John 4:37
And herein is that saying true, One sows, and another reaps.
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(37) Herein is that saying true—i.e., in the deeper sense of the word true (comp. Note on John 1:9)—has its realisation; is ideally true. The proverb itself was known both to the Greeks and to the Romans (sec examples in Schottgen and Lampe), but the reference is probably to the Old Testament Scriptures. Those who heard it would certainly think of such passages as Deuteronomy 6:11, or Isaiah 65:21-22. The saying expressed something of the bitterness of human disappointment, which in darker moments all men have felt. They have sown in hopes and plans and works, which have never sprung above the surface, or have been reaped in their results by other men; or they themselves have passed away before the harvest has come. This is as men see it, but this is not the ideal truth. The saying is realised in the relation between sower and reaper, which was true then, and holds true of every sower who really sows the good seed. He, too, has a daily work and a daily sustenance in the will of Him that sent him. In the inner consciousness of that work being done, and the hope of its completion, he has food no less real than that of him who reaps the harvest. That he stands alone is the result of his rising above his generation; that he is little understood, or rewarded, by those for whom he works, will be a disappointment to his friends, but, in his truest thoughts, not to himself. His satisfaction will be hard for men to understand. “Surely no one has brought him to eat!” “I have food to eat that ye know not of.” Men smile at this as sentiment or enthusiasm, but this food has been the strength of the best lives, and noblest deeds, of humanity.

John 4:37-38. Herein is that saying true — That common proverb; One soweth and another reapeth — He alludes to what often happens, namely, that after he has sown his field, a man dies before he gathers in the harvest, and so leaves it to another, who enjoys the advantage of his pains. But the application which our Lord makes of this proverb here, does not imply any discontent in the persons who sow without reaping, as it seems to do in common uses; for the sower and the reaper are represented as rejoicing together in the rewards of their spiritual husbandry. I sent you to reap that — The fruit of that; whereon ye bestowed no labour — No labour of tilling or sowing the ground. Other men laboured — Namely, the ancient prophets, in sowing the seeds of piety and virtue among the Jews, and thereby exposed themselves to great hardships, persecutions, and sufferings. And ye are entered into their labours — Ye are employed to reap the fruit of that seed which they with great difficulty sowed, for ye are gathering into the kingdom of God, into the gospel church here, and into the kingdom of glory hereafter, those who, by the writings of the prophets, having been endued with a sense of religion, are prepared for entering into it.4:27-42 The disciples wondered that Christ talked thus with a Samaritan. Yet they knew it was for some good reason, and for some good end. Thus when particular difficulties occur in the word and providence of God, it is good to satisfy ourselves that all is well that Jesus Christ says and does. Two things affected the woman. The extent of his knowledge. Christ knows all the thoughts, words, and actions, of all the children of men. And the power of his word. He told her secret sins with power. She fastened upon that part of Christ's discourse, many would think she would have been most shy of repeating; but the knowledge of Christ, into which we are led by conviction of sin, is most likely to be sound and saving. They came to him: those who would know Christ, must meet him where he records his name. Our Master has left us an example, that we may learn to do the will of God as he did; with diligence, as those that make a business of it; with delight and pleasure in it. Christ compares his work to harvest-work. The harvest is appointed and looked for before it comes; so was the gospel. Harvest-time is busy time; all must be then at work. Harvest-time is a short time, and harvest-work must be done then, or not at all; so the time of the gospel is a season, which if once past, cannot be recalled. God sometimes uses very weak and unlikely instruments for beginning and carrying on a good work. Our Saviour, by teaching one poor woman, spread knowledge to a whole town. Blessed are those who are not offended at Christ. Those taught of God, are truly desirous to learn more. It adds much to the praise of our love to Christ and his word, if it conquers prejudices. Their faith grew. In the matter of it: they believed him to be the Saviour, not only of the Jews but of the world. In the certainty of it: we know that this is indeed the Christ. And in the ground of it, for we have heard him ourselves.That saying - That proverb. This proverb is found in some of the Greek writers (Grotius). Similar proverbs were in use among the Jews. See Isaiah 65:21-22; Leviticus 26:16; Micah 6:15.

One soweth ... - One man may preach the gospel, and with little apparent effect; another, succeeding him, may be crowned with eminent success. The seed, long buried, may spring up in an abundant harvest.

