Food for Our Souls | John 4:27-42
Today we are jumping back into the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. We started this story two weeks ago, then had Pastor Greg Washington come as our guest and challenge and energize all of us—was that just me? Praise God, we will definitely be having him back sometime in the future. So we took that one-week hiatus, and now we’ll be finishing this story in John chapter 4.
If you remember back to two weeks ago, Jesus and his disciples were travelling from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north. But to get there, they had to cross Samaria, which most Jews didn’t love doing. To Jews in Galilee and in Judea, the Samaritan Jews weren’t really even Jews anymore. They had intermarried with foreigners and mixed their religious belief with those of these foreigners, and so, to many Jews, these Samaritans were more unclean even than Gentiles! There was a deep-seated tension, and often even hatred, between Jews and Samaritans.
But, even so, Jesus stopped at Jacob’s Well in Samaria as they were travelling. It was noon, so it was hot, and so they stopped to rest, and while the disciples ran into town to buy food, Jesus struck up a conversation with a Samaritan woman who had come in the middle of the day to draw water.
And two weeks ago, we looked in detail at what Jesus said to the woman, how he pointed her to the Living Water, the Messiah, who was actually himself. He spoke of worship not in terms of which physical temple Jews should go to worship, which was a huge argument between the Jews and the Samaritans—was it Mount Gerizim in Samaria or was it in Jerusalem in Judea? He basically ignores that question and says, “A time is coming and has now come, when the true worshippers will gather in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” In other words, Jesus wants far more than mere external lip-service and technical obedience in going to the right location to worship. He wants our hearts. So how does he gain our hearts? By giving us Living Water.
This well of Living Water, the Grace of God shown to us through Christ, this is all we need in the world for true and lasting satisfaction, especially in fulfilling our greatest need of being reconciled with our Creator. I hope the first part of John chapter 4 was meaningful for you, to hear Jesus’ words about this Living Water. But, the story does not end in verse 26. This Living Water is not just for the disciples, or for the Samaritan woman. This Living Water is for everyone. Let’s read, starting with verses 27-30; and we’ll go section by section and talk through it. So, verses 27-30:
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.
So, his disciples come back from the town, presumably with food—that’s the reason they had gone in the first place. And they were amazed that he was talking with a woman! If you remember, in this culture it was degrading for a man to talk openly with a woman; even within marriage there were guidelines for how much a husband should talk to his wife, because that was below him. This is a completely different culture than today. But Jesus did not care one bit that she was a woman, nor did he care that she was a Samaritan woman. He cared that this was a human being, who needing Living Water that Jesus could give her! She needed eternal life, and Jesus could give it to her.
So the disciples marveled, but they didn’t say anything. They didn’t ask the Samaritan woman, nor did they ask Jesus why they were talking, so then the woman ran off into town, leaving the water jar behind, and she was running to go tell anyone who would listen, verse 29: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” Then, verse 30, catch this: “They went out of the town and were coming to him.” These townspeople were on their way to Jesus. This morning, 5 reasons to share the gospel of Jesus, why share the Living Water? Reason # 1:
- People are interested(27-30).
Now, I don’t think this text proves that all people everywhere are always interested in hearing the gospel—nor do I think that’s the point of these first four verses here, BUT: I think it’s a good observation nonetheless. This woman ran into town to tell anyone who would listen about Jesus. And people were coming from the town to meet Jesus. At the very least, these people were interested!
Yes, they were interested because they clearly had some sort of messianic expectation, like the Samaritan woman mentioned back in verse 25, but this is also likely a more general interest in a Jewish rabbi willing to teach and even offer something called Living Water to a Samaritan woman. People were interested, and the same is true for today: People are more interested than we think.
The two topics of conversation nowadays that everyone tries to avoid are what? What are the two taboo topics in American conversation? Religion and politics. Why? Well, because it can get very heated very quickly, right? I’ve seen more people fasting from Facebook lately because they’re so sick of all the rabble, rabble, rabble going on. And while many may be tired of these two topics, in particular, let me just say, it’s almost never the case that someone doesn’t have an opinion of some sort. Even if they’re annoyed with it, there’s still a lot of interest in it, and opinions. Even if the opinions are that politics and religion don’t matter, or that one or the other doesn’t matter, that’s still an opinion! It’s still something that holds interest.
