Studies in the Gospel of John
Lesson 11: “Satisfaction”
As wonderful as it must have been, it probably was also frustrating at times to live with Jesus like the disciples did – because He was always doing and saying things that were completely unexpected. And those unexpected doings and sayings brought great satisfaction into the lives of people. And in the last half of John chapter 4 we find two of the best illustrations of that in all of the New Testament. To get those verses in their proper context, remember the overview of the chapter:
In verses 1 through 26 we see a wayward woman,” Then in verses 27 through 42 we see “the wondering disciples.” And finally in verses 43 through 54 we see a worried nobleman. In our last study we looked at what Jesus said to the wayward woman in verses 1 through 26. And that was such a surprising situation that in verses 27 through 42 we find the wondering disciples. The subject of their curiosity is reviewed verses 27 through 33. The first thing that puzzled them was her conversation with Jesus in the first place, as brought out in verse 27.
And this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman, yet no one said, “what do You seek?” or why are You talking with her?
This one verse forms a review of most of the contents of the first section of the chapter. First, she was a woman. Rabbis didn’t speak to a woman in public. But not only that, she was a Samaritan – the disciples probably had never been through Samaria before because of the conflict and hostility there. And third, it probably was obvious to them that she was a “wayward woman” (whether she was a prostitute or not) because of the time of day, and so forth. But the last part of the verse shows that the disciples were a lot like we are sometimes – they didn’t want God to know they felt that way. Or maybe a more positive application is that they had learned not to question His ways when they didn’t fit their preconceptions.
Now in verses 28 through 30 the scene shifts and gives the details of her conversation.
The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city and said to the men, (29)” Come, see a man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ? (30) then they went our out of the city and came to Him.
Notice in verse 28 that she left her water pot. For one thing, this probably means that she is coming back (which the next verses confirm.) But it is also an indication that she now has the “living water” of which Jesus spoke in verse 10 – so physical water is no longer a primary concern for her. Then notice that the last line of verse 28 specifically says that she went to the men to give her message. When a person gets saved, the founder of Bible Study Fellowship says, “a person may try to hide his sin, but once he discovers Jesus Christ, his first instinct is to say, “look at what I was, and look at what I am now. Jesus Christ has done this for me!” And verse 30 shows that the “living water” within her was powerful enough to move the men to come and see.
Now remember that this woman was the subject of the disciples’ curiosity. We have seen “their concern” about “her conversation,” and now we have seen some proof of “her conversion.” So in verses 31 through 34 we see that she actually had made a contribution to the Lord Jesus.
In the meantime, His disciples urged Him, saying “Rabbi, eat.” (32) But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you know not. (33) Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
Verse 27 told us that the disciples had returned from their trip into town to get food. So now they are concerned for His physical need to eat (and rightly so). But Jesus is so excited about this woman’s salvation that He isn’t concerned about food at all – that was her “contribution” to Him. He had talked to this poor untaught sinful woman, and had seen her accept eternal life, and this gave Him a great deal of encouragement. It was the “food that the disciples did not know of.” And, incidentally, it shows another of His human emotions. And down through the years many of His followers have enjoyed that same satisfaction and encouragement as they have seen others come to faith in Christ.
So this was “the subject” of the disciples’ curiosity. But then in verses 34 through 42 Jesus gives them “the satisfaction of their curiosity.” Remember that the disciples were curious, first, about the woman Jesus was talking to, and, second, about the fact that He wasn’t hungry. So in these verses He is going to satisfy their curiosity about both things.
The principle which underlies this whole section is in verse 34.
Jesus said to them, my food is to do the will of God who sent me, and to finish His work.
Here is one of the most important principles in all of the Word of God concerning the Christian life. It is the thing that makes life worth living., when all is said and done: to do the work that God has given us to do – and to finish it. And that is specifically true for each of us, because in John 20:21, just before He left this world, Jesus said,
AS the father has sent me, even so have I sent you (into the world). That work varies from one person to the next, it varies in type and intensity, it varies in size and scope, but every one of us has something that God has given us to do in this life. and all of it, in one way or another, focuses on the great commission – bringing people to Christ, and helping them grow. And be careful in doing that that you keep focused on what He wants you to do, not on what other people are doing. But this is where joy and satisfaction and fulfillment come from (“food” that other people cannot understand.)
Now having shared the “principle” with the disciples, Jesus invites their “participation” in verses 35 through 38.
Verse 35 speaks of participation “in reaping a harvest”
“Do you not say, “there are still four months, then comes the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
When Jesus said, “lift up your eyes and look at the fields” the woman and her friends were probably coming up the road to see Jesus. But in saying that, He established a spiritual principle that endures to this day. One advantage of “spiritual reaping” is that you don’t always have to wait 4 months for the harvest (although sometimes you might have to wait much longer.) Then verses 36 through 38 speak of “participation in rewards” that are given for this kind of service.
And he who reaps wages receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together (37) “For this saying is true: One sows and another reaps.” (38) I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored, others have labored and you have entered into their labors.”
