My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work. – John 4:34.
One of Jesus’ most memorable conversations is His talk with a Samaritan woman at a well. The disciples leave Him to go grocery-shopping and, upon their return, they ask Christ to eat but He answers, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
After His talk with the woman at the well, Christ explains to the disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work” (John 4:35).
The passage also tells us the Samaritan woman comes back with a crowd of people following her. Christ then compares His work to harvest-work (John 4:31-38). Harvest-work is a time of opportunity, a limited moment that does not always last. It must be done at the right time or the harvest moment will be lost forever.
There are other places in Scripture where we can see those preferring to do God’s will to eating. Abraham said to Laban, “I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say” (Genesis 24:33). Samuel tells Jesse, while on the mission to anoint David, Jesse’s son, “We will not sit down to eat until David arrives” (I Samuel 16:11b).
Christ suggests that there are three important things about feasting on doing the will of God. Feasting on the food of doing the will of His Father (the one who sent Christ) is harvest-work. First, it is a necessary work. Second, it is profitable and advantageous work. Third, and finally, harvest-work is easy work.
Harvest-work is necessary work, work that must be done. And it is best done when preaching the gospel and that must be done so all who would hear it can hear it. Look, said Christ, the fields are ripe for the harvest (John 4:35).
Like preaching, harvest time is a time of great vigor, when preachers and reapers both swing the sickle of God’s word, because they see the harvest field is ripe for picking.
When done correctly, harvest-work is profitable and advantageous work. For instance, Scripture says of John the Baptist, “He will go on before the Lord in the Spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).
Good preaching prepares the people’s hearts and they are made ready for the work and then go to work and then rejoice, like in the days of Hezekiah, when “the work gets done quickly” (2 Chronicles 29:36).
Harvest work is easy work, because the hard work has already been done by those who planted and have gone on before us.
Christ’s teaching of just this one Samaritan woman caused knowledge of the gospel to spread throughout the whole town. According to John 4:19, her heart had been made ready to be taught, by earlier conversations she had with others about Old Testament prophets.
In the disciple’s absence, Christ feasted on, “doing the will of the One who sent Him.” Doing His Father’s will had been so fulfilling that Christ lost His appetite. His fulfillment came from the Samaritan woman’s response to His preaching of the gospel.
One of the best ways our faith grows is by nurturing the “Fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy and peace, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23), all of which have been planted in us from birth. First we harvest God’s fruit within us when it’s ready and the time and season are right and then we become better able to harvest God’s other crop.
According to Luke 8:4-15, the Seed is the Word of God which is also already planted in us. Our faith grows best when we nurture both the Seed of the Word and the Seed of the “Fruit of the Spirit.” These important Seeds require the living water of Christ, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. The Holy Spirit then causes us to ripen into mature fruit and we too can then feast on, as Christ did, “doing the will of God.”
*The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door UCC in Miami’s Liberty City community. He may be reached at 305-759-0373 or firstname.lastname@example.org