The reason I say all that is to say, this excuse we often use for not talking about our faith in public—the excuse that “people won’t listen”—it isn’t true. There may be awkwardness, sure, but I guarantee you, it is a rare thing for someone to stop listening because someone’s talking about their faith. Usually, it’s quite the opposite.
I had lunch at Panera Bread last week before Pastor Washington came on Sunday, and we were talking about all kinds of things, but in particular the crossroads of faith and politics, and our thoughts on Trump and immigration and race relations and everything. It was a great conversation. But, guess what I noticed to my right AND to my left, as we were talking? There were two, TWO different couples listening in on our conversation! They were trying to be sneaky about it, but they weren’t doing a very good job. It was quite obvious. And we were not talking loudly (I know Pastor Washington had a loud voice last week, but he was not yelling at Panera Bread). We had normal-volume conversation, and they were listening in. In particular, this sweet older lady, was like leaning way over, trying to act like this is how she sat, normally.
People are interested. Every worldview represented on the face of the planet, even for those that do not know they have a worldview, a lens through which they see the world: Every worldview tries to answer the same questions: Who are we? Where are we (or what is this place?)? What is the problem? And what is the solution? People are interested because everyone recognizes that there is a problem, and that it needs to be fixed. No one denies that! People are interested in biblical answers for the question of life, because everyone knows that there’s something wrong, and everyone’s trying to solve whatever they perceive the problem to be. And they’re all trying to solve it in their own way. Can I tell you—Jesus is the answer, and people are interested in hearing about this answer, even if they don’t end up agreeing.
So, we leave verse 30 with these townspeople coming out to meet Jesus and move into, in verse 31, a conversation between Jesus and the disciples before these townspeople arrive. So that’s what’s happening. The people are coming out to meet them—they’re on their way—and the disciples talk with Jesus. Verse 31-33:
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?”
So, the disciples are urging him to eat, because that’s why they’ve stopped at Jacob’s Well in the first place, and they probably want to make sure he has the energy to keep going all the way to Galilee. But Jesus gives a somewhat cryptic response: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” Any husbands in here ever have to decode something your wife has said? Jesus spoke like this too. And now your wife can say, “I’m just trying to follow Jesus.” So, he says this, and of course, the disciples take him literally, like they normally do, and they ask, “Has he already eaten? Did someone bring him something?” Then, verses 34-38:
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.”
So Jesus says, again, in verse 34: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” The 2ndreason to share the gospel of Jesus, to share this Living Water of God’s grace:
- It is food for our souls (31-34).
Jesus makes a remarkable statement here. In effect, he’s saying that his mission to do the will of God is more important to him, more nourishing for him, than physical food! A regular diet of obedience to God is more nourishing, and life-giving, even than physical food. Don Carson puts it like this:
“The creative will of God, realized in obedience, sustains life’. If in his dealings with the Samaritan woman Jesus was performing his Father’s will, there was greater sustenance and satisfaction in that than in any food the disciples could offer him.”
Wow! Now, I know we’re not Jesus. I realize that! We do need physical food, and we are not perfect, like Jesus. But there is also no doubt, even for us fallen humans, that this is also true for us: Obedience to God’s will brings more sustenance and satisfaction that any food we can imagine! That’s why Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, when he’s being tempted by the devil in the desert, specifically tempted with physical food, he says what? “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
We find life-giving truth in what God has spoken, his very words. God has revealed himself to us, how? Through words! He has revealed what he wants for us, how? His words! And so, we find nourishment and satisfaction in hearing and then doing his will. Obeying his words. And guess what? Part of God’s will for us while we are here on earth is to point people to the Living Water, and the only one who can give this Living Water, this eternal life, Jesus. That’s why he says, in verse 32, “Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest!” He’s sending them out to join him in reaping the harvest! He’s sending them out to join him in doing the will of God!
One of the most common reasons we have for not sharing the gospel is because we think we need to wait until we’re just a little bit more mature, then we’ll be ready! Can I tell you something? This IS part of our maturing process! You are missing out on maturing by thinking you need to mature before you can tell people about Jesus! If doing God’s will in this way nourished Jesus, don’t you think it will nourish us? Mere fallen human beings?! We’re missing out on part of the satisfaction of having tasted the Living Water, by not sharing this Living Water with others. John Piper puts it like this:
“So Jesus is saying, ‘I am strengthened to do what God has given me to do by doing what God has given me to do. My source of energy for doing God’s will is doing God’s will.”
