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 another 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.” (John 4:31-38)
There is more than just one kind of hunger. After Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus disciples returned with food. They were very puzzled by what they found Jesus doing. When they encouraged Jesus to eat, he used their fixation on food as an opportunity to teach them, just as he had used the thirst of the Samaritan woman as an opportunity to teach her. Just as the Samaritan woman had first thought of literal water, so the disciples were stuck for awhile on literal food.
But then Jesus clarified for them that he wasn’t talking about physical food or satisfying physical hunger. He meant that he had found satisfaction in his hunger to do the job that his Father had sent him to Earth to do: to proclaim the good news to people and to see them become part of God’s kingdom as a consequence. The Samaritan woman had joyfully believed him. Her transformed life satisfied Jesus more deeply than any of the food the disciples had brought him. The coming harvest of grain but four months in the future was nothing compared to the harvest of souls that was happening in that Samaritan village at that very moment.
Working for a living can be draining. We need rest and food. But paradoxically, working for the kingdom doesn’t drain us spiritually. Instead, it fills us up! The lives that we change, the hope that we bring, and the souls that we see come to Jesus can satisfy us more than the food we eat.