“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” -- John 4:35
Across the years, Jesus’ references to harvest-ready fields have sparked passion for world evangelism. Today, sermons and songs frequently feature the harvest idea. Robin Mark’s 1994 “Days of Elijah,” for example, proclaims: “These are the days of harvest. The fields are as white in the world” (http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/elijah.htm).
In exhortations recorded in Matthew 9 and Luke 10, Jesus spoke of the need for workers to gather the harvest. In John 4, our Lord’s words spotlight the urgency of the task. Delay in harvesting a ripened crop usually ends in spoilage and a sense that hours of soil preparation, planting, fertilizing, weed control and watering have been in vain.
Verses 4-42 of John 4 occur at a 2,000-year-old well. Jesus and his disciples had stopped there during a trip northward from Jerusalem to Galilee. On this particular journey they went through Samaria, a region whose inhabitants were shunned by the Jews as “half-breeds.”
When they came to Sychar, the disciples left Jesus at the ancient water source and went to buy food. While they were gone, a woman came to draw water. To the Samaritan woman’s surprise, the Jewish man at the well asked her for a drink. Then, He talked to her about a kind of water which could satisfy thirst forever.
When the disciples showed up with lunch, the woman hurried away to call townspeople to come meet someone who just might be the Promised Messiah. As people from Sychar “made their way toward Him,” Jesus urged His disciples to open their eyes and look at the ripening fields. Since people were the “fields” Jesus had in mind that day, it’s easy to imagine Him gesturing at the approaching Samaritans -- whom most Jews despised -- as He said, “Open your eyes and look . . .”
Jesus referred to a common catchphrase of that time: “It’s still four months until harvest.” I have never heard anyone use that saying today. However, it would fit well in the same contexts in which we exclaim, “What’s the big hurry?” and “Where’s the fire?” To those with such a what’s-the-big-hurry attitude regarding Gospel proclamation, Jesus said, “Look at the fields! They are ripe.”
In using the harvest metaphor, Jesus was saying, “Your task is an urgent one.” Talking about global outreach as a harvest indicates that we face windows of opportunity which open and close. Harvest cannot be postponed until a more convenient time next month. When crops mature, they must be harvested right away.
Each day, tens of thousands of people go out into eternity each day never having heard about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Isn’t that a ripened harvest going to waste? Oh, when will we feel the urgency?