Jesus Teaches Us How to Work in His Kingdom
Lord Heavenly Father, through Your Word You have turned me from the wide road to hell to the narrow road to heaven. Thank You for sending Your Spirit into my heart! Please use me to share that same Word and that same Spirit with as many people as I can. Lord, may I reap, may I sow, but may all the glory of this good work be to You! Amen!
John 4:31-42 (ESV)
Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." 32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you do not know about." 33 So the disciples said to one another, "Has anyone brought him something to eat?" 34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, 'One sows and another reaps.' 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." 39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They 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 indeed the Savior of the world."
JESUS TEACHES US: HOW TO WORK IN HIS KINGDOM
I. The Work Is Natural
II. The Work Is Necessary
III. The Work is Rewarding
Dear Friends in Christ, Fellow Redeemed!
One of the marks of a good employer is the program it develops to train in its new employees. Some companies are very thorough in their training and safety programs and some are considerably less so. There are advantages to going slowly and explaining the process to trainees and there are advantages to the concept of learning on the fly. It all depends on the importance of the work and the safety of the workers. I know personally that I have been trained in some jobs that I wish would move along and hurry up and in other jobs, I wish my trainer would have slowed down and done a better job of explaining things.
I’m sure many if not all of you have been on both sides of this situation--either in the position of the trainer or in the position of the trainee. We all know that the right trainer, teaching at the right pace can make all the difference in whether you like the job or not, whether you understand the job or not.
In the text before us this morning we see Jesus training His disciples and training us as well. He is teaching us HOW TO WORK IN HIS KINGDOM. That the Work Is Natural. That the Work Is Necessary, and that the Work Is Rewarding. May the Spirit bless our study as we learn from our Savior Himself!
I. The Work Is Natural
The account before us this morning takes place in the immediate aftermath of the sermon study that Pastor Nolting led us in last week. Jesus was at Jacob’s well, where He had just approached a certain Samaritan woman who was gathering water and told her of the living water that He offered that resulted in eternal life. He then reproached her for the sinful lifestyle that she had been living in having five previous husbands and currently living with a man who was not her husband. Then after a discussion on the true nature of worship, Jesus tells the woman that He is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.
What an amazing example of evangelism for us! Jesus shows the woman of Samaria the value of the gift He has to offer. He convicts her of her sin and then He leads her to the source of salvation: Himself. And it is as the woman is going back into the town of Sychar to share the news of the Man she had met at the well (and by the way she was so excited to share this information that she forgot to bring her water jar with her), that our text occurs.
Jesus is not only the greatest evangelist ever to live, He is also the greatest teacher. And so it should come as no great surprise that we find Him taking an opportunity to teach His disciples a few very important lessons about the work of His Kingdom--about the work of evangelism.
The first lesson is that the work should be natural. It is somewhat ironic that Jesus asked the woman at the well for a drink of water in order to make some very important points, but He never actually got that drink of water. So, the disciples urge Jesus to eat something to restore His strength. And Jesus uses this to teach them.
He replies, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” Of course, this only confuses the disciples. They ask among themselves “Has anyone brought Him something to eat?” The disciples were concerned for the health and wellbeing of Jesus. After all, He had gone 40 days without eating and drinking in the wilderness, so perhaps they saw it as their duty to make sure that He remembered to eat, drink, and take care of Himself.
Either way, Jesus explains Himself by saying, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.” That is a jam-packed sentence! The one who sent Jesus is, of course, God the Father. The same John who wrote this gospel later wrote in his first epistle, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
Now, what is the will of God the Father? It is clear throughout Scripture that the will, the desire of God is to save sinners! We read in Jeremiah, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). And in 1 Timothy that God, “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Therefore, if God’s will is to save sinners, which we know it is, the work that Jesus is meant to accomplish is His work of salvation. It is His work of committing no sin, nor deceit. It is His work of being tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. It is His work of suffering the humiliation and shame of the cross. It is His work of enduring the pains of hell on the cross. It is His work of pronouncing, “It is finished.” All of that is the work of salvation that accomplished eternal life for us.
But the most interesting part (I think) is that Jesus says that all of this, doing God’s will and accomplishing our salvation, is His food. What does Jesus mean by that? Well, part of what I think He means is that it is natural. God designed us to eat and speaking God’s truth should be as natural to us as eating.
