On Being a Sent One on One Mission (John 4:31-38)
Topic: One Mission: I am Not Ashamed Passage: John 4:31–4:38
I. Sweet & Sincere
One of the morning's last week, I finally got back to the hiking trails up at Skyline Park. With the much cooler mornings we've been experiencing, it seemed like a good time to go enjoy the outdoors. So as I was making my way across the pedestrian bridge to the trailhead, I began to pass an older gentleman who, cane in hand, was slowly headed in the same direction. As I passed him, I simply turned and offered a “good morning”. This is how he responded: with an undeniable sweetness and sincerity he said, “Good morning! Oh my, how Jesus loves us... every day!”
Now honestly, he caught me off guard with his response. It took me a few seconds to offer an “amen” to his praise. Needless to say, I was extremely blessed by how this brother so naturally and so joyfully shared with me, a stranger, the greatness of Christ's love. There was something so... healthy about it.
Healthy. Healthiness. That's exactly what we've been talking about this month, isn't it? Specifically, spiritual healthiness. Well, this morning, we are going to dig in just a bit to the fourth of our Four Essentials and ask, “In light of our One Mission, what does it mean, what does it look like, to be healthy as those who are sent for Christ?”
II. The Passage: “The Fields are White for Harvest” (vs. 31-38)
Let's once again 'take our spiritual temperature' by looking together at God's word. So turn over, if you haven't already, to the Gospel of John, chapter 4. I'd like us to read through and think carefully about verses 31-38. Look with me at verse 31...
1. “Meanwhile...” (v. 31a)
Now, to begin, just take a look at that first word of verse 31: “Meanwhile”. That's the kind of word that challenges us to take a look at what's been happening in this chapter. Here's a quick recap: In heading north from Judea (southern Israel) to Galilee (northern Israel), Jesus and his disciples cut through the region of Samaria. At a town called Sychar, Jesus rested by Jacob's well, while his disciples went into the village to buy food.
Soon after a Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus began a conversation with her. As we see in verses 7-15, he used the ideas of water and thirst to talk to her about the “living water” that he alone could offer her. What's clear in those verses is that she is struggling to move from earthly ideas to spiritual ideas. But as the conversation continues, the woman is deeply impacted, and as we read in verse 28, she returns to the village to tell her neighbors about this Jewish stranger she's met. She asks in verse 29, “Can this be the Christ?”
2. “My Food...” (vs. 31-34)
But that brings us back to verse 31. We know from verse 27 that before the woman left the well, Christ's disciples had returned with food. Verse 31 reveals what happened next:
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”  But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
So right away I want you to notice that it's now the disciples who are struggling to move from earthly ideas to spiritual ideas. Do you see that? But the topic this time is food, not water. Look back at what Jesus reveals here about food. As they urge him to eat, Jesus responds in verse 34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Jesus feels truly full, truly satisfied, when He is doing God's will and accomplishing his work.
Additionally, please don't miss what Jesus asserts in verse 32: “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” And so...
3. “Lift Up Your Eyes...” (vs. 35, 36)
Take a look at how Jesus uses this opportunity to teach them about God's will and work.
[Verses 35, 36] “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.”
So what exactly is Jesus telling them here? He's urging them to recognize, not only the nature of God's will and work, but also the timing of that work. Like a field that is ripe and (v. 35) “white for harvest”, there are men and women right now who are spiritually ready to enter the kingdom of God. The seed has already been sown. The fields have already been watered.
Is Jesus talking about some specific harvest of souls in this passage? Yes! Look at verse 30: “They [the Samaritan townspeople... they] went out of the town and were coming to him.” You see, both Jesus and the Samaritan woman had been sowing spiritual seed. And now, unlike the months it takes to arrive at an earthly harvest, the spiritual harvest was ready to be reaped. There were “wages” to be earned. It was time to gather “fruit for eternal life”.
4. “I Sent You to Reap” (vs. 37, 38)
But look with me at verses 37, 38, and how Jesus draws his disciples into the Father's work...
For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
It was Jesus and the Samaritan woman who had sown the seed of the Good News. And now, all of them would be there to see this harvest of Samaritan souls brought in.
Verse 2 of this chapter actually reveals that the disciples really had entered into this same labor by baptizing fellows Jews under the oversight of Jesus. And just after our main passage, in verses 40 and 41, we read how... the Samaritans... asked [Jesus] to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his word. Ministry continued!
Interestingly, the Gospel of Matthew includes a passage that emphasizes these same themes and even uses this same imagery...
