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Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ at Sychar’s Well
We begin with the usual Analysis of the passage that is to be before us. In it we see:
1. The Lord’s knowledge of the Pharisees’ jealousy, verse 1.
2. The disciples of the Lord baptizing, verse 2.
3. The Lord leaving Judea and departing into Galilee, verse 3.
4. The constraint of Divine grace, verse 4.
5. The Journey to Sychar, verse 5.
6. The Savior’s weariness, verse 6.
7. The Savior resting, verse 6.
Like the first three chapters of John, this fourth also furnishes us with another aspect of the deplorable spiritual grate that Israel was in at the time the Lord was here upon earth. It is remarkable how complete is the picture supplied us. Each separate scene gives some distinctive feature. Thus far we have seen, First, a blinded Priesthood (John 1:19 , John 1:26 ); Second, a joyless Nation (John 2:3 ); Third, a desecrated Temple (John 2:14 ); Fourth, a spiritually-dead Sanhedrin (John 3:7 ); Fifth, the person of Christ despised (John 3:26 ) and His testimony rejected (John 3:32 ). Now we are shown the heartless indifference of Israel toward their semi-heathen neighbors.
Israel had been highly privileged of God, and not the least of their blessings was a written revelation from Him. But though favored with much light themselves, they were selfishly indifferent toward those who were in darkness. Right within the bounds of their own land (for Samaria was a part of it), dwelt those who were semi-heathen, yet had the Jews no love for their souls and no concern for their spiritual welfare. Listen to the tragic plaint of one of their number: "The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" (John 4:9 ). The heartless indifference of the favored people of God toward the Samaritans is intimated further in the surprise shown by the disciples when they returned and found the Savior talking with this Samaritan woman (Luke 4:27 ). It was, no doubt, in order to rebuke them that the Savior said, "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you. Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35 ). Thus, this heartless neglect of the Samaritans gives us another glimpse of Israel’s state at that time.
But not only does John 4:0 give us another picture of the miserable condition the Jews were in, but, once more, it contains a prophetic foreshadowing of the future. In the closing verses of the previous chapter we are shown the person of Christ despised (John 3:26 ) and His testimony rejected (John 3:32 ). This but anticipated the final rejection of Christ by the Nation as a whole. Now in marvelous consonance with this, the very next thing we see is Christ turning to the Gentiles! The order here, as everywhere, is perfect. As we all know, this is exactly what happened in God’s dispensational dealings with the earth. No sooner did the old dispensation end, end with Israel’s rejection of Christ, than God in mercy turned to the Gentiles (Romans 11:0 , etc.). This is intimated in our lesson, first, by the statement made in verse 3: the Lord Jesus "left Judea, and departed again into Galilee" cf. Matthew 4:15 "Galilee of the Gentiles!" Second, in the fact that here the Lord Jesus is seen occupied not with the Jews but with the Samaritans. And third, by what we read of in verse 40 "and He abode there two days." How exceedingly striking is this! "He abode there two days." Remember that word in 2 Peter 3:8 , which declares "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Two "days," then or 2,000 years is the length of time that Christ was to be away from the Jews in Judea. How perfect and accurate is this picture!
At the close of the seventh chapter we called attention to the importance of noticing the relation of one passage to another. This is a principle which has been sadly neglected by Bible students. Not only should we be diligent to examine each verse in the light of its context, but also each passage as a whole should be studied in its relation to the complete passage which precedes and follows it. By attending to this it will often be found that the Holy Spirit has placed in juxtaposition two incidents miracles, parables, conversations, as the case may be in order to point a contrast, or series of contrasts between them. Such we saw was plainly the case with what we have in the first and second halves of John 2:0 , where a sevenfold contrast is to be noted. Another striking example is before us here. There is a manifest antithesis between what we have in the first half of John 3:0 and the first half of John 4:0 .
As we study John 3:0 and 4 together, we discover a series of striking contrasts. Let us look at them. First, in John 3:0 we have "a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus:" in John 4:0 it is an unnamed woman that is before us. Second, the former was a man of rank, a "Master of Israel:" the latter was a woman of the lower ranks, for she came "to draw water." Third, the one was a favored Jew: the other was a despised Samaritan. Fourth, Nicodemus was a man of high reputation, a member of the Sanhedrin: the one with whom Christ dealt in John 4:0 was a woman of dissolute habits. Fifth, Nicodemus sought out Christ: here Christ seeks out the woman. Sixth, Nicodemus came to Christ "by night:" Christ speaks to the woman at mid-day. Seventh, to the self-righteous Pharisee Christ said, "Ye must be born again:" to this sinner of the Gentiles He tells of "the gift of God." How much we miss by failing to compare and contrast what the Holy Spirit has placed side by side in this wondrous revelation from God! May the Lord stir up all of us to more diligent study of His Word.
"When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee" (John 4:1-3 ). Even at that early date in Christ’s public ministry the Pharisees had begun to manifest their opposition against Him. But this is not difficult to understand, for the teaching of the Lord Jesus openly condemned their hypocritical practices. Morever, their jealousy was aroused at this new movement, of which He was regarded as the head. The Baptist was the son of a priest that ministered in the Temple, and this would entitle him to some consideration. But here was a man that was regarded as being no more than the son of a carpenter, and who was He to form a following! And, too, He was of Nazareth, now working in Judea! And "out of Nazareth," they taught, "could arise no prophet" (John 7:52 ). A spirit of rivalry was at work, and the report was being circulated that "Jesus was making and baptizing more diciples than John." Every one knew what crowds had flocked to the preaching and baptizing of that Elijah-like prophet, crying in the wilderness. Was it to be suffered then, that this One of poor parentage should eclipse the Baptist in fame? Surely not: that could not be allowed at any cost.
"When therefore the Lord knew... he left Judea." What a word is this! There is no hint of any one having informed Him. That was not necessary. The One who had humbled Himself to the infinite stoop of taking upon Him the form of a servant, was none other than "the Lord." This One whom the Pharisees contemptuously regarded as the Nazarene-carpenter, was none other than the Christ of God, in whom "dwelt all the fulness of the God-head bodily." "The Lord knew," at once displays His omniscience. Nothing could be, and nothing can be, hidden from Him.
"The Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John" (John 1:1 ). It is important to observe the order of the two verbs here for they tell us who, alone, are eligible for baptism. When two verbs are linked together thus, the first denotes the action, and the second how the action was performed. For example; suppose I said, "He poured oil on him and anointed him." You could not say, "He anointed him and poured oil on him," unless the anointing and the pouring were two different acts. Therefore, the fact that "baptizing" here comes after, and not before, the verb "made," proves that they were disciples first, and were "baptized" subsequently. It is one of many passages in the New Testament which, uniformly, teaches that only one who is already a believer in Christ is qualified for baptism.
"Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples" (John 1:2 ). This is but a parenthetical statement, nevertheless, it is of considerable importance. It has been well said by the late Bishop Ryle, "This verse intimates that baptism is neither the first nor the chief thing about Christianity. We frequently read of Christ preaching and praying, once of His administering the Lord’s Supper, but ‘baptize’ He did not as though to show us that baptism has nothing to do with salvation."
"He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee" (John 1:3 ). This is exceedingly solemn. To cherish the spirit of jealousy and rivalry is to drive away the Lord. When the Savior sent forth the twelve on their mission to the cities of Israel, He bade them "And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them" (Luke 9:5 ). And again, when sending forth the seventy, He said to them, "But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you" (Luke 10:10 , Luke 10:11 ) But before He did this, He first set them an example. If "no man" would receive His testimony in Judea (John 3:3 ), then He would leave for other parts. He would not stay to cast pearls before swine.
No doubt the preaching of the Lord Jesus in Judea, and especially the circumstance of baptizing many of the people (through the instrumentality of His disciples) had greatly angered the Jewish rulers, and probably they had already taken steps to prevent the progress of this One whose teaching so evidently conflicted with theirs, and whose growing influence over the minds of the people threatened to weaken their authority. Our Lord knew this, and because His hour was not yet come, and much was to be done by Him before He finished the work the Father had given Him to do, instead of waiting until He should be driven out of Judea, He left that district of His own accord, and retired into Galilee, which, being remote from Jerusalem, and under the governorship of Herod, was more or less outside of their jurisdiction and less subject to the power of the Sanhedrin.
"In going from Judea into Galilee, our Lord’s most direct route lay through Samaria, which was a district of Palestine, bounded on the south by Judea, and on the north by Galilee, on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, and on the east by the river Jordan. It was possible to go from Judea into Galilee by crossing the Jordan, and passing through Perea; but this was a very circuitous route, though some of the stricter Jews seemed to have been in the habit of taking it, to avoid intercourse with the Samaritans. The direct route lay through Samaria" (Dr. J. Brown).
Samaria was a province allotted to Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh in the days of Joshua (see Joshua 16:0 and 17, and particularly Joshua 17:7 ). After the revolt of the ten tribes, the inhabitants of this district had generally ceased to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, and following first the wicked idolatry introduced by Jeroboam the son of Nebat (see 1 Kings 12:25-33 , and note "Shechem" in verse 25), they fell an easy prey to the Gentile corruptions introduced by his successors. After the great body of the ten tribes had been carried away captives, and their district left almost without inhabitant, the king of Assyria planted in their province a colony of various nations (2 Kings 17:24 ) who, mingling with the few original inhabitants of the land, formed unto themselves a strange medley of a religion, by combining the principles and rights of Judaism with those of oriental idolaters. As the inspired historian tells us, they "feared the Lord, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places. They feared the Lord, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations who carried them away from thence... So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children’s children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day" (2 Kings 17:32 , 2 Kings 17:33 , 2 Kings 17:41 ). Thus, the original dwellers in Samaria were, to a great extent, heathenized.
At the time of the return of the remnant of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, the Samaritans offered to enter into an alliance with the Jews (Ezra 4:1 , Ezra 4:2 ), and on being refused (Ezra 4:3 ) they became the bitter enemies of the Jews and their most active opposers in the rebuilding of their Temple and capital (see Nehemiah 4:0 and 6). According to Josephus (see his "Antiquities" XI:7, 2; XIII:9), at a later date Manasseh, the son of Jaddua the high priest, contrary to the law, married the daughter of Sanballat, the chief of the Samaritans, and when the Jews insisted that he should either repudiate his wife, or renounce his sacred office, he fled to his father-in-law, who gave him an honorable reception, and by the permission of Alexander the Great built a temple to Jehovah on Mount Gerizim, in which Manasseh and his posterity officiated as high priests, in rivalry to the Divinely instituted ritual at Jerusalem see also 1 Maccabees 3:10.
The Samaritans received as Divine the five books of Moses, and probably, also, some at least of the prophetic oracles; but they did not acknowledge the authenticity of the historical books written by the Jews, who they regarded as their worst enemies. The natural consequence of all these circumstances was, that the Jews and Samaritans regarded each other with much more rancorous dislike than either of them did the idolatrous nations by which they were surrounded. Hence when his enemies said unto Christ, "Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan?" (John 8:48 ), we can understand better the venom behind the insult. Hence, too, it makes us bow our hearts in wonderment to find the Lord Jesus representing Himself as "a certain Samaritan" (Luke 10:33 ) as we learn of the depths of ignominy into which He had descended and how He became the despised and hated One in order to secure our salvation.
"And he must needs go through Samaria" (John 4:4 ). The needs-be was a moral and not a geographical one. There were two routes from Judea to Galilee. The more direct was through Samaria. The other, though more circuitous, led through Perea and Decapolis to the southern shores of Gennesaret. The former was the regular route. But the reason why the Lord "must" go through Samaria, was because of a Divine needs-be. From all eternity it had been ordained that He should go through Samaria. Some of God’s elect were there, and these must be sought and found cf. the Lord’s own words in John 10:16 , "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring." We shall never appreciate the Gospel until we go back to the basic truth of predestination, which puts God first, which makes the choice His before it is ours, and which, in due time, brings His grace to bear upon us with invincible power.
Election is of persons predestination is of things. All the great movements of the universe are regulated by God’s will, But if the great movements, then the small movements for the great depend upon the small. It was predestinated that our Savior should go through Samaria, because there was a chosen sinner there. And she was a chosen sinner, for if not she never would have chosen God, or known Jesus Christ. The whole machinery of grace was therefore set in motion in the direction of one poor lost sinner, that she might be restored to her Savior and to her God. That is what we wish to see in our own experience to look back of ante-mundane ages, and date our eternal life from the covenant. To say:
Father ‘twas Thy love that knew us
Earth’s foundation long before
That same love to Jesus drew us
By its sweet constraining power,
And will keep us
Safely now and ever more
(Dr. G. S. Bishop).
It is not difficult to understand why the Lord must needs go through Samaria. There were those in Samaria whom the Father had given Him from all eternity, and these He "must" save. And, dear reader, if you are one of God’s elect there is a needs be put on the Lord Jesus Christ to save you. If you are yet in your sins, you will not always be. For years you may have been fleeing from Christ; but when His time comes He will overtake you. However you may kick against the pricks and contend against Him; however deeply you may sin, as the woman in our passage, He will most surely overtake and conquer you. Yea, even now He is on the way!
"Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour" (John 4:5 , John 4:6 ). How truly human was the Lord Jesus! He would in all points be like unto His brethren, so He did not exempt Himself from fatigue. How fully then can He sympathize with the laborer today who is worn out with toil! To the Savior, a long walk brought weariness, and weariness needed rest, and to rest He "sat thus" on the well. He was, apparently, more worn than the disciples, for they continued on into the village to buy food. But He was under a greater mental strain than they. He had a weariness they knew nothing about.
"Of the Son of man being in heaven, whilst upon earth, we have learnt in the previous chapter (John 3:13 ). Now, though Divine, and therefore in heaven, He was truly a man upon earth. This mystery of His person none of us can fathom (Matthew 11:27 ). Nor are we asked to. We have to believe it. ‘Perfect God, and perfect Man: of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting’ such has been the language of confession of the western part of Christendom for many an age. Now there are some conditions incident to humanity. There are others, in addition, connected with fallen humanity, such as liability to sickness, to disease, and even to death. To these last, of course, the holy Son of God was not, though a man, subject; yet, as being a man He was able to die, and willingly gave up His life for His people. But to sickness and bodily decay, as the Holy One, in whom was no sin, He was not, and could not have been, subject. On the other hand, from conditions incident to humanity, as hunger, thirst and weariness, He was not exempt. In the wilderness He was hungry. On the Cross He was thirsty. Here at the well He was weary. Into what circumstances, then, did He voluntarily come, and that in obedience and love to His Father, and in love to His own sheep! He, by whom the worlds were made, was sitting a weary man by Jacob’s well, and there at first alone. One word from the throne, and the whole angelic host would have flown to minister to Him. But that word was not spoken. For God’s purpose of grace to souls in Samaria was to be worked out at Sychar" (C. E. Stuart).
"Jesus therefore being wearied." This brings out the reality of Christ’s humanity. He was just as really and truly Man as He was God. In stressing His absolute Deity, we are in danger of overlooking the reality of His humanity. The Lord Jesus was perfect Man: He ate and drank, labored and slept, prayed and wept. And what a precious thought is there here for Christian workers: the Savior knew what it was to be "weary" not weary of well doing, but weary in well doing. But it is blessed to see how the Holy Spirit has guarded the glory of Christ’s person here. Side by side with this word upon His humanity, we are shown His Divine omniscience revealed in His perfect knowledge of the history of the woman with whom He dealt at the well. This principle meets us at every turn in the Gospels. At His birth we behold His humiliation lying in a manger but we discover His Divine glory, too, for the angels were sent to announce the One born as "Christ the Lord." See Him asleep in the boat, exhausted from the toil of a heavy day’s work: but mark the sequel, as He rises and stills the storm. Behold Him by the grave of Lazarus, groaning in spirit and weeping: and then bow before Him in worship as He, by a word from His mouth, brings the dead to life. So it is here: "wearied with his journey," and yet displaying His Deity by reading the secrets of this woman’s heart.
"Jesus therefore being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well" (John 4:6 ). This illustrates another important principle, the application of which is often a great aid to the understanding of a passage, namely, noticing the place where a particular incident occurred. There is a profound significance to everything in Scripture, even the seemingly unimportant details. The character of the place frequently supplies the key to the meaning of what is recorded as occurring there. For instance: the children of Israel were in Egypt when the Lord delivered them. Egypt, then, symbolizes the place where we were when God apprehended us, namely, the world in which we groaned under the merciless taskmasters that dominated us. John the Baptist preached in the wilderness, for it symbolized the spiritual barrenness and desolation of Israel at that time. When the Lord Jesus enunciated the laws of His kingdom, He went up into a mountain a place of elevation, symbolic of His throne of authority from which He delivered His manifesto. When He gave the parables He "sat by the sea side" (cf. Isaiah 17:12 , Isaiah 17:13 ; Ezekiel 26:3 ; Daniel 7:2 ; Revelation 17:5 , for the "sea" in its symbolic significance). The first four parables of Matthew 13:0 pertain to the public profession of Christianity, hence these were given in the hearing of the "great multitudes;" but the next two concerned only the Lord’s own people, so we read "Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him" (Matthew 13:36 ). When the Lord portrayed the poor sinner as the one to whom He came to minister (under the figure of the good "Samaritan") He represented him as a certain man who "went down from Jerusalem [foundation of peace] to Jericho [the city of the curse]." So, again, in Luke 15:0 the prodigal son is seen in "the far country" (away from the father), and there feeding on the husks which the swine did eat another picture giving us the place where the sinner is morally.
The above examples, selected almost at random, illustrate the importance of observing the place where each event happened, and the position occupied by the chief actors. This same principle receives striking exemplification in the passage before us. The meeting between the Savior and this Samaritan adulteress occurred at Sychar which means "purchased" so was the "gift of God" that He proffered to her. And, as He revealed to her her soul’s deep need He sat "on the well." The "well" was a figure of Himself, and its water was the emblem of the salvation that is to be found in Him. One authority for these statements is Isaiah 12:3 , "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells (Heb. ‘the well’) of salvation." What a remarkable statement is this! It is the key to the typical significance of many an Old Testament passage. The "well" of the Old Testament Scriptures foreshadowed Christ and what is to be found in Him. We shall now turn to some of the Old Testament passages where the "well" is mentioned, and discover how remarkably and blessedly they foreshadowed this One who gave the water of life to the woman of Samaria.
1. The first time the "well" is mentioned in Scripture, is in Genesis 16:6 , Genesis 16:7 , Genesis 16:13 , Genesis 16:14 . "But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness... And she called the name of the Lord which spake unto her, Thou God seest me... for she said, Have I also here looked after Him that seeth me? Wherefore the well was called, The well of him that liveth and seeth me." Note the following points: First, the "well" (the "fountain of water" of verse 7 is termed the "well" in verse 14) was the place where the angel of the Lord found this poor outcast. So Christ is where God meets the sinner, for "no man cometh unto the Father" but by Him. Second, this well was located in the wilderness fit symbol of this world. The "wilderness" well depicts the state of heart we were in when we first met Christ! Third, the "well" was the place where God was revealed. Hagar, therefore, termed it, "the well of him that liveth and seeth me." So, again, Christ is the Revealer of God "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father."
2. In Genesis 21:14-19 we read, "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrugs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is . . . and God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water." How inexpressibly blessed is this in its typical suggestiveness! Notice the following points: First, we have before us again an outcast, and one whose water was spent, for she had but "a bottle:" like the prodigal son, she "began to be in want." Second, she had cast away her child to die, and there she sat weeping. What a picture of the poor, desolate, despairing sinner! Third, God "opened her eyes," and what for? In order that she might see the "well" that had been there all the time! Ah, was it not so with thee, dear Christian reader? It was not thine own mental acumen which discovered that One of whom the "well" here speaks. It was God who opened thine eyes to see Him as the One who alone could meet thy desperate and deep need. What do we read in Proverbs 20:12 "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them." And again in John 5:20 we are told, "And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that (in order that) we may know Him that is true."
3. In this same chapter the "well" is mentioned again in another connection: "And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant. And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves? And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well. Wherefore he called that place the well of the oath; because there they sware both of them" (Genesis 21:27-31 ). Here we find the "well" was the place of the "covenant" (verse 27), which was ratified by an "oath" (verse 31). And what do we read in Hebrews 7:20-22 ? "And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament [covenant]."
4. In Genesis 24:10-12 we read, "And the servant took ten camels of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his master were in his hand: and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor. And he made his camels to kneel down without the city by a well of water at the time of the evening, even the time that women go out to draw water. And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day." Not only is each typical picture perfect, but the order in which they are found evidences Divine design. In the first scriptures we have glanced at, that which is connected with the "well" suggested the meeting between the Savior and the sinner. And in the last passage, the covenant and the oath speak of that which tells of the sure ground upon which our eternal preservation rests. And from that point, every reference to the "well" has that connected with it which is appropriate of believers only. In the last quoted passage, the "well" is the place of prayer: so, the believer asks the Father in the name of Christ, of whom the "well" speaks.
5. In Genesis 29:1-3 we read, "Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the east. And he looked, and beheld a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks." This is very beautiful. How striking is the contrast between this typical scene and the first that we looked at in Genesis 16:0 . There, where it is a sinner and Christ which is in view, the "well" is located in the wilderness figure of the barrenness and desolation of the sinner. But here, where the sheep are in view, the "well" is found in the field suggesting the "green pastures" into which the good Shepherd leads His own. Notice there were "three flocks of sheep that were lying by this "well," their position denoting rest, that rest which Christ gives His own. Here in the field were the three flocks lying "by it" the well. It is only in Christ that we find rest.
6. In Exodus 2:15-17 we are told, "Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock." How marvelous is this type. First, Pharaoh the king of Egypt prefigures Satan as the god of this world, attacking and seeking to destroy the believer. From him Moses "fled." How often the great Enemy frightens us and gets us on the run. But how blessed to note the next statement here: fleeing from Pharaoh to Midian, where he now dwells, the first thing that we read of Moses is, "he sat down by a well." Thank God there is One to whom we can flee for refuge the Lord Jesus Christ to whom the "well" pointed. To this well the daughters of Jethro also came, for water. But the shepherds came and drove them away. How many of the "under-shepherds" today are, by their infidelistic teaching, driving many away from Christ. Nevertheless, God still has a Moses here and there, who will "stand up and help" those who really desire the Water of Life. But be it noted, before we can "help" others we must first be resting on the well for ourselves, as Moses was.
7. "And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it" (Numbers 21:16 , Numbers 21:17 ). What a word is this! The well is personified. It is made the object of song. It evokes praise. No interpreter is needed here. Beloved reader, are you "singing" unto the "Well?"
8. "Now Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by Enrogel; for they might not be seen to come into the city: and a wench went and told them; and they went and told king David. Nevertheless a lad saw them, and told Absalom: but they went both of them away quickly, and came to a man’s house in Bahurim, which had a well in his court: whither they went down. And the woman took and spread a covering over the well’s mouth, and spread ground corn thereon; and the thing was not known" (2 Samuel 17:17-19 ). Here we find the "well" providing shelter and protection for God’s people. Notice there was a "covering" over its mouth, so that Jonathan and Ahimaaz were hidden in the well. So it is with the believer "your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3 ). how striking is the last sentence quoted above, "And the thing was not known!" The world is in complete ignorance of the believer’s place and portion in Christ!
9. "And David longed, and said, O that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!" (2 Samuel 23:15 ). Nothing but water from the well of Bethlehem would satisfy David.
10. "Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well" (Proverbs 5:15 ). What a blessed climax is this. The "well" is our own, and from its "running waters" we are invited to "drink."
We sincerely pity any who may regard all of this as fanciful. Surely such need to betake themselves to Christ for "eyesalve," that their eyes may be enabled to behold "wondrous things" out of God’s Law. To us this study has been unspeakably blessed. And what meaning it all gives to John 4:6 "Jesus, therefore, being wearied with His journey sat thus on the well."
But there is one other word here that we must not overlook, a word that gives added force to the typical character of the picture before us, for it speaks of the character of that Salvation which is found in Christ. "Now Jacob’s well was there" (John 4:6 ). There are three things in connection with this particular "well" that we need to consider. First, this well was purchased by Jacob, or more accurately speaking, the "field" in which the well was located was purchased by him. "And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-Aram; and pitched his tent before the city. And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money" (Genesis 33:18 , Genesis 33:19 ). The word "Sychar" in John 4:6 signifies purchased. What a well-chosen and suited place for Christ to speak to that woman of the "gift of God!" But let it never be forgotten that this "gift" costs us nothing, because it cost Him everything.
Second, the "parcel of ground" in which was this well, was afterwards taken by Joseph with "sword and bow; . . . And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers. Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow" (Genesis 48:21 , Genesis 48:22 ) that this is the same "parcel of ground" referred to in Genesis 33:0 is clear from John 4:5 . The reference in Genesis 48:0 must be to a later date than what is in view in Genesis 33:0 . The Amorites were seeking to rob Jacob of his well, and therefore an appeal to arms was necessary. This, we believe, fore shadowed the present interval, during which the Holy Spirit (while Satan is yet the "Prince of this world" and ever seeks to oppose and keep God’s Jacobs away from the "well") is bringing salvation to souls by means of the "sword" (Hebrews 4:12 ).
Third, this portion purchased by Jacob, and later secured by means of the "sword and bow," was given to Joseph (see Genesis 48:21 , Genesis 48:22 ). This became a part of Joseph’s "birthright," for said Jacob "I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren." This ought to have been given to Reuben, Jacob’s "firstborn," but through his fall into grievous sin it was transferred to Joseph (see 1 Chronicles 5:1 ). How marvelously accurate the type! Christ the second Man takes the inheritance which the first man forfeited and lost through sin! Putting these three together, we have: the "well" purchased, the "well" possessed, the "well" enjoyed.
And here we must stop. In the next chapter we shall, D.V., consider carefully each sentence in verses 7-11. Let the student ponder prayerfully:
1. What are we to learn from the fact that the Savior was the first to speak? verse 7.
2. Why did He begin by asking her for a drink? verse 7.
3. Was it merely a drink of water He had in mind! If not, what was it?
4. What is the force and significance of the parenthetical statement of verse 8?
5. What does the woman’s answer (verse 9) go to prove?
6. What is the "gift of God?" verse 10
7. Why does Christ liken salvation to "living water?" Enumerate the different thoughts suggested by this figure.
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ at Sychar’s Well (Continued)
First, a brief Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. The Woman of Samaria, verse 7.
