“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.”
When we look carefully at John chapter four and explore the concept of the Divine Appointment which Jesus had while on His way to Galilee we discover some precious truths. It is clear here that Jesus has an appointment with the Samaritan woman who He leads to ask Him for living water. It is equally clear that Jesus has an appointment with the people of Sychar, many of whom come to believe in Him after they have met Him for themselves. There is a third Divine Appointment here as well however. This is the appointment which Jesus has with His disciples. There is a lesson which they needed to learn, which could only be taught in that Samaritan village at the foot of Mt. Gerizim. Here in the heart of the lost nation of the Samaritans these disciples were about to learn about the wonderful grace of the LORD Jesus Christ which would justify the ungodly. As we explore this text we too can learn some valuable lessons.
1) We can learn a lesson about the expectations which we have as we encounter people in our day to day lives. These disciples were following Jesus into a region which was characterized by ungodliness. The Samaritans were a people who were ethnically the result of the racial mixture of poor Jews who had been left behind at the exile of Israel with pagan people who had been resettled in the region. Their religion was a mixture of the Hebrew faith with all manner of pagan beliefs and practices. They had even set up a rival religious centre to that of Jerusalem on Mt. Gerizim. As the disciples drew near to this Samaritan centre of worship one can imagine what they must have thought about the hopeless, ungodly people they were encountering. Perhaps these disciples were hoping that they would be able to pass through this region quickly and without incident. If ever there was a people beyond the touch of God’s grace it was these people of Sychar. Yet it is here that Jesus stops to rest. Like us, these disciples see a people that they will not associate with because they are just too lost. A number of years ago while serving in one of my first charges after graduation from Seminary I spoke to one of the leaders of the congregation about my intention to visit a family that lived down the street from the church in order that I might encourage them to attend services at our church. The leader looked at me as if I was insane or at the very least hopelessly naive. “These people will never darken the door of the Church.” he told me, “They are just too lost.” I went anyway inviting the family to come to worship and sharing with them the gospel. Not only did they begin to attend our church, they came to faith in Christ and brought many of their relatives who seemed to be even more lost than they. We learned a lesson in those days about the way that the LORD was working in the hearts of that family. Nothing is impossible with the LORD. He can even bring hardened Samaritans to faith in Christ.
2) Jesus tells His disciples that they need to have their eyes open so that they can really look and see what is going on around them. The fields are ripe for harvest. The word of the LORD has been doing its work. Prayer is being answered. People are finding that their hearts are being prepared for that day when they hear the Gospel. The text tells us that the work does not depend upon us alone because others are at work as well. The Word of God has been doing its work, quietly, almost imperceptivity, but surely. It has been preparing the way for the harvest. The disciples are not to think that everything depends upon them. They are not to look at a people as being beyond grace. They are simply to keep offering the message of grace to everyone who will listen to it. We are to offer it with the love of God. We are to offer it humbly. But offer it we must. Robert Murray McCheyne once remarked regarding his work among the slum dwellers of his city that “the flesh dies well there.” This work is not about us, it is about the LORD. He is powerfully at work in our world. We are called to obey His call to witness, wherever He takes us, believing that He has already prepared the way for His Gospel.