John 4:35-38 (NIV): “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.”
The time when people say, “Four months more and then the harvest” is when they are sowing the crops. They are doing the hard, often backbreaking work of tilling the soil, and planting and watering the seed. But they know that, ultimately, the work will be worth it because the harvest will come, and they encourage themselves with that thought.
But Jesus is looking at the Samaritan people, a group that the Jews regarded as completely lost, beyond the reach of salvation, and He is seeing that the work of tilling and sowing and watering has already been accomplished by the subtle working of the Holy Spirit in preparation for this day. Not all of the seed “took,” of course. But in many of these Samaritan hearts a rich harvest was already ripe, ready for the harvest time that had now come.
If Jesus had simply told the disciples to go and evangelize those Samaritans, they would have taken an entirely different path. They would have seen the work ahead as backbreaking, if not impossible. They would have gone reluctantly, cowed at the prospect of how much work it would take to bring these pagan people into the kingdom. They would completely miss the “ripe” souls, because they would see themselves only as clearers, plowers and planters at this stage of the game.
But Jesus was opening their eyes to what He could already see, what He already knew: God had already been at work in these hearts. Even though the Samaritan religion was corrupt, it was a corrupt form of Judaism. These people had the law, and they had the forms of the sacrificial system that God had given through Moses. And through the corrupted form of God’s truth He had been working to clear the soil of these Samaritan hearts. Though God’s voice was muted because of the twisting of the traditions they had received, He was still using those traditions to plant seeds of repentance and expectation of the coming Messiah. And even though the people sought a caricature of the True God, He turned that hunger into rich moisture that caused the seeds of expectation to spring up into an abundant crop, ready to be harvested.
The harvest was now ready, and it was walking toward the disciples at that very moment. The hard work had already been done by God Himself, and now the celebration time was close at hand, when the crop for eternal life would be gathered in.
Father, all too often we see ourselves as the first workers in the field, and the prospect of all of the hard work to be done can intimidate us away from even starting. How much different it would be if we would simply follow Your lead to those in whose hearts Your Spirit has already been working! How much different it would be if we would allow You to open our eyes to the people in whom a crop for eternal life is already growing, ready to be harvested. I know that there is a place and a time for clearing, and plowing, and planting, and watering, and we need to be doing that work with You as well. But, Lord, how many crops have we let rot in the field because we had no eyes to see where You had already been at work, growing and ripening the souls for harvest! Lord, help us to see that the harvest is already plentiful (Matthew 9:38). Help us to understand that WE are the harvesters for eternal life for which we are instructed to pray. And help us to be faithful and diligent in this work of bringing in the harvest. Amen.