2. The Savior’s request, verse 7.
3. The Savior’s solitariness, verse 8.
4. The Woman’s surprise, verse 9.
5. The Woman’s prejudice, verse 9.
6. The Savior’s rebuke, verse 10.
7. The Savior’s appeal, verse 10.
In the last chapter we pointed out the deep significance underlying the words of John 4:4 "He must needs go through Samaria." It was the constraint of sovereign grace. From all eternity it had been foreordained that the Savior should go through Samaria. The performing of God’s eternal decree required it. The Son, incarnate, had come there to do the Father’s will" Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." And God’s will was that these hated Samaritans should hear the Gospel of His grace from the lips of His own dear Son. Hence, "He must needs go through Samaria." There were elect souls there, which had been given to Him by the Father, and these also He "must bring" (see John 10:16 ).
"Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well" (John 4:6 ). Observe, particularly, that the Lord Jesus was beforehand with this woman. He was at the well first! "I am found of them that sought me not" (Isaiah 65:1 ) is the language of the Messiah in the prophetic word centuries before He made His appearance among men, and this oracle has been frequently verified. His salvation is not only altogether unmerited by those to whom it comes, but at first, it is always unsought (see Romans 3:11 ), and of every one who is numbered among His peculiar people it may be as truly said, as of the apostles, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you" (John 15:16 ). When we were pursuing our mad course of sin, when we were utterly indifferent to the claims and superlative excellency of the Savior, when we had no serious thought at all about our souls, He to use the apostle’s peculiarly appropriate word "apprehended" us (Philippians 3:12 ). He "laid hold of" us, aroused our attention, illumined our darkened understanding, that we might receive the truth and be saved by it. A beautiful illustration of this is before us here in John 4:0 .
Yes, the Lord was beforehand with this woman. He was found of one who sought Him not. It was so with the idolatrous Abraham (Joshua 24:0 ) in the land of Chaldea: the Lord of glory appeared to him while he was yet in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2 ). It was so with the worm Jacob, as he fled to escape from his brother’s anger (Genesis 28:10 , Genesis 28:13 ). It was so with Moses, as he went about his shepherd duties (Exodus 3:1 , Exodus 3:2 ). In each instance the Lord was found by those who sought Him not. It was so with Zacchaeus, hidden away amid the boughs of the trees"Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down," was the peremptory command, for, saith the Lord, "to day, I must abide at thy house" (Luke 19:5 ). It was so with Saul of Tarsus, as he went on his way to persecute the followers of the Lamb. It was so with Lydia, "whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul" (Acts 16:14 ). And, let us add, to the praise of the glory of God’s grace, but to our own unutterable shame, it was so with the writer, when Christ "apprehended" him; apprehended him when he was altogether unconscious of his deep need, and had no desire whatever for a Savior. Ah, blessed be His name, "We love him, because he first loved us!"
But let not the false conclusion be drawn that the sinner is, therefore, irresponsible. Not so. God has placed within man a moral faculty, which discerns between right and wrong. Men know that they are sinners, and if so they need a Savior. God now commands all men everywhere to "repent," and woe be to the one who disobeys. And again we read, "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 3:23 ), and if men refuse to "believe" their blood is on their own heads. Christ receives all who come to Him. The Gospel announces eternal life to "whosoever believeth." The door of mercy stands wide open. But, notwithstanding, it remains that men love darkness rather than light, and so strong is their love for the darkness and so deep-rooted is their antipathy against the light, that, as the Lord declared, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44 ). Here, again, is the Divine side, and it is this we are now pressing.
"And it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water" (John 4:6 , John 4:7 ). This means it was the sixth hour after sunrise, and would be, therefore, midday. It was at the time the sun was at its greatest height and heat. Under the glare of the oriental sun, at the time when those exposed to its strong rays were most weary and thirsty, came this woman to draw water. The hour corresponded with her spiritual condition weary and parched in her soul. "The sixth hour." What a significant line is this in the picture! Six invariably speaks of man in the flesh.
"There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water" (verse 7). This was no accident. She chose this hour because she expected the well would be deserted. But, in fact, she went to the well that day, at that time, because God’s hour had struck when she was to meet the Savior. Ah, our least movements are directed and over-ruled by Divine providence. It was no accident that the Midianites were passing by when Joseph’s brethren had made up their minds to slay him (Genesis 37:28 ), nor was it merely a coincidence that these Midianites were journeying to Egypt. It was no accident that Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the river to bathe, nor that she "saw" the ark, which contained the infant Moses, "among the flags" (Exodus 2:5 ). It was no accident that at the very time Mordecai and the Jews were in imminent danger of being killed, that Ahasuerus could not sleep, and that he occupied himself with reading the court records, which told of how, aforetime, Mordecai had befriended the king; and which led to the deliverance of God’s people. No; there are no accidents in the world that is presided over by a living, reigning God!
"There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water." To "draw water" was her object. She had no thought of anything else, save that she should not be seen. She stole forth at this hour of the midday sun because a woman of her character shunned by other women did not care to meet any one. The woman was unacquainted with the Savior. She had no expectation of meeting Him. She had no idea she would be converted that day that was the last thing she would expect. Probably she said to herself, as she set forth, "No one will be at the well at this hour." Poor desolate soul. But there was One there! One who was waiting for her "sitting thus on the well." He knew all about her. He knew her deep need, and He was there to minister to it. He was there to overcome her prejudices, there to subdue her rebellious will, there to invite Himself into her heart.
"Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink" (John 4:7 ). Link together these two statements: "Jesus, therefore, being wearied with his journey... Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." There was everything to make Him "weary." Here was the One who had been the center of Heaven’s glory, now dwelling in a world of sin and suffering. Here was the One in whom the Father delighted, now enduring the contradiction of sinners against Himself. He had, in matchless grace, come "unto his own," but with base indifference they "received him not." He was not wanted here. The ingratitude and rebellion He met with, the jealousy and opposition of the Pharisees, the spiritual dullness of His own disciples yes, there was everything to make Him "weary." But, all praise to His peerless name, He never wearied in His ministry of grace. There was never any love of ease with Him: never the slightest selfishness: instead, nothing but one unbroken ministry of love. Fatigued in body He might be, sick at heart He must have been, but not too weary to seek out and save this sin-sick soul.
"Jesus said unto her." How striking is the contrast between what we have here and what is found in the previous chapter! There we are shown Nicodemus coming to Christ "by night," under cover of the darkness, so that he might guard his reputation. Here we behold the Lord Jesus speaking to this harlot in the full light of day it was midday. Verily, He "made himself of no reputation!"
"Jesus said unto her, Give me to drink." The picture presented is unspeakably lovely. Christ seated on the well, and what do we find Him doing? Sitting alone with this poor outcast, to settle with her the great question of eternity. He shows her herself, and reveals Himself! This is exactly what He does with every soul that He calls to Himself. He takes us apart from the maddening world, exposes to us our desperate condition, and then makes known to us in whose Presence we are, leading us to ask from Him that precious "gift" which He alone can impart. Thus did He deal here with this Samaritan adulteress. And how this incident makes manifest the wondrous grace and infinite patience of the Savior in His dealings with sinners! Tenderly and patiently He led this woman, step by step, touching her heart, searching her conscience, awakening her soul to a consciousness of her deep need. And how this incident also brings out the depravity of the sinner his spiritual blindness and obstinacy; his lack of capacity to understand and respond to the Savior’s advance; yea, his slowness of heart to believe!
"Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." The first thing the Savior did (note that He took the initiative) was to ask this woman for a drink of cold water considered the very cheapest gift which this world contains. How the Son of God humbled Himself! Among the Jews it was considered the depth of degradation even to hold converse with the Samaritans; to be beholden to them for a favor would not be tolerated at all. But here we find the Lord of glory asking for a drink of water from one of the worst in this city of Samaritans! Such was His condescension that the woman herself was made to marvel.
"Give me to drink." Here was the starting point for the Divine work of grace which was to be wrought in her. Every word in this brief sentence is profoundly significant. Here was no "ye must be." The very first word the Savior uttered to this poor soul, was "give." It was to grace He would direct her thoughts. "Give me," He said. He immediately calls the attention of the sinner to Himself "Give me." But what was meant by "Give me to drink?" To what did the Savior refer? Surely there can be no doubt that His mind was on something other than literal water, though, doubtless, the first and local significance of His words had reference to literal water. Just as the "weariness" of the previous verse has a deeper meaning than physical fatigue, so this "Give me to drink" signifies more than slaking His thirst. This world was a dry and thirsty land to the Savior, and the only refreshment He found here was in ministering His grace to poor needy sinners, and receiving from them their faith and gratitude in return. This is fully borne out in the sequel, for when the disciples returned and begged Him to eat, He said unto them, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of" (verse 32). When, then, the Savior said to this woman, "Give me to drink," it was refreshment of spirit He sought.
"Give me to drink." But how could she, a poor, despised and blinded sinner, "give" to Him? Ah, she could not. She must first ask of Him. She had to receive herself before she could give. In her natural state she had nothing. Spiritually she was Poverty-stricken; a bankrupt. And this it was that the Savior would press upon her, in order that she might be led to ask of Him. When, then, the Savior said, "Give me to drink," He was making a demand of her with which, at this time, she was unable to comply. In other words, He was bringing her face to face with her helplessness. We are often told that God never commands us to do what we have no ability to perform, but He does, and that for two very good reasons: first, to awaken us to a sense of our impotency; second, that we might seek from Him the grace and strength we need to do that which is pleasing in His sight. What was the Law that Law that was "holy, just and good" given for? Its summarized requirements were, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart... and thy neighbor as thyself." But what man ever did this? What man could do it? Only one the God-man. Why, then, was the Law given? On purpose to reveal man’s impotency. And why was that? To bring man to cast himself at the foot of God’s omnipotency: "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27 ). This is the first lesson in the school of God. This is what Christ would first teach this needy woman, verse 10 establishes that beyond a doubt "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him." But it was the moral impossibility which Christ put before this woman that aroused her curiosity and interest.
"For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat" (John 4:8 ). This was no mere coincidence, but graciously ordered by the providence of God. Christ desired this poor soul to be alone with Himself! This Gospel of John presents Christ in the very highest aspect in which we can contemplate Him, namely, as God manifest in the flesh, as the eternal Word, as Creator of all things, as the Revealer of the Father. And yet there is none of the four Gospels in which this glorious Person is so frequently seen alone with sinners as here in John. Surely there is Divine design in this. We see Him alone with Nicodemus; alone with this Samaritan woman; alone with the convicted adulteress in John 8:0 ; alone with the man whose eyes He had opened, and who was afterwards put out of the synagogue (John 9:35 ). Alone with God is where the sinner needs to get with none between and none around him. This is one reason why the writer, during the course of four pastorates, never made use of an "inquiry room," or "penitent form." Another reason was, be cause he could find nothing resembling them in the Word of God. They are human inventions. No priest, no intermediary, is necessary. Bid the sinner retire by himself, and get alone with God and His Word.
"For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat." The word "buy" here points a contrast. Occurring just where it does it brings into relief the "gift" of God to which the Savior referred, see verses 10 and 14. Another has suggested to the writer that the action of the disciples here furnishes a striking illustration of 3 John 1:7 : "taking nothing of the Gentiles." These disciples of Christ did not beg, they bought.
"Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" (John 4:9 ). The Savior’s request struck this woman with surprise. She knew the extreme dislike which Jews cherished towards Samaritans. It was accounted a sin for them to have any friendly intercourse with that people. The general tendency of this antipathy may be judged from the following extracts from the Jewish rabbins by Bishop Lightfoot: It is prohibited to eat the bread, and to drink the wine of the Samaritan." "If any one receives a Samaritan into his house, and ministers to him, he will cause his children to be carried into captivity." "He who eats the bread of a Samaritan, is as if he ate swine’s flesh."
Aware of this extreme antipathy, the Samaritan woman expresses her amazement that a person, whom, from His dress and dialect, she perceived to be a Jew, should deign to ask, much less receive a favor from a Samaritan "How is it that thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" Ah, "little did she think," to borrow the words of one of the Puritans, "of the glories of Him who sat there before her. He who sat on the well owned a Throne that was placed high above the head of the cherubim; in His arms, who then rested Himself, was the sanctuary of peace, where weary souls could lay their heads and dispose their cares, and then turn them to joys, and to guild their thorns with glory; and from that holy tongue, which was parched with heat, should stream forth rivulets of heavenly doctrine, which were to water all the world, and turn deserts into a paradise" (Jeremy Taylor).
"Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me?" In a previous chapter we have pointed out the sevenfold contrast which exists between the cases of Nicodemus and this Samaritan woman. Here we call attention to a striking analogy. The very first word uttered by Nicodemus in response to the Savior’s initial statements was "How?" (John 3:4 ); and the very first word of this woman in reply to Christ’s request was "How?" Both of them met the advances of the Savior with a sceptical "How:" there were many points of dissimilarity between them, but in this particular they concurred. In His dealings with Nicodemus Christ manifests Himself as the "truth;" here in John 4:0 we behold the "grace" that came by Jesus Christ. "Truth" to break down the religious prejudices of a proud Pharisee; "grace" to meet the deep need of this Samaritan adulteress.
