The Lord Jesus never passed on an opportunity to take advantage of a teachable moment. In John 4, as the Samaritan woman at the well was returning with the men of her town to meet Jesus, the Lord took a quick moment to teach his disciples a few principles on how God’s kingdom works when a harvest of souls is approaching.
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.
Principle #1: In v. 34, Jesus lays out the main principle. A commitment to do the Father’s will and finish it is more important than the routine things of this world, such as physical food. The particulars of doing the Father’s will and finishing it may be different for each believer, but they all have the same goal–to glorify God by lifting up Jesus’ name.
Principle #2: God’s timing is different than man’s (v. 35). When Jesus said, “Say not ye…?” and “behold, I say unto you” he was contrasting man’s timetable against God’s. Man may tell himself that a harvest won’t be ready until such-and-such a time, but God may say the time for a harvest of souls is already right now, as in the case here with the approaching Samaritans.
Principle #3: Keep your spiritual eyes open to know what time it is (v. 35). A believer must lift up their eyes spiritually and pay attention with heavenly-minded discernment to the field of the world around them to know when God is ready for some type of harvest to be reaped.
Principle #4: The reapers who work for the Lord in his harvest time always get paid for the fruit they gather for the sake of eternal life (v. 36). The many different methods believers use to harvest souls for God have everlasting rewards that can be experienced both now and later. It was common practice for reapers in Christ’s day to partake of some of the fruit they gathered in. When we work to harvest souls for Christ, our fruit of the spirit, spiritual gifts, and earthly blessings increase–as do our rewards stored in heaven.
Principle #5: Sowers and reapers rejoice together as a team (v. 36). God’s sowers and reapers may never meet each other here on earth since they may do their works for the Lord in different seasons. Sowers may never even see in this life the outcome of their labor. But both parties will eventually rejoice together in heaven. In the case here in John 4, Jesus the sower was able to rejoice together with his disciples, the reapers, in the spiritual harvest of the saved Samaritans because God was on a timetable with a very quick turnaround here.
Princiciple #6: Everyone hired by the Lord has a job to do (v. 37). He hires some to sow and others to reap.
Principle #7: Just by showing up for the Lord, reapers can receive benefits they didn’t even work for (v. 38). All God is looking for is someone who is willing, ready, and able to reverence him by working for him regardless of the task. The Lord does most of the work anyway. Jesus, John the Baptist, and many others before them had prepared for this harvest and all the disciples did was show up to reap it, but they were richly rewarded for it even though they didn’t really work for it. This is what David did for his men in the Old Testament when the men who stayed behind to protect their belongings were rewarded equally with those who went forth in battle to rescue their families.