How can you be nourished toward obedience? Through obedience! Obedience to God is food for our souls. Sharing the Living Water is spiritual nourishment for us, it brings satisfaction and joy. And it’s guilt-free satisfaction! It’s not like eating a Hershey’s Crème Pie or Funfetti cookies (which, for me, are the two best desserts on the planet). It’s the most satisfying and yet also the most nourishing food for our souls. Obedience to his will, especially by lifting our eyes to the harvest, to those that need to hear about Jesus. Speaking of the harvest, the 3rdreason to share the gospel, to share the Living Water:
- The harvest is ripe(35).
This is what he’s saying in verse 35 and also in verse 36. Look there again: “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.Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
Jesus is saying that, yes, usually, you have to plant the seeds, then wait four months until they’re ready for harvesting! Makes sense, right? Usually that’s true. But this is different! We don’t have to wait for this harvest! Jesus has come and ushered in the harvest, right now! He’s saying the sowing and the reaping goes on at the same time in this field! Yes, plant seeds, but at the same time, pull off the fruit! The fields are white for harvest, “white” referring to like the ripening of corn or other food or even wheat especially when it’s been ripe for too long. He’s pointing out, especially, these people of Samaria who are coming to them from the town! The time is NOW for harvest. The time is NOW to share this Living Water.
And here’s the funny thing. Listen, this was 2,000 years ago. Jesus had JUST begun ushering in the end-time harvest. There are now fields white for harvest all around us, and so still the time is now. There is no waiting for later to share this Living Water, not only because we don’t know how much time we have left, but because even if we have 70 years left on this earth, that’s a drop in the bucket towards what is needed to reach the people all around us who have never tasted the Living Water.
These people around us have never felt the loving embrace of our Father God in Christ. They don’t know of it. And we walk around distracted, and thinking we have all the time in the world. It’s like people who walk leisurely through security at an airport. It doesn’t make sense. You’re going to miss your plane, and not to mention that you’re about to get yelled at. I mean, that’s a completely different context, but you get the idea. Just leisurely, even apathetically walking through life like we have all the time in the world. To that, I must quote my wife’s life-verse, Ephesians 5:16- “Make the most of your time, because the days are evil.” The harvest is ripe, and WE, you and me, are called to sow and to reap, which brings us to the 4threason to share the gospel, to share the Living Water:
- There is joy in both sowingand reaping(36-38).
This is what he’s getting at in verses 36-38, which I’d like to read again:
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.”
His point is that there is joy in both sowing and reaping. The sower and the reaper may rejoice together. It seems like those sowing here, the ones he’s referring to, are others that came before the disciples. I’m guessing the main one he’s referring to here is John the Baptist. He speaks so highly of John the Baptist elsewhere; it makes perfect sense that he’d speak this highly of him here. He’s telling the disciples, in verse 38, that he sent them to reap that for which they did not labor. In other words, they didn’t put all the work into this, others did! And they’re “entering into their labor” or jumping in on the work that’s already been done.
John the Baptist and his disciples, and others, did a lot of work in preparing the hearts of people to receive the truth about Jesus, to taste the living water. And now, Jesus’ own disciples get to see a lot of the fruit of their labor. The point here is twofold:
- Sometimes God calls us to plant seeds. Sometimes that’s our job, to plant seeds. That doesn’t mean that we don’t share the gospel; that means that maybe we don’t see a particular person come to faith right then and there! We can rejoice in the sowing, the planting of the seeds, because it’s incredibly important work!
- Sometimes God calls us to reap the harvest. There may be times we get to experience the joy of seeing someone come to know Christ. But we must remember, we don’t get all the credit for that. Not only in the sense that God gets all the credit anyway, because he’s the one who moves in people’s hearts, but even among mere humans, we’re not the only ones God is using to bring people to himself.
In other words, there is great joy no matter how God is using you. You know, I’ve been part of planting seeds in people who later come to know Christ, who later have someone lead them to the Lord. Sometimes the seeds we plant, we never get to see how they turn out. And yet Jesus says here that there is joy in sowing. I’ve also got to be part of leading people to Christ who point back to Sunday School teachers who taught them every week as a child and planted seeds for years! And that’s actually part of why we’re switching most of our elementary-aged classes and the 4 and 5 year olds this fall to weekly volunteers instead of monthly. We want people willing to continually plant seeds for a whole school year, because one day, maybe even in that very class, these children may come to faith in Jesus. I encourage you to pray about being part of that. There may be no greater work in this church.