First notice in verse 36 that these are not physical or monetary rewards, but eternal rewards. Then notice also that in each verse those who reap share equally in the rewards. Jesus doesn’t specify exactly what those rewards consist of, but the scripture gives us at least some ideas about them. “Crowns of rewards” are mentioned in several places in the New Testament – for winning souls, for loving the lord, for shepherding Christ’s flock, etc. In addition, Jesus made several references to ruling with Him in His kingdom and having responsibility there in keeping with our faithfulness in this life. But if nothing else, serving Christ on earth equips us to enjoy heaven all the more. Sometimes people dream for many years about going to a certain place – perhaps the Holy Land or Niagara Falls, for example – they think about it and learn all they can about it. And when they actually get to go, they enjoy it much more thoroughly than the person who makes an unexpected trip without knowing much about it. Just so, those who have invested their life in serving Christ will be “rewarded” with a deep enjoyment of His presence when they get there.
We have been looking at “the discourse” that Jesus gave the disciples. But in verses 39 through 42 we actually see a demonstration of the very things He has been talking about.
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified “He told me all that I ever did.” (41) so when the Samaritans had come to Him they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. (41) And many more believed because of his own word (42) Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
Just as Jesus had been telling the disciples, the woman of Samaria got to share in reaping the harvest which Christ Himself planted. In verse 39 many believed “because of the word of the woman who testified.” And in verse 41 “many more (“additionally) believed because of His own word.” And incidentally, notice that Jesus spent two whole days with these people, according to verse 40. God’s Chosen people wouldn’t have anything to do with them, but God Himself took time, in the midst of everything He had do in such a relatively short time, to minister to them. Surely this tells us something about how mixed up we humans can become in our priorities, doesn’t it?
Now we have seen “the wayward woman” and “the wondering disciples.” So in the last few verses of the chapter, verses 43 through 54, tell us about “The worried Nobleman.” Verses 43 through 46a give us “the setting” in which the story takes place.
Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. (44) For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in in his own country. (45) So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him. Having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast, for they also had gone to the feast. (46) So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water wine And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.
A lot of people like to point out verse 44 to preachers, but the next verses should offset it. Probably what Jesus meant was that a prophet has to work harder in “his own country” because it is easy for people to take him for granted there. For Jesus this meant going back there fairly often to visit and let them see for themselves what He could do. And it was while He was on one of these trips that he met this worried nobleman. In the last line of verse 46 and going on through verse 49 we see “the seeking” of this man after Jesus.
So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water wine (And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. (47) When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death (48) Then Jesus said to him, “unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (49) The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
The term “nobleman” simply means that this man was a Roman official with high standing in Herod’s court. Some biblical historians have speculated that he may have been the “Chuza,” Herod’s servant, whose wife is mentioned in Luke 8:3, or Manean’s foster brother, spoken of in Acts 13:1, but it is only speculation. Nevertheless So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.
It is interesting to notice once again that Jesus apparently drew many prominent Gentiles to His ministry even though many of His own Jewish relatives rejected Him. All we really know is that this particular man lived at Capernaum, where Jesus was staying. Suddenly his precious son became ill and there apparently was no hope of his recovery. Therefore, this high government official comes to Jesus, the ex-carpenter, for help. It is interesting to think about what these various gentiles must have thought when in a relatively short time they would probably see some of his trials or even His execution. His arrival probably caused quite a stir in Cana. Based on Jesus’ comment in verse 48, the people probably thought that Jesus would do some spectacular miracle for this important man. The word “you” is plural in the Greek (as reflected in “you people,” indicating that He was primarily addressing the crowd more than the man himself. The nobleman apparently took Jesus’ words as a refusal of help, so in verse 49 he pleads with Jesus again. Here he uses a different word to refer to his son, a word that literally means “my little one.” And the emphasis is on the fact that he is not interested in the entertainment value of the miracle, he just wants his son healed.
And so, in answer to this heartfelt plea, in verses 50 through 54 we see “his satisfaction” which the nobleman received. First he takes “a step of faith” in verse 50.
Jesus said to him, go your way, your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.
This would take a lot of faith – obviously Jesus wasn’t going to the boy, and yet He proclaimed him well. But notice carefully, – the man believed the word that Jesus said. At this point he wasn’t believing for salvation, but for his immediate need. And this emphasizes how, so often, God leads us one step at a time. And we need to believe in that same way – one step at a time. This also demonstrates that faith involves action – the man stopped asking and went home as though it were true, even though he had no proof!
But then, in verses 51 through 53 we see his salvation by faith.
And as he was going down, his servants met him and told him saying, “Your son lives!” (52) Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. (53) So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives, “And he himself believed and his whole household.
The servants were so impressed that they ran out to meet him, according to verse 51. And when he saw how it all fit together he couldn’t help but believe. It is not true that “seeing is believing.” – seeing follows believing. We believe by faith in the existence of heaven and God’s promises about how to get there. – and because of that someday we will. And this is true on a smaller scale in the promises of God which apply to this life as well – seeing follows believing.
In the first section of this chapter we saw Jesus sustained and satisfied in this human life by doing the Father’s will. What do you look to for satisfaction in life? Are you expecting “fruit” in heaven because of your work in the harvest fields of spiritual life? Are you daily “lifting up your eyes” to see which person around you might be white unto harvest”? Is there something in your life about which you need to believe the “word,” or promise of God and “go” on as though it were true like the nobleman did? Each of these questions has to do with genuine satisfaction. Why not soon take some time alone with God to meditate on them?