What We Want Most

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : John 4:34-35

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, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest.”

John 4:34-35 rsv

Everyone, I suppose, has some master passion, some supreme concern. Call it the summon bonum or highest good. Call it the heart’s treasure. To gain it is seen by each of us as life’s great quest.

A famous wide receiver on the Dallas Cowboy’s football team expressed that recently when he spoke about the possibility of his team winning the Super Bowl football game. He said that if he could be a part of that, it would be time for the Almighty to call him from this life. In other words, he would have attained his highest goal. His life would then be fulfilled, complete.

When we know what that goal, that dream is for a person, we know a good deal about him or her. We understand something of the motivation behind their actions. We get in touch with the essential person. We begin to know the heart.

Although everyone may have a dream, a drive like this, some never articulate to themselves or to others just what that is. Perhaps they never become clear about what it is that’s moving them. As you watch their lives, you gain clues about what may motivate them, but you cannot be completely sure.

In the case of others, however, their ultimate goal in life is clearly expressed. They state it, if not to all the world, at least to the inner circle of those who know them best. They aren’t ashamed to own their life’s search, their driving aim. It’s right out there. They tell you what they want in life and then, quite evidently, they “go for it.”

I’m grateful that this is the case with our Lord Jesus Christ. He hasn’t left us in doubt about what mattered most to Him in His life and ministry. He put it this way: “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, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest” (John 4:34).

HIS FOOD

What does He mean when He says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work”? As this scene in John’s gospel begins, Jesus is sitting beside a well in Samaria. He’s weary from His journey, hungry and thirsty. While He rests, His disciples have gone into a nearby village to buy food. At this noon time, a woman of Samaria comes to the well to draw water. Jesus asks her for a drink. She’s surprised at this request since Jews and Samaritans ordinarily have nothing to do with each other. Jesus engages her in conversation, awakens her spiritual hunger and reveals to her that He is the Messiah. She is first skeptical, then amazed at what He knows about her, then transformed by faith. She leaves her water pot behind, runs back into the city, and says to everyone she meets, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” At this, many of the Samaritans come out to meet Him.

At about this time, the disciples return, bringing the provisions they have bought. They say to Him, “Rabbi, eat.” To their great surprise, He declines. “I have food to eat,” He says, “of which you do not know.” What can that mean? they wonder. Has anyone brought Him food? Then comes this word, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”

We can understand why the disciples are puzzled. Jesus had been hungry; now He spurns food. No one has given Him anything to eat, but His need for food has been strangely overcome. Something else has nourished Him, refreshed Him, renewed His energies. Apparently, it was that conversation with the Samaritan woman and what resulted from it.

Jesus had offered her living water, a refreshment that could deeply and lastingly satisfy. In spite of her questioning, scorn and mockery, He had continued to show her acceptance until she had come to a living faith. Then she had gone back into the city as a witness to His grace, so that many others were coming out now to find out about Him for themselves.

Do you know what it’s like to become so excited about something, so engrossed in what you’re doing, that you forget it’s mealtime? Your body may be registering hunger but for the time being you’re so alert and alive with something else that you don’t even notice. You’re feeling satisfied, fulfilled, excited and you don’t even think about eating. The adrenalin flows and you’re on an emotional high. Some great joy or success, the realization of some dream, can affect us in that way.

Something like that had happened with Jesus. He was so moved at what had happened in the life of this woman and at the prospect of many others coming to hear His word that fatigue, hunger and thirst had vanished from His awareness.

In the King James version of this text, Jesus is recorded as saying, “My meat is to do the will of him who sent me.” A person’s meat, in part because of that expression, has come to mean what he or she delights in, is sustained and energized by. When we say, “that’s his meat and drink,” we mean: that’s what keeps him going, what fires him up, what gives him joy.

And with Jesus, this is not so much a sense of personal success and achievement as it is the consciousness of fulfilling a divine mission. He’s glad that the woman has come to faith and that others are responding to her witness. But His deepest joy is that in this, the Father’s will is being accomplished, the Father’s saving work being done. That, for Jesus, is meat and drink. That sustains and invigorates Him. That’s His master passion.

OUR MINISTRY

Now He has a word for His followers.

“Do you not say, `There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest.” Jesus points here to the common wisdom of a farming culture. First comes seed time, then harvest. From the end of the time for sowing until the beginning of the harvest is a period of about four months. When this becomes a proverbial expression, it points to the interval between labor and fruition, the waiting time for efforts to be rewarded and plans to be realized. But Jesus is warning His followers that in the matter of fulfilling God’s purpose and spreading His gospel, the expression can be misleading. It’s dangerous in such matters, says the Lord, to think that there’s still plenty of time.

