Sermon on John 4:27-44 – “Labor in the Field of the Lord”

July 28, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church of Unionville

Sermon Text:

[Jhn 4:27-44 ESV] 27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” 43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)

INTRODUCTION

In this passage we have a story within a story. The beginning and end of the passage is about the coming to faith of Samaritan woman and of the Samaritan people of the town of Sychar. But nestled in the center of the passage we find Jesus talking to his disciples about two ways in which believers labor in evangelism. There are sowers and there are reapers.

In last week’s sermons we found that this Samaritan woman, though having a lived a sinful life, is chosen by God through the holy spirit to have faith in Jesus Christ. Now, we find, just as Jesus is telling the Samaritan that he is in fact the messiah, his disciples arrive back on the scene. Finding Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman they were shocked, but did not say anything to Jesus.

We read:

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

The Samaritan woman’s first thought is to tell others about Jesus. She doesn’t go into the town declaring that they should believe her, but rather asks the people of town to consider whether Jesus is the messiah.

When she goes into town she leaves her water jar at the well. Some believe that this means that in haste to tell others about Jesus she forgot to bring her water jar. But the text doesn’t say she forgot the jar. It simply says that she left it. She may have left it intentionally for Jesus to drink from and with the full intention of returning with others from town as she later does.

We find in verse 39 the results of the woman’s announcement to the townsfolk:

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”

But still others came to faith after talking with Jesus who stayed there for two days.

The text continues:

So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” 43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)

Here the Samaritans declare not that Jesus is merely a prophet, but that he is “the Savior of the world.”

This continues on John’s theme that Christ came as a savior not only of the Jews, but of the whole world. The Samaritans, as we saw last week, were not liked by the Jews. But now we find the fulfillment of the first stages of God plan to save people from all nations. We find it with the Samaritans.

This is “cross-cultural evangelism.” And we see that the messiah of the Jews is the messiah of the Samaritans!

And this is a great evangelistic success. “Many more believed.”

Within this story of evangelistic success in the town of Sychar, is a discussion that Jesus has with his disciples about two roles that believers have in evangelism. [Repeat: two roles that believers have in evangelism.] Some sow, and others reap. Some plant the seeds and others harvest the crops.

Previously Jesus used the drinking of water to teach a spiritual truth to the Samaritan woman. He taught her about the Holy Spirit as living water. As a spring wells up water, so the holy spirit wells up eternal life.

Now, Jesus uses the eating of food to teach another spiritual truth. This time he is talking not to the Samaritan woman but the disciples.

We read:

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

[REPEAT: My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

And Jesus is to accomplish the work of God. That is his purpose. While that hour has not yet come it soon will arrive when Jesus will die on the cross for the sins of his people. This is the main work he has been sent to accomplish.

When Jesus is dying on the cross he says in his final words—he says this about what he has been sent to accomplish—he says “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

This is the gospel. Salvation is assured for all men who believe in Christ because of His death on the cross. Not anything of our own doing, but solely based on the righteousness of Christ are we seen as righteous in God’s sight. This is the gospel. This is the good news. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World.

Yet, even though Jesus accomplishes the salvation of his people, he uses disciples—his followers—to tell others of that gospel.

This teaches us that not to think that because Jesus accomplished our salvation, we may simply sit back and do nothing. Rather, we are to work for the growth of the kingdom. In working for the growth of the kingdom there are two roles that Christians plays. Some are sowers, some are reapers.

This discussion in the center of our text concludes:

35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

The prophets of old labored and the set the groundwork for the successful evangelism of the disciples. The disciples didn’t have to start at the beginning with the newly-believing Samaritan woman because she, like the other Samaritans, already knew at the least the books of Moses.

The Word of God was well known in the land of Israel even if the people did not have faith in Jesus. But, Jesus says “the fields are white for harvest.” There were many persons to be gathered into the kingdom. There was then in Jesus’ time, are there are, no doubt, many persons to be gathered into the kingdom in our time.

And when Jesus contrasts the readiness of the spiritual harvest with the four months of waiting for the physical crop harvest, he tells us that there is to be no delay. There is to be no delay in believing in Jesus, and especially there is to be no delay in our work to bring in God’s people to His church.

We simply must evangelize—we must tell of the good news of Christ—if we are Christians. This is what evangelism is—to tell of the euangelion, the good news of the gospel. Evangelism is not evangelism unless is contains the gospel. And Christians are properly “evangelicals” only when they proclaim the gospel.

