Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35
We often quote this verse in evangelical circles when the topic comes to missions. Do we remember the circumstances in which Jesus spoke these words?
He was sitting on Jacob’s well near the Samaritan town of Sychar. His disciples had just returned from purchasing food in the town and they urged Him to eat. He tried to explain to them why He didn’t feel hungry.
The disciples probably wanted to make this trip through Samaria as quickly as possible. Like all Jews, they viewed the Samaritans as spiritually, morally and ethnically corrupted. They did not want to spend much time with these people.
However, during the time that the disciples had been food shopping, Jesus had carried on a lengthy conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. The woman had rushed back into the town to tell people that she had met the Messiah. Right now, while Jesus was talking to the disciples, a long stream of Samaritans was coming toward the well to see this man of whom the woman had spoken.
Thus, when Jesus spoke the words, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest,” the disciples could see the crowd of Samaritans coming to meet Him.
Samaritans!! Can you imagine the shocked look on the disciples’ faces? Of all the people in this country, why Samaritans? Yet Jesus remained in this town two days to teach the people, and many of them believed on Him.
Is Jesus telling us today to lift up our eyes? Is He telling us we are not looking where He wants us to look? We probably have a clear picture in our mind of the kind of people who would make good Christians, if they would just give their hearts to the Lord. The kind of people we would feel comfortable sitting next to in church.
Could it be, just maybe, that Jesus is trying to tell us that these nice people are probably too good in their own eyes to see any need of conversion? But there is a group of people over here who know that something is very wrong and are searching for an answer. Many of them will believe if someone can present the gospel in a way they can understand.
We can refuse to look in that direction and life will go on more or less as before. Occasionally one or two of those nice people will get converted, and we will comfort ourselves that we are truly obeying the Great Commission, it’s just that there are very few people interested in the gospel.
How long can we avoid Jesus’ command to lift up our eyes, before our own spiritual life grows cold?