"We are full of ‘how’s.’ The truth of God, in all its majesty and authority, is put before us; we meet it with a how! The grace of God, in all its sweetness and tenderness, is unfolded to our view; we reply with a how? It may be a theological ‘how,’ or a rationalistic ‘how,’ it matters not, the poor heart will reason instead of believing the truth, and receiving the grace of God. The will is active, and hence, although the conscience may be ill at ease, and the heart be dissatisfied with itself, and all around, still the unbelieving ‘how’ breaks forth in one form or another. Nicodemus says, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ The Samaritan says, ‘How canst thou ask drink of me?’" (C. H. M., from whom we have taken several helpful thoughts).
Thus it is ever. When the Word of God declares to us the utter worthlessness of nature, the heart, instead of bowing to the holy record, sends up its unholy reasonings. When the same truth sets forth the boundless grace of God, and the free salvation which is in Christ Jesus, the heart, instead of receiving the grace, and rejoicing in the salvation, begins to reason as to how it can be. The fact is, the human heart is closed against God against the truth of His Word, and against the grace of His heart. The Devil may speak and the heart will give its ready credence. Man may speak and the heart will greedily swallow what he says. Lies from Satan and nonsense from men all meet with a ready reception by the foolish sinner; but the moment God speaks, whether it be in the authoritative language of truth, or in the winsome accents of grace, all the return the heart will make is an unbelieving, rationalistic, infidelistic "How?" Anything and everything for the natural heart save the truth and grace of God. How deeply humbling all this is! Flow it ought to make us hide our faces with shame! How it should make us heed that solemn word in Ezekiel 16:62 , Ezekiel 16:63 ,
"And thou shalt know that I am the Lord: That thou mayest remember, and be confounded . . . Because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God."
"Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?" How completely this manifested the blindness of the natural heart "thou being a Jew." She failed to discern the excellency of the One talking to her. She knew not that it was the Lord of glory. She saw in Him nothing but a "Jew." She was altogether ignorant of the fact that He who had humbled Himself to take upon Him the form of a servant, was none other than the Christ of God. And Christian readers, it was thus with each of us before the Holy Spirit quickened us. Until we were brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, we "saw in him no beauty that we should desire him." All that this poor woman could think of was the old prejudice "thou a Jew... me a woman of Samaria." So it was with you and me. When the sinner first comes into the presence of God the latent enmity of the carnal mind is stirred up, and, until Divine grace has subdued us, all we could do was to prevaricate and raise objections.
"Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10 ). Our Lord was not to be put off with her "how?" He had answered the "how" of Nicodemus, and He would now answer the "how" of this woman of Sychar. He replies to Nicodemus, eventually, by pointing to Himself as the great antitype of the brazen serpent, and by telling him of the love of God in sending His Son into the world. He replies to the woman, likewise, by telling her of "the gift of God?’ It is beautiful to observe the spirit in which the Savior answered this poor outcast. He did not enter into an argument with her about the prejudices of the Samaritans, nor did He seek to defend the Jews for their heartless treatment of them. Nor did He deal roughly with her and reproach her for her woeful ignorance and stupidity. No; He was seeking her salvation, and with infinite patience He bore with her slowness of heart to believe.
"Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink." There is where the root of the trouble lay. Man neither knows his need, nor the One who can minister to it. This woman was ignorant of "the gift of God." The language of grace was an unknown tongue. Like every other sinner in his natural state, this Samaritan thought she was the one who must do the giving. But salvation does not come to us in return for our giving. God is the Giver; all we have to do is receive. "If thou knewest the gift of God." What is this? It is salvation: it is eternal life: it is the "living water" spoken of by Christ at the end of the verse.
"If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink." But this woman did not know Who it was that spoke to her, nor of the marvelous condescension of this One who had asked her for a "drink." Had she done so, she, in turn, would have "asked of Him." He was ready to give, if she would but take the place of a receiver, and thus make Him the Giver; instead of her wanting to take the place of a giver and make Him the Receiver.
"Thou wouldest have asked of him." It is blessedly true that the only thing between the sinner and eternal life is an "ask." But asking proceeds from knowing. "If thou knewest... thou wouldest have asked." But O how reluctant the sinner is to take this place. God has to do much for him and in him before he is ready to really "ask." The sinner has to be brought to a realization of his awful condition and terrible danger: he must see himself as lost, undone, and bound for the lake of fire. He has to be made to see his desperate need of a Savior. Again, God has to show him the utter vanity and worthlessness of everything of this world, so that he experiences an acute "thirst" for the Water of Life. He has to be driven to despair, until he is made to wonder whether God can possibly save such a wretch as he. He has to be stript of the filthy rags of his own self-righteousness, and be made willing to come to God just as he is, as an empty-handed beggar ready to receive Divine charity. He has to really come into the presence of Christ and have personal dealings with Him. He has to make definite request for himself. This, in part, is what is involved, before the sinner will "ask." Before we ask, God has to deal with the conscience, enlighten the understanding, subdue the rebellious will, and open the heart, the door of which is fast closed against Himself. All of this is what Christ did with this woman of our lesson. We are not saved because of our seeking; we have to be sought. "And who it is that saith to thee:" notice, particularly, this "who it is," not "what it is" it is not doctrine any more than doing. It is personal dealings with Christ that is needed; with Him who is the Source and Giver of "life."
Attention has often been called to the striking contrast in the manner of our Lord’s speech with Nicodemus and His method of dealing with this poor Samaritan adulteress. The Lord did not deal with souls in any mechanical, stereotyped way, as it is to be feared many Christian-workers do today. No; He dealt with each according to the condition of heart they were in. Christ did not begin with the Gospel when dealing with Nicodemus. Instead, He said, "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." There is no good news in a "ye must be." If a man must be born again, what is he going to do in order that he may be? What does all his past life amount to? no matter how full of deeds of benevolence, acts of kindness, and religious performances. Just nothing: a new beginning has to be made. But not only is an entirely different order of life imperative, but man has to be "born from above." What, then, can the poor sinner do in the matter?’ Nothing, absolutely nothing. To tell a man he "must be born again" is simply a shut door in the face of all fleshly pretentions; and that is precisely what Christ intended with Nicodemus.
But why shut the door before Nicodemus? It was because he belonged to the Pharisees. He was a member of that class, one of whom Christ portrayed as standing in the Temple and saying to God, "I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers," etc. (Luke 18:11 ). Nicodemus was not only a highly respectable and moral man, but he was deeply religious. And what he most needed was just what he heard, for the Lord Jesus never made any mistakes. Nicodemus prided himself upon his respectability and religious standing: evidence of this is seen in his coming to Jesus "by night" he was conscious of how much he risked by this coming; he feared he was endangering his reputation among the people by visiting this Nazarene. Therefore his self-righteousness must be smashed up; his religious pride must be broken down. The force, then, of what our Lord said to this ruler of the Jews was, "Nicodemus, with all your education and reformation, morality and religion, you have not begun to live that life which is pleasing to God, for that you must be born again." And this was simply to prepare the way for the Gospel; to prepare a self-righteous man to receive it.
How entirely different was our Lord’s speech with this woman at the well! To her He never so much as mentions the need for the new birth; instead, He tells her at once of the "gift of God." In the case of this woman there was no legalistic and religious pattern to be swept away. Her moral character and religious standing were already gone. But it was far otherwise with Nicodemus. It is very evident that he felt he had something to stand upon and glory in. What he needed to know was that all of this in which he prided himself was worthless before God. Even though a master of Israel, he was utterly unfit to enter God’s kingdom, and nothing could show him this quicker than for the Lord to say unto him "Ye must be born again."
Do what you will with nature, educate, cultivate, sublimate it as much as you please; raise it to the loftiest pinnacle of the temple of science and philosophy; summon to your aid all the ornaments and ordinances of the legal system, and all the appliances of man’s religion; make vows and resolutions of moral reform; weary yourself out with the monotonous round of religious duties; betake yourself to vigils, fastings, prayers, and alms, and the entire range of "dead works," and after all, yonder Samaritan adulteress is as near to the kingdom of God as you, seeing that you as well as she "must be born again." Neither you nor she has one jot or tittle to present to God, either in the way of title to the kingdom, or of capacity to enjoy it. It is, and must be, all of grace, from beginning to end.
What, then, is the remedy? That to which Christ, at the close, pointed out to Nicodemus: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14 , John 3:15 ). But for whom was this brazen serpent intended? Why, for any bitten creature, just because he was bitten. The wound was the title. The title to what? To look at the serpent. And what then? He that looked, lived. Blessed Gospel, "look and live." True for Nicodemus: true for the woman of Sychar: true for every sinbitten son and daughter of Adam. There is no limit, no restriction. The Son of Man has been lifted up, that whosoever looks to Him, in simple faith, might have what Adam in innocency never possessed, and what the law of Moses never proposed, even "everlasting life."
The Gospel meets men on a common platform. Nicodemus had moral character, social standing, religious reputation; the woman at the well had nothing. Nicodemus was at the top of the social ladder; she was at the bottom. You could hardly get anything higher than a "Master of Israel," and you could scarcely get anything lower than a Samaritan adulteress; yet so far as standing before God, fitness for His holy presence, title to heaven was concerned, they were both on one common level. But how few understand this! So far as standing before God was concerned there was "no difference" between this learned and religious Nicodemus and the wretched woman of Sychar. To Nicodemus Christ said, "Ye must be born again;" this brief statement completely swept away the foundation from under his feet. Nothing less than a new nature was required from him; and nothing more was needed for her. Uncleanness could not enter heaven, nor could Phariseeism. Each must be born again. True, there was a great difference morally and socially between Nicodemus and this woman that goes without saying. No sensible person needs to be told that morality is better than vice, that sobriety is preferable to drunkenness, that it is better to be an honorable man than a thief. But none of these will save, or contribute anything toward the salvation of a sinner. None of these will secure admittance into the kingdom of God. Both Nicodemus and the Samaritan adulteress were dead; there was no more spiritual life in the one than in the other.
"Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." There are some who regard the "living water" here as the Holy Spirit, and there is something to be said in favor of this view; but personally, while not dissenting from it, we think that more is included within the scope of our Lord’s words. We believe the "living water" has reference to salvation, salvation in its widest sense, with all that it embraces. The figure of "water" is most suggestive, and like all others which are found in Scripture calls for prayerful and prolonged meditation in order to discover its fulness and beauty. At least seven lines of thought appear to be suggested by "water" living water as a figure of the salvation which Christ gives.
1. Water is a gift from God. It is something which man, despite all his boasted wisdom, is quite unable to create. For water we are absolutely dependent upon God. It is equally so with His salvation, of which water is here a figure. 2. Water is something which is indispensable to man. It is not a luxury, but a vital necessity. It is that without which man cannot live. It is equally so with God’s salvation apart from it men are eternally lost. 3. Water is that which meets a universal need; it is not merely a local requirement, but a general one. All are in need of water. It is so with God’s salvation. It is not merely some particular class of people, who are more wicked than their fellows, for all who are outside of Christ are lost. 4. Water is that which first descends from the heavens. It is not a product of the earth, but comes down from above. So is it with salvation: it is "of the Lord." 5. Water is a blessed boon: it cools the fevered brow, slakes the thirst, refreshes and satisfies. And so does the salvation which is to be found in Christ. 6. Water is something of which we never tire. Other things satiate us, but not so with water. It is equally true of God’s salvation to the heart of every one who has really received it. 7. Water is strangely and unevenly distributed by God. In some places there is an abundance; in others very little; in others none at all. It is so with God’s salvation. In some nations there are many who have been visited by the Dayspring from on high; in others there are few who have passed from death unto life; while in others there seem to be none at all.
"He would have given thee living water." How blessed this is! The living water is without money and without price: it is a "gift." This gift can be obtained from Christ alone. This gift can be procured from Christ only by asking Him for it. How blessed the gift! How worldrous the Giver! How simple the terms! Here, then, was the Christ of God preaching to this poor fallen woman the Gospel of His grace. Here was the Messiah in Israel winning to Himself a despised Samaritan. This is hardly what we would have looked for. And how the unexpected meets us again and again in these Gospels! How vastly different were things from what We had imagined them! Here was the Son of God, incarnate, born into this world; and where would we expect to find His cradle? Why, surely in Jerusalem, the "city of the great king." Instead, He was born in Bethlehem, which was "little among the thousands in Judah." Yes, born in Bethlehem, and cradled in a manger the very last place we had looked for Him! And for what purpose has He visited this earth? To offer Himself as a sacrifice for sins. To whom shall we go to learn more about this? Surely, to the priests and Levites. Ah, and what do we learn about them in this Gospel? Why, they were the very ones who knew not the One who stood in their midst (John 1:26 ). No, if we would learn about Him who had come to be the great sacrifice, we must turn away from the priests and Levites, and go yonder into the "wilderness" the last place, again, we would think of and listen to that strange character dad in raiment of camel’s hair, with a leathern girdle about his loins; and he would tell us about the Lamb of Cod which taketh away the sin of the world. Once more: suppose it had been worship we had desired to learn about, whither had we betaken ourselves? Why, surely, to the Temple that, of all places, must be where the Lord God is worshipped in the truest form. But again would our quest have been in vain, for the Father’s house was now but "a house of merchandise." Whom had we sought out if instruction in the things of God had been our desire? Why, surely, one of those best qualified to teach us would be Nicodemus, "a Master of Israel." But again would we have met with disappointment.
