John 4:31-38 “Harvesting Souls”

Introduction:  I came to Hillsboro Texas to pastor Walnut Street Baptist Church.  Hill County is largely a farming community.  I know very little about farming.  Why would God lead me to this place were I stand out like a stalk of corn in a field of cotton?  Why would Jesus send twelve Jewish men into a city full of Samaritans?  Jesus knows exactly what He is doing.  He knows what laborers are best to send into His fields.  The disciples were chosen by Jesus to be fishers of men.  They were to preach repentance and faith in Jesus Christ to lost men.  This was to be the primary and initial reason they live and breath.  They were to eat, drink, and sleep sharing the Gospel with the lost.  This primary purpose was to consume their every waking hour.  They would rest, eat, and drink only because they needed to so that they might be effective and efficient in the work of soul winning. 

            The disciples had gone into the city of Sychar to buy food.  They did not say anything to anyone about Jesus.  Upon their return to Jesus they discover that He has been talking to a woman.  He had been doing what they were sent to do.  Their minds have been distracted by the physical realm.  They had eating on their minds.


(John 4:31)  In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.

            It had taken all morning to walk from Judea to Sychar.  They were tired and hungry.  The body needs food and rest after much exercise.  It is not good to go a long time without proper food and rest.  The woman had forgotten all about her thirst and need for water.  It had been replaced with joy.  Jesus, too, has lost His appetite.  It has been replaced with joy and rejoicing.  There can be no eating at this exciting time.  A whole host of people are about to be plucked from the fires of Hell.  God is about to be glorified and praised as His mercy and grace work in the hearts of penitent believers.

            It was the common practice of the disciples to bless the food before consuming it.  Jesus set such an example when He took the loaves and fishes and looked up to heaven and prayed before the multitude.  At the institution of the Lord’s Supper He prayed before the consumption of the elements.  When we eat we should do so with a prayer of thanksgiving to God.  No matter the place or time.  There is no mention of a prayer of blessing upon this food.  The only prayer mentioned is the one which asks Jesus to participate in the eating.  They had to ask Him to eat.  He did not voluntarily fall upon the food offered by His disciples.  The disciples loved Jesus and were concerned for His welfare.  Jesus is concerned about the welfare of men and thus seeks to fulfill their greatest need. 


(John 4:32)  But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

(John 4:33)  Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him [ought] to eat?

(John 4:34)  Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

            This phrase “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” is often quoted by persons who are not understood.  The disciples have not arrived yet to an understanding of how fulfilling and satisfying it is to do the will of God first and foremost.  When I put God first, others second and me last it is the most satisfying and fulfilling experience I have ever known.  I truly can identify with the words of Jesus when He said For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.


In these words, Jesus teaches His disciples and us who are saved a great lesson about zeal and earnestness in witnessing.  We are to let the salvation of souls be more important to our hearts than life itself.  Adam Clarke wrote on this text:

“Let eating and drinking, labor and rest, reading, thinking, study, prayer, and all things, be directed to the accomplishment of this great work. Ministers of Jesus! imitate your Lord! Souls are perishing for lack of knowledge - God has given you the key of the kingdom, the knowledge of his word - O open unto them the gate of life! They are dropping by thousands into hell! O pluck the brands out of the burning!”

There is no greater purpose for ones life than to share the Gospel with a lost and dying world.  There is no greater joy and no greater sense of fulfillment than sharing the Gospel. 

            Jesus’ disciples concluded that someone must have brought Jesus something to eat.  God and sent the ravens to feed Elijah and on another occasion had sent an angel to feed him.  Jesus had fasted forty days and was tempted of the devil and upon that victory angels came and ministered to Him.  Had Jesus been fed miraculously? Had He turned a stone into bread?  Jesus explains that His meat is to do the will of His Father and to finish His Father’s work.

