27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ 28Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,* can he?’ 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ 32But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ 33So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ 34Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do 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. 36The reaper is already receiving* wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They 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 truly the Saviour of the world.’
The disciples are “astonished” to find Jesus speaking with a Samaritan woman – but the woman left her water-jar and went to the city, and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I had ever done.” And she adds, ‘Could it be that he is the Messiah?” She becomes the first missionary, the first to go and tell others about Jesus – she who is an outcast among the outcasts, becomes first to go and tell.
And then her story is interrupted, as Jesus tries to explain to the disciples what is happening. He tells them that he has food they do not know about. Again, Jesus is speaking figuratively, and the disciples are hearing literally – they wonder who has brought him food. Jesus’ bread is to do the will of God. This is one of John’s confusing passages – but consider it from the point of view of its context: Jesus is in Samaria, speaking with a Samaritan woman, and the disciples are confused by that. Jesus tells them that he comes to do God’s will. Then he compares God’s will to the harvest of grain or fruit – there is a harvest to be done in Samaria as well as in Judea and Galilee; God is reaping believers, fruit, in this place as well. This, then, is not a warning of the “reapers” as condemning some or saving some in eternal life; this is a story of reconciliation, the acceptance of the people of Samaria as God’s children. Samaria is also a place where God has planted the seeds of the Spirit, and their belief will be God’s fruit. Sower and reaper are brought together in the love of God.
Isn’t it appropriate that we speak of reconciliation and love for all today, the day in which we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
And then the story goes on: many Samaritans heard the woman’s testimony (there we have the recurring theme of testimony again) and came to Jesus. And Jesus stayed there two days, talking with them and teaching them. And many more came to believe, because of what they heard themselves. They knew he was truly “the Savior of the world.”