Behold! A Harvest

Behold! A Harvest

Behold! A Harvest. 

There are some individual words and short phrases in Scripture that need to be highlighted as they are read, words or phrases that are significant or point to something meaningful. Some phrases might be: Fear not. Here I am. Woe to you. One another.   And maybe some words are: AmenHallelujahBlessedAbba. Come.  The word Behold! is one of those significant words, an exclamation that is intended to get our attention. Listen, people, this is something you need to hear! Behold says to the audience, Look at this and take note! You would be wise to remember these words and think about them! Careful now, don’t be deaf to what I am about to say! Stop what you’re doing and listen up! As the Eastern Orthodox Christians say before they read the Gospel in the Liturgy… Attend! The following verse begins with Behold! So the words that follow must be important.

Behold! I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest. Open your eyes to what is right in front of you. The vast fields of ripened grain are ready for a spiritual harvest.” (John 4:35).

The context for these words of Jesus to His disciples are fascinating. Jesus and His disciples were walking in the Judean countryside to return to their home territory in Galilee. Jesus decided to go straight through the central district of Samaria, which was directly in their path between Judea and Galilee. Most Jews made a point of walking around Samaria so they didn’t have to associate with their enemy the Samaritans.

While in Samaria they came to Jacob’s well, near a village called Sychar. Jesus was hot, tired and thirsty, so they decided to stop at the well for a while. While the disciples were away getting some food, a Samaritan woman approached the well during the noon hour. She needed to fill her big jar with water. She came at noon to avoid meeting up with other women who tended to come early in the morning or later in the evening. She was aware of her reputation, and wanted to avoid any judgment or confrontation.

Jews considered the Samaritans to be their enemy because the people in Samaria were a mixed race, half-breeds. The Jews prided themselves on being pure and unmixed. Samaritans however were once Jews who intermarried with the gentiles of Assyria. The Jews thought the Samaritans had betrayed their faith and their nation to mix in with foreigners. Samaritans indeed seemed to be half-Jewish in many ways: They only believed in the Books of Moses, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Also, they had built their worship Temple on Mt. Gerazim nearby, not Mt. Zion in Jerusalem like the Jews. The Samaritans only had a shrine at this time instead of a Temple, because the Jews had destroyed their Temple in 128 B.C. Samaritans did celebrate Passover and other Feasts of the Law, and it appeared they did worship the God of Israel. They were also expecting a messiah, a Moses-like prophet who would be the Restorer, the True Teacher, described clearly in Deuteronomy 18:15-19“Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him… Then Yahweh said to me, ‘What they have said is right. I will raise up a prophet like you. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf.”

In this private encounter, Jesus is taking a decided risk to His reputation. This woman at the well is a Samaritan, for one thing. Then, she is a woman. Third, she is living in sin. Three strikes and you’re out. But this didn’t bother Jesus, even though no respectable Jewish man would find himself in this situation. Jesus risked a lot of misunderstanding, since she was known as a loose woman, a serial adulteress. She may have been untouchable by others’ standards, but she was merely too-touchable in the eyes of Jesus. To add to this uncommon situation, any encounter of a man and a woman at a well denoted courtship in the people’s mind. He was bound to be judged by all this. Jesus didn’t seem to mind, even though He was meeting privately with a sinful woman in a context that suggested romance between the two of them. Evidently Jesus wasn’t worried about His reputation. Reaching this woman was more important to Jesus than risking His reputation.

After their rather theological chat about God as Spirit, and worship, Jesus being the great I AM, and to top it off Jesus told her everything there was to know about herself, she immediately dropped her water jar at the well and rushed to town to tell everyone of her discovery. His I AM claim may have been scandalous to the Jews, but it was nothing but good news to those Samaritans.

After telling everyone she could find in town, the town came out to the well to see for themselves what all the fuss was about. It was at this time that Jesus pointed to the crowd as it was coming to Him, how they were dressed in white, and how they looked like they were a field ready for harvest… soul harvest. Jesus told His disciples to not be afraid of cross-cultural witnessing or telling sworn enemies about the love of Jesus. Look at this Samaritan mission field, they are ripe for harvest, says Jesus.  Jesus then proclaims the Good News to these people who were thirsting for the truth, and they asked Him to stay in town for a couple of days so they could hear more. Jesus was happy to remain with them, and they all exclaimed, “We have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42).