Here’s a grave mistake regarding the future that Jesus is warning His disciples and all of us about – waiting for the great work we’re going to do some day. We say, “There are yet four months, then comes the harvest.” He says, don’t look at it that way. Don’t say in four months or in four years we’ll really bring in a harvest. One of our greatest delusions comes in thinking that the really important work in our lives is still ahead.

A student may think that way, “The stuff I’m studying is boring and pointless. I’m just marking time until I get out of school. Then I’ll show the world something.” It’s possible for a pastor to have that kind of outlook. He thinks to himself, “This first church of mine is in an obscure place and the people seem quite limited and ordinary. I’ll put in my time here until I get a really challenging call.” Or busy executives can fall into the same trap. They say, “I have almost no time for my wife and family now but once I get on top of things in my business, I’ll really make it up to them.” Even a congregation of Christian people may do the same kind of dreaming. They have big plans about what they’re going to do for the Lord once the mortgage gets paid off or as soon as the economy picks up or when they get the right minister.

Jesus is telling us that that kind of outlook is faulty because of the way it affects our living in the present. Our grandiose schemes about tomorrow may leave us neglecting today. They may keep us from seeing the present, from enjoying the present, from using it and filling it up. So He says to us instead, “Lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest.”

Do you know what those fields are? Not those of waving grain waiting to be gathered in. There were none of those around. Jesus was pointing to that wave of inquirers coming out from the Samaritan city. The harvest He’s interested in supremely is people, gathering men and women and young people into His Father’s kingdom.

The kind of harvesting He wants to see is always in season. Remember how the apostle Paul put it, “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). John Wesley was once criticized by the clergy of his day for “preaching outside his parish.” Wesley had been preaching out of doors whenever and wherever he could get a hearing. His response to the criticism was, “The world is my parish.” He said, in other words, nowhere is out of bounds for me to preach the gospel. And what the apostle Paul is saying, echoing his Master, is that no time is the wrong time to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to people and gather them into God’s fold.

We have the Lord’s commission, don’t we? “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation . . . Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19). And yet 50 generations have come and gone and the task has still not been completed. How do we respond to that? “Well, it’s a large undertaking and it’s going to take time.” Or, “Let’s wait for an upturn in the economy to finance it,” or, “We have to take care of some other things first.” Or will we rise to the challenge? Will we see the fields white for harvest and hasten to reap? The stakes are high and the reward is great. What are we waiting for?

But just as for Jesus, the evangelizing and discipling, vital and fulfilling as they are, are not to be our meat, our master passion.

ONE PASSION

Count Nicholas Zinzendorf, whose estate at Herrnhut became a launching pad in the 18th century for worldwide missionary endeavors, said this about his life, “I have one passion. It is He.” By that, of course, he meant the crucified and risen Jesus. To trust in Him, to know Him, to love and serve Him, to be His follower and witness, that filled the horizon of Zinzendorf’s life. That was his master passion. If we set some crusade of ours, some self-chosen enterprise, even something as grand and imperative as the Great Commission, as the ultimate goal, we will have missed the center. Our calling is to do the Father’s will. Our calling is to be the devoted bondslaves of Jesus Christ. Our relationship to Him is what is central; all true evangelizing and discipling flows from that.

The apostle Paul was as determined and passionate about preaching the gospel as anyone who has ever lived. There burned within him the fire of a concern to preach Christ wherever He had not been named. But that was always the expression of something deeper. “I am not my own; I have been bought with a price. The love of Christ constrains me. My one desire is to know Christ and be found in him.”

That’s what the woman who came out to the well discovered: the Lord Himself, the Savior. That’s what the people of the city came out to see: the One who gives, the One who is Himself the living water. That’s what made them evangelists in turn, having met and committed themselves to Jesus. That’s what made the disciples into people who “turned the world upside down.” They had met Jesus Christ. They had come to know Him, become identified with Him. He had breathed into them His Spirit, had led them to share His vision. They went out full of compassion, in urgent zeal to gather in the waiting harvest, all because they had been claimed by a love that would never let them go. Jesus had said to them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21). So they too had a new master passion, something they wanted now most in life. May their passion, and His, be ours too! May we so meet and know and love Christ that we will care about gathering in His harvest. May we say as He said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.”

Prayer: O God, help us to get in touch today with what we really want most. And if that’s something different than knowing Jesus Christ and living for Him, help us to lay it aside, to place it at His feet and to make the great goal of our lives to be Jesus’ followers and to do the will of God as long as we live. In Jesus’ name. Amen.