Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. - John 4:31-37
This passage is taken from the story of Jesus’ encounter with a woman of Samaria. As you may recall, Jesus and His disciples had stopped at the well outside the Samaritan city of Sychar. Jesus remained by the well while His disciples went in to the city to obtain some food. While they were gone, a lone Samaritan woman came to the well to draw some water and Jesus engaged her in conversation by asking her to give Him a drink. By the end of their conversation, the woman was deeply impressed and gaining conviction that this man was indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. With this exciting message she raced back into the city to confer with its men. In the meanwhile, the disciples returned with food but found that Jesus had other things on His mind.
What a contrast! The disciples went into a city filled with people and came back only with food for their stomachs for a day. Jesus met with just one woman from that same city and through her was in process of bringing eternal salvation to a multitude! The disciples are mystified by Jesus’ actions and motives. No doubt they had little interest in reaching this community of “heretics” and “half-breeds” (as the Jews then regarded Samaritans). What Jesus wanted His disciples to know is that the harvest of souls is of first priority and that the harvest had already begun. Whether Jesus was referring to the barley or wheat harvests as being four months away or was using a proverbial saying indicating any expectation of future good, we cannot say, but the point is clear: it was time now to start harvesting! Jesus demonstrated this by His ministry to the Samaritan woman and the consequence: a large party from the city was then approaching Jesus and His disciples, drawn by her testimony of His knowledge of her painful past and scandalous present. Perhaps Jesus was referring to the approaching multitude who were drawn by the woman’s report, mostly clothed in undyed linen and wool, when He said “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.”
Most of us who believe in Jesus today are no better, and probably worse, in this regard than the disciples were on that day. Our food is very much of the physical kind. We would not dare to say “my food is to do the will of the One who sent me and to accomplish His work.” For us, the harvest of souls is something we intend to get around to someday or, having intended it for most of our lives and not done it, we have given up even the intention. We’ve decided to leave the harvest to others – to people like Billy Graham! But that great harvester of souls is now in heaven. We wonder, “Who will take his place?” But that would be to miss the whole point of his ministry. Billy didn’t win people to Christ by himself. It was always a team effort. In every place he enlisted the Christians of that community to invite others to the meetings, to make up the choir, to volunteer to be counselors to those who would come forward to give their lives to Christ. Before every “crusade” his team would run workshops to train Christians in how to lead souls to Christ and follow up with them. While God wonderfully gifted Billy as a preacher of the gospel his ministry would have been far less successful if he had simply relied on his preaching ability. Whatever his accomplishments they were based on his effort to get us into the task, if even for a short season, that was Christ’s all-consuming passion while He was on earth.
When I heard that Billy Graham had died, I thought back to how many times I heard him speak in person. I don’t think I should count the time my mother brought me as a very young child with her to one of his meetings. I don’t remember it. But I do remember seeing him at “Explo ‘72” in Dallas, Texas and twice in Sacramento. In 1983 Billy held a crusade in Sacramento in which Tyla and I were trained to serve as counselors. Later, when he returned in 1995 we invited and went with some we hoped would respond to the message. While they did not respond to the message as we had hoped, we know good seed was planted in their hearts. Many others were touched by Billy’s messages via the radio, TV and other media over the years. Perhaps no one has proclaimed the gospel to more people during his or her lifetime than Billy Graham did.
Billy obviously shared Christ’s hunger for the harvest. Our relative lack of appetite is the reason this poor old world is suffering so much today. The miseries we see and hear about can be traced back to one root source: people are not rightly related to God, each other and the world God created for us to live in. God sent His Son into the world to save us from sin, not just to forgive us for it. Sin is what is killing us, both physically and spiritually. There is absolutely no reason for wars, poverty, ignorance, pollution, oppression or any number of other evils in this world except human selfishness and pride. And there is no reason for any soul to go on rejecting the One without whom existence has no meaning or prospect of true happiness here, or hereafter, except for that same corruption of the heart. Jesus came to give us new hearts of love for God and our neighbor.
Receiving His forgiveness is the first place to start and the good seed from which everything else good will grow.As Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)When we begin to realize how much we have sinned and get an inkling of how much good we destroyed through sin, Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross and His willingness to dwell within us can do nothing but beget deep gratitude and love for Him.Another thing it inspires is a desire that others might know His love as we have come to know it.And that is what creates the hunger for the harvest!So let us repent of our sin, return to our Savior and rejoin Him in that mission which was to Him more than life itself!