Ripe for Harvesting
Third Sunday of Lent
John 4:5-42
March 12, 2022
Jane Shelton, CRE


Have you ever been around someone that you could listen to all day?  I always get the impression that Jesus was one of those people. We can only imagine what it must have been like hearing Jesus talk and teach to the crowds, and even more intriguing were the individual conversations that he had with the people he met along his life’s journey.  It’s fascinating, and it draws us in to the story. Today’s story, that we are most likely very familiar with, is no different. 

Over the years, when hearing this story, this conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well, it seemed me to focus on the woman, and who she was.   Indeed, she does play a crucial part in today’s lesson, but I want us to go a step further today as we delve into this scripture, but first let’s set the scene.

Jesus, on his way from Judea to Galilee, passes through this Samaritan city.  In Judea, he has most likely been teaching and healing people along his journey.  It’s probably very hot and dusty, and he is tired.  I get the impression, he is not just tired, but maybe even a little exhausted there in the heat of the day.  The disciples have gone on ahead of him into the city to get food, and Jesus comes upon Jacob’s well.

Now my Papa had an old well and a bucket under his shed on his farm, and when you walked up to lower the bucket, the bucket, being metal, was usually cool as well as the sides of the well wall, but his well was under a shelter.  I don’t know, but I’m guessing the well Jesus came to, Jacob’s well, was probably out in the open and the walls very hot, and there appears to be no bucket available for him to use to get a drink of water.  Jesus sits down by the well.  Maybe the walls of the well cast a bit of a shade, just enough that he could get out of the sun and cool down.

Jesus has no bucket to lower for water, but my hunch is that Jesus knew someone would show up with a bucket.  Someone from whom he could ask for a drink of water for his thirst.  We don’t know how long he waited, but sure enough, along comes this woman, a Samaritan woman, with a jar to draw water.  Jesus asks her, “Give me a drink.”

So here, alone with this Samaritan woman, Jesus has a conversation with someone who happens along, someone who crosses his life’s journey, and he begins the conversation.

Now as a Jew from the area of Jerusalem, Jesus should not be talking with this woman, a Samaritan woman.  Now you have to understand that there was a history between the Jews and the Samaritans as to the actual place where God chose for his dwelling.  The Jews believe that God chose Mt. Zion in Jerusalem as his dwelling, while the Samaritans believed he chose Mount Gerizim.  This is the reference to which the woman is speaking of to Jesus.  

So in this act of conversation with this Samaritan woman, Jesus is engaging in crossing social boundaries of religion, ethnicity and gender.  And the woman knows that he is a Jew and confronts him with the fact that he is asking something of her, a Samaritan, someone outside his established boundary of social acceptance.

Jesus then introduces himself in Jesus’ fashion by telling her he is the Son of Man, but not in that plain language.  He introduces himself by starting the conversation with informing her of the gift of God.  If she had known, Jesus says, if you had known the gift of God, and asked it of me, I would have given you living water.  What is the gift of God?  Jesus himself is the gift of God, the living water that he then speaks about to the woman.  

If we reflect back on Roman 10:14-17, where Paul is having a conversation with the community of believers in Rome, and he says, “For how are they to call on one whom in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  And Paul then quotes Isaiah, “…faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.”

Here, at the well, Jesus is proclaiming the gift of God, the living water, the God of spirit and truth, so that this Samaritan woman can then proclaim the good news, and recognize that indeed this man she is having a conversation with is the Messiah, the one she has heard about.  Becoming aware that Jesus is the Messiah, she begins to tell him the things she knows about the Messiah to come, and Jesus responds with, “I AM he, the one who is speaking with you.”

And she goes back to the city, leaving her jar behind at the well.  She leaves that jar because she does not want anything to slow her down until she can reach the other people in the city, and she can tell them about this man she has met at the well, the one that told her everything that she has ever done.  She immediately becomes a witness for the Son of Man, the Messiah that is to come, the Savior that is now here.  She has taken the information that has been given to her, believed it, and with her beautiful feet, she brings the good news to the people in the city.

The disciples arrive on the scene as Jesus is professing himself to the woman, and are put off that he is talking to this woman, this outcast.  And rather than ask Jesus the question about why he is having this conversation with the woman, they begin the gossiping among themselves.  They begin judging the situation.  They question what could Jesus possibly want speaking to this woman?  We can certainly see in this story, that Jesus’ work gets done regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of others that are judging the situation instead of asking the question of how they might be able to help.

Maybe they thought Jesus had become delirious in the heat, and that was the reason for his conversation with the woman at the well, and their focus remains on their offering him food to eat.  Jesus seems to be a bit perturbed with the disciples when they ask him about eating, and he replies, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and do his work.”

I think in some regard Jesus is scolding the disciples.  “Look around you”, he says, “open your eyes.  Can’t you see all these people waiting to hear the word of God, to know the spirit and truth, to have the living water gushing up to eternal life.”  

Jesus knows the urgency of the need to tell people who he is, and have them witness to the harvest that is ripe, the people that are waiting and ready to hear the word, to have the word proclaimed to them.  In this story, it is Jesus who is thirsty and hungry for the souls to be informed of the living water.  He doesn’t have time for real food, he has his Father’s work to be done, and in my mind, this is the bigger focus of the story.

Jesus is the reaper, he is the one that is gathering the fruit for eternal life.  He is the one doing the work while the disciples are distracted by things of the world, the need for food, from which they will always hunger for more, rather than being feed by the spirit and truth, the word of God.

It is in these statements with his disciples that I believe Jesus is telling us, go to the well, go to the fields, there are people waiting to be harvested.  There are people that are hungry and thirsty to know the living water that gushes up.  Again, we need to be looking up to the things from heaven, just like Jesus told Nicodemus last week.

There is an obvious contrast in the characters of last week’s story in Nicodemus, the affluent, the insider, and the educated who visits Jesus in the dark versus the woman at the well who is an outsider, a person with no social standing, and talks with Jesus in the bright of day.

It doesn’t matter to God who you are, what your status in life is, and whether you come to him in the dark of night or the light of day.  God is looking for true worshipers?  And who are true worshipers?  Those who will worship the Father in spirit and truth.  Those who are willing to proclaim the Son of Man, the Messiah, the living water so that when we take it in, we no longer thirst or hunger for things of the world.  And then we go one step more, we run with beautiful feet to tell others in the fields that are ripe for harvesting.

So how do we harvest what is ripe in the fields?  If we follow the example of Jesus, we meet people where they are, we approach them, we initiate the conversation, and we tell them about Jesus, the living water, and then we allow the Spirit to do the rest.  We allow the Spirit to come into their lives, and open their eyes so they may see the light and share it with others they meet along their journey.  

And the last thing that I want to point out.  After the woman tells her friends in the city about Jesus, and they go and believe not because of what she has told them, but because they see it for themselves, and what does Jesus do?  How does he respond?  He goes and spends two days with them.  He fellowships with them, and I’m sure he told them all he knew about his Abba Father.

Come, walk with me to the well, are you not also thirsty like Jesus to tell someone about the Messiah, the living water that gushes up to eternal life?  The field is ripe for harvesting.


*Cover Image by Stushie; used with subscription