Now if we would have gone to Nicodemus to learn of the things of God, who among us would have imagined these very truths being revealed by a weary Traveller by one of Samaria’s wells, to an audience of one! Who were the Samaritans to be privileged thus? Should we not expect to find this much favored woman, and a people so highly honored, as being the descendants of some race of age-long seekers after God? Would we not conclude they must be the offspring of men who for long centuries had lived in one continued and supreme endeavor to purge their thoughts and ceremonies from every false and impure admixture? But read again 2 Kings 17:0 for the inspired account of the unlovely origin of the Samaritans. They were two-thirds heathen! Ah! after reading this chapter would we not have expected to find worship in Jerusalem and idolatry in Samaria! Instead of which, we find idolatry in Jerusalem, and (before we are through with John 4:0 ) the true worship in Samaria. And what does all this go to prove? It shows that the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. It demonstrates how utterly incompetent we are for drawing conclusions and reasoning about spiritual things. It exemplifies what was said long ago through Isaiah: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8 ). How foolish are man’s reasonings; how wise God’s "foolishness!"
And here we must stop. In the next lesson we shall continue our study of this wondrous and blessed chapter. In the meantime, let the students prayerfully ponder the following questions:
1. What particular trait of the sinner’s heart is manifested by the woman in the next statement? verse 11. we do not mean her blindness or stupidity.
2. What spiritual truth did she unconsciously voice when she said, "the well is deep"? verse 11.
3. What God-dishonoring principle was enunciated by her in verse 12?
4. To what was Christ referring when He said, "this water"? verse 13.
5. How does verse 14 bring out the eternal security of the believer?
6. What did the woman mean by her words in verse 15?
7. Why did Christ say to her, "Go, call thy husband?" verse 16.
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ at Sychar’s Well (Continued)
In viewing the Savior’s conversation with this Samaritan woman as a sample case of God’s gracious dealings with a sinner, we have seen, thus far: First, that the Lord took the initiative, being the first to speak. Second, that His first word to her was "Give" directing her thoughts at once to grace; and that His next was "me" leading her to be occupied with Himself. Third, that He brings her face to face with her helplessness by asking her for a "drink," which in its deeper meaning, signified that He was seeking her faith and confidence to refresh His spirit. Fourth, this was met by an exhibition of the woman’s prejudice, which, in principle, illustrated the enmity of the carnal mind against God. Fifth, Christ then affirmed that she was ignorant of the way of salvation and of His own Divine glory. Sixth, He referred to eternal life under the expressive figure of "living water." Seventh, He assured her that this living water was offered to her as a "gift," on the condition that she was to "ask" for it, and thus take the place of a receiver. This brief summary brings us to the end of verse 10, and from that point we will now proceed, first presenting an Analysis of the verses which immediately follow:
1. The Woman’s Ignorance, verse 11.
2. The Woman’s Insolence, verse 12.
3. The Savior’s Gracious Promise, verses 13, 14.
4. The Woman’s Prejudice Overcome, verse 15.
5. The Savior’s Arrow for the Conscience, verse 16.
6. The Savior’s Omniscience Displayed, verses 17, 18.
7. The Woman’s Dawning Perception, verse 19.
As we read the first section of this blessed narrative we were struck with the amazing condescension of the Lord of Glory, who so humbled Himself as to converse with this fallen woman of Samaria. Now, as we turn to consider the section which follows, we cannot fail to be impressed with the wondrous patience of the Savior. He had invited this wretched creature to ask from Him, and He promised to give her living water; but instead of promptly closing with His gracious offer, the woman continued to raise objections. But Christ did not turn away in disgust, and leave her to suffer the merited results of her waywardness and stubbornness; He bore with her stupidity, and with Divine long-sufferance wore down her opposition, and won her to Himself.
"The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?" (John 4:11 ). Four things are brought out by this statement. First, her continued blindness to the glory of Him who addressed her. Second, her occupation with material things. Third, her concentration on the means rather than the end. Fourth, her ignorance of the Source of the "living water." Let us briefly consider each of these separately.
In verse 9 we find that this woman referred to Christ as "a Jew." In replying, the Savior reproached her for her ignorance by saying, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him" (verse 10). It is true she had never before met the Lord Jesus, but this did not excuse her. It was because she was blind that she saw in Him no beauty that she should desire Him. And it is only unbelief which prevents the sinner today from recognizing in that One who died upon the cross the Son of God, and the only One who could save him from his sins. And unbelief is not a thing to be pitied, but blamed. But now that Christ had revealed Himself as the One who dispensed the "gift" of God, the Samaritan woman only answered, "Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with!" Poor woman, how little she knew as yet the Divine dignity of that One who had come to seek and to save that which was lost. How complete was her blindness. And how accurately does she picture our state by nature. Exactly the same was our condition when God, in infinite mercy, began His dealings with us our eyes were closed to the perfections of His beloved Son, and "we hid as it were our faces from him."
"Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with." How this shows the trend of her thoughts. Her mind was centered upon wells and buckets! And this, again, illustrates a principle of general application. This woman is still to be viewed as a representative character. Behold in her an accurate portrayal of the sinner, as we see her mind concentrated upon material things. Her mind was occupied with the world its duties and employments and hence she could not rise to any higher thoughts: she could not discern who it was that addressed her, nor what He was offering. And thus it is with all who are of the world: they are kept away from the things of Christ by the things of time and sense. The Devil uses just such things to keep the soul from the Savior. "Let it be what it may, let it be only a waterpot, he cares not, so long as it occupies the mind to the exclusion of the knowledge of Christ. He cares not for the instrument, so long as he gains his own ends, to draw the mind away from the apprehension of spiritual things. It may be pleasure, it may be amusement, gain, reputation, family duties, lawful employments, so that it keeps the soul from fixing on Christ. This is all he wants. A water-pot will serve his purpose, just as well as a palace, so that he can blind them, ‘lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them’" (J. N. Darby, from whom we have extracted other thoughts, embodied in our exposition above and below).
Ah! dear friend, Is there anything which has thus been keeping you away from Christ from seeking His great salvation, and obtaining from Him the "living water?" That thing may be quite innocent and harmless, yea, it may be something praise worthy in itself. Even lawful employments, family duties, may keep a soul from the Savior, and hinder you from receiving His priceless gift. Satan is very subtle in the means he employs to blind the mind. Did you ever notice that in the Parable of the Sower the Lord tells us that the things which "choke the Word" are "the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches" (Matthew 13:22 )?
Should an unsaved soul read these lines we ask you to see yourself in the case of this woman, as far as we have yet considered it. Her thoughts were on the purpose which had brought her to the well a lawful and necessary purpose, no doubt, but one which occupied her mind to the exclusion of the things of Christ! She could think of nothing but wells and buckets she was, therefore, unable to discern the love, the grace, the winsomeness of that blessed One who sought her salvation. And how many a man there is today so busily occupied with making a living for his family, and how many a woman so concerned with the duties of the home lawful and necessary things that Christ and His salvation are crowded out! So it Was with this Samaritan woman. She thought only of her bodily need: her mind was centered on the common round of daily tasks. And thus it is with many another now. They are too busy to take time to study the things of God. They are too much occupied with their "waterpots" to listen to the still small voice of God.
"Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with." These words illustrate another principle which, in its outworkings, stands between many a sinner and salvation. The woman’s mind was centered on means, rather than the end. She was occupied with something to "draw with," rather than with Christ. And how many today are concerned far more with their own efforts and doings than with the Savior Himself. And even where their eyes are not upon their own works, they are frequently turned to the evangelist, or to the ‘inquiry room,’ or ‘the mourner’s bench.’ And where this is not the case, the Devil will get them occupied with their own repentance and faith. Anything, so long as he can keep the poor sinner from looking to Christ alone.
And, too, we may observe how this woman was limiting Christ to the use of means. She supposed He could not provide the "living water" unless He had something to "draw with." And how many imagine they cannot be saved except in some ‘Revival Meetings,’ or at least in a church-house. But when it pleases God to do so, He acts independently of all means (the Word excepted). When He desires to create a world, He speaks and it is done! He rains manna from heaven; furnishes water out of the rock, and supplies honey from the carcass of the lion!
"The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?" She continues to raise objections, and press her questions. No sooner had the Lord answered one than she brings forward another. The Lord had replied to her "How?" by telling of the "gift" of God, the "living water." Now she asks "Whence?" this was to be obtained. She knew not the Source from whence this "living water" proceeded. All she knew was that the well was deep.
"The well is deep." And there is a deep meaning in these words. The well is deep far deeper than our hands can reach down to. From whence then shall man obtain the "living water?" How shall he procure "eternal life?" By keeping the Law? Nay, verily, for "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified" (Romans 3:20 ). Is it by cultivating the best that is within us by nature? No, for "in my flesh dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18 ). Is it by living up to the light we have, and doing the best we know how? No, for we are "without strength" (Romans 5:6 ). What then? Ah! dear reader, listen: This "living water" is not a wage to be earned, a prize to be sought, a crown to be won. No; it is a gift, God’s free gift in Christ: "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23 ); yes; the well is deep. Into awful depths of suffering had the Savior to descend before the life-giving Water could be furnished to sinners.
"Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?" (John 4:12 ). As another has said, "How little she knew, as yet, of the One she was addressing. The well might be deep, but there is something deeper still, even her soul’s deep need; and something deeper than that again, even the grace that had brought Him down from heaven to meet her need. But so little did she know of Him, that she could ask, ‘Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well?’ She knew not that she was speaking to Jacob’s God to the One who had formed Jacob and given him all that he ever possessed. She knew nothing of this. Her eyes were yet closed, and this was the true secret of her ‘How?’ and ‘Whence?’"
How much this explains! When we find people asking questions, unbelieving questions, concerning the things of God, it is a sure sign that they need to have their eyes opened. The rationalist, the critic, and the infidel are blind. It is their very blindness that causes them to ask questions, raise difficulties, and create doubts, They deem themselves very clever, but they do only exhibit their folly. However, in the case of this Samaritan woman her questions proceeded not from a bold infidelity, but from nature’s blindness and ignorance, and therefore the Lord dealt patiently with her. He knew how to silence a rationalist, and ofttimes He dismissed a carping critic in a summary manner. But there were also occasions when, in marvelous condescension and gracious patience, He waited on an ignorant inquirer for the purpose of resolving his difficulties and removing his fears. And thus it was at the well at Sychar. He was not to be put off with her quibbling, nor could He be wearied by her dullness. He bore with her (as He did with each of us) in marvelous longsufferance, and left her not until He had fully met the deep need of her soul by the revelation of Himself.
"Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself?" Once again we may discover here a deeper significance than what appears on the surface. Attention is called to the antiquity of the well from which Jacob and his children drank. Beautiful is the underlying spiritual lesson. The "well" is as old as man the sinner. The salvation of which the "water" of this "well" speaks, had refreshed the hearts of Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham, and all the Old Testament saints. God has had but one way of salvation since sin entered the world. Salvation has always been by grace, through faith, altogether apart from human works. The Gospel is no novelty: it was "preached before unto Abraham" (Galatians 3:8 ). Yea, it was preached to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when, clothing our fallen first parents with coats of skins (Genesis 3:21 ), God made known the fact "without shedding of blood is no remission," and that through the death of an innocent substitute a covering was provided which fitted the guilty and the defiled to stand unabashed in the presence of the thrice holy One, because "accepted in the Beloved."
"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again" (John 4:13 ). The Lord Jesus was not to be put off. He was determined to reveal Himself to this sin-sick soul. "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again." The seat of the "thirst" within man lies too deep for the waters of this earth to quench. The "thirst" of man’s soul is a spiritual one, and that is why material things are unable to slake it. Earth’s deepest well may be fathomed and drained, and the needy soul remain thirsty after all. Men and women may take their fill of pleasure, yet will it fail to satisfy. They may surround themselves with every comfort and luxury that wealth can provide, and the heart still be empty. They may court the honors of the world, and climb to the highest pinnacle of human fame, but the plaudits of men will leave an aching void behind them. They may explore the whole realm of philosophy and science, until they become as wise as Solomon, but like Israel’s king of old, they will discover that all under the sun is only "vanity and vexation of spirit." Over all the wells of this world’s providing must be written, "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again."
This is true not only of the material, the mental, and the social realms, but of the religious, too. Man may awaken within us certain desires, but he cannot satisfy them. Man may exhort and persuade, and we may make resolutions, amend our lives, become very religious, and yet "thirst again." The religious systems of human manufacture hold not the Water of Life. They do but disappoint. Nothing but the "living water" can quench our thirst and satisfy our hearts, and only Christ can give this.
"Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again." What an awful illustration of this is furnished in Luke 16:0 . There the Savior sets before us a man clothed in purple and fine linen, who fared sumptuously every day. He drank deeply of the wells of this passing world; but he thirsted again. O see him, as the Son of God lifts the veil which hides the unseen; see him lifting up his eyes in hell-torments, craving, but craving in vain, a single drop of water to cool his parched tongue. There is not as much as a drop of water in hell! There he thirsts, and the unspeakably dreadful thing is that he will thirst . Fearfully solemn is this for all; but perfectly appalling for the children of ease and luxury, and they who spend their time going from well to well of this world, and giving no serious thought to an eternity of burning in the lake of fire. O that it may please God to cause some such to give these lines a thoughtful consideration, and arrest their attention, and lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Giver of that living water of which whosoever drinketh shall never thirst.
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst" (John 4:14 ). Here is satisfaction to the soul. The one who has asked and received is now satisfied. The Lord goes on to say, "but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." The believer now has a well of living water within, ever fresh, ever flowing, ever springing up toward its native source, for water always seeks its own level. But let us weigh each expression. "Whosoever drinketh." What is drinking? It is ministering to a felt need. It is a personal act of appropriation. It is a taking into myself that which was, previously, without me. "Of the water that I shall give him." This "water" is "eternal life," and this is not bought or won, but is received as a "gift," for the "gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." "Shall never thirst:" here the Lord speaks according to the fulness of the gift bestowed: as to our enjoyment of it, that is conditioned upon the way in which faith maintains us in fellowship with the Giver. "Never thirst" denotes a satisfying portion. "Never thirst" argues the eternal security of the recipient. Were it possible for a believer to forfeit salvation through unworthiness, this verse would not be true, for every lost soul will "thirst," thirst forever in hell. "Shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life": this "gift," this "living water," is a present possession, imparted by grace, and is something within the believer.
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." To borrow again the language of the eloquent Puritan: "Here we labor, but receive no benefit; we sow many times, and reap not; we reap, and we do not gather in; or gather in, and do not possess; or possess and do not enjoy; or if we enjoy, we are still unsatisfied: it is with anguish of spirit and circumstances of vexation. A great heap of riches makes neither our clothes more warm, our meat more nutritive, nor our beverage more palatable. It feeds the eye but never fills it. Like drink to a person suffering from dropsy, it increases the thirst and promotes the torment. But the grace of God fills the furrows of the heart; and, as the capacity increases, it grows itself in equal degrees, and never suffers any emptiness or dissatisfaction, but carries contentment and fulness all the way; and the degrees of augmentation are not steps and near approaches to satisfaction, but increasings of the capacity. The soul is satisfied all the way, and receives more, not because it wanted any, but that it can now hold the more, being become more receptive of felicity; and in every minute of sanctification, there is so excellent a condition of joy that the very calamities, afflictions, and persecutions of the world, are turned into felicities by the activity of the prevailing ingredient: like a drop of water falling into a tun of wine, it is ascribed into a new form, losing its own nature by a conversion in one more noble. These were the waters which were given us to drink, when, with the rod of God, the Rock, Christ Jesus, was smitten. The Spirit of God moves forever upon these waters; and, when the angel of the covenant had stirred the pool, whosoever descends hither shall find health and peace, joys spiritual, and the satisfaction of eternity" (Jeremy Taylor).
"The woman saith unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw" (John 4:15 ). She is still more or less in the dark. The natural mind is occupied with natural things, and it contemplates everything through that medium; it is confined to its own little circle of feelings and ideas; and can neither see nor feel anything beyond it; it lives in its own cramped realm, finds there its own enjoyment and employment, and if left to itself, will live and die there. Poor woman! The Savior of sinners was before her, but she knew Him not. He was speaking words of grace to her, but as yet, she did not fully comprehend. He had asked for a drink, and she had replied with a "How?" He had told her of God’s gift, and she had replied with a "Whence?" He had spoken of an everlasting well, and she seeks only to be spared the trouble of coming hither to draw.
And yet while all that we have just said above is no doubt true, nevertheless, as we take a closer look at this last statement of the woman, we may detect signs more hopeful. Her words afford evidence that the patient dealing of Christ with her was not in vain, yea, that light was beginning to illumine her darkened understanding. Note, she now appropriates His word, and says, "Sir, give me to drink." Relief from daily toil was, no doubt, the thought uppermost in her mind; yet, and mark it well, she was now willing to be indebted to a "Jew" for that! There was still much ignorance; but her prejudice was being overcome; her heart was being won. What, then, is the next step? Why, her conscience must be reached. A sense of need must be created. And how is this accomplished? By a conviction of sin. The first thought in connection with salvation, the prime meaning of the word itself, is that of deliverance from something. Salvation implies danger, and the sinner will not flee to Christ as a Refuge from the wrath to come until a due sense (not merely of wretchedness, but) of guilt is upon him. There can be no blessing till there is conviction and confession of sin. It is not until we discover our case to be truly desperate that we betake ourselves to Christ until then, we attempt to prescribe for ourselves. Herein lies the force of the Savior’s next word.
"Jesus said unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither" (John 4:16 ). It is strange that so many have missed the point of this. A little meditation will surely discern not only the solemnity, but the blessedness, of this word from the Savior, to the woman whose heart was slowly opening to receive Him. It is mainly a matter of finding the proper emphasis. Two things the Lord bade her do: the first was solemn and searching; the second gracious and precious. "Go," He said, "call thy husband" that was a word addressed to her conscience. "And come hither" that was a word for her heart. The force of what He said was this: If you really want this living water of which I have been telling you, you can obtain it only as a poor, convicted, contrite sinner. But not only did He say "Go," but He added "Come." She was not only to go and call her husband, but she was to come back to Christ in her true character. It was a marvelous mingling of "grace" and "truth." Truth for her conscience; grace for her heart. Truth which required her to come out into the light of her proper character, as a self-confessed sinner; grace which invited her to return to the Savior’s side. Well may we admire the wonderful ways of Him "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3 ).
"The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou hast well said I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands: and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly" (John 4:17 , John 4:18 ). How this exhibits the Deity of Christ! He revealed His omniscience. He knew all about this woman her heart, her life, her very thoughts; nothing could be hid from Him. She might be a complete stranger to Him in the flesh, yet was He thoroughly acquainted with her. It was the same with Peter: the Savior knew him thoroughly the first time they met, see John 1:42 and our comments thereon. So, too, He saw Nathanael under the fig tree before he came to Him. And so, dear reader, He knows all about you. Nothing can be concealed from His all-seeing eye. But this will not trouble you if everything has been brought out into the light, and confessed before Him.
"The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet" (John 4:19 ). A "prophet" is God’s spokesman. This poor soul now recognized the voice of God. He had spoken more deeply than any man to her soul. The Divine arrow of conviction had pierced her conscience, and the effect is striking: "I perceive." Her eyes were beginning to open: she sees something. She discovers herself to be in the presence of some mysterious personage whom she owns as God’s spokesman. It was through her conscience the light began to enter! And it is ever thus. O dear reader, have you experienced this for yourself? Has your conscience been in the presence of that Light which makes all things manifest? Have you seen yourself as guilty, undone, lost, Christless, hell-deserving? Has the arrow ever entered your conscience? Christ has various arrows in His quiver. He had an arrow for Nicodemus, and He had an arrow for this adulteress. They were different arrows, but they did their work. "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest" (John 3:21 ) was the arrow for the master in Israel. "Go, call thy husband" was His arrow for this Samaritan woman. The question of sin and righteousness must be settled in the presence of God. Has, then, this vital and all-important matter been settled between your soul and God? If so, you will be able to appreciate the sequel the remainder of this wonderful and blessed narrative.
There is a principle here of great importance to the believer. An exercised conscience precedes intelligence in the things of God. Spiritual illumination comes through the heart more than through the mind. They who are most anxious to have a better understanding of the Holy Oracles need to pray earnestly for God to put His fear upon them, that they may be more careful in avoiding the things that displease Him. One of our deepest needs is a more sensitive conscience. In Hebrews 5:11-13 we read of those who were "dull of hearing" and incapacitated to receive the deeper things of God. "Dullness of hearing" does not mean they were suffering from a stupefied mind, but rather from a calloused conscience. The last verse of Hebrews 5:0 speaks of those who were qualified to receive the deeper truths: "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Thus. it was for our learning that we are shown that perception spiritual things came to the Samaritan woman through, and as the result of, a conscience active in the presence of God.
As preparation for the next lesson we ask the interested reader to ponder the following questions:
1. What is signified by "salvation is of the Jews"? verse 22.
2. What is meant by worshipping "in spirit and in truth"? verse 24.
3. Make a careful study of passages both in the Old and New Testaments which speak of "worship."
4. What is implied by the woman’s words in verse 25?
5. What constrained the disciples to remain silent? verse 27.
6. What is the force of the "then" in verse 28?
7. What principle is illustrated by the woman leaving her waterpot?
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ at Sychar’s Well (Concluded)
In the last chapter we continued our exposition of John 4:0 down to the end of verse 19. It is of surpassing interest to follow the course of the Savior’s dealings with the poor Samaritan adulteress the Divine patience, the infinite grace and tenderness, the faithful application of the truth to her heart and conscience. We have been struck, too, with the expose of human depravity which this instance furnishes: not simply with the dissolute life of the woman, but with her prejudice, her stupidity, her occupation with material things, her procrastination all so many exhibitions of what is in us by nature: "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man" (Proverbs 27:19 .) In the attitude of this sinner toward Christ we see an accurate portrayal of our own past history. Let us now resume at the point where we left off in our last.
We append an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. The place of worship, verses 20, 21.
2. Worshippers sought by the Father, verses 22, 23.
3. The character of acceptable worship, verse 24.
4. The woman’s desire for Christ, verse 25.
5. Christ fully reveals Himself, verse 26.
6. The disciples’ surprise and silence, verse 27.
7. The gratitude and zeal of a saved soul, verses 28-30.
"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" (John 4:20 ). This woman was not regenerated, though she was on the very eve of being so. She was at that point where it is always very difficult (if not impossible) for us to determine on which side of the line a person stands. Regeneration is an instantaneous act and experience, but preceding it there is a process, sometimes brief, usually more or less protracted. During this process or transitional stage there is a continual conflict between the light and the darkness, and nothing is very clearly defined. There is that which is the fruit of the Spirit’s operations, and there is that which springs from the activities of the flesh. We may detect both of these at this point in John 4:0 .
In the previous verse the woman had said, "Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet." This evidenced the fact that light was beginning to illumine her understanding: there was the dawning of spiritual intelligence. But immediately following this we discover the workings of the flesh "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Here was the enmity of the carnal mind showing itself again. It was a return to the old prejudice, which was voiced at the commencement of conversation see verse 9. The subject of where to worship was one of the leading points of contention between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Lord had introduced a very disquieting theme. He had spoken directly to her conscience; He had been convicting of Sin. And when a sinner’s conscience is disturbed, instinctively he seeks to throw it off. He endeavors to turn aside the sharp point of the accusing shaft, by occupying his mind with other things.
There is little doubt that this woman raised the subject of worship at this stage for the purpose of diverting a theme of conversation which was far from agreeable or creditable to her. "Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet," she had said, and so, glad of an opportunity to shift the discourse from a subject so painful, she introduces the great point of controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans, that she might hear His opinion respecting it. And, too, this woman was really interested in the friendly advances of this mysterious Stranger who had spoken to her so graciously and yet so searchingly: and doubtless she was anxious to know how He would decide the age-long dispute. It is no uncommon thing for persons living in sin, not merely to pretend, but really to have an interest in, and a zeal for, what they term ‘religion.’ Speculation about points in theology is frequently found in unnatural union with habitual neglect of moral duty. Ofttimes a sinner seeks protection from shafts of conviction which follow the plain violation of the law of God, by discussions respecting orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Ah! "who can understand the errors" of that deceitful and desperately wicked thing, the human heart!
In this question of the woman we may discover an underlying principle of general application. Her conscience had been exercised over sin, in the presence of God, and the effect upon her, as upon most quickened souls, was to be concerned with the matter of "worship" where to worship is the question which now engages the attention. Really, it is only self again in one of its ten thousand forms. First the sinner is conscious of his prejudice; then he is occupied with his sins; then he turns to his own repentance and faith; and then where to worship anything but Christ Himself! So it was with this woman here. The Lord had pointed out what it was that kept her from asking for the "gift of God," namely, ignorance. True, she was clear on some points. She was versed in the contention between the Jews and the Samaritans; she had been instructed in the difference between Jerusalem and Gerizim; she knew all about "father Jacob." But there were two things she did not know: "The gift of God" and "who it was that was speaking to her." As yet she knew not Christ as the all-sufficient Savior for lost sinners. Her mind was engaged with the problem of where to worship.
Was it not thus with most of us? Following our first awakening, were we not considerably exercised over the conflicting claims of the churches and denominations? Where ought I to worship? Which denomination shall I join? In which church shall I seek membership? Which is the most scriptural of the different sects? These are questions which the majority of us faced, and probably many sought the solution of these problems long before they had found rest in the finished work of Christ. After all it was only another ‘refuge’ in which we sought shelter from the accusing voice which was convicting us of our lost condition.