But in this gospel work, Jesus makes an important distinction between two roles that Christians will take. Some are sowers and others are reapers.

A. REAPERS

Those Christian workers who are are present at the actual conversion of an individual are the reapers. This is a role the disciples are to prominently have as Jesus commands them to “lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

It is great thing when someone comes to belief, but reapers must not be prideful in thinking that they alone have caused the conversion of another.

We find Paul saying in 1 Corinthians 3:6 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”

While Christians are to work to gather in the harvest, it is God who ultimately causes man to believe when he gives the Holy Spirit to man. So we must never usurp this role of God. We may plant, we may water, but God causes men to believe.

B. SOWERS

The other type of Christian evangelistic work is that of the sowers.

While the sower does not see the fruit, he plants the seed that may grow to belief.

Today, much of the great work of sowing in the church is done by Christians parents. Parents, it is your obligation to teach your children the Scriptures. Of the laws of God, Moses tells us “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deut. 11:19)

While the reaper often gets the credit from men, the sower is not to be discouraged. The sower plays his part.

So do not be depressed if your efforts do not convert people. You may be being used as a sower.

C. All Christians are to Labor in the Field of the Lord.

Some reap and some sow. And we might not even known which we are doing. When I preach the gospel from this pulpit or explain it to a hiker in conversation I do not know whether those listening will come to belief immediately, nor if they will come to belief in the end. But as a Christian I labor in the field of the Lord, I prayerfully leave growth in his hands.

Some reap and some sow, but All Christians are to Labor in the Field of the Lord. A spirit-filled, true believer in Christ simply wants to tell others about Christ. Look at the Samaritan women. She brought others out to see Christ. What a great example. It is what we are supposed to be doing!

APPLICATIONS

So what can we learn from this passage?

1. The gospel is a universal message. What other faith has so crossed cultural barriers? There are Christians in Egypt, and in Greece, Germany, America, Africa, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. No matter how far apart these cultures are, Christ draws in followers from all nations. We are called to bring the gospel to all cultures. If Jews can talk with Samaritans, we can surely talk with people different from us. I’ve had some cross-cultural work. I preached in the South, but am a Northerner. This is a real difference.

2. Evangelism is natural. As Christians we should desire to evangelize, to tell others of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thinking of this reminded me of an old popular song about baseball. Well, it is not that old. 1985. Is that old? In that year the musician John Fogarty came out with a song called “Centerfield.” It describes the desires of a baseball player. A baseball player wants to play baseball! The chorus goes “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today. Look at me, I can be, Centerfield.”

It is natural for a baseball player to want to play baseball. And in a prominent place – centerfield. And it is natural for a Christian to want to tell people of Jesus Christ. And in a prominent way, not hiding away but active wherever the Lord has you in life.

3. Evangelism is necessary.

In this Jesus commands his disciples to labor for the kingdom. It is not an option; it is necessary. As Christians, evangelism is necessary for us as well. Some say “preach Christ, use words if necessary.” But, while we certainly should exemplify Christ in our lives, words simply are always necessary. “How then will they call on him in whom they have no believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching.” (Romans 10:14)

Now, I certainly admit that evangelism can be difficult. And so I want to suggest a couple practical things which may assist your labor. For one, use Christian language that may bring a conversation around to Christ. I say “thank you, this is such a blessing to me.” A blessing! This guy must be a Christian. Then, ask people how you can pray for them. So far I’ve not had anyone reject my offer of prayer. These are good ways to move conversation toward’s evangelism, toward’s the gospel. Then you can tell people that your hope is in Jesus Christ because he rose from the dead and conquered death so that those who believe in his also will one day rise from the dead and have eternal life.

CONCLUSION

So we conclude.

We must sow the seeds of the faith in our efforts as parents, teachers, coworkers, and in our conversations with all people. And we must not be shy about the work.The fields of the world are ripe for harvest. Where are the reapers? Where are the laborers?

Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.

Let us all say, “Here I am Lord, send me, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) Let us all labor in the field of the Lord.

1 thought on “Sermon on John 4:27-44 – “Labor in the Field of the Lord””

  1. Beverly Duncan-Midgett

    Very thankful for your God-influenced sermon. A major undertaking delivered in a clear and concise manner. And shared with great encouragement to the listener/reader. I will have to read it again, and maybe another time as well.

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