The Harvest is Ripe
Read John 4:7-39
“Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”
During the time of Christ, the Samaritans and the Jews were antagonistic towards one another. For the Jews, the Samaritans were outcasts. When the Assyrians captured Samaria in 722bc, they continued their practice of deporting conquered people from their homeland and repopulating the region with other expelled foreigners. Those who were brought into the religion would subsequently intermarriage with the remaining Israelites and integrate their religion with Judaism. As a result, the Samaritans were racial and religious mixed. This led to cultural, ethnic, and religious animosities between the two groups. Jews did not interact with Samaritans. It was surprising then that Christ would interact with not only this woman. She was not only a Samaritan, but a woman in a culture where unrelated men and women would have little interaction. Furthermore, because of her immoral lifestyle, she was even an outcast in her own village. Therefore, when the disciples returned, their own prejudices of the day were reflected in their amazement that he was interacting with her. For a Jew, for a Rabbi to talk with any woman, especially to discuss to law, was inappropriate and a violation of their religious sensibilities.
When the women left and returned to the city, the Disciples were more concerned about eating their meal and moving on. Like the woman herself, who was focused on the physical need for water, the disciples likewise focused upon the physical need for food. Seeing that they also were focused upon the physical rather than spiritual, Christ uses the circumstance to teach them the same lesson that he had taught the woman, namely that life is more than just the physical needs a person has. The most important element necessary for life is spiritual. The priority of life is pursuing the will of the Father rather than pursuing what this physical world has to offer. There is greater satisfaction in doing what God desires.
To apply his lesson, Jesus then brings his mission (and the mission of the disciples) back into focus. He again points to the fields to provide an illustration of the urgency and necessity of his task. Looking at the physical fields surrounding Samaria, Christ points out that the physical harvest is still months away. But when we move to the spiritual harvest, the harvest is already upon them. One can imagine that at this point Jesus moved from pointing to the fields of grain, to the people who were coming out of the city. The urgency of the spiritual harvest is seen in verse 36, for the reaper is not simply waiting around for the harvest to begin, he is already engaged in it. Christ has come to inaugurate his new kingdom and the time to bring the people into the kingdom has arrived.
This is what is to change our perspective. We often look about us and see the spiritual bankruptcy of people and their lack of interest in the gospel to mean that there is no harvest. We disengage from the world and develop a fortress mindset. We strive to insulate ourselves from the world and just maintain the church. But the words of Christ jolt us out of this mindset. The harvest is ripe, he is still building his kingdom and the time is urgent to engage people with the gospel. The people the disciples thought to be pagan and unreachable, Christ showed to be receptive and responsive. People today are looking for answers to the challenges we face in life. People are fearful of the future. We have the answer and the answer is Christ. As you pray today, ask God to give you a vision for the harvest and give you opportunities to share the hope that we have in Christ.