Challenging Discipleship: "I Have Food to Eat That You Do Not Know About"

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Challenging Discipleship 

Jesus and his disciples arrived at Jacob’s well outside of Sychar after walking about 15 miles. They were all tired and hungry and Jesus sat down by the well while the disciples hurried into the town to buy food. As Jesus waited, a woman came to the well to draw water. We might speculate that this woman had come in midday so as to avoid the general populace. This woman was far from righteous, having an openly immoral lifestyle, and may not have wanted to be the subject of stares and murmurings as she drew her water. So she came a little after noon, and would not have had much concern with a Jewish traveler resting nearby.

Christ-and-samaritan-womanBut when Jesus broke the silence and spoke to her, it had a startling effect. I can hear her voice, somewhat direct, fearful, and off-putting: Why do you a Jew, ask a drink from me, a woman of Samaria? We know the rest of the story, Jesus’ offer of living water, exposure of her sinful life, discussion about true worship, and finally admission that he is the Messiah.

The picture of Jesus and the woman is interesting enough, but just as the conversation is winding down, the disciples return. Can’t you just see their astonished look as they exchange glances of bewilderment? Then immediately the woman left her water pot and went into the city. As she disappears, it is evident that Jesus is thinking about what was going to happen next. He would have been able to picture her in the city excitedly sharing the news to come and see the one she believed was the Messiah. The harvest had come and this was his purpose.

But suddenly, breaking into his deep thought are the words of the disciples as they opened their bags of food, “Rabbi, eat!” But Jesus waves them off. “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

There are two contrasting pictures here. There is the material and secular and there is the spiritual and mature; both come from unexpected sources. First, there is an excited, happy woman who has realized she has found true life and is so preoccupied with her new found truth that she forgets all about the water she came to collect and even leaves her water pot. On the other hand, there are the disciples of Jesus who are astonished that he is talking to a woman, seemingly unconcerned about her spiritual needs, and urging Jesus to get back to the business of “real life” and eat lunch.

“I have food to eat that you do not know about.”

The emphasis is on the “I” and “you.” Thus, “I have something that you do not have.” Jesus could have said, “I’ll have something to eat in a moment; I have some things to think about right now.” Instead, he challenges them to think about what he has that they do not have. In the text, Jesus clearly wants to transfer his way of thinking to them. He wants them to think like he is thinking and be filled with the “food” he is filled with.jesus-at-jacobs-well02sm

Wouldn’t it have been far more in line with spiritual thinking if the disciples had excitedly asked Jesus if he had been able to teach the woman; and with that, even rejoiced over the prospect of what was about to happen as she entered the city? But no, not only do they ignore whatever had taken place between Jesus and the woman, they were astonished that Jesus had even bothered to talk to her. Then, as soon as she left, their minds went to physical food and still did not seek to know what had happened with the woman. Jesus knew that this kind of mentality must change if the kingdom message was going to grow.

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”

How sad. The Lord’s statement illustrates how far apart his thinking was from theirs. But then you and I must ask, “Is Jesus’ food my food?” Consider four lessons we must learn in order for us to seek the food Jesus desired.

  1. This reminds us of the danger of allowing our excitement for the living water to wane and thereby lose our passion for the kingdom and for souls. It is sad to sometimes see long-time Christians less passionate for God than a new Christian. It is evidence that we are not eating the “food.”
  2. We can be so much like the disciples, concerned with our personal comforts to the extent that we will go to great lengths to nurture and protect those comforts while being relatively unconcerned about the eternal souls around us. This reminds us of Jonah and his gourd. Jonah lost his focus; he lost his purpose as a prophet of God. He was angry about the death of his gourd but unconcerned about hundreds of thousands in the city who were about to lose their souls.
  3. How easily we compartmentalize our lives. The disciples clearly had their “spiritual” occasions, times in which they wanted to know more about deep theological questions and even times when they recognized the importance of teaching people. We also have those “times.” But then as they traveled through Samaria, they obviously took a break from spiritual time and were in personal time. “After all, we aren’t in Samaria to teach people; we know that no one here would be interested; we are traveling to where we can teach people.” In the meantime, they blocked out the working-for-the Lord part of their life. Do you relate to that? We all do, don’t we?
  4. When we think of eating spiritual food, what do we think about? We think about reading the scriptures and nourishing our spirits with the word of God. There is no doubt Jesus compares our spiritual food to the word of God, but that is not what he does in this text. Verse 34 is the answer to the “food”: My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon on this verse, said this:chs_pic

Some of you good people, who do nothing except go to public meetings, the Bible readings, and prophetic conferences, and other forms of spiritual dissipation, would be a good deal better Christians if you would … just tuck up your sleeves for work, and go and tell the gospel to dying men, you would find your spiritual health mightily restored, for very much of the sickness of Christians comes through their having nothing to do. All feeding and no working make men spiritual dyspeptics. Be idle, careless, with nothing to live for, nothing to care for, no sinner to pray for, no backslider to lead back to the cross, no trembler to encourage, no little child to tell of a Savior, no grey-headed man to enlighten in the things of God, no object, in fact, to live for; and who wonders if you begin to groan, and to murmur, and to look within, until you are ready to die of despair?”

In other words, our spiritual sustenance does not only come from feeding on God’s word, but by actually serving Christ by caring about the spiritual wellbeing of others. Our sustenance is “doing” not just “consuming.” This is exactly what the Hebrew writer was saying (Heb. 5:11-14). Harvesting souls is to be our “food.”

Berry Kercheville

Sermon on this text: