Jesus took advantage of the opportunity to teach the woman of Samaria at the well where they met (John 4). She went into the city and told the men about Jesus (John 4:28-29). When the disciples of Jesus returned from the city where they had gone to buy food they encouraged Jesus to eat. He said, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” The disciples misunderstood this, thinking He had reference to material food. This conversation led Jesus to say,
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:35-38 ESV)
The disciples apparently did not know that Jesus had been teaching the woman, and that she had gone into the city to tell others about Him. Jesus is reminding the disciples of a common thing in the agricultural practices of that time. One sows and another reaps. It may have been sowing time, but some were ready to be reaped. The fields were ready to be harvested.
The words of the prophet Amos provide insight into this episode. He said,
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When the plowman will overtake the reaper And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; When the mountains will drip sweet wine And all the hills will be dissolved. (Amos 9:13 ESV)
In modern times, with the use of some mechanical farm equipment, it is becoming difficult to find scenes exactly like the practices of the time of Jesus. But we still see things that remind us of these teachings. The photo below shows a field in Jordan just above the Jordan valley floor near Deir Allah. On a clear day one could see the valley.
Notice the rocks in the field. The plowman has worked around them. In the days of broadcast sowing, like in the parable of the sower (Luke 8), this scene has all of the elements. Good soil, rocky soil, road, and certainly thorns.
Extend our view to the left in the photo above. You will see, in the photo below, sheaves in the field that has been plowed. Indeed, the plowman overtakes the reaper.
It is true today in the preaching of the gospel. One plows and another reaps. Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
If we had more sowing, there would be more reaping.