"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" some worship here; some worship there; where ought we to worship? Important as this question is, it is not one to be discussed by a convicted sinner. The all-important thing for him is to find himself in the presence of the revealed Savior. Let this be deeply pondered, clearly understood, and carefully borne in mind. "A convicted sinner can never become a devoted saint, until he finds his happy place at the feet of a revealed Savior" (C. H. M.). Irreparable damage has been done to souls by occupying them with churches and denominations, instead of with a Savior-God. If the sinner joins a church before he has received Christ he is in greater danger than he was previously. The church can neither save nor help to save. Many regard the church as a stepping stone to Christ, and frequently they find it but a stumbling-stone away from Christ. No stepping stones to Christ are needed. He has come all the way from heaven to earth, and is so near to us that no stepping stones are required. Mark how strikingly this is illustrated in one of the Old Testament types:
"An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone; for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon" (Exodus 20:24-26 ). It is to be noted that these instructions concerning "the altar" follow immediately on the giving of the Law, for it foreshadowed that which was to succeed the Legal dispensation, namely, the Cross of Christ, on which the great Sacrifice was offered. Note also it was expressly prohibited that the altar of stone should not be built from hewn stones. The stones must have no human tools lifted up upon them; no human labor should enter into their preparation. Neither were there to be any steps up to God’s altar. Any attempt to climb up to God will only expose our shame. Indeed, steps up are not necessary for us, for the Lord Jesus took all the steps down to where we lay in our guilt and helplessness.
What stepping-stone did this woman of Samaria require? None at all, for Christ was there by her side, though she knew Him not. He was patiently dislodging her from every refuge in which she sought to take shelter. He was seeking to bring her to the realization that she was a great sinner, and He a great Savior, come down here in marvelous grace to save her, not only from the guilt and penalty of sin, but also from its dominion and power. What could "this mountain," or that "Jerusalem" do for her? Was it not obvious that a prior question, of paramount importance, claimed her serious attention, namely, What she was to do with her sins? how she was to be saved? What relief could places of worship afford her burdened heart and guilty conscience? Could she find salvation in Gerizim? Could she procure peace in Jerusalem’s temple? Could she worship the Father in spirit and in truth in either the one or the other? Was it not plain that she needed salvation before she could worship anywhere?
"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father" (John 4:21 ). The Lord turned her attention to a subject of infinitely greater importance than the place of worship, even the nature of acceptable worship; assuring her that the time was at hand when controversies respecting the place of worship would be obsolete. "The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father." The meaning of this evidently is that "The time is just at hand when the public worship of God the Father should not be confined to any one place, and when the controversy as to whether Jerusalem or Gerizim had the better claim to that honor would be superceded."
"Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22 ). Here we see ‘truth’ mingling with ‘grace.’ Christ not only dealt in faithfulness. He was, and is, "the faithful and true witness." The Lord, in a very brief word, settled the disputed point the Samaritans were wrong, the Jews right; the former were ignorant, the latter well instructed. Christ then added a reason to what He had just said "for salvation is of the Jews." We take it that "salvation" here is equivalent to "the Savior," that is, the Messiah. In this way was the word used by Simeon "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation" (Luke 2:29 , Luke 2:30 ). So, too, the word was used by John the Baptist, "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3:6 ). The force then of Christ’s declaration was this: The Savior, the Messiah, is to arise from among the Jews, and therefore the true worship of Jehovah is to be found among them.
It may be inquired, Why should the Lord Jesus refer to Himself under the impersonal word "salvation"? A moment’s reflection will show the propriety of it. Christ was continuing to press upon this woman the fact that she was a sinner, and therefore it was useless to occupy her mind with questions about places of worship. What she needed was salvation, and this salvation could only be had through the knowledge of God revealed as Father, in the face of Jesus Christ. Such is the ground, and the only ground, of true spiritual worship. In order to worship the Father we must know Him; and to know Him is salvation, and salvation is eternal life.
What a lesson is there here for every Christian worker respecting the manner to deal with anxious souls. When we are speaking to such, let us not occupy them with questions about sects and parties, churches and denominations, creeds and confessions. It is positively cruel to do so. What they need is salvation to know God, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us shut them up to this one thing, and refuse to discuss anything else with them until they have received the Savior. Questions about church membership, the ordinances, etc., have their place and interest; but manifestly they are not for convicted sinners. Too many are so foolishly anxious to swell the ranks of their party, that they are in grave danger of thinking more about getting people to join them than they are about leading anxious souls simply and fully to Christ. Let us study diligently the example of the perfect Teacher in His dealings with the woman of Sychar.
"But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him" (John 4:23 ). Here is the point which the Lord now presses upon this anxious soul. A new order of things was about to be established, and under it God would be manifested not as Jehovah (the covenant-keeping God) but as "the Father," and then the great question would not be where to worship, but how. Then the worshipper at Jerusalem will not be accounted the true worshipper because he worships there, nor the worshipper at Gerizim the false worshipper because he worships there; the one who worships in spirit and in truth, no matter where he may worship, he and he alone is the genuine worshipper.
To "worship in spirit," is to worship spiritually; to "worship in truth," is to worship truly. They are not two different kinds of worship, but two aspects of the same worship. To worship spiritually is the opposite of mere external rites which pertained to the flesh; instead, it is to give to God the homage of an enlightened mind and an affectionate heart. To worship Him truly is to worship Him according to the Truth, in a manner suited to the revelation He has made of Himself; and, no doubt, it also carries with it the force of worshipping truly, not in pretense, but sincerely. Such, and such alone, are the acceptable worshippers.
"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24 ). This is a most important verse and treats of a most important but sadly misunderstood subject, namely, that of worship. Much of that which is termed "worship’ today is fleshly rather than spiritual, and is external and spectacular, rather than internal and reverential. What are all the ornate decorations in our church-houses for? the stained glass windows, the costly hangings and fittings, the expensive organs! But people at once reply, ‘But God’s house must be beautiful, and He surely loves to have it so.’ But why will not such objectors be honest, and say, ‘We love to have it so, and therefore, God should too’? Here, as everywhere else, God’s thoughts are entirely different from man’s. Look at the tabernacle which was made according to the pattern which Jehovah Himself showed to Moses in the mount! ‘Yes,’ people reply, ‘but look at Solomon’s temple!’ Ah, Solomon’s, truly. But look at it, and what do we see? Not one stone left upon another! Ah, dear reader, have you ever stopped to think what the future holds for this world and all its imposing structures? The world, and all that is therein, will be burned up! Not only the saloons and the picture shows, but also its magnificent cathedrals and stately churches, erected at enormous expense, while half of the human race was hastening to the Lake of Fire without any knowledge of Christ! Does this burning up of them look as though God esteemed them very highly? And if His people pondered this, would they be so ready to put so much of their money into them? After all, is it not the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye denominational pride which lies behind it all?
"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." Note how emphatic this is MUST. There is no alternative, no choice in the matter. This must is final. There are three "musts" in this Gospel, equally important and unequivocal. In John 3:7 we read, "Ye must be born again." In John 3:14 , "The Son of man must be lifted up." In John 4:24 , "God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth." It is indeed striking to observe that the first of these has reference to the work of God the Spirit, for He is the One who effects the new birth. The second "must" has reference to God the Son, for He was the One who had to die in order for atonement to be made. The third "must" respects God the Father, for He is the object of worship, the One who "seeketh" worshippers. And this order cannot be changed. It is only they who have been regenerated by God the Spirit, and justified by the Atonement of God the Son, who can worship God the Father. "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 15:8 ).
What is worship? We answer: First, it is the action of the new nature seeking, as the sparks fly upward, to return to the Divine and heavenly source from which it came. Worship is one of the three great marks which evidences the presence of the new nature "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3 ) in the Greek there is no article before "spirit" or flesh;" the spirit refers to the new nature, which is born of the Spirit.
In the second place, worship is the activity of a redeemed people. Israel did not worship Jehovah in Egypt; there they could only "sigh," and "cry," and "groan" (see Exodus 2:23 , Exodus 2:24 ). It was not until Israel had passed through the Red Sea that we are told "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord" (Exodus 15:1 ); and note, this was the Song of Redemption the words "redeemed" and "redemption" are not found in Scripture until this chapter is reached: see verse 13.
In the third place, worship proceeds from the heart. "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me" (Matthew 15:8 , Matthew 15:9 ). Worship is a redeemed heart occupied with God, expressing itself in adoration and thanksgiving. Read through the Redemption Song, expression of Israel’s worship, in Exodus 15:0 , and notice the frequent repetition of "Thou," "Thee," and "He." Worship, then, is the occupation of the heart with a known God; and everything which attracts the flesh and its senses, detracts from real worship.
"God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." There is no choice in the matter. This emphatic "must" bars out everything which is of the flesh. Worship is not by the eyes or the ears, but "in spirit," that is, from the new nature. The more spiritual is our worship the less formal and the less attractive to the flesh will it be. O how far astray we have gone! Modern "worship" (?) is chiefly designed to render it pleasing to the flesh: a ‘bright and attractive service’, with beautiful surroundings, sensuous music, and entertaining talks. What a mockery and a blasphemy! O that we all would heed that pointed word in Psalms 89:7 ; "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him" how different things would then be.
Is a choir needed to ‘lead’ worship? What choir was needed to aid the Savior and His apostles as they sung that hymn in the upper room, ere going forth into the Garden? (Matthew 26:30 ). What choir was needed to assist the apostles, as with bleeding backs they sang praises to God in the Philippian dungeon? Singing to be acceptable to God must come from the heart. And to whom do the choirs sing to God, or to the people? The attractiveness of singing has been substituted for "the foolishness of preaching." The place which music now holds in many of our public services is a solemn "sign of the times" to those who have eyes to see. But is music wrong? Has not God Himself bestowed the gift? Surely, but what we are now complaining about is church-singing that is professional and spectacular, that which is of the flesh, and rendered to please the ear of man. The only music which ever passes beyond the roof of the church in which it is rendered is that which issues from born again people, who "sing with grace in their hearts unto the Lord."
"God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." We must worship "in spirit," and not merely with the physical senses. We cannot worship by admiring grand architecture, by listening to the peals of a costly organ or the anthems of a highly trained choir. We cannot worship by gazing at pictures, smelling of incense, counting of beads. We cannot worship with our eyes or ears, noses or hands, for they are all "flesh," and not "spirit." Moreover, spiritual worship must be distinguished sharply from soulical worship, though there are few today who discriminate between them. Much, very much, of our modern so-called worship is soulical, that is, emotional. Music which makes one "feel good," touching anecdotes which draw tears, the magic oratory of a speaker which thrills his hearers, the clever showmanship of professional evangelists and singers who aim to ‘produce an atmosphere’ for worship (?) and which are designed to move the varied emotions of those in attendance, are so many examples of what is soulical and not spiritual at all. True worship, spiritual worship, is decorous, quiet, reverential, occupying the worshipper with God Himself; and the effect is to leave him not with a nervous headache (the inevitable reaction from the high tension produced by soulical activities) but with a peaceful heart and a rejoicing spirit.
"The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things" (John 4:25 ). Here is the Savior’s reward for His gracious patience in dealing with this woman. Slowly but surely the Word had done its work. At last this poor soul has been driven from every false refuge, and now she is ready for a revealed Savior. She is through with her prevarication and procrastinations. She had asked "How?", and Christ had graciously answered her. She had inquired "Whence?", and had received a kindly reply. She had said, "Where?", and this difficulty had been disposed of too. And now her questions ceased. She speaks with greater confidence and assurance ‘I know that Messias cometh." This was tantamount to saying, "I want Christ."
"Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he" (John 4:26 ). For the seventh and last time (in this interview) the Lord addressed this soul whose salvation He sought and won. The moment the Samaritan woman expressed her desire for Christ, He answers, "You have Him; He is now speaking to you." Nothing more was needed. The Savior of sinners stood revealed. That was enough. All was settled now. "It was not a mount nor a temple; Samaria nor Jerusalem. She had found Jesus a Savior God. A detected sinner and a revealed Savior have met face to face, and all is settled, once and forever. She discovered the wonderful fact that the One who had asked her for a drink, knew all about her could tell her all that ever she did, and yet He talked to her of salvation. What more did she want? Nothing" (C. H. M.).
"And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her?" (John 4:27 ). Once again we may discern the providential dealings of God, regulating and directing the slightest movements of His creatures. These disciples of Christ left the Savior seated on the well, while they went into the city to buy meat (verse 8). Had they remained they would only have been in the way. The Lord desired to have this woman alone with Himself. His purpose in this had now been accomplished. Grace had achieved a glorious victory. Another brand had been plucked from the burning. The poor Samaritan adulteress had now been brought out of sin’s darkness into God’s marvelous light. The woman had plainly expressed her desire for the Christ to appear, and the Lord had revealed Himself to her. "And upon this came His disciples." Though they had not been permitted to hear what had been said between Christ and this woman, they returned in time to witness the happy finale. They needed to be taught a lesson. They must learn that the saving grace of God was not limited to Israel, that it was reaching out to sinners of the Gentiles, too. They "marvelled" as they beheld their Master talking to this despised Samaritan, but they held their peace. A Divine constraint arrested them. None of them dared to ask Him a question at that moment.
"The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city" (John 4:28 ). Here is the blessed climax. The patient work of the condescending Savior was now rewarded. The darkness was dissipated: "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6 ) now shone into the heart of this believing sinner. Four times had this woman referred directly to herself, and it is striking to note the contents and order of her respective statements. First, she acknowledged her thirst "Give me this water that (in order that) I thirst not" (verse 15). Second, she confessed her sin "I have no husband" (verse 17). Third, she evidenced a dawning intelligence "I perceive" (v. 19). Fourth, she avowed her faith "I know that Messias cometh" (v. 25). Finally, she leaves her waterpot and goes forth to testify of Christ.
