John 4:31-38

Each study builds on the previous study, sometimes repeating an emphasis, but that is how we learn. Again, in this module, we see in these first few verses that Jesus is already pointing the disciples to the right sort of food, explaining how to eat and to eat well.

My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)

Jesus had had such an exciting time in Samaria speaking to an outcast woman! He had won her and, because of her, the whole town. He was pointing out to His disciples that His diet wasn't restricted to physical food. He lived on a diet of thrilling His Father and doing His will, helping to bring precious people to salvation. Each of us makes scores of choices every day. Most choices have no moral right or wrong attached to them - for example, which bus to catch or what to eat - but we also face some decisions that carry more weight and where we long to do God’s will. We don’t want to do something wrong and we don’t want to cause others to do something wrong, so how can we know what is the Father’s will?

Knowing God's will

Before making any decision ask the following question:

  • Does it help my witness for Christ? (1 Corinthians 9:19-22)
  • Am I motivated by a desire to help others to know Christ? (1 Corinthians 9:23; 10:33)
  • Does it help me to do my best? (1 Corinthians 9:25)
  • Is it contrary to a specific command in scripture and so will cause me to sin? (1 Corinthians 10:12)
  • Is it the best and most helpful course of action? (1 Corinthians 10:23; 10:33)
  • Am I thinking only of myself or do I truly care about the other(s) involved? (1 Corinthians 10:24)
  • Am I acting lovingly or selfishly? (1 Corinthians 10:28-31)
  • Does it glorify God? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  • Will it encourage someone else to sin? (1 Corinthians 10:32)

Also, Jesus’ nourishment came from time spent with His Father in prayer, reading the scriptures and having fellowship with other believers. We all know what it is like to be so enthusiastic about something that we forget to eat. We can be hungry at the beginning of a film on the TV and sit for a whole two hours, completely absorbed by the action, without even looking for food. Well that is how Jesus was about His Father’s work and winning souls. If we are as enthusiastic about the Father’s work, we will have no trouble knowing the Father’s will, through His Spirit.

Seeing things through

Finishing the work was also very important to Jesus. It is so important that we are just as enthusiastic at the end of a job as when we started. Jesus made His job His "meat and drink". He was totally resolved not to give up, but to see it through and finish the work, however tough that might be. (John 4:34)

Jesus was showing His disciples (and all those of us who are His followers) a lesson in zeal. Earlier, in John, chapter two, we saw Jesus clearing out the temple courts and prompting His disciples to remember the psalm where it says: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me”, (Psalm 69:9) The salvation of souls should be closer to our hearts than life itself and requires a serious approach, combined with a willingness to press on until the task is complete. Let eating, drinking, work and rest, family and friends, thinking, studying, prayer, and all that we do, be directed by the Holy Spirit towards saving souls and making disciples.

A harvest of souls

There is no more exciting activity on earth than leading people to Jesus and watching as they grow in Him. This is especially true when these people, in turn, lead others to Christ as well. There is no time like this time in the history of the world. “Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” says Jesus in John 4:35. When we look at our own world, we can see that all the forces of darkness are working overtime. Many people are more spiritually aware than they have been for years and are actively seeking satisfaction for their inner, spiritual hunger. I believe that a spiritual revival is imminent.

The spiritual hunger that so many have can only be satisfied in a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To make that connection, people need a revelation - to have their spiritual eyes opened - so that they understand that Jesus' death was necessary to wash away all our sin, but His resurrection also gives us new life. Most people have looked elsewhere to satisfy this hunger but, by the power of the Holy Spirit, those who are truly searching will find the truth - in Jesus.

Many people struggle to understand these things, often because of previous experiences and perceptions of Christians and churches. But people do respond positively to the good news when they seek God with their whole heart and our concern for them, leading to our persistent prayers for them will really help this process. We need to remember that we are in a spiritual battle and our prayers are a positive - often decisive - power that binds them to God’s will for their life and cuts them off from the deception of the enemy. (Matthew 16:19)

John 4:43-54

Jesus knew that the time for revealing His true identity to people was short. A time was coming when they would not accept Him. (John 1:46) However, because of what He had done in Jerusalem at the temple during Passover, they were willing to listen. (John 2:23) When people see how we live our lives for God and know that Jesus makes the difference in the good and bad times, they will be willing to listen to what we have to say.

A miraculous healing

It is one thing to say that we believe what Jesus says and that He can take care of our problems. It can be quite another to behave as if we know that He can. When we pray about a particular need, do we then live as though we believe that Jesus has the answer in hand and, as we persist in our prayers, thank Him for what He is doing?

As Jesus returned to Cana, a man came and begged Him to heal his son, who was seriously ill in nearby Capernaum. Jesus was well aware that people found faith and belief difficult. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” (John 4:48) But this particular man - a "royal official" according to John - was ready to take Jesus at His word and set out for his home, trusting that his son would be healed. He was probably an officer in King Herod's army. He had walked twenty miles to see Jesus and addressed Him as "Sir", putting himself under Jesus’ authority, even though he was himself a man with significant authority and influence.

Jesus longed with all His heart for these people to believe in Him, because of who His Father was and on the strength of what He said, not because of the power He demonstrated through the miracles that He did. He didn't want people to follow Him, just because they had seen something spectacular - and probably hoped to see more. He knew that spectacular events do not make strong disciples, but only experience-orientated people without character or backbone.

Faith involves obedience. Obedience means, "yielding to authority and complying with another's command". As we obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we are acknowledging that He is the higher authority in our lives and that we know that He is better at solving our problems than we are. This is faith in action. The royal official knew all about obedience and it helped him to respond in faith. When he got home again, he found that his son had recovered and was already getting better. When he asked when the recovery had begun, he found that it had begun at the very time when Jesus had said to him: "Go! Your son will live." (John 4:50)

Our own response

Jesus wanted to reach all people, whether they were Samaritans or local people from the Galilee where he had been brought up. It mattered not whether they were social outcasts or people of position and influence. All that anyone needed if they wanted to receive something from Jesus ("living water" or healing for their son) was faith.

Why not stop here and spend a few moments in worshipping Jesus? Tell Him that, whether He answers your prayer in the way that you want it answered or not, you will still love and obey Him because of who He is. Then go and be obedient. As you set off on your way, Jesus will answer your prayer. (John 4:51) Later, when you tell all your friends and family what has happened, they will be much more prepared to receive and understand the good news of what Jesus can do in their lives as well. (John 4:53)

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