John 4:22, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” So although He says that the worship in the temple is not ultimately satisfying or pleasing to God, ultimately God is going to remove that and deal with it, yet for all its’ imperfections, it was still better than the worship of the Samaritans. The Jews had a greater horror of idolatry than the Samaritans and because the scriptures of the Jews included the workings of the prophets and poets. Those writings very clearly revealed things that the Samaritan bible did not have. Furthermore, they had greater understanding of the divine will. Look at Romans 9 for example, where Paul speaks about the advantage the Jewish people have. When he speaks about how concerning his kinsmen according to the flesh who are Israelites, it was to them that the adoption as sons belonged- the glory, the covenants, the giving of the temple service, and the promises. They are the ones who were the fathers and it was from them that the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God bless them forever, would ultimately come. We don’t want to minimize that. In other words, Jesus is making it clear that not all religions are acceptable before God. This is Jesus’ own word. Again, popular religiosity would have us believe that all religions are equally valid attempts to reach God- not according to this.
It’s an affirmation of that but it’s an affirmation of the Jews having a greater knowledge than merely the Pentateuch. The Jews have a greater grasp because they also embrace the prophets and the poets whereas the Samaritans deny that. The entire Hebrew bible then is being grasped and embraced by the Jewish people, which give them a decided advantage over the Samaritans who were limited merely to the Pentateuch.
John 4:23, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” So it’s devastating that worship would no longer be limited to the Jewish temple. That would finally cease in 70 A.D. That would be the end of it. The destruction of the temple was also the elimination of the sacrificial system; the elimination of the priesthood, all of that would be done and no longer now would there be blood sacrifice. In the year 33 A.D. that one sacrifice to end all sacrifice had been completed. That’s why it says the veil of the temple was split- not from bottom to top but top to bottom. It’s a symbol of God reaching down to us and opening up the way between God and ourselves. What we now have that we didn’t have before is that the blood of this One would be sufficient to pay for all of our sins and thus He could sit down at the right hand of God, never having to have another sacrifice. The whole system was now fulfilled. That which was in shadow anticipated it but could never make atonement for sins as Hebrews says, because the blood of bulls and goats can never pay for sins they only put it off until He Himself – Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:1) The Sin-Bearer would take them away and He would bear them all- an awesome burden. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
So what we have in John so far is a new sacrifice (John 1:29), the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, a new temple according to John 2:19-21, a new birth as we saw in John 3:1-7, and a new and living water in John 4:11. We have a whole new economy then that ultimately overcomes the old. So since God is spirit it’s needful then for us to see that those who have been born anew of the Spirit have become His children and now they can come and worship Him as Father. God wants to be worshipped in spirit but also in truth. Those who accept His revelation in Christ, His ultimate truth, can worship Him in truth. We have this marvelous connect here of spirit and truth. Understand God is spirit but it doesn’t say spirit is God. There’s a big difference. In the New Age spirit is God- force is God- energy is God and so forth. God is a person but His nature, His essence, is that of being a spiritual entity. He does not have parts. He is not physical, as we would have for example in Mormonism where God the Father has a body. Here, He is spirit and those who worship come in spirit and truth.
John 4:25, “The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” So she has some insight into this.
John 4:26, “Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” What He actually uses is ego eime- I AM. What we’ve seen is a revelation. First she sees Him as a Jew. Then she sees Him as greater than Jacob. Then she sees Him as a prophet. Finally she sees Him as Messiah. The ego eime statement- I AM- is the culmination where Jesus patiently and progressively leads her to a grasp of His true identity, as she’s able to receive it. She accepts His self-disclosure as true. She eagerly avails herself to the opportunity to go and return and tells her own people about this One who has spoken to her about everything she’s ever done.
John 4:27, “At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, ‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?” At this point the disciples came and they were amazed that He had been speaking to a woman. They were so embarrassed that they couldn’t actually articulate it. This disturbed them. They were amazed. It didn’t fit their category. So when she saw them come, it was her opportunity to go to her own people. She left her water pot (John 4:28)- her mission because now she’s interested in the living water and no longer in the physical water. There’s a sign there.
John 4:29-30, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” They went out of the city, and were coming to Him.” Now that’s pretty good because she must’ve had a fascinating life because everybody left to see this guy! In other words, here’s somebody that knows her through and through so the whole city left to find out about Him. There must’ve been plausibility, a credible thing that they wanted to go and see Him.
