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John 4:36;38 (NASB)

Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.

Who is the one who has sown/labored in verse 38 (not the disciples)? And what are the wages that those who reap in verse 36 receive? What does it mean to reap and what are the fruits the reapers will gather?

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Sowing & reaping (and the harvest of crops more generally) are regularly used in the Bible to refer to preaching the gospel and the effects it has (e.g. the parable of the sower, the wheat & the tares, the vineyard in Isaiah 5).

Sowing or planting seeds would be the initial stage in preaching the word; reaping would be bringing in the harvest, seeing the results, the changes in people's lives.

Paul fleshes out this analogy in 1 Corinthians 3:

6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

Paul's point here is that they are all on the same team and Paul himself does not wish to take credit for the marvelous work of God.

Paul indicates that each shall receive his own reward (wages) according to his labor. Seeing people change their lives for the better is certainly a reward of the ministry. The ultimate reward being offered by God though would be eternal life.

In the case of the disciples, Jesus suggests the groundwork has already been laid for their ministry--this could be a reference to John the Baptist and/or the prophets of the Old Testament (a good example of this is in Acts 18:24-28).

I understand the "gathering" to refer to gathering people unto Christ (see 2 Thess. 2:1, Psalm 50:5).

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    Good, simple answer +1 – Dottard Apr 22 at 9:29
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Jesus' discourse on sowing and reaping:

35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:35–38, ESV)

Four months until harvest means it was December.

Say not ye? (Οὐχ ὑμεις λεγετε; [Ouch humeis legete?]). It is not possible to tell whether Jesus is alluding to a rural proverb of which nothing is known about there being four months from seedtime to harvest (a longer time than four months in fact) or whether he means that it was then actually four months to harvest. In the latter sense, since harvest began about the middle of April, it would be December when Jesus spoke. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Jn 4:35). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.

When Jesus said "white unto harvest" he pointed to the Samaritans, who came to see Jesus because of the woman's testimony.

They went out of the town and were coming to him. (John 4:30, ESV)

The writer and journalist H. V. Morton has a specially interesting suggestion about the fields white for the harvest. He himself was sitting at this very spot where Jacob’s well is. As he sat, he saw the people come out from the village and start to climb the hill. They came in little batches; and they were all wearing white robes, and the white robes stood out against the ground and the sky. It may well be that just at this moment the people started to flock out to Jesus in response to the woman’s story. As they streamed out in their white robes across the fields, perhaps Jesus said: ‘Look at the fields! See them now! They are white to the harvest!’ The white-robed crowd was the harvest which he was eager to reap for God. -- Barclay, W. (2001). The Gospel of John (Rev. and updated., Vol. 1, p. 195). Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press.

Their clothing made the landscape white. At that point Jesus was harvesting.

They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42, ESV)

There were several sowers. The woman sowed the seeds Jesus gave her.

Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29, ESV)

4:36–38. In this context, Jesus and the Samaritan woman sow, and the disciples see the harvest (v. 39). -- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 4:36–38). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

There were the seeds from the prophets.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” (John 4:25–26)

The disciples did help prepare the soil by going into the town to buy food. This was a strange sight for the Samaritans.

For Jesus to lodge there, eating Samaritan food and teaching Samaritans (v. 40) would be roughly equivalent to defying segregation in the United States during the 1950s or apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s—shocking, extremely difficult, somewhat dangerous. The Jesus of the Gospels is more concerned with people than with custom. -- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 4:39–42). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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