            Let us learn that it is the will of God the father that men should be saved.  The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  God wills for men to be saved and He will do all He can to give men the opportunity to be saved.  He has provided the means of salvation by giving His only begotten Son to die for the sins of men and pay their sin debt.  He provides His grace and extends the invitation for men to be saved.  He requires the come by faith and demands repentance of sin.  Those who will seek Salvation will not be turned away for God the Son seeks men to save them and God the father seeks men to worship Him.

            Jesus also said it was His meat to finish the work.  He will cry these words from the cross “it is finished.”  Jesus longs to save men from sin and knows that this will be accomplished at the cross.  I believe this finished the work which Jesus was sent to do.  I thank God that Jesus came with such zeal to finish the work of redemption.


(John 4:35)  Say not ye, There are yet four months, and [then] cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

            The disciples were saying that there was plenty of time to witness to the lost.  Jesus sets them strait.  They needed to see that men were in need of the Gospel now and that there is no time to delay.  They needed to keep their eyes open and be aware of the needs of the lost and opportunities to win the lost.

            The disciples were focused on learning more about Jesus.   There would be time later for telling others the Gospel.  They felt the time was not right to tell others about Jesus.  There are times when it is not expedient to share the Gospel.  Jesus said “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”  But every occasion is one for advancing the cause of Christ.  We should do all things to His honor and glory.  Harvest time is short and comes at a specific time.  When the fruit is ready to be picked there can be no delay.  Farmers do not plan vacations during harvest time.  They must harvest the fruit when it is ready.  Jesus compares the preaching of the Gospel to the harvest.    


(John 4:36)  And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

(John 4:37)  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.

            There are rewards in heaven for those who sow and those who reap.  The Lord God is pleased when we share the Gospel with those who are lost.  There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents.  The rewards there are everlasting.  Will you have a reward in heaven? Have you labored to win the lost?

            There is a space of time between one hearing the Gospel and being saved.  The Ethiopian eunuch had been to Jerusalem to here about God and had been reading the scriptures but did not understand.  Philip arrived to explain the scriptures and the man was saved.  People must hear and must be drawn by the Holy Spirit of God to be saved.  When this process occurs and they become convinced of their lost condition then they are ready to be saved.  I do not know of a single person who got saved immediately upon hearing the Gospel preached for the first time.  It ends up that one sows and then another reaps.  When I talk to someone about being saved and they repent in my presences and trust in Jesus as their Savior it is the harvest which has been made possible by others who have sown the seed earlier.  Janie and I have sown and reaped the same field.  We have had the joy of sharing the Gospel with our children and been there when they trusted Christ as their savior.  We labored in prayer and in obedience to God that we might see our children saved.  In time they each were saved and we were there to reap in the field where we had bestowed our labor.   The work was not ours alone for our parents had done their work sowing the seed and our grandparents had done their work sowing the seed.  They labored and we labored that the lost might be saved.  It is a joy to reap but both rejoice together at the harvest.


(John 4:38)  I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.

            It takes work to win souls to the Lord.  The gospel must be preached by men and women who have experienced the grace of God.  Our lives must be lived before men that they may see our faith in God.  We must live before men and before our children lives that teach that God is real and should be feared.  If God is not real to you He will not be real to your children.  But when you fear God everyday before your children and you tell them about God, sin, judgment to come and Jesus Christ the savior they will be saved.  They will raise their children as you raised them.  By your hard work and dedication to God you will help future generations come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. 


Conclusion:  There are three things we learn from this text that warrant review.

1.  Don’t waste opportunities to tell others about Jesus.

2.  Work to win the lost.  Live each day with Godly fear.

3.  Rewards await those who are diligent in their efforts to win the lost.

4.  We are not held responsible for what men do with the Gospel.

5.  We are rewarded for sowing and reaping.  Both involve sharing the Gospel.

6.  Have you been saved?  Then thank God for those who labored.

7.  Have you sown the Gospel?  If not repent and start sowing.

8.  Have you reaped were others labored?  Thank God for their work and for His.

9.  What plans do you have to share the Gospel with the lost? 

10.  Will you pass out tracts?  Will you invite the lost to come to our services?