Sunday, October 29, 2023

“Ripe for the Harvest” [Matt's Messages]

“Ripe for the Harvest”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
October 29, 2023 :: John 4:27-42 

Today, we’re all going to go to school to be better farmers.

I’ll bet you didn’t expect to hear that.

I grew up on a farm. Did you know that? We had about seventy acres, and we rented those seventy acres to a full-time farmer. So we didn’t actually farm it ourselves, though we did help get the fields ready by picking out the rocks each Spring.

And I was pretty clueless about how farming worked when I was a kid–not paying attention–so I won’t be teaching you anything from my personal store of knowledge. 

I’m going to be sharing with you what Jesus said about farming in John chapter 4. And the kind of farming Jesus was talking about was reaching people with the good news about Himself. Our evangelistic mission.

Jesus just used farming as an inroads illustration for His disciples to understand what He was trying to teach them about evangelism.

I love that this story landed on this Sunday. It’s a perfect story to consider for a Sunday right at the end of harvest season, right before Winter starts knocking at our doors. Next Sunday will be in November, and we’ll start singing about the harvest coming in. Well, Jesus has a lot to say about the harvest. In fact, our title for today comes right out of verse 35 where Jesus uses the phrase, “Ripe for Harvest.”

And He’s not talking about soybeans or corn. He’s talking about people. So this is also a perfect story to consider for a Sunday when we have a quarterly meal and meeting where we gather together to remind each other about the main thing around here.

We have a saying at Lanse Free Church that we got from others but have made our own, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Just as a farmer will always be focused on the harvest to come, we who are followers of Jesus Christ should keep our eyes on the harvest that He has promised for His kingdom.

But I’m getting ahead of the story. Let’s back up to verse 27 and start there.

This is right where we left off last week. We stopped in the middle of the story of Jesus’ noon-time conversation with a Samaritan woman next to Jacob’s Well in Sychar.  

If you remember, Jesus has been full of surprises. He has plopped down to rest in the heat of the day next to Jacob’s Well while His disciples have gone into town to buy some food. Jesus is fully human and pretty tired and very thirsty.  And when a Samaritan women came up to the well to draw some water, Jesus, surprisingly, struck up a conversation with her. Remember this?

Jews and Samaritans don’t mix. Most Jews would have never even been there much less made friends. Especially across gender lines. A Jewish man is talking to a Samaritan woman?!

And you remember how the conversation went? Jesus asked her for water and then used that request for water to offer her Living Water–the eternal refreshment that comes from believing in Him. Living Water

And we saw how her understanding of Jesus changed over the course of their conversation. Jesus went from being, in her eyes, just a thirsty Jewish guy, to a bold and gentle Jewish guy who was willing to talk to her and to even touch something she had touched, and then to a miraculous prophet. Because Jesus somehow knew all about her life. He knew all about her choices, her spiritual thirst. And He knew all about what had been done to her, too. He knew her shame–she had five broken marriages, and she was currently living in sin with another man.

And Jesus kept on talking to her, pursuing her, loving her even though He knew all about her. And even when she tried to change the subject and talk about worship instead, He still stayed focused on reaching her heart. And then when she brought up the Messiah, He actually revealed to her that He was the Messiah! 

Jesus hasn’t been this straightforward with anyone so far in the whole Gospel of John, but He said to this woman (verse 26), “I who speak to you am he” (Jn. 4:26 NIVO).

That’s where we had to stop last week. And this week (v.27) picks up from that moment. Now we get the rest of the story. Verse 27. 

“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are you talking with her?’”

Jesus’ disciples come back from Weis or Wegmans with some plastic bags in their hands. (Or however it worked in those days). And they are shocked to find their Rabbi, their Teacher talking with a woman. And a Samaritan woman at that!

They are so shocked that they can’t even get the questions they are thinking out of their mouths. “What do you want?” “Why are you talking with her?”

We know the answers. We know that she wanted water. And, even deeper, she wanted what that water pointed to–fully-forgiven, shame-free eternal life.

And we know what Jesus wanted too. He wanted her heart. Jesus wanted her her spiritual thirst to be quenched through faith in Him. That’s why they are talking to each other. Jesus is not sexist or racist. Jesus is not misogynist nor xenophobic. Jesus is on the hunt for her heart.

Or to speak in farmer terms, Jesus wants her to be harvested. In a good way! He wants her to be a part of the crop of the kingdom, the crop for eternal life.

And I think that, here, He gets what He wants. Look at what she does. Verse 28.

“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him” (vv.28-30).

I think that her life is changed from this moment on. And you know why I say that? 

Because she left her water jar! The very thing that had brought her out there in the first place. She left it behind. And she went after her neighbors. 

I love how this woman does evangelism, don’t you? 

You can do this. She goes to her neighbors, some of whom probably hate her. Many of whom probably scorn her. Some may have been her friends. It doesn’t matter. She goes back to them and talks to them about Jesus. “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

Notice that she doesn’t have all of the answers. She doesn’t have everything figured out. She is not a perfect theologian. But she has met Jesus, and she wants others to meet Him, too.

