Reaping and sowing

Chapter four of John describes a meeting between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.

So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
John 4:5-8

This began a conversation in which Jesus revealed to the woman that he was the Messiah.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
John 4:25-26,28-30

The disciples had returned from the town with food and Jesus used the occasion to teach them an important lesson.

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
John 4:35-38

The sowing Jesus spoke of had taken place long before, when Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and brought in foreign people to inhabit the land.

And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the LORD. Therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them.

So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.”

Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there, and let him go and dwell there and teach them the law of the god of the land.” So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
2 Kings 17:24-28

One of the things the priest taught the people was that God would send a Messiah.  Because they already had this knowledge the people understood what Jesus meant when he said that he was the Messiah.

Jesus and the disciples reaped what someone else had sowed but at the same time they might have been sowing seeds that someone else would reap in the future.

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.
Acts 8:5-8

They believed because of the miracles that Philip did but that might not have been the only reason for their faith.  Philip wasn’t the first miracle worker they had seen.

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”

And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts 8:9-12

Philip and Simon both performed miraculous signs but they got different results.  People were attracted to Simon’s miracles but they paid attention to Philip’s message.

The cities of Samaria and Sychar aren’t very far apart.  The residents of Samaria had probably heard of Jesus’ visit to Sychar.  Philip’s audience probably included people from Sychar who had actually met Jesus.  Part of Philip’s success might have been due to the fact he was reaping what Jesus and his disciples had sown.

One person sows and another reaps but sometimes the same person reaps and sows.  He reaps what others have sowed but while doing so he sows seeds for others to reap.

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Posted on April 3, 2014, in Bible study and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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