Meaning of 'he who sows' in John 4:36


I would like to know what do ‘reap’ and ‘sow’ mean in this verse and who is the person reaping
and who is the person sowing in this verse too.

Thank you


@LKHHKL Great question :slight_smile: If we read Jesus’ words elsewhere, we see that Jesus Himself is the one who sows and His disciples are the ones who reap the harvest of the Kingdom. Elsewhere in the New Testament we see those who share the Gospel as those who are sowing and those who build upon their work as building upon the foundation of the Gospel. But ultimately neither he who sows nor he who reaps is anything, for it is God who gives the increase!

Matthew 13:36-39 - Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

Matthew 9:35-38 - Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

1 Cor 3:5-9 - What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

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@LKHHKL Hi Lawrence, this is a really good question and you’ve got me thinking.

For clarity, you’re asking about what John 4:36 says:

the reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together

I think there could be a couple of meanings. Looking at the whole passage helps us gain a context for this verse. Jesus has just spoken with the Samaritan woman at the well, told her about her whole life. She’s run off into town, absolutely amazed at Jesus, and wanting to share this with everyone she can find.

From what I understand, Jesus is showing the disciples two things here:

Firstly that he has just sowed seeds in this woman’s heart, and that it will be the disciples who then can go and help reap the harvest i.e. Jesus has spoken the truth to her and then the disciples can then help her and others like her to take the step into faith, ‘the harvest’.

I think there’s a secondary meaning too. Jesus uses a well known saying of the time in verse 37:

one sows and another reaps

He’s saying that together, people will labour to sow seeds of truth in people’s hearts, and others will work to lead them to salvation. We each have a role to play as parts of the body.

I’ve now just seen what @seanO has said which is very helpful in drawing this point out.

In summary, I’d say that initially the sower is Jesus and the disciples are the reapers, but in a wider context of the church, we are all sowers and reapers. Jesus is modelling what the apostles would continue to do throughout the church.