You and I can do this, too. We don’t have to have to have a perfect presentation all prepared or to have answers to every question that someone may ask. We just have to be bold enough to invite our neighbors to “come and see.”

Just like Jesus invited those first disciples to check Him out in chapter 1. This woman invites her neighbors to give Jesus some consideration. 

“Have you ever considered the claims of Christ?” You and I can say that to someone else. That’s not hard. “Have you ever thought about Who Jesus is?” You could say that. “I am a believer in Jesus Christ. What do you think of Him?” Or you and I could invite someone to read the Gospel of John together.

This woman says, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did” which is an exaggeration, but He certainly knew some of the darkest parts of her life. And yet He still cared about her.

“He says that He is the Messiah. Could this be true? He’s a Jew. He has against Him. I wish the Messiah was a Samaritan. But I think He just might be the Messiah. Come and see.”

And they do! John says that they “made their way toward him” (v.30).

Now, keep that in your mind as we read the next part. See those villagers walking back towards Jesus and His disciples as they have this conversation and Jesus begins to take them to Farmer’s School. Verse 31.

“Meanwhile his disciples urged him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’” Remember He’s really tired. He’s been really thirsty. It’s the middle of the day. He’s probably ravenous, too. They have traveled many miles. They want Jesus to eat something, but He’s looking over at the town back where the woman went, and I think He’s got a great big smile on His face.

And then He looks at His disciples, and says, “Oh yeah, this is a great time to take these guys through some Farmer School.” Look at verse 32. “But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ Then his disciples said to each other, ‘Could someone have brought him food?’”

There’s that misunderstanding thing again, right? Jesus, enigmatically, says that He is not really hungry because He has unknown food. And they assume that He’s talking about physical food. Just like Nicodemus thought He meant physical birth and the woman at the well thought He meant fresh well-water. But, of course, He doesn’t. This kind of “food” is something much deeper, much more important, and much more satisfying. Verse 34.

“‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his 

Farmer School lesson number one (of three):


Farming is hard work, and farmers need to keep their strength up so they need to eat some of the best, most nourishing meals that there are out there.

But what Jesus says is the best food for Him is different from what anyone might expect. Jesus says that His food is the food of obedience. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” “That’s what I find the most satisfying.”

Jesus is not saying that He’s never going to eat again. Or even that He’s not going to eat soon. This is a Guy who just asked a woman for a drink of water. He has physical needs that will need to be met.
But Jesus is saying that all of those things take a back seat to doing what God has sent Him to do!

“Eating the best food” means prioritizing the mission.

Put the Kingdom first.
Do the will of God.
Finish the work that He has for you.

That is the best food.

Where are your priorities? Where are mine? Because we are tempted to chase every other thing in life like it is ultimate. Like “that’s the stuff!”

Just like we run after all kinds of other things to quench our spiritual thirst (like we said last week), we are tempted to put anything and everything ahead of sharing Jesus with those around us.

So often, we act like something else is the main thing. But obedience to the Great Commission is the main thing! And the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. 

And it’s not just the main thing. It’s the the most satisfying! Jesus doesn’t just grit His teeth here and fast from food. He says that this is His food! He finds obedience to be satisfying. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

And He did, didn’t He? Jesus was obedient even death, death on the Cross where He said, “It is finished.” And even in that He was finding satisfaction. Obedience was His food.

Have you found that to be true in your life, as well? Sometimes I’m the happiest when I have been able to get past myself and what I consider to be my “needs” and just be obedient in the mission that God has for me. I call it, “Doing the thing.” I’m not just spinning my wheels or playing pastor, but I’m doing the thing that God put me here to do, “Doing the thing.”

And I love it when I see this church “doing the thing.” I loved it that at two events in the community this week, we had our people handing out Scripture and showing up to show the love of Jesus to folks. Keeping the main thing the main thing. That’s the stuff! That’s the best food!

And, amazingly, people will often respond favorably. 

That’s lesson number two of Farmer School:


Look at verse 35. “Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together” (vv.35-36). 

Now, a farmer always knows that he or she has to be good at waiting. Apparently, they had a saying back then and there, “Four month s more and then the harvest.” They probably said it when they did the planting. “I put the seed in and then I have to be patient. Four months more. Four months more.” So the farmer has to see the ripe fields in his or her mind. They are still future.

But Jesus says that because He is now here, the fields are ripe.  Even now, He says. You see that in verse 36? “Even now...even now...” Something big has happened so that the disciples needed to see that the harvest had begun. 

See the ripe fields. Or literally, the “white” fields. A field of grain is ready to be harvested when the heads are white. 

Now think about this, what do Jesus and the disciples see right then? What is in their field of vision? Remember verse 30? The townspeople making their way towards Jesus.

Many commentators have wondered if the townspeople are wearing traditional Samaritan white robes as they flow out of the town and walk towards Jesus. I don’t know, but it sound good!