In the meanwhile, we have this little discourse that takes place with the disciples in verses 31-38. John 4:31-34, “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 were saying to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” It’s not that He doesn’t need physical food, the Bible doesn’t mention how often He ate, but He’s talking about sustenance, a provision, that is even greater. He viewed His work as nourishment of His soul. That is to say, doing the Father’s will, will nourish you inwardly. It will satisfy you and satisfy your soul as you feed upon the will of God and do it and choose to discern it by asking God to reveal His will. One of the major purposes of prayer is to align our will with God’s will rather than telling God what we want Him to do and to bend His will to ours. I’m saying it’s wise for us to really discern the question, what would You have me to do? As we gain discernment then we discover what our direction is. We discover more as we go on. We are asking the Spirit of God to reveal and clarify our purpose for being on this planet not merely go wherever we want but do at the place the Father has for us. We discover inward nourishment, indeed a satisfaction, as the living water springs from the inside out and gives us a satisfying task to accomplish- so satisfying that it will last forever. This is water that will ripple on forever. It will continue to feed others. It will nourish and satisfy others as well. That’s why we have this important image.
John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.” It’s possible at that very moment that off in the distance you could see the Samaritans coming. They would be the harvest that He is referring to. Do you see the imagery there? At that very moment, as they’re looking up, they are coming in the distance. That’s the harvest He’s talking about. In other words there’s no four-month interval between the sowing by Him of seed in the heart of the Samaritan woman and then the harvest, which has resulted. You see, in the physical world, there is going to be an interval between the sowing and the reaping.
Remember what Amos, the prophet, said? You probably don’t remember, but I will remind you! In Amos 9:13 there’s a wonderful promise about the days of the kingdom. “Behold, days are coming’ declares the Lord, ‘When the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved.” This is almost the imagery of where we plant it and it almost immediately starts sprouting up so that the reaper overtakes the ploughman. It grows so fast, the curse has been removed, that now the earth no longer will yield its’ fruit with the sweat of our brow, but during the kingdom there will be some kind of an ecological transformation that will cause things to be so radically different that the world will now be as it was meant to be- a kind of removal of much of the impact of the curse. The earth will be, I think, transformed in a geopolitical way but there’s also going to be, as a number of these texts indicate, some kind of ecological transformation. Even the carnivores will become herbivorous. Remember where it describes how those carnivorous animals will now no longer be. There is a taming, an order, symmetry and a harmony that the world has not known since the blast of Genesis 3. Here’s the interesting image, in a sense, those days have already arrived. In a sense, in Jesus, sower and reaper can rejoice together because what’s happening here is that there can be if fact a co-joining.
John 4:37-38, “For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” I see the imagery of I Corinthians 3:6-9 where Paul is speaking about the seed of the word. Verse 6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” So we see that evangelism is a process where you sow the seed and you cultivate the soil by love and by prayer.
I’m very, very big on this understanding of evangelism. It’s not just a mere confrontation where we try to get a person to sign on the dotted line- many images of evangelism are. Frankly, people are terrified of it because it seems so confrontational and generally there are few people who are given the gift of personal evangelism. You hear about the person who leads the complete stranger to Christ and all that or about people who have such a passion that they share it wherever they go. That’s a person who’s been given a particular gift and capacity but most of us would be very uncomfortable with a confrontational model. But we can all embrace a relational model of evangelism where we might be involved perhaps in praying for a person even before the seed has been planted. Some people prepare the soil. Other people might plant the seed of the word and actually share the gospel. There may be several plantings of that. Somewhere down the road another person or persons might be involved in that person’s cultivation process no one person does it all!
What’s involved in cultivation? The soil has been prepared, the seed has been planted then you need to water it, fertilize it, weeding and all those things. I believe that the majority of actual time in the process is cultivation. There are many people who have heard the gospel long ago and only later on are they coming to an understanding of it. Somewhere along the line though it is all leading to a process where a person finally comes to faith- the reaping takes place.
Here’s my point, whether you’re involved in preparing, planting the seed, cultivating or reaping, if you are in fact, loving and serving a person who does not know Christ, with eternal values at heart, you’re involved as much in evangelism as the person who sees the reaping.
Evangelism is a process and God is the One who is going to be responsible. God’s the One who is going to cause the growth. That’s so liberating when you realize for the first time that you are not the one who needs to cause the person to come to faith in Christ. You can just be yourself and be available to that person. You see, otherwise the people who prepared, sowed and cultivate might suppose they’re failures. In equal error would be the person who saw them come to faith and supposes he or she is the one who did it when actually there was a whole history maybe involving dozens of people over years. Nobody really knows what role they played because you see intercessory prayer is also a part of it- even if they didn’t talk to the person that much they could’ve still played a part in the process. Only God knows how it works. You’re part of a larger process. You’ve entered into others’ labor. I find that to be a very liberating understanding. God Himself is the One who causes the outcome but we can participate in this process. I love this agricultural imagery though I have to admit I do get down on myself because sometimes I ask myself if I’m relevant in the process or am I wasting God’s time, Now I know I’m not enough for most people especially when there’s others doing so much more and they have a charismatic personality, exercising a compelling charm which inspires devotion in others, so, I’ll find out the judgment seat of Christ if I’ve been a good servant.