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35–38)
And what did Jesus do right after that, in Matthew 10? He appointed twelve of these disciples to be apostles. As he would go on to pray later in John's Gospel: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (17:18) And again in 20:21... “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
What does all this, what does any of this, have to do with you? Well, if you are also a follower of Jesus, if he has eternally impacted your life, just as he did the lives of these disciples, just as he did the life of this woman, then you've also been... sent by the Son; you've also been... called to enter “into their labor”; you've also been... sent to “reap”; you've also been invited to be spiritually nourished and spiritually satisfied by doing your Father's will and accomplishing his work. You are a “sent one” for Jesus, sent into the fields of his One Mission.
Paul and Peter would later express this calling in these words:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5–6)
...but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect... (I Peter 3:15)
These are simply affirmations and applications of what Jesus told all his followers in Matthew 5:16... “let your light shine before others”. Yes, pray for laborers for the harvest. But be ready to personally be one, important way that God answers that prayer.
How does a passage like this help you take your spiritual temperature? It reveals not only the sending priority of Jesus, but also the satisfaction of Jesus as one who was himself sent. Healthiness in regard to God's One Mission is not based on how many gospel tracts you've passed out, or how many people you've talked to about Jesus, or how many service projects, how many charitable works you have on your spiritual resume. No. Healthiness is based on a heart to make Christ known. Does it... satisfy you to be sent? Does it... satisfy you to share truth and love with others? Does it... satisfy you to gather fruit for eternal life? It should. As one of the Church Fathers, John Chrysostom, wrote 1600 years ago... “Nothing is more frigid than a Christian who cares not for the salvation of others...” (Homilies on Acts, 20)
The question isn't whether or not you struggle with the right words. The issue isn't whether or not you battle with fear when it comes to sharing Christ. This isn't about how many unbelieving people God has put in your life. This is simply about your heart. Do you have a heart to make Christ known?
If you do, be encouraged. God will give you opportunities to express that heart. And remember, just as Jesus and the woman sowed seeds in that Samaritan village, so too is God at work, even now, sowing and watering seeds of the gospel in the lives of people who have, who are, or who will cross your path. God has, is, and will draw people to Christ (John 6:44). God has, is, and will open hearts when the gospel is announced (Acts 16:14). Be encouraged. If you are hungry for the food Jesus talked about in this passage, God will satisfy you as he uses you for his eternal glory and the eternal good of others.
III. Telling Others and Taking Your Temperature
Do you have a heart to make Christ known? If you are a healthy servant of One Lord, how could you not? To share Jesus is to serve Jesus, and a healthy servant of One Lord makes it his or her aim to please Jesus Christ at all times in every way. Do you remember that concept from our first lesson in this series?
It's so important that we come back around to that first, foundational idea. But it's also important that we step back and think carefully about how all of these Four Essentials, how all of these aspects of healthy discipleship, are interconnected. But please remember, as you think about each and all of these aspects, don't forget that each begins with a healthy heart: a heart to serve Jesus, a heart of love for fellow believers, a heart that loves and longs for God's word, and a heart to make Christ known. That healthy heart will always reveal itself in certain healthy practices, but those practices minus a healthy heart simply add to our unhealthiness.
So why is a series like this so important? Because God cares about your spiritual health. And he wants you to care about your spiritual health. Complacency (that 'I have arrived' mentality, that 'set the spiritual cruise control' mentality) always has been and always will be a trap for God's people. In the same way, unfortunately, false assurance always has been and always will be a temptation for many others.
As some of you 'take your temperature', you will discover unhealthiness and be stirred to repentance and renewal. But others of you will 'take your temperature' and discover there is no real evidence of eternal life at work within you. Maybe you believed spiritual healthiness was simply about agreeing to certain biblical truths or having a deeply, emotional experience or praying a 'sinner's prayer'. Whatever you thought then, please don't despair now. It is never, ever too late to come to Christ in sincere repentance and faith. Call to him even now!
But if you are a follower of Jesus, be careful to avoid extremes when it comes to dealing with unhealthiness that God reveals. Some of us might too quickly dismiss these encouragements and push down the Spirit's conviction. But others of us might be quick to condemn ourselves because of genuine unhealthiness, or even exaggerate the unhealthiness. But whether it's the “I'm fine” or the “I'm failing” mentality, please hold tightly to what Jesus brought us (according to John 1:17), to both “truth and grace” (2x). In light of Christ, in light of the gospel, it is now safe to be brutally honest with yourself, in light of his truth, but also, beautifully gracious to yourself, in light of his grace. So in that spirit, please, brother, sister, 'take your temperature'.
More in Take Your Temperature
October 18, 2020On Being a Student of One Truth (Psalm 119:103)
October 11, 2020On Being a Sibling in One Body (I John 3:11-24)
October 5, 2020On Being a Servant of One Lord (II Corinthians 5:14, 15)