Either way, Jesus could see the potential harvest to come. And He wanted His disciples to see it, too. “Open your eyes...look at the fields.” With spiritual eyes, with the eyes of faith.

It’s not always going to seem like it, but the harvest has begun. It’s here. It’s coming. People are ripe to come to Christ. I know that it doesn’t always seem like it. I often feel like nobody is interested in coming to Christ. Especially the younger generations. But what they really aren’t interested in is fake Christianity and the lies that they have been shown and sold about what Christianity is and isn’t. Many of them are hungry for the truth and when they found out Who Jesus really is, they will want Him, too.

I’ve read some encouraging reports of spiritual awakening among Generation Z, the young people who are young adults right now. They see the world differently than older generations, but they are hungry  for something, and many of them are going to find that Jesus is the answer to what they are seeking.  We need to assume that and go out and share Jesus with them in boldness and love. And assume that He will save many and not few.

We need to see the ripe fields. Even now. Verse 36.

“Even now the reaper draws his wages [the job is done], even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.’”

This is Farmer School Lesson number three (and last):


Sow, reap, and rejoice. 

Nobody reaps if nobody sows. Right? 

You don’t have to be the one who sows to reap. That’s the point that Jesus is making in verse 38. He says that others have done the hard work of sowing and the disciples are now reaping the benefit of their labor.

I think that’s people like John the Baptist and all of the prophets in the Old Testament. They’ve been sowing, planting seeds about the Messiah for a long time.

And now, these disciples get to reap the benefits of their hard work. And that’s okay! In fact, Jesus says, it’s great. The sower and the repear are glad together (v.36). “Glad together.”

But if no one ever sows, then there will be no reaping. So, there’s really a call here to sow.  To plant those seeds. To consider it “your food” to get out there and introduce people to Jesus. To say, “Come and see...could this be the Christ?”

“Could this One be the One you are looking for?” 

Who might you need to talk to this week? Where might you sow seeds of the gospel? You never know where you might reap then! You never know who you might to talk and find out that someone else has been talking to them and the ready to jump into the boat. They are ready to get picked off of the stalk.

Sow, reap...and rejoice!

What a joy it is when people finally come to know Jesus as their Savior. Jesus says there are parties in heaven when one sinner repents. And there are parties here on Earth, too. And nobody begrudges anyone else for their part in it. Sometimes we sow. Sometimes we reap. And whenever there is reaping, we rejoice. Together.

Especially when there are many! When the harvest is huge. And that’s what happened in this story. Look at verse 39.

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.”

There’s two miracles for you, right there! 

First, that many of these Samaritans BELIEVED because of this woman’s testimony. This woman. This Samaritan woman who had been loaded down with shame. She points them to Jesus and they believe.

And you know what happens when you believe in Jesus, right? You get life in His name (John 20:31).

And here’s the second miracle. These Samaritan townspeople asked this Jewish Rabbi to stay with them for two days! The wall of hostility had been knocked down. Ethnicity and race and culture and gender wars were no longer the factors that kept them apart. Jesus had brought them together. Jesus had sown and now was reaping. And everyone was rejoicing. V.41

“And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’”

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NIVO). And this man, Jesus is the Savior of the world.

These folks came to believe that for themselves. I love that “for ourselves” in verse 42. They aren’t content to let someone else believe for them. They have trusted Jesus for themselves. 

Have you trusted Jesus yourself? Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world?

It’s interesting that they say, “of the world,” right? He’s not just the Savior of Israel. But also the savior for the half-breed Samaritans. And also for the Gentiles. We’ll see that next week, Lord-willing. Gentiles like you and me. Have you trusted Jesus yourself? Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world? And do you know Him as your own savior?

If so, we all rejoice! 
If not, we all invite you to do so now. Check out Jesus and finding out what He did on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb, come to know Him as your own Savior from your own sins and for eternal life. On that day, many believed. “Many more” it says. What a day of rejoicing that must have been.

Let me ask this question for us as we close:

What if Jesus had not bothered? What if Jesus had not bothered to speak to this woman at this well? What if Jesus had allowed her to change the conversation, and He just stopped pursuing her. He just stopped sowing. He just stopped planting. What if He had just gotten a drink and something to eat and been satisfied with that? What if the Farmer never went out to sow? What if obedience was not Jesus’ food? When then?

Let me ask it this way for all of us potential farmers:

What is your food? Not what did you bring to share at the meal today, but what is the most important life priority for you so that you would call it your sustenance and satisfaction? What is your food?

Next question: Can you see the fields? Do you see the potential reaping that could be done here in our area and around the world as we engage in God’s redemptive mission? Can you see the fields of the people around you? Are they white? Are they ripe? The harvest has begun. 

Last question: Are you sowing? Because if nobody sows, nobody reaps. But if we keep sowing–if we keep the main thing the main thing–then we will reap, and together we will rejoice. Because we know that this man Jesus really is the Savior of the world.