"Don't you have a saying, It's still four months until harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes
and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest" -- John 4:35
Across the years, Jesus' references to harvest-ready fields have sparked passion for world
evangelism. Sermons and songs have frequently featured the harvest idea.
Robin Mark's 1994 "Days of Elijah," for example, proclaims: "These
are the days of harvest. The fields are as white in the world."
In exhortations recorded in Matthew 9 and Luke 10, Jesus spoke of the need for workers to
gather the harvest. In John 4, our Lord's words spotlight the urgency of the task. Delay in
harvesting a ripened crop usually ends in spoilage and a sense that hours of soil preparation,
planting, fertilizing, weed control and watering have been in vain.
Verses 4-42 of John 4 occur at a 2,000-year-old well. Jesus and his disciples had stopped
there during a trip northward from Jerusalem to Galilee. On this particular journey they went
through Samaria, a region whose inhabitants were shunned by the Jews as "half-breeds."
When they came to Sychar, the disciples left Jesus at the ancient water source and went to
buy food. While they were gone, a woman came to draw water. To the Samaritan woman's
surprise, the Jewish man at the well asked her for a drink. Then, He talked to her about a kind of
water which could satisfy thirst forever.
When the disciples showed up with lunch, the woman hurried away to call townspeople to
come meet someone who just might be the Promised Messiah. As people from Sychar "made
their way toward Him," Jesus urged His disciples to open their eyes and look at the ripening
fields. Since people were the "fields" Jesus had in mind that day, it's easy to imagine Him
gesturing at the approaching Samaritans -- whom most Jews despised -- as He said, "Open
your eyes and look . . ."
Jesus referred to a common catchphrase of that time: "It's still four months until
harvest." I have never heard anyone use that saying today. However, it would fit well in the
same contexts in which we exclaim, "What's the big hurry?" and "Where's the fire?" To those
with such a what's-the-big-hurry attitude regarding Gospel proclamation, Jesus said, "Look at
the fields! They are ripe."
In using the harvest metaphor, Jesus was saying, "This is urgent!" Talking about
global outreach as a harvest indicates that we face windows of opportunity which open and close.
Harvesting cannot be postponed until a more convenient time. When crops mature, they
must be harvested right away.
Each day, tens of thousands of people go out into eternity each day never having heard about
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Isn't that a ripened harvest going to waste? Oh, when will we
feel the urgency?
-- Howard Culbertson
This 500-word mini-essay on a world missions Bible passage is one of more than three dozen
articles in the "Heart of God" series published in Engage
Harvest themed songs about Great Commission fulfillment
"Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe." -- Joel 3:1
"Harvest" excerpt from "Days of Elijah" by Robin Mark
Other songs with harvest motif
The Battle Is the Lord's - E. Margaret Clarkson and Meyer Lyon
"The harvest fields are white: How few the reaping hands appear, their
strength how slight! Yet victory is sure."