispatched His men to obtain food suggests that He and they were also hungry. Sending them for food was a great way to get them out of the way so their presence and likely hostility toward the despised Samaritans would not prove to be an impediment to our Lord’s ministry to the woman who came to the well to fetch water. The two of them could speak freely and privately while the disciples were gone.

His conversation with the woman demonstrates how He redeemed the time. While most people might look upon the hour or two at Jacob’s well as boring or as an opportunity to rest or otherwise engage in “me time” activity, our Lord seized upon the encounter with the woman to minister grace to her, even while He was tired, thirsty, and hungry. His men returned just as their conversation drew to a close. Please turn to John 4.30. When you find that verse, I invite you to stand for the reading of God’s Word: 

30  Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.

31  In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.

32  But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

33  Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?

34  Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

35  Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

36  And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

37  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.

38  I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. 

While the disciples were away, our Lord’s conversation with the woman was profoundly beneficial to her. The result seems to have been her conversion when she drank “water springing up into everlasting life.” Then the disciples returned, and another conversation ensued. Whereas the conversation with the woman at the well had as its end evangelism, the conversation with the disciples had as its end edification.

There are two things observable in the passage before us: 

First, THERE IS CHRIST’S EXAMPLE 

Ponder how the Lord Jesus Christ expressed to His followers the delight that He had in His work. This is something that may initially have been lost on those early disciples, just as it is something I have observed is all too frequently lost on so many Christians of our day. The Lord Jesus Christ expresses here in so many words that He is excited about serving God. And the same would come to be true in those men’s lives, just as it ought to be the case in your life and mine. We actually get to serve the one true and living God. Our lives are actually significant because they are not selfish. What a profoundly blessed privilege.

To be sure, our Lord’s work was to seek and save that which was lost, to go about doing good. And while what we are called to be and to do is somewhat different, notice the incredible example our Lord Jesus set for His disciples then and for us now. Specifically, there are two things He did by way of example to His men:

First, notice that He neglected His meat for His work. When He sat down at the well, He was weary. We are told that. That He asked for water suggests that He was also thirsty. That He dispatched His men to Sychar for food reveals that He was also hungry. But was He the only one who was tired, thirsty, and hungry? Not likely. His men were also tired, thirsty, and hungry. But while their minds were on their appetites, He was attentive to a ministry opportunity. Notice how focused He was on ministry. He was so focused on serving God by ministering to the woman at the well that His disciples upon their return felt compelled to urge Him, saying, “Master, eat.” Their love for Him was obvious. Their concern for His welfare was commendable. That they looked after Him was delightful. But their insistence that He eat was revealing in a much different way since their prompting Him to eat underlines His love for the woman at the well, His commitment to serving God right now, and the priority He had for serving God before looking after Himself. This suggests to us a holy indifference to certain matters in comparison to spiritual things that would later be verbalized in His Sermon on the Mount, where He said, 

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.”[2] 

Of what significance is “me time” when the child of God has an opportunity to serve the living God? Take note that the Savior expressed no concern that His men thought His conduct suggested He had already eaten. That suggests how indifferent He was to His appetite. “I can’t do that for God. I’m hungry. I can’t visit that poor widow. I’m tired. Participate in evangelism? Out of the question! Spend a week tied up in Vacation Bible School? I am much too busy.” Don’t think the Savior was the first to make service to God a priority. Anyone who is spiritual places as a matter of personal priority ministry before self. Listen to what Abraham’s servant said to his host upon his arrival after a long and tiresome journey to secure a bride for Isaac, Genesis 24.33: 

“I will not eat, until I have told mine errand.” 

Then there is the prophet Samuel, sent to anoint David as Israel’s next king, First Samuel 16.11: 

“And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.” 

The Lord Jesus Christ did not endanger His life by delaying His meal so He might serve God straightway. Neither will you or I weaken our marriages, neglect our children, or harm the careers God provides us to finance our service to Him, by properly prioritizing our lives for His service. It boils down to honoring God.

Next, notice that He made His work His meat. The work our Lord had done to evangelize the woman, the work He had to do among the Samaritans (He would stay there two more days, verse 40), the prospect He now had of doing good to many, this was meat to Him. It was the greatest pleasure and satisfaction He could imagine. Never did a hungry man anticipate a feast with so much desire, nor feed upon it with so much delight, as our Lord Jesus Christ did when an opportunity to serve God by ministering to precious souls presented itself. Notice how He described to them their lack of spiritual insight: 

“I have meat to eat that ye know not of.” 

