Sowing and Reaping
How quick we are to judge a labourer’s usefulness by the apparent results of his work! How prone we are too, in time of harvest, to regard the reapers as the one and only class of workmen who have tilled the soil. Not so the Lord. He knows who has ploughed up the ground in the sunless days of autumn and winter, and who has sown the seed in the blustering early spring. When the harvest is reaped and gathered into the barn, He will remember them and own what share they have had in the work carried out for Him on earth. It is good and right to rejoice when harvest time arrives in a locality, but the time for full joy cannot come till a perfect estimate can be formed of the crop––and then the sower and the reaper shall rejoice together.
When the Lord came to Sychar there was a harvest of souls to be reaped: “Lift up your eyes and behold the fields, for they are already white to harvest” (John 4: 35). Now it was a place quite unexpected for this. That Judea, so recently stirred by the preaching of John the Baptist should have yielded such results would not have seemed surprising. Nor would it have appeared remarkable in Galilee, where a welcome reception was awaiting the Lord (see v45). That it should be Sychar of Samaria, however, where John had not preached, and the Lord had not previously laboured, was most unexpected. What others have since known, the disciples were now to learn––how cheering it is to the heart of the faithful servant of God when reaping time arrives and the labourers only have to enter on a work made ready to their hand. It is a blessed thing to see souls bowed down under the power of the Word and prepared to take their stand from then on as true followers of the Lord. The power of those who reap at such times seems immense, but they are but men, and liable to be taken advantage of by the enemy, and so need, as the disciples did, the Lord’s gentle reminder that to reap is not everything. Others, as was the case at Sychar, may have sown the seed which at length produces such a bountiful crop: “For in this is [verified] the true saying, It is one who sows and another who reaps. I have sent you to reap that on which ye have not laboured; others have laboured, and ye have entered into their labours” (vs37, 38).
The disciples were but one set of servants made use of at that time in that portion of the field. Those who had laboured in earlier times, and had sown the seed, but whose names are not recorded, had moved on. Yet the Lord did not overlook them, nor allow their labour of sowing to be forgotten in the bright, happy days of harvesting. How encouraging to those who toil during the sowing season, and depart this life without witnessing the joy of harvest, to remember the gracious announcement of the Lord of the harvest that “He that reaps receives wages and gathers fruit unto life eternal, that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together” (v36).
Are we called to sow? Let us work on undaunted, though we do not see the fruit of our labour. Are we allowed to reap? Let us work diligently, remembering the responsibility which rests on us, but always remembering that in a coming day others may have a share in the joy of that harvest which we, in the Lord’s goodness, have been permitted to reap. Many prophets and righteous men had desired to see what the disciples saw, but had not seen it. Will they be deprived of their joy? No! They shall see the day of Christ’s glory and the crop which resulted from seed sown by them in patience, and under difficulties known, perhaps, only to themselves and to God. The Lord’s words about the labourers are worth remembering, cheering to the sower, sobering to the reaper.