Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Pastor Steve Schell
John 4:25-42
Jesus saw the moment: they had stepped into a “divine appointment.” The people there were ready to hear the gospel. This woman was ready, the city of Sychar was ready, but He was exhausted and in a hurry. He had only stopped to rest and get something to eat. What would He do? Would He explain the condition they were in and politely postpone, promising to come back at a more convenient time? After all He still hadn’t eaten anything, and He and His disciples had been walking for hours, possibly through the night.

When we read such passages, you and I need to remember that Jesus was as human as we are. The Son of God came from heaven to become a man with a body like ours. So He was as hungry and tired as you and I would be in that situation. He felt the way we would feel if we had gone without food and walked until we had to stop. Yet Jesus saw something in that moment that His disciples didn’t see. He saw what God was doing in that place and realized that meeting this woman wasn’t an accident. So His love for people and His desire to give them eternal life caused Him to set aside His own needs and trust that the Holy Spirit would sustain Him until He could finally eat and rest. The disciples were standing there offering Him food, but He didn’t touch it. Instead He began to prepare Himself spiritually while a stream of people poured out of the city rushing toward Jacob’s well.

Jacob’s well (Jn 4:25-37) • DBS (Sun-Sat)

v35: Then Jesus explained to His disciples what He was seeing in the Spirit. He told them that they needed to recognize that they were standing in a ripe harvest field of souls. He told them to open their spiritual eyes and look around at the responsiveness of the people and recognize that the Holy Spirit was already powerfully at work. To illustrate His point Jesus pictured that place as a field of grain. In that region the barley harvest began in mid-April and the wheat harvest about a month later. Judging from His caution to them that they not say, “that it is four months until the harvest arrives” (literal), they were probably passing through Samaria about mid-December or possibly mid-January (A. Plummer, John, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1893, p.124). Though farmers in the area would have to wait another four months for the seed they had planted to ripen and be ready for harvest, the people who lived there were like ripe grain ready to be evangelized now, yet the disciples hadn’t noticed this. They were simply focused on getting through that area as fast as they could. So Jesus told them, “lift up your eyes and behold (look carefully and think about what you see) that the fields are already white unto harvest” (literal). It’s very likely that by the time He spoke these words crowds of people had come out of the city gates and were walking toward them. In a place where there was no reason to expect such responsiveness, large numbers had just listened to a women’s testimony, dropped whatever they were doing and were hurrying out to meet Him. Thankfully, Jesus was interruptible.

People open up spiritually and need us to talk to them, listen to them or pray for them at the most inconvenient, even awkward moments. So often we might think to ourselves, “Why now? Why didn’t this come up earlier?” or “Can’t we postpone this until a better time arrives?”

I think all parents discover this dilemma as they raise children. There are moments when the child suddenly wants to talk, and those opportunities arrive on their schedule, not the parents’ schedule. And when they come… we are usually caught off guard and feel unprepared. In that unplanned moment we are forced to make a decision: Will I set aside my own needs? Will I ignore the other voices that are demanding my time right now? Will I step out and trust that God will give me the ability to listen carefully and have the right words to speak when I need them? Or will I see this as an intrusion, an interruption, one more demand on my time and energy that are already in short supply?

Parents know what this is like, but so does everyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus. While it’s true that there will always be compulsive people who will wear us out if we don’t set boundaries, the Holy Spirit will still regularly call on all of us to step out of our “comfort zone,” to serve someone when we’re so tired we feel we have nothing left to give and to allow Him to interrupt our plans and replace them with His.

Watching Jesus
John has recorded for us an example of Jesus doing exactly this, but he doesn’t leave us to merely watch Jesus and admire His selflessness. He also recorded Jesus’ explanation in which He told His disciples why He was able to do what He did. Remember, John himself was standing there watching and listening to all of this. Who knows, maybe he was the one trying to hand Jesus something to eat. Between the time when the woman left and the crowd arrived, Jesus did two very important things: He prepared Himself spiritually to minister to those who were coming, but He also took time to train His disciples so they could someday do what He was doing. And now, thanks to John, it’s as if you and I can stand there beside Peter and Andrew, James and John and Philip and Nathaniel and be trained along with them. Jesus described what He saw in the Spirit because He wanted them, and us, to learn to see the same things and become “interruptible.” How else can a person who has been “born of God” let the wind of the Spirit lead them wherever He wishes (Jn 3:8)?

What Jesus saw
As Spirit-empowered believers we all have two sets of “eyes.” We have our natural eyes which observe the natural world around us, but God has also given us spiritual eyes to observe the spiritual world around us; and that spiritual world is as real as the natural world. Actually, it’s more real and will last a lot longer.

The problem at Jacob’s well was that the disciples were only looking at the situation with their natural eyes, so what they saw was a problem, an interruption. They saw Jesus’ hunger and weariness; they saw a troubled woman; they saw Samaritans who were different from them and even hostile toward them much of the time; they saw their plan interrupted (they were finally on their way back to Galilee to see their families who they hadn’t seen in almost a year). Jesus saw:
1) An opportunity to rescue people, which though it was unexpected, God had arranged (vs5-8).
2) The spiritual hunger in the Samaritan woman who had accidentally met Him by the well, and the faith that had begun to rise inside her (vs28-29).
3) The will of God. He recognized that the Father wanted Him to stop and minister there until every person who was ready to hear had been reached (vs34, 39-42).
4) The readiness of the people. He knew they were like a ripe harvest field (v35).
5) The sustaining power of the Holy Spirit which was always available to strengthen Him when He was weak (vs31-34).

Miraculous food (vs31-34)
In order to minister whenever the Spirit leads I must be able to count on the Spirit to strengthen and inspire me in that moment. When I’m tired or scared, when I feel like I have nothing to give anyone, I must know for sure that God will be there for me, that if I take the first step He will show up and provide what I lack. The problem is: this kind of faith only comes after I experience His faithfulness enough times to realize that God’s help in that situation was not a fluke, it’s a pattern, and to learn that I have to step out in obedience first, and often enough, or I will never grow in that faith.

This is why Jesus could do what He did when He was as weak as He was. It’s what He meant when He said, “I have food you do not know about?” He knew that wherever God guides, God provides, so if God was asking Him to do this then the strength would come when He needed it. Paul knew this same truth. He said it this way:
“He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2Co 12:9-10).

Being interruptible
As you and I enter a new year, will we be interruptible? Will we see situations with our spiritual eyes, not only our natural eyes? Will we recognize “divine appointments” when they come? Will we look past our pre-conceived attitudes about people and places and let God show us the harvest He has prepared? And when those unplanned moments arrive, at the most inconvenient and awkward times, will we look past how we feel, and trust God to do great things through us? If we will, 2016 should be an amazing year!

1)There are moments when we suddenly realize God wants to use us to minister to someone, but He didn’t tell us about it ahead of time. Can you think of such a moment? Tell us about it.
2) Can you think of a time when you were weak or scared, but you did what God asked you to do and He came and strengthened you while you were doing it? How did it turn out? What did you learn from that? 

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