They could not imagine what was spiritually nourishing to Him. And is that not so often the case? Some Christians crave Bible preaching and yearn for Bible teaching, and are thrilled at the opportunities they have to serve God. Others, however, can take it or leave it. How do you explain that? Christ, by His Gospel and Spirit, did more good for the souls of men than those disciples could grasp. The same can be said of good Christians who live by faith. They have meat to eat which other believers simply do not yet see, and unbelievers will never understand. Notice the disciple’s reaction to what He’d said. They wondered if their Master had obtained food from another source. In other words, they could not understand His behavior and attitude. But the same thing can be seen with spiritual Christians who are committed to honoring and serving God. Unspiritual Christians and lost people wonder about them. They cannot understand what they are about. “Where does she get the time? Where does he get the motivation? Serving God is great, but they are fanatics.” The reason why our Lord’s work was His meat was that it was His Father’s work, His Father’s will: 

“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me,” 

John 4.34. Note, first, that the salvation of sinners is the will of God, and instructing people to reach them is His work, First Timothy 2.4. Secondly, Christ was sent into the world on this errand, to bring people to God so that they might know Him and to be happy in Him. Thirdly, He made this work His business and His delight. No one forced Him. When His body needed food, His mind was so taken up with serving God that He set aside His hunger, His meat. This was because nothing meant more to Him than serving God. Fourthly, He was not only always ready to be about His work, but He was resolved never to quit, nor stop, till He could say, 

“It is finished.” 

Many people start out well, don’t they? But they don’t finish. Our Lord Jesus was intent upon finishing His work. In so doing, our Master left us an example, which we may learn to do the will of God as He did; #1, with diligence, #2, with delight, and, #3, with perseverance; not only minding to but also aiming to finish our work. Such is the example set for us by the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Then, THERE IS CHRIST’S EXHORTATION 

Having set the example and expressing His delight in His work, the Lord then excites His disciples to diligence in their work. They were workers with Him, and therefore they should be workers like Him. He made His work His meat, and they should make their work their meat. The work they had to do, of course, was to preach the Gospel. He compares their work to harvesting, verses 35-38, which certainly is hard work. There is no doubt about that. Anyone who has ever lived on a farm would attest to that.

What can be said about the Gospel as harvest? Gospel time is harvest time, and Gospel work is harvest work. The harvest is something that is both appointed and expected, as is the Gospel. Harvest time is a busy time, as is Gospel time. All hands must be involved in the work, in the harvest and also in the Gospel. Everyone must be involved in the work, so each person can benefit from the Gospel ministry just as each person benefits from the harvest. Harvest time is also an opportunity, but for a short and limited time, which will not always last. And harvest work is work that must be done then or not at all. In like manner, the time of the enjoyment of the Gospel is a particular season, which must be acted upon for its proper purposes because once time has passed, it cannot be recalled.

The disciples were to gather in a harvest of souls for Christ. Notice how the Lord presents three realities for them to realize to urge upon them diligence:

First, realize that ministry work is necessary work, and the opportunity to do the work is both urgent and pressing, John 4.35: 

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” 

Whatever time of year it was, four months remained for the grain that had been planted to grow and ripen for harvest. But the Lord Jesus Christ here directed His men to lift up their eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest. It has been said by some commentators that our Lord was directing His men to notice the approaching crowd of men from Sychar following the woman’s announcement to them. Though the Jewish people initially would, by and large, reject the Lord Jesus Christ, it seems the Samaritans were receptive. Then, on the Day of Pentecost after our Lord’s ascension to God’s right hand and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, God blessed abundantly and thousands of Jewish men were saved, touching off a revival that lasted a hundred years and spread the Gospel from India and China to North Africa and the British Isles. In our day there are still regions where the fields of humanity remain white unto harvest; such places as India, China, and Nepal. In other places not so much. That is why we preach the Word in season and out of season, Second Timothy 4.2, and why some of us plant, others water, but we all depend upon God to give the increase, First Corinthians 3.6. The point is that we do not sit back and do nothing. Why not?

Because, second, realize that we are engaged in a profitable and advantageous enterprise. What the spiritually nearsighted of this world do not realize, what the stay at home professors are unaware of, and what the unsaved will never see, is what we gain by our service to God, regardless of the visible outcome of our efforts. John 4.36: 

“And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” 

The Lord Jesus Christ has chosen to pay those of us who are employed in His service very well, indeed. He will never do what Jehoiakim did, who used his neighbor’s service without wages, Jeremiah 22.13: 

“Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work.” 