36. he that reapeth, &c.—As our Lord could not mean that the reaper only, and not the sower, received "wages," in the sense of personal reward for his work, the "wages" here can be no other than the joy of having such a harvest to gather in—the joy of "gathering fruit unto life eternal."

rejoice together—The blessed issue of the whole ingathering is the interest alike of the sower as of the reaper; it is no more the fruit of the last operation than of the first; and just as there can be no reaping without previous sowing, so have those servants of Christ, to whom is assigned the pleasant task of merely reaping the spiritual harvest, no work to do, and no joy to taste, that has not been prepared to their hand by the toilsome and often thankless work of their predecessors in the field. The joy, therefore, of the great harvest festivity will be the common joy of all who have taken any part in the work from the first operation to the last. (See De 16:11, 14; Ps 126:6; Isa 9:3). What encouragement is here for those "fishers of men" who "have toiled all the night" of their official life, and, to human appearance, "have taken nothing!"

It was a proverbial expression, most commonly used with reference to those who unjustly invaded the rights and possessions of other men; but as applicable unto those who, by the disposing providence of God, rightly inherit the fruit of other men’s labours, as the Jews inherited the land of Canaan; A land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, Joshua 24:13. This saying (saith our Saviour) is fulfilled in you. And herein is that saying true,.... This verifies that proverbial expression so much in use, and which may be applied to different persons and cases:

one soweth, and another reapeth; the prophets sowed, and the apostles reaped.

And herein is that {i} saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.

(i) That proverb.

John 4:37-38. “As well the sower as the reaper, I say, for in this case they are different persons.”

ἐν γὰρ τούτῳ, κ.τ.λ.] for herein, in this relation of sowing and reaping, the saying (the proverb of ordinary life, τὸ λεγόμενον, Plato, Gorg. p. 447 A; Phaed. p. 101 D; Pol. x. p. 621 C; comp. ὁ παλαιὸς λόγος, Phaed. p. 240 C; Gorg. p. 499 C; Soph. Trach. i.) has its essential truth, i.e. its proper realization, setting forth its idea. Comp. Plat. Tim. p. 2 6 E: μὴ πλασθέντα μῦθον, ἀλλʼ ἀληθινὸν (i.e. a real) λόγον. The reference of the λόγος to the words of the servant, Matthew 25:24, which Weizsäcker considers probable,[196] would be very far-fetched; the rendering of ἀληθινός, however, as equivalent to ἀληθής, 2 Peter 2:22 (de Wette and many others), is quite opposed to the idiosyncrasy of John (so also John 19:35). The article before ἀληθ., which through want of attention might easily have been omitted (B. C.* K. L. T.b Δ. Or.), marks off the predicate with exclusive definiteness. Comp. Bernhardy, p. 322; Kühner, II. 140. With respect to other relations (not ἐν τουτῷ), the proverb does not express its proper idea.

As to the proverb itself, and its various applications, see Wetstein. The ἀληθινόν of it is explained in John 4:38.

ἐγώ] with emphasis: I, consequently the sower in the proverb.

The preterites ἀπέστειλα and εἰσεληλ. are not prophetic (de Wette, Tholuck), but the mission and calling of the disciples were already practically involved in their reception into the apostolate.[197] Comp. John 17:8.

ἄλλοι and αὐτῶν refer to Jesus (whom Olshausen, indeed, according to Matthew 23:34, even excludes!), not to the prophets and the Baptist, nor to them together with Christ (so the Fathers and most of the early writers, also Lange, Luthardt, Ewald, and most others), nor in a general way to all who were instrumental in advancing the preparatory economy (Tholuck). They are plurals of category (see on Matthew 2:20; John 3:11), representing the work of Christ, into which the disciples entered, as not theirs, but others’ work, i.e. a distinct and different labour. But the fact that Jesus was the labourer, while self-evident from the connection, is not directly expressed, but with intentional self-renunciation, half concealed beneath the plural ἄλλοι. He it was who introduced the conversion of mankind; the disciples were to complete it. He prepared and sowed the field; they were called upon to do what was still further necessary, and to reap. The great toil of the apostles in fulfilling their call is not denied; but, when compared with the work of Jesus Himself, it was the easier, because it was only the carrying on of that work, and was encouragingly represented under the cheerful image of harvesting (comp. Isaiah 9:3; Psalm 126:6). If ἄλλοι is to be taken as referring to Philip’s work in converting the Samaritans, Acts 8:25, upon which Peter and John entered (Baur), or to Paul’s labour among the heathen, the fruit of which is to be attributed to the first apostles (Hilgenfeld), any and every exegetical impossibility may be with equal right allowed by a ὕστερον πρότερον of critical arbitrariness.

