When the disciples came back with lunch, they caught Jesus in a (taboo) conversation with a woman – and a Samaritan woman at that! But they didn't interrupt. After she left, they addressed the issue at hand: feeding their hungry Master.
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, "Rabbi, eat."
But he said to them, "I have food 1 to eat that you do not know about."
– John 4:31-32 (ESV)
The disciples knew Jesus was hungry. They knew He hadn't eaten yet. But now He claimed to have food hidden away somewhere. Did someone drop off a meal while they were away? Or did they make the trip into town to round up some grub for nothing?
Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
– John 4:34 (ESV)
Oh, it was only that. Jesus wasn't talking about real food, meant to satisfy a growling stomach! The trip wasn't a waste. Their Lord was only speaking about … about…
…hmmm… What was Jesus speaking about?
This statement wasn't meant to confuse the disciples but instruct them. Their Master was using Himself as an example to follow.
During the forty day wilderness test, Jesus was sustained by the Holy Spirit. Even though He didn't eat for over a month, He wasn't hungry until the forty days were over (Luke 4:2).
When Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread, He responded, "It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4). Doing the full will of His Father was Jesus' food, His priority – more important than satisfying His appetite.
Later Jesus would tell His disciples (including us) to first seek God's kingdom and His righteousness, and all of life's necessities, including food, would be provided (Matthew 6:33).
"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."
The natural harvest was months away, but Jesus drew their attention to a more important harvest before their eyes, and it was long overdue for reaping.
"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 (ESV)
Knowing the Samaritans were ripe to believe in Him (they were receptive to what He said, unlike many of the Jews), Jesus came to Sychar to reap souls.
He also wanted His disciples to see with His eyes. Later He would send them out on their own (Matthew 9:37-10:6), so they needed to recognize a white harvest when they saw it. They would be the reapers, gathering in souls where others, from the prophets to John the Baptist 2, had planted seeds for hundreds of years. After a successful harvest, they would come back to Jesus rejoicing (Luke 10:17).
Meanwhile, they watched as the Master showed them how it's done…
Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word 3. They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."
– John 4:39-42 (ESV)
This was indeed a joyful time!
- Notice the 'food' related words in this passage. A harvest (vs. 35) is used to provide food. Fruit (vs. 36) is a type of food. Jesus's food is what gives eternal life, unlike physical food. Also, note that Adam was told to work the garden out of which he would eat. Jesus is the Last Adam and also does the work given Him by His Father. ↩
- John the sower rejoiced to see people come to Christ (John 3:26-30). ↩
- In these two days they fully believed. The Pharisees didn't believe after years. Also, note another fulfillment of Emmanuel (God with us). ↩