And do you think the Savior would ever think of mistreating us in the manner James condemned in James 5.4? 

“Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.” 

Christ’s field workers, that’s you and me, will never have occasion to complain about our service or insist that we served a hard Master. We will not only be well rewarded in the future who toil in service to our Lord. There are also present benefits for our service to Christ: First, we who serve our Lord bear fruit: 

“gathereth fruit unto life eternal,” 

in verse 36, refers to the here and now. In First Timothy 4.16 Paul declares 

“for in doing this [serving God] thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” 

As the Lord Jesus Christ said the night before His crucifixion, 

“He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit,” 

John 15.6. Therefore, not only will there be rewards for serving God at the Judgment Seat of Christ then, but there is fruit that the servant of God who serves will bear now. But that is not all. We also have joy: Verse 36 ends with this promise: 

“that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” 

Note that although God is to have all the glory of the success of the Gospel, yet faithful servants may ourselves take the comfort from it. The reapers share in the joy of harvest, though the profits belong to the Master. As well, we who have different gifts and do different tasks to different degrees of success have no reason to envy one another, but we rejoice in each other’s success and usefulness. Those who do not serve God do not serve God because they simply do not understand.

Third, realize that we are about to be wonderfully blessed, as verses 37 and 38 predict: 

37  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.

38  I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. 

In the Old Testament, there are occasions when reaping without sowing was a sign of God’s judgment, with those who toiled by sowing were deprived of the blessing of reaping.[3] Even the Greeks and the Romans had proverbs that referred to harvesting from the labor of others.[4] The Lord Jesus Christ, however, means something else entirely. He encourages His servants on three levels: First, their New Testament ministry would be a ministry of harvesting what Moses and the prophets sowed but could not themselves reap. Did Moses and the prophets sow by their ministries of preaching? They certainly did, being engaged in so much more time preaching than writing. But their writings have done much more good since they left us than their preaching ever did. Their writing, after all, is the Old Testament. Next, their New Testament ministry would also be a ministry of reaping what John the Baptist sowed but did not live long enough to see reaped. After all, in fulfillment of prophecy, he did prepare the way of the Lord, Isaiah 40.3 and Matthew 3.11. Thirdly, apply this proverb to the matters immediately at hand in our text. While the Lord’s men were in Sychar obtaining food the Lord Jesus Christ had been sowing the good seed of the Word that would produce a harvest that His disciples would take in. While He had ministered Gospel truth to the woman that resulted in her conversion, while the disciples were fetching food and not sowing, she ran into town and testified, resulting in a spiritual harvest they participated in. Look to John 4.39-42 with me: 

39  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

40  So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days.

41  And many more believed because of his own word;

42  And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. 

Notice that the Savior did not need His disciples. He was perfectly capable of conducting His ministry without any help at all. And that’s the point! He graciously allowed His chosen men to serve Him so they could participate in the ingathering of the harvest. So it is with us. 

First the example, then the exhortation.

First the sowing, then the reaping.

First, the kingdom of God is sought, then personal things.

There is always a proper sequence, and the proper sequence never aligns with a “me first” attitude.

Sometimes Christians, and always the unsaved, think there is something unreasonable or unfair about God’s insistence that His kingdom be sought first, that He be served first, and that Christ should have the preeminence. But as the Savior showed and told His men in the passage before us today, He will greatly bless you presently and in the future for your service to Him.

In the present, you will have both fruit and joy. In the future, you will be given rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The disciples did not see it at first. Precisely how long it took them to learn the lesson I do not know. They did not learn quickly, but they did learn eventually.

What is today’s message about? Serve God. You will not regret serving God. He will bless you now and then, both here and in the hereafter, for serving Him. And you will not only benefit from your service, but you will also harvest where others have sown, but you will also benefit from what others before you have worked so very hard for.

But only if you serve God. Only if your meat is to do the Father’s will. Only if you follow the Savior’s example and respond to the Savior’s exhortation.

__________

[1] I am grateful for Matthew Henry’s wonderful comments on this passage.

[2] Matthew 6.33

[3] Leviticus 26.16

[4] See footnote Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol V, (New York: Abingdon Press), page 544.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org