“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Just prior to this, Jesus has been talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. He has already broken two taboos for an orthodox Jew, he has spoken to a woman, alone, and she is a Samaritan, a member of a group considered by the orthodox to be a kind of “half-Jew,” an apostate. For an orthodox Jewish man to do such things at the time of Jesus was considered anathema. And Jesus has told this Samaritan woman something very strange, and yet, very revealing. He has told her that he is living water. She, on her part, believes in the Messiah, the one who has been prophesied and who will come and “tell us all things.” And because of her faith and her humility, he reveals himself to her directly and personally, saying something very astounding: “I who speak to you am he” (verse 26). And she believes!
There is enough in that first paragraph to spend a lifetime meditating on, but Jesus was not done. His disciples, too, still needed further enlightenment to fully understand who he was. They were stunned on their return to the well to see Jesus talking to this Samaritan woman alone. They were still “in the dark,” and their prejudice toward the Samaritan women reveals that. They had gone into the town and bought food and they encouraged Jesus to eat, but he stuns them again by responding, “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (verse 32). They do not understand his cryptic statement and wonder if someone else has brought him food before their return. But he takes them further into the mystery that is present within their midst, before their very eyes saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”
Jesus speaks to them using a harvesting metaphor, that of the Sower and the Reaper. God the Father, the Sower, has sown his Word into the world. Jesus is the Reaper, the One who, “is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the Sower and the Reaper may rejoice together” (verse 36) We who have come to believe in Jesus are the fruit. Jesus, the Reaper, was in the midst of his mission, reaping what the Father had sown and, still, his disciples had not yet understood this truth in its fullness. He still is in the midst of his mission with us. He is the very grace of God in action who remains with us in his Holy Spirit. He is the food that sustains the work of salvation today, in all those who have come to him. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus will tell us he is that food even more intensely: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn. 6:35). And, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh…For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn. 6:51,55-56).
Jesus tells us that his food is “to do the will of God.” And so it is for us. When we eat this bread and drink this cup we are given the grace to do the will of God in our everyday lives, in our own homes, in our places of work, or schools, and on the everyday streets of our neighborhoods, towns and cities. Jesus says to us in every moment, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (Jn. 7:37). Are we not hungry? Are we not thirsty? Let us, then, turn to Jesus and ask for that food and drink that only he can give; that food that will help us accomplish the Father’s will, just as he did.
Lord, you are the food and the life-giving water that we hunger and thirst for even now. We come to you because we are hungry and thirsty for that which only you can give, eternal life. Nourish our minds, our hearts, and our souls with this truth. We pray, as always, believing in the power of your most holy name, Jesus. Amen!
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