There’s great joy in both sowing and reaping. Why? Because no matter what part God may have you play, some will believe in Jesus. That’s our 5thand last reason for sharing the gospel:
- Some will believe(39-42).
Apparently, at this point in the narrative, these townspeople had already come out, and Jesus and his disciples had finished talking. So, follow along with me in the last few verses, 39-42:
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. [As a reminder, again, Jesus, the JEW, stayed in Samaria for two days—BIG deal]. 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.”
Many believed in Jesus. Many trusted in him, not because of Jesus’ disciples, who were wondering why Jesus was even talking to this woman. Many believed because this Samaritan woman ran to tell whoever would listen to her! And because of her testimony, and then because of meeting Jesus himself, they believed. Listen, it may sometimes feel as if people just won’t listen; they just won’t believe. And sometimes that’s true, and it’s not your or my job to make them believe anyway, right? It’s not! Our job is to tell anyone who will listen, and it’s God’s job is to save whomever he wishes.
But listen, even though it is true that some, even many, will never believe, some will! Some will! God is in the business of saving people. That means some will believe!
I remember the very first time I got to be part of leading someone to Christ. I was 17 years old, and I had not been a Christian for long. I didn’t understand the whole Bible, to put it mildly. But I understood a few things. I understood my sin, what Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished for me, and I understood the need to trust in Him alone to be saved. That’s all I really understood at that point.
I was a senior in high school, and I had weekly trumpet lessons about an hour away at Cameron University in Lawton, OK. My hometown is 10 miles from the Texas-Oklahoma border. And so, as a senior, I ended up driving a freshman trumpet player to this same lesson-teacher in Lawton. So, we got to know each other pretty well, not just with these trumpet lesson, but me being the section-leader, and him being a freshman trumpet player, all the trumpets hung out a lot. On a side note, that’s because we’re the coolest instrument.
But, on one of these trips, we grabbed dinner, I think at Long John Silver’s, and I got to share with him about God, sin, Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the need to trust in Jesus alone to be saved. The little bit I knew, I gave to him. Probably not very eloquently, either.
I could tell he was interested. He didn’t ask any questions, but he was really engaged with what I was telling him. We didn’t have many conversations about that again, at least not for a while, but he did start going to church in Wichita Falls, and eventually his entire family started going to church and eventually his mom, dad, and sister came to faith in Christ.
I didn’t really know this until after I graduated, but he now points back to our conversation at Long John Silver’s as the first time he truly understood the gospel, what Jesus has done for sinners like you and me, and he ended up trusting in Jesus shortly after our conversation. He had to sit on it and ponder it for a while, but eventually he trusted in Jesus. And eventually, God used him to reach his whole family.
I am not saying this for you to be impressed with 17-year-old me: “Look what I did!” Certainly not. Trust me, I was clueless, and if you knew me in high school, oh, the embarassment. I struggled with being obsessed with myself, which is common not just for teenagers, but really for all of us, if we’re honest. But, I was a new, growing Christian. The one thing I can tell you is that, even though I felt like I knew so little about the Bible and about God, it was nourishment for me to share what God had done in my life.
If you do not share what God has done for you in Christ, you are likely, whether you know it or not, spiritually anemic. Not only is not sharing the Living Water a sign that you are likely spiritually anemic. That’s true, but it’s not only a sign of spiritual anemia, it’s part of the CAUSE! We’re missing out on nourishment, on food for our souls, by keeping the Living Water to ourselves. There is a unique, life-giving JOY that comes in seeing someone understand for the first time, and then confess like these Samaritans in verse 42, “We know that He is indeed the Savior of the world!”
It brings us back to the joy and freedom we felt the first time it hit us! When we truly grasped the weight and the depth of God’s love for the world, in that he sent his only son to die, that whoever believes in him will not perish. I’m jealous for that joy. I’m hungry for that joy, the joy of being obedient to God’s will. And I’m hungry for you, as your pastor, to have this joy and nourishment that comes in sharing the Living Water. We must stop distracting from the most important mission we have on this earth: to do the will of God. And we must stop leaving our part of God’s will for us, which is to point people to the Living Water, eternal life given to us in Christ.
As we worship in a moment, I want you to ask God to so fill your heart and mind with the weight and the depth of God’s love, shown to us in Christ, that you cannot even help but share. “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. That he would give his only son, to make a wretch his treasure.” Sing, church, truly. But then, when you leave this place, go and SHARE.