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#38 A Bible study on John 4: 31 - 38 using the Seed Method by Priscilla Shirer

Updated on June 19, 2013

The disciples were confused. They had been traveling with Jesus through Samaria when he stopped to rest by Jacob’s well. He was too tired to continue any further, so they had gone into the village to find food for him. Now he was refusing to eat. It was clear a change had come over him. Maybe it had something to do with the woman he had been talking to. Had she brought him the noon meal? They didn’t think so. They had passed her earlier on their way into town and she only had her water jar with her. Regardless, he wasn’t hungry now. His words seemed strange to them. Jesus claimed he had food they didn't know about and then the conversation took a turn they weren't expecting. They didn't know what to think. Let's listen in on Jesus' words...

“Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and the other reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Perhaps these words seem strange to us too. Sowing, reaping and harvesting for eternal life is a little different than the work of a farmer. The seeds are always being planted and the crops are always ready. As we look at this passage let’s use Priscilla Shirer’s Seed method of Bible Study to determine what it means and how to apply it to our lives. For a review of this method of Bible study, please read "How to use the Seed Method of Bible Study..."

First, Position yourself to hear from God. Spend some time in prayer, asking him to speak to you.

Now let’s Pour over the passage. I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking about these verses. I have pulled out the context, determined the main points that I see, and paraphrased each verse for you. Before you read my conclusions, you might find it helpful to do each exercise on your own in order to get the most out of it. Yours may be very different than mine and that is ok.

Paraphrase -

Vs. 31-33 –Jesus doesn’t want the food the disciples bring because he has food they don’t know about. They don’t understand

Vs. 34 – Jesus food is to do God’s will

Vs. 35 – Even though it’s not harvest time, the fields are ripe for harvest

Vs. 36 – It’s time to reap for eternal life, the sower and the reaper rejoice together

Vs. 37 – it takes two to do the job

Vs. 38 – They are sent to reap what they didn’t work for

Context –

By reading from the beginning of John you can see that Jesus and his disciples are on their way back to Galilee through Samaria. Jesus was tired and stopped to rest by a well while his disciples went into town to find food. While they were gone, a woman comes to the well and Jesus tells her that he is the Messiah. The disciples return and try to get Jesus to eat. They don’t know about the conversation he has just had with the woman.

Main points -

- “I have food that you don’t know about”

- “The fields are ripe for harvest”

- “One sows and another reaps”


Next we want to Pull out the spiritual meanings found in the passage. I chose three, based on the main points that I saw. Again, everyone will see something different. It would be interesting to compare the different things that God shows us all from the same passage.

Jesus was sustained by doing the will of God. This is a good example to follow. I am reminded of another verse that reminds us of how God will sustain us. Isaiah 40:31 – “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” God wants us to obey him, to learn and do his will. He will give us everything we need to do it. Matthew 11:30 – “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Here, Jesus’ hunger was satisfied. I imagine his spirit was at peace too, content and excited in the knowledge that God’s will was being accomplished.


Finally there is the reminder that this is a process that takes teamwork. The command here is to reap, but in that process we will also sow. Both involve telling people about Jesus and both are important to the final result. In the end both the person who plants the seeds by telling people about Jesus and the person who brings those people to the foot of the cross by telling them about Jesus, will rejoice together over what God has done.

Our passage has both a promise and a command in it. The promise is that the fields are ripe for harvest. This means that there are many people around us who want to know who God is. There are those who long for a relationship with him but they just don’t know that it is possible or how to go about finding that relationship. God has already been working in their hearts and others have planted seeds about who he is. The command is for us to show them the way, to reap the harvest of bringing their souls to Christ so they can have eternal life. God has already done the work and we have the privilege and responsibility to show them the final steps of repentance, accepting Jesus, and believing that his sacrifice was enough to pay for their sins so they can have this eternal relationship with God

From here, it’s time to get personal. The knowledge is nice, but it doesn’t mean anything unless we Pose the questions that apply these spiritual principles to our lives. This is where we fall on our knees before God and ask what he wants us to do about all this. For some, this is scary, but don’t give up now. It is always worth it in the end.

Jesus was sustained by doing the will of God. I can see this at work in my own life even as I write this. I am not a morning person and love nothing better than to sleep in late. But now that the kids are home for summer vacation, I find that the only time I can get a chance to sit down and write is usually early in the morning. I don’t have a problem waking up, but once I do, every fiber of my being longs to roll over and go back to sleep. I think, “Just 10 more minutes and then I’ll get up”. But 10 minutes turns into 20 and then an hour or two and soon the time is gone and I have not obeyed what I know God wants me to do. But on the mornings like this one, where I drag myself out of bed and open my computer, I soon find that I am wide awake and the time has flown by way too fast. The discouragements, doubts and insecurities about my writing have flown away also and for the time I just write. This is the beauty of obeying God. I really need to do it more often.


The fields are ripe for harvest. This is eye opening for me. When I look around, I don’t see a harvest. I have a hard time believing that people want to have a relationship with God. I don’t think they will want to give up their lifestyles to follow God. I am afraid that they just won’t be interested. I am fascinated with hearing about how people become Christians. It is amazing to me how all of them felt that their lives were empty before coming to Christ. Having been saved at an early age, I don’t really remember my life without the peace and security that comes with the unconditional love from a relationship with God. This is a good reminder about how precious that relationship is. People need the Lord, and God has commanded us to tell them about him.

It takes teamwork and we should all rejoice together! I get discouraged when I tell my friends about Jesus and they still reject him. I must remember that my time is not wasted. It is really God who saves. I am honored that he can use me and will one day rejoice with everyone who plays a part in bringing my friends to salvation.

Finally we must write down a Plan to put our conclusions in action. It is important to determine how we are going to obey God. This is where our lives will change and we will see the power of God’s word in our lives.

Jesus was sustained – My goal is to get up early at least two mornings a week for the purpose of writing.

The fields are ripe – My goal is to share the gospel with a friend of mine who needs to hear it, and also to continue incorporating it into my hubs

Teamwork – A reminder that I am not alone in this!

I hope that you will find this method of Bible Study to be helpful to you. It can be used on any verse or passage of scripture that you want to study. Please consider giving it a try!

Read on to #39 and see why Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the officials son.


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    • April Reynolds profile image

      April Reynolds 4 years ago from Arizona

      You are right! Thank you so much for catching that and correcting me on it. I really appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to read my study, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 4 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I enjoyed reading your study. But I have to tell you that what initially caught my eye was the spelling of Priscilla Shirer's name. My wife is named Priscilla, and we are used to seeing her called all kinds of variations. Anyway, you might want to check if Shirer leaves the 's' out of Priscilla.

    • April Reynolds profile image

      April Reynolds 5 years ago from Arizona

      I am glad you liked it Johan, Thank you for your comment

    • April Reynolds profile image

      April Reynolds 5 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you lambservant, you are very kind and encouraging!

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thought provoking and challenging. Keep it up!

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Beautiful Bible lesson and devotion. I love your writing style. Blessings.