[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].
30 They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
30 ἐξῆλθον ἐκ τῆς πόλεως καὶ ἤρχοντο πρὸς αὐτόν.
31 Ἐν τῷ μεταξὺ ἠρώτων αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ λέγοντες· Ῥαββί, φάγε. 32 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Ἐγὼ βρῶσιν ἔχω φαγεῖν ἣν ὑμεῖς οὐκ οἴδατε. 33 ἔλεγον οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους· Μή τις ἤνεγκεν αὐτῷ φαγεῖν; 34 λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Ἐμὸν βρῶμά ἐστιν ἵνα ποιήσω τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με καὶ τελειώσω αὐτοῦ τὸ ἔργον. 35 οὐχ ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι Ἔτι τετράμηνός ἐστιν καὶ ὁ θερισμὸς ἔρχεται; ἰδοὺ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐπάρατε τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν καὶ θεάσασθε τὰς χώρας ὅτι λευκαί εἰσιν πρὸς θερισμόν· ἤδη 36 ὁ θερίζων μισθὸν λαμβάνει καὶ συνάγει καρπὸν εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον, ἵνα ὁ σπείρων ὁμοῦ χαίρῃ καὶ ὁ θερίζων. 37 ἐν γὰρ τούτῳ ὁ λόγος ἐστὶν ἀληθινὸς ὅτι Ἄλλος ἐστὶν ὁ σπείρων καὶ ἄλλος ὁ θερίζων· 38 ἐγὼ ἀπέστειλα ὑμᾶς θερίζειν ὃ οὐχ ὑμεῖς κεκοπιάκατε· ἄλλοι κεκοπιάκασιν, καὶ ὑμεῖς εἰς τὸν κόπον αὐτῶν εἰσεληλύθατε.
Misunderstanding is a common theme in John’s Gospel and we find another one here. The disciples came back with food they bought in the village and encouraged Jesus to eat. Jesus said he already had food. This confuses the disciples who wonder where he got food. Jesus then explained the spiritual answer to their material concern: his “food” is to do the will of God; in other words, be on mission, and that’s what he’s been doing with the Samaritan woman.
The next thing Jesus says seems confusing, but I think we can get clarity here. Jesus cites a proverb. The first is the basic observation well known for a millennium before Jesus and formed into a saying: once a seed is planted, it takes four months to harvest its fruit. But Jesus takes this agricultural point to make a spiritual/missional one, still related to his “food.” While normally this proverb is true, not in the new and coming age! The period of time between planting and harvesting is squished together so that the sower and the reaper will rejoice together.
Jesus’ new way of understanding time is related to the prophet Amos who said in Messianic days the time to plant and the time to reap are back to back (Amos 9:13). We’ll no longer wait! Jesus apparently took that Messianic expectation and applied it to the current situation: I just planted a seed of faith with this Samaritan woman who, at this very moment, is bringing to us the harvest from that seed — the townspeople on their way to see and hear Jesus!
You might be thinking: why didn’t Jesus just say that and leave out the metaphors and proverb? I don’t know. But, one way to look at it: Jesus tied his teachings to the daily rhythms and habits of his day which orbited around agriculture. It was hard to forget his sayings once they were engraved in the countryside!
Maybe today we would say, “You know how long it takes to fly from Boston to Tokyo? Well, in the End Days, it will be in an instant!
Ok, that was kinda lame.