John 4:35-38 – SOWING, HARVEST, AND ETERNAL LIFE

When Jesus had His well-known discussion with a Samaritan woman, His apostles went to purchase food. After they returned to Him, He shared these thoughts with them:

(35) Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! (36) And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. (37) For in this the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ (38) I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored, others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” (John 4:35-38)

What fascinating thoughts! The Christ’s message was about sowing, reaping, harvest, and eternal life. Surely those ideas are of great interest to every servant of the Master!

In this case, Jesus spoke about sowing. He spoke of “he who sows” (4:36). That would be any disciple of His. About which kind of sowing was He speaking? Spiritual sowing – sowing the seed, which is the word of God (Luke 8:11) and has the power to produce fruit in the form of new disciples of Jesus (1 Peter 1:23).

For those who live in a tropical climate, it may be possible to plant vegetation and sow seed at any time throughout the year. Other areas have a much greater range in temperatures, so there may be only certain periods of the year when people who dwell there can sow their seed. In the spiritual realm, seed sowing is “in season” every day of every year. What a blessing! As you study the book of Acts, note the frequency with which the biblical text records that the early saints sowed the seed on a daily basis. Now that is taking the sowing business seriously.

Jesus also spoke about the harvest (4:35). He made reference to the literal harvest of literal fields, but He called on His apostles to lift their eyes to view another harvest – the harvest of souls! “White unto harvest” (4:35) points to the fact that with some crops, as they are getting to the ripened stage of development, they (either the grain or stalk) turn a shade of white/beige/yellow. Those familiar with farming understand that the color of the plant or grain is “a giveaway” – it reveals that the time of harvest is imminent. Whether we think of ourselves as fishers of men to bring the lost to Jesus (Mark 1:17) or gathering the harvest of souls, the image is the same: God wants us to “Bring Them in” to the Good Shepherd.

Again, the beauty of sowing the seed of the gospel is that we do not have to wait four months to have a harvest. We do not have to circle a date or period of time on a calendar and look to that limited time phase as our only opportunity to reap souls. The Lord willingly adds saved people to His church any day of any week of any month (Acts 2:47). Let us not allow Satan to hinder us from redeeming the time and sowing the seed as we have the chance. Today’s missed opportunities may be tomorrow’s closed doors.

In potential, “the harvest is plenteous” (Matthew 9:37). We recognize that a failure to sow the seed will result in crop failure, too. In the spiritual realm, that means that where there is no sowing of the word, there will be no harvest of souls. It is that simple. Laborers are needed! (Matthew 9:38). Let each of us be doing what we can to improve our ability to sow the seed. Yes, let us pray for laborers, but after we say “Amen” in our prayers, let us be looking for occasions when we can be part of the work force and teach lost souls.

The Christ further talked about eternal life. As He spoke about seed-sowing and its desired results, He mentioned “harvest” (4:35), “reaping” (4:36-38), “fruit” (4:36) and “eternal life” (4:36). The “harvest” is the “reaping” of “fruit” – a harvest of souls, bringing lost people to the Savior so they might enjoy eternal life. Our goal in teaching the gospel is not to make new friends or to fulfill an assignment. No, our goal is to help people receive eternal life. If you think that sowing the seed can be a life-changing, eternal-destiny-changing activity, you are absolutely correct!

Jesus spoke about different roles in the process of trying to produce a harvest. As He said, “One sows and another reaps” (4:37). In the scheme of conversion, one person may be the one who initiates the teaching. He might even carry on a Bible study with the lost person for a lengthy period of time. However, for whatever reason(s), under his direction the lost soul does not obey the gospel. At a later time, the unbeliever decides it is time to accept the Lord’s salvation. Perhaps one or more people play a role in “closing the deal” with him. They would be “the reapers.” Their role is not more important. In fact, they may spend little time in actually teaching and/or encouraging the lost person. They are, however, in the right place at the right time. The sowers and reapers rejoice together. Why? Because, to the glory of the God of heaven, a person has been forgiven of past sins. To that end, let us labor and labor and labor!

— Roger D. Campbell

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