We tend to have a problem with that, don’t we? It is so much easier to hide our faith than to wear it on our sleeves. It is easier to say, “Good luck!” than to say “God bless!” It is easier to talk about the lousy weather than to talk about the One who controls the weather. It is easier to sympathize with someone generically than to recite a Bible passage that could truly make a difference.
In so many ways, talking about God in our day-to-day lives tends to come unnaturally. And that is exactly what the Devil and the world want. They want God-talk to feel awkward and uncomfortable. But Jesus is here showing us that to do the Father’s will and to accomplish His work should come as naturally to us as eating.
So how can we make it more natural? Practice. Practice, practice, practice. By making Christ such a large part of your life that you can’t help but talk about Him. By making a point to speak to your family and your friends and your co-workers about the hope that is in you. Make it a practice. Make it a goal. It will come easier.
II. The Work Is Necessary
But the second thing that I think Jesus meant when He said that this will and work was His food is that not only was it natural (like eating), but it actually sustained Him. We read in Hebrews that Jesus endured the cross, “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). That is why this work of evangelism was necessary for Jesus--His love for us. The joy that He had in accomplishing our salvation was the food, the nourishment, the encouragement as He made His way through the beatings and the mockings and the scourgings.
It was necessary work for Jesus and it is necessary for us as well. For it is that same Gospel that rescues us from the clutches of sin and death that we now have the privilege to send to others. Like the cup from Psalm 23 that is so full of blessings that it runs over, so we too run over with the blessings, workings, and marvels of God’s grace. It is the joy that we can share with others the beauty of God’s grace that makes sharing this good news necessary for us as well.
But it is also necessary because of what Jesus says in verse 35. “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” This event probably took place around November, according to many Bible scholars, because the first harvest normally took place around the Passover or Easter time of year.
Jesus was simply trying to make a point to His disciples. Every time of year is a good time to be harvesting when it comes to evangelism. We should be spreading the good news of Jesus all year round. As white as the fields were at the time of Jesus, they are just as white and ready today.
There are sinners out in the world who are suffering because of their sin and because of the sins of those people around them. Let us take pity and show them the love that Christ showed us! There are sick and dying people who need to be told that the Lord of Life has come into the world for them. There are men and women who are convicted by their sin and need to be shown the light of the Gospel.
In Scripture, we are told that God has “made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47 NIV). Jesus tells us, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15 NIV) and again, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 NIV). Let us then resolve to commit ourselves to this necessary work and resolve to know nothing “except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
III. The Work Is Rewarding
Jesus’ final lesson to teach us about the work in His Kingdom is that it is rewarding. But not in the sense that we tend to naturally think of rewarding. There are not treasure chests to be won or even a pay check. Yet Jesus assures us in verse 36, “Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.”
Christ is promising to reward all of those who work in His Kingdom with fruit for eternal life. This is not an earthly treasure but rather a heavenly one. Those who proclaim the gospel of Christ are proclaiming the gospel that saves both himself and those who hear him (1 Timothy 4:16).
The reward then is not money or power or honor, but rather the joy of helping in the building up of the Church of God. It is just as Paul explained to the church at Corinth that was dividing among themselves based on different leaders.
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).
After all, we do not preach ourselves, but rather we preach Christ. And it is He who deserves to receive all the glory just as in our text. The Samaritan woman certainly proclaimed Jesus to the people of Sychar, but we read in verse 41 that, “many more believed because of his word.” And just to make sure that was clear enough we read in verse 42 that “they 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 indeed the Savior of the world.”
The power of Christ, the gospel speaks for itself. The gospel is what changes hearts and minds and it is Christ who rightfully deserves all the credit and all the rewards for the work that is done in His Kingdom.
So, Jesus gave us this text this morning in order to teach you, to train you in the work of His Kingdom. The truth is dear friends, that we will fail to be the evangelists that Christ has called us to be. There will be times that we fail to make the points we wanted to make. There will be times that we miss opportunities and think back on things we wish we would have said.
But let us continue to strive. Let us continue to make talking about our Savior a part of our daily lives, as natural and necessary as eating. Let us remember the many souls who are walking down the wide road to hell and think of our work among them not just as important, but as necessary. And finally, let us look forward to the eternal rewards that await all of those who count on Jesus for salvation. Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus. To You belong the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Pastor Joe Naumann