August 9, 2011

John 4:27-38

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

“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?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him. 31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 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.”


Because if surgery, it's been months since we've journeyed through the Gospel of John. It's good to be back on track, so let's pick up where we left off and move forward with the apostle as our guide.

It was a pleasant surprised to see that several of you could relate to the post on John 4:1-26 regarding experiences in life that appear missed opportunities. Elaine at Peace for the Journey shared a similar story, in the comment section, of feeling helpless to assist the victims of recent tornado devastation in her area. What a comfort to know I'm not alone as my small mind attempts to comprehend the world's vast complexities (not that Elaine has a small mind. I only speak for myself). More often than not, God works His will in the most perplexing fashion, but faith reassures us He is thorough to care and provide for those whose heart is set on Him. As one who easily forgets this important gold nugget, I must continually be aware that God will use me when, where, and only if He chooses, according to His wisdom and knowledge. My job is to do precisely what I'm called to do, not pick and choose, which is a grueling lesson on obedience and self-control.

My experience at the grocery story (in the John 4:1-26 blog) was not the first time I've felt unused and dare I say unwanted with regards to doing a work for God. In hindsight, this little jaunt to the market brought to the surface the tip of sinister iceberg. Seems the frustration of missing two opportunities to help a person in need at the checkout brought to surface a lesson that's been calling my name for quite sometime, which leads us to todays lesson.

Interestingly enough, while John 4:1-26's lesson revealed my appreciable zeal to do a good work for God, this week's reading exposed a dangerous undertow fused to this same great passion. Isn't it just like God to not leave well enough alone? He's always so exact and thorough, which is good but remarkably exhausting.

What stuck in my craw in today's passage is verse 38, "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.” In a flash the word "reap" leaped off the page and into my heart, piercing it like a hot poker. Quicker than a short order cook can flip a pancake, God tailored these words to fit my life and circumstance. While Jesus spoke these words to instill humility into the hearts of the disciples who would soon do great miracles and wonders founded on the work of those who had gone before them, God nudged me toward submission as well, only with my own personal tweak.

Rather than impressing on my heart that I would reap great benefits from those who's gone before me, God stressed the value of those who set the stage for the disciples. Greats like John the Baptist, Old Testament prophets, and a multitude of other godly men and women of the Bible. Some names are well known while others are not, but all set the stage in God's kingdom plan. The lesson pressed on my heart declared the undeniable truth which states, the privilege of reaping tangible rewards is no more important than sowing the seed that makes a harvest possible. After all, a harvest cannot be collected if a humble sower fails to scatter the seed.

In a world that focuses primarily on reaping the harvest, it's tempting to forfeit less attractive work such as sowing. My experience in the grocery story and Elaine's exposure to the tornado victims left us both disappointed and frustrated, wondering why God chose not use us to offer assistance that very moment. I can't speak for Elaine but when my hands are tied to the point where all I can do is pray, frustration breeds. Prayer just doesn't seem to be enough in acute situations, and given my lesson from verse 38, it's probably due to the fact prayer is a quieter behind the scenes activity.

To be honest I'd prefer to stand by a great harvest posing for a picture that could be treasured and shared for all time, as opposed to praying my heart out in veiled secret. I hate to admit it but it's true...and my oh my doesn't that reveal how easily pride and personal gain can hijack zeal for God. It's a slippery slope we all tread, which is why we must walk life with extreme caution, pray every inch of the way, and humbly submit to the will of God no matter where it leads, be it sowing or reaping.


Verse 38 stood out to me like a sore thumb. What verse of our lesson today strikes a cord with your heart?

Do you ever find it frustrating to be left to simply pray for a situation? If so, what do you think the core of that disappointment is?

Has your own good natured zeal for God ever been hijacked by pride? What can you do to protect your heart from this sleek and deceptive tactic of the enemy?


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Very good point that you draw from this text, Nancy. There are so many nuggets that jump out at me from John 4; I've always loved the fact that the woman "left her water jar" and returned home. Her thirst had obviously been quenched at a deeper level, thus forgetting about the reason she came to the well in the first place.

On the "pride" issue, I'm reflecting on something you wrote on Day 1, Week 1, of your "Draw Me Near" study... about how we so often "speak"/talk/dominate the conversation with others and that there can be a direct tie to our pride.

I suppose I'd thought about that before, but it's never hit me like it hit me yesterday. Thank you for sharing your work with me.


katiegfromtennessee said...

Hey Nancy,

I understand what you are saying here. I am learning that no matter if I'm seen or not seen by others in my ministry. Everything I do should be as unto the Lord. Mothering, cleaning the house, everyday activities even. I want pure-hearted humility too. His glory, not my own is what I should's a lot to think about. You raise good points. Blessings to you tonight Nancy.