Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”
They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 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. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.
They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
John 4:27-42 (NIV)
The conversation with the Samaritan woman ends just as sharply and unexpectedly as it had started, but in the short time that had passed at the well, the woman had changed. She had come on a mission to get water for herself, maybe for her family. But now, as she headed back into town, her original mission, her focus on herself and her needs, was totally forgotten – so much so that she even left her water jar sitting on the ground at the well! She was now focused on telling the news about Jesus to all of the rest of the town.
The woman’s message was short, simple, and extremely clear: “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” In other words, “I believe I’ve met the Messiah! You should come and meet Him too!” This woman had never had a class on personal evangelism; she had never been challenged to write down her testimony on one page; she had never been given a list of common objections to Christianity with conveniently indexed answers for her to memorize. All she did was to share her own experience with Jesus, and it was powerful & effective: the whole town came out to see this amazing man.
Meanwhile, back at the well, Jesus is giving His disciples a lesson of their own about evangelism. These followers of Jesus had just come from the town of Sychar, where they had apparently bought the food that they are now urging Him to eat. But it is pretty apparent that the whole time they were in town, none of them shared with a single person about Jesus, or about life in the Kingdom of God. Some of that may have been due to the fact that they were in a Samaritan town, and they figured that the Samaritans weren’t eligible for the Kingdom. But more than likely, they just didn’t think about it. They went to buy food, so they bought food, and they really didn’t look at the people who they bought it from as people in need of salvation.
But while they were away, Jesus had been planting seeds, watering them, fertilizing them, and watching them develop into a full-blown plant of faith. A plant that was, right at that very moment, reproducing itself in the lives of people all over Sychar; people who were, right at that very moment, on their way to be harvested!
The next few minutes stretched out into the next few days, and dozens, maybe hundreds, of these despised Samaritans came to saving knowledge of Jesus. And it all started because Jesus refused to see the woman at the well as simply a woman at the well. He saw in her a lost soul who desperately needed the salvation that He had come to make possible. And maybe He could see that she would become a powerful witness to Him, if only given a chance.
How many of us go about our day to day lives, meeting and talking to people in the grocery store, at the gas station, on the bus, and see only people? How many of us talk to people every day without ever once telling them about Jesus, and how He changed our lives? How many of us are so focused on what we are doing in our day to day lives that we overlook what God wants us to be doing in the harvest field? Jesus’ statement, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest!” is for us, too!
All of the people that we see in every place we go are not just “people.” They are eternal souls who will spend all of eternity either with God or separated from Him; either experiencing eternal blessedness and joy, or eternal pain and suffering. Even if we can put that reality out of our minds, God never does! I can’t get away from the message of 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV): The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. God is actually holding back the return of Jesus, because HE wants more people to be saved. If seeking and saving what was lost was Jesus’ core mission (cf. Luke 19:10), and if that mission is so important to God that He is delaying the end of the world so that it can happen, it seems like a terrible betrayal to spend our days interacting with the very people that Jesus died for so that they could have eternal life, and never telling them about it.