[196] Weizsäcker, in his harmony of the words of John with those of the Synoptics, in which the latter are dealt with very freely (p. 282 ff.), brings in general much that is far-fetched into parallelisms which cannot be demonstrated. The intellectual independence of personal recollection and reproduction in John raises him above any such search after supposed borrowings.

[197] According to Godet, ἀπέστ, is to be taken as referring to a summons, discovered by him in ver. 36, to the work of reaping among the approaching Sycharites. He then takes ἄλλοι κεκοπ. to refer to the labour of Jesus in His interview with the woman. The latter words are said to have been spoken to the disciples, who thought He had been resting during their absence, with a “finesse qu’on oserait presque appeller légèrement malicieuse,” and with an “aimable sourire.” Such weighty thoughts as ἀποστολή and κόπος represent are utterly incompatible with such side hints and passing references. And it is a pure invention to find in ver. 36 an “invitation à prendre la faucille.”John 4:37. ἐν γὰρ τούτῳ. For in this, i.e., in the circumstances explained in the following verse, namely, that I have sent you to reap what others sowed, is the saying verified, “one soweth and another Lapeth”.—ὁ λόγος, “the saying”; cf. 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1, etc.—ἀληθινός without the article is the predicate and scarcely expresses that the saying receives in the present circumstances its ideal fulfilment, rather that the saying is shown to be genuine; the saying is ἄλλος ἐστὶν ὁ σπείρων καὶ ἄλλος ὁ θερίζων, various forms of which are given by Wetstein; as, ἄλλοι μὲν σπείρουσιν, ἄλλοι δʼ αὖ ἀμήσονται, “sic vos non vobis”; cf. Job 31:8; Micah 6:15; Deuteronomy 6:11. [“It was objected to Pompey that he came upon the victories of Lucullus and gathered those laurels which were due to the fortune and valour of another,” Plutarch.]37. And herein is that saying true] Rather, For herein is the saying (proved) true, i.e. is shewn to be the genuine proverb capable of realisation, not a mere empty phrase. ‘True’ is opposed to ‘unreal’ not to ‘lying.’ See on John 4:23, John 1:9 and John 7:28. ‘Herein’ refers to what precedes: comp. John 15:8 and ‘by this’ which represents the same Greek in John 16:30.John 4:37. Ὁ λόγος, the saying) The Subject is, The true saying: the Predicate, ἐστὶν, There is extant [or is apparent], A proverb which also was current among the Greeks.—ἄλλος, one) Most wisely a succession has been instituted in the Divine economy: sowing time in each case is [comes] first, in relation to the harvest that is to follow. Often the sower and reaper are one and the same person. But by reason of the period that intervenes, the same person becomes in some measure distinct from himself. Certainly each one is a sower in relation to his successors, and a reaper in relation to his predecessors; but the distinction chiefly referred to here is that between ministers of the Old and of the New Testament.—ἄλλος, another) Do not ask, why Messiah did not come sooner. The reply is ready at hand. The sowing time goes before by a long interval: the harvest quickly gathers [the fruit]. The Divine economy has its delays exactly answering the end contemplated. Comp. Romans 5:6,—“When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,”—notes.Verse 37. - For herein - in this harvest field, already whitening before your eyes - is the word veritably realized - it finds an ideal illustration of its meaning - One is the sower, and another is the reaper. It belongs to all common experience in such things; the first stone is laid by one, the topstone by another. The toil and tears of the sower with the precious seed are often the reason why another returns with joy, bringing his sheaves with him. It is an all-but universal law. Children inherit the toil of their fathers. We all stand where the shoulders of the mighty dead have lifted us. Still, though one be the sower and another is the reaper in this Samaritan field, yet, since "already" the reaper is busy with the sickle, the sower and reapers may rejoice together. The law will be established on a grander scale by and by, when the great Sower, who is the Lord of the harvest, shall send forth all his reapers to their great enterprise, and he and they will rejoice together. Herein (ἐν τούτῳ)

Literally, in this. In this relation between sower and reaper.

Is that saying true (ὁ λόγος ἐστὶν ὁ ἀληθινὸς)

Rev., properly, the saying; the common proverb. True: not only says the truth, but the saying is completely fulfilled according to the ideal in the sowing and reaping of which Jesus speaks. The literal rendering of the Greek, as given above, is, "the saying is the true (saying);" but several high authorities omit the article before true.

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