"The woman then left her waterpot and went her way into the city." Notice carefully the word "then," which is parallel with the "upon this" of the previous verse. Both look back to what is recorded in verse 26 "Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am." It will be noted that the final word of this verse is in italics, which signifies there is no corresponding word in the Greek. Omitting the word "he" the verse as it reads in the A.V. is unintelligible. We are satisfied that the correct reading would give "Jesus saith unto her, I am that speaketh unto thee." It was the enunciation of the sacred "I am" title of Jehovah (see Exodus 3:14 ); it was the solemn affirmation that God was addressing her soul. It is a parallel utterance to John 8:58 . The pronunciation of this ineffable Name was attended with awe-inspiring effects (cf. John 18:6 ). This explains, here, the silence of the disciples who marvelled when they found their Master talking with the woman, but asked Him no question. It accounts for that Divine constraint resting upon them. Moreover, it gives added force and significance to what we read of in verse 28 "The woman then left her waterpot." The weary Traveller by the well stood revealed as God manifest in flesh.
"The woman then left her waterpot." Ah, was not that a lovely sequel! She "left her waterpot" because she had now found a well of "living water." She had come to the well for literal water; that was what she had desired, and on what her mind was set. But now that she had obtained salvation, she thought no more of her "waterpot." It is ever thus. Once there is a clear perception of Christ to the soul, once He is known and received as a personal Savior, there will be a turning away from that on which before the carnal mind was centered. Her mind was now stayed upon Christ, and she had no thought of well, water, or waterpot. The Messias’ glory was now her end and aim. Henceforth, "for me to live is Christ" was her object and goal. She knew the Messiah now, not from hearsay, but from the personal revelation of Himself, and immediately she began to proclaim Him to others.
"And went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:28 , John 4:29 ). How beautiful! Transformed from a convicted sinner into a devoted saint. The work had been thorough nothing could be put to it, nor anything taken from it: because God had done it (Ecclesiastes 3:14 ). There was no placing this woman on probation. There was no telling her she must hold out faithful to the end if she would be saved wretched perversion of men! No; she was saved; saved for all eternity. Saved by grace through faith, apart from any works of her own. And now that she is saved, she wants to tell others of the Savior she had found. The love of Christ constrained her. She now had His nature within her, and therefore has she a heart of compassion of the lost.
"Christian reader, be this our work, henceforth. May our grand object be to invite sinners to come to Jesus. This woman began at once. No sooner had she found Christ for herself, than she forthwith entered upon the blessed work of leading others to His feet. Let us go and do likewise. Let us by word and deed ‘by all means,’ as the apostle says seek to gather as many as possible around the Person of the Son of God. Some of us have to judge ourselves for lukewarmness in this blessed work. We see souls rushing along the broad and well-trodden highway that leadeth to eternal perdition, and yet, how little are we moved by the sight! How slow are we to sound in their ears, that true, that proper Gospel note, ‘Come!’ O, for more zeal, more energy, more fervor! May the Lord grant us such a deep sense of the value of immortal souls, the preciousness of Christ, and the awful solemnity of eternity, as shall constrain us to more urgent and faithful dealing with the souls of men" (C. H. M.).
"And saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? . . . Come" was the word of invitation that this newly-born soul extended to those men. It was a word she had learned from Christ’s own lips (verse 16). It is the great word of the Gospel. It is the word which has resulted in peace to countless hearts. The last recorded words of this woman show her now as an active servant for Christ. It is remarkable to find that this final word of the woman was her seventh the perfect number. Seven times, no more and no less, had Christ spoken to her telling of the perfectness of His work in dealing with her. Six times she spoke to Him (the number of man in the flesh) before she was fully saved; and then to this is added the last recorded word when she went forth to tell others of the One who had saved her; making seven in all this last one, the seventh, evidencing the perfect work which Christ had wrought in her!
Our next lesson will be devoted to John 4:31-42 . Let the interested reader study the following questions:
1. What is the central theme of verses 31-42?
2. What does verse 31 reveal to us about the disciples?
3. What did Christ mean when He said that doing the will of God provided Him with "meat to eat"? verses 32, 34.
4. What "work" of the Father did Christ "finish"? verse 34.
5. In applying what is said in verse 38 to ourselves what should be the true effect upon us?
6. What does "the Savior of the world" signify? verse 42.
Exposition of the Gospel of John
CHRIST IN SAMARIA
We begin with the usual Analysis of the passage which is to be before us. In it we see:
1. The Disciples’ Solicitude, verse 31.
2. The Disciples’ Ignorance, verse 32.
3. The Disciples Instructed, verses 34-38.
4. The Samaritan Converts, verse 39.
5. The Samaritan’s Request, verse 40.
6. The Samaritan Converts added unto, verse 41.
7. The Samaritan’s Confession, verse 42.
Verses 31-38 form a parenthesis and tell us something of what transpired during the interval that followed the woman’s leaving the well and the Samaritans coming to Christ because of her testimony to Him. They record a conversation which took place between the Lord and His disciples. The disciples, it will be remembered, had "gone away unto the city to buy meat," and had returned from their quest, to find their Master engaged in conversation with a woman of Samaria. They had marvelled at this, but none had interrogated Him on the matter. As they had heard the Savior pronounce the ineffable "I am" title (verse 26), a Divine restraint had fallen upon them. But now the interview between the Lord Jesus and the Samaritan harlot was over. Grace had won a glorious victory. A sinner had been brought out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and in consequence, had gone forth to tell others the good news which meant so much to her own heart.
Once more the Savior was left alone with His disciples. They had returned in time to hear His closing words with the woman’, and had seen the summary effect they had on her. They had witnessed that which should have corrected and enlarged their cramped vision. They had been shown that whatever justification there might have been in the past for the Jews to have "no dealings with the Samaritans," this no longer held good. The Son of God had come to earth, "full of grace and truth," and the glad tidings concerning Him must be proclaimed to all people. This was a hard lesson for these Jewish disciples, but with infinite patience the Lord bore with their spiritual dullness. In what follows we have a passage of great practical importance, which contains some weighty truths upon service.
"In the meanwhile His disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat" (John 4:31 ). A little earlier in the day the disciples had left their Master sitting on the well, wearied from the long journey. Accordingly, they had procured some food, and had returned to Him with it. But He evidenced no desire for it. Instead of finding Christ weary and faint, they discovered Him to be full of renewed energy. He had received refreshment which they knew not of. This they could not understand, and so they begged Him to eat of that which they had brought Him. Their request was a kindly one. Their appeal to Him was well meant. But it was merely the amiability of the flesh. The ‘milk of human kindness’ must not be mistaken for the fruit of the Spirit. Sentimentality is not spirituality.
"But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of" (John 4:32 ). This was scarcely a rebuke: it was more a word of instruction for their enlightenment. Their minds were upon material things; the Lord speaks of that which is spiritual. "Meat" was used as a figurative expression for that which satisfied. Christ’s heart had been fed. His spirit had been invigorated. What it was that had refreshed Him we learn from His next utterance. It was something the disciples "knew not of." Not yet had they discovered that the one who gives out of the things of God is also a receiver. In dispensing spiritual blessing to others, one is blest himself. Peace and joy are a part of the reward which comes to him who does the will of God. The obedient servant has "meat to eat" that those not engaged in service know nothing about. These, and other principles of service, were what the Lord would now press upon His disciples.
"Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?" (John 4:33 ). This confirmed what Christ had just said: disciples of His they might be, but as yet they were very ignorant about spiritual things. Their minds evidently dwelt more upon material things, than the things of God. They knew very little about the relation of Christ to the Father: their thoughts turned at once to the question as to whether or not any man had "brought him ought to eat." Even good men are sometimes very ignorant; yea, the best of men are, until taught of God. "How dull and thick brained are the best, ‘till God rend the veil, and enlighten both the organ and the object" (John Trapp, 1650, A.D.). But let us not smile at the dullness of those disciples; instead, see in them an exhibition of our own spiritual stupidity, and need of being taught of God.
"Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work" (John 4:34 ). What did Christ mean? In what sense is doing the will of God "meat" to one who performs it? What is the Father’s "work?" And how was Christ "finishing" it? The answer to those questions must be sought in the setting of our verse, noting its connection with what has gone before and what follows. We must first ascertain the leading subject of the passage of which this verse forms a part.
As we proceed with our examination of the passage it will become more and more evident that its leading subject is service. The Lord was giving needed instruction to His disciples, and preparing them for their future work. He sets before them a concise yet remarkably complete outline of the fundamental principles which underlie all acceptable service for God. The all-important and basic principle is that of absolute obedience to the will of God. The servant must do the will of his master. This the perfect Servant Himself exemplified. Note how He refers to God. He does not say here, "My meat is to do the will of the Father," but "the will of Him that sent me." That shows it is service which is in view.
Now what was "the will" of the One who had sent Christ into the world? Was it not to deliver certain captives from the hands of the Devil and bring them from death unto life? If there is any doubt at all on the point John 6:38 and 39 at once removes it "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." This at once helps us to define the Father’s "work" "and finish his work, which must not be confounded with the work that was peculiarly the Son’s: though closely related, they were quite distinct. The "will" of the Father was that all those He had "given" to the Son should be saved; His "work" had been in appointing them unto salvation. "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:9 ). Appointment unto salvation (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:13 ) is peculiarly the work of the Father; the actual saving of those appointed is the work of the Son, and in the saving of God’s elect the Son finishes the "work" of the Father. An individual example of this had just been furnished in the case of the Samaritan woman, and others were about to follow in the "many" who should believe on Him because of her testimony (verse 39), and the "many more" who would believe because of His own word (verse 41).
How all this casts its own clear light on John 5:4 of this fourth chapter, and explains to us the force of the "must" here The Lord had not journeyed to Samaria to gratify His own desire, for "he pleased not himself." In infinite grace the Son of God had condescended to lay aside (temporarily) His glory and stooped to the place of a Servant; and in service, as in everything else, He is our great Exemplar. He shows us how to serve, and the first great principle which comes out here is that joy of heart, satisfaction of soul, sustenance of spirit "meat" is to be found in doing the will, performing the pleasure, of the One who sends forth. Here, then, the perfect Servant tells us what true service is the simple and faithful performance of that which has been marked out for us by God. Our "meat" the sustenance of the laborers heart, the joy of his soul is not to be sought in results (the "increase") but in doing the will of Him that sent us forth. That was Christ’s meat, and it must be ours, too. This was the first lesson, the Lord here teaches His disciples about Service. And it is the first thing which each of us who are His servants now, need to take to heart.
"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35 ). It is very evident that it is the subject of Service which is still before us, and the principle enunciated in this verse is easily perceived. However, let us first endeavor to arrive at the local force of these words, and their particular significance to the disciples, before we reduce them to a principle of application to ourselves.
"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest." There is no need to conclude that the disciples had been discussing among themselves the condition of the fields through which they had walked on their way to the city to buy meat; though they may have done so. Rather does it seem to us that the Lord continued to instruct His disciples in figurative language. There seems no doubt that the Savior had in mind the spiritual state of the Samaritans and the estimate formed of them by His disciples. Possibly the Samaritans who had listened to the striking testimony of the woman now saved were on their way toward the well, though yet some considerable distance away, and pointing to them the Savior said to the disciples, "Lift up your eyes" and behold their state.
"Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." This was plainly a rebuke. The disciples regarded Samaria as a most unlikely field to work in; at best much sowing would be required, and then a long wait, before any ripened grain could be expected. They never dreamed of telling them that the Messiah was just outside their gates! Must they not have hung their heads in shame when they discovered how much more faithful and zealous had been this woman than they? Here, then, is a further reason why Christ "must needs go through Samaria" to teach His disciples a much needed missionary lesson.
What, now, is the application to us of the principle contained in this verse? Surely it is this: we must not judge by appearances. Ofttimes we regard certain ones as hopeless cases, and are tempted to think it would be useless to speak to them about Christ. Yet we never know what seeds of Truth may have been lodged in their hearts by the labors of other sowers. We never know what influences may be working: ofttimes those who seem to us the most unlikely cases, when put to the test are the most ready to hear of the Savior. We cannot tell how many months there are to harvest!
"And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together" (John 4:36 ). If the previous verse contained a rebuke, here was a word to encourage. "He that reapeth receiveth wages" seems to mean, This is a work in which it is indeed a privilege to be engaged, for the laborer receives a glorious reward, inasmuch as he "gathereth fruit unto life eternal." The reward is an eternal one, for not only do those saved through the labors of the reaper receive eternal life, but because of this the joy of both will be eternal too. "That both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." The sower may have labored hard toward the salvation of souls, and yet never be permitted to witness in this life the success which God gave to his efforts. The reaper, however, does witness the ingathering; nevertheless, both sower and reaper shall rejoice together in the everlasting salvation of those garnered through their joint efforts.
"And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth" (John 4:37 ). There is a timely warning here. To "reap" is not everything, blessed as the experience is: to "sow" is equally important. The bountiful crop garnered at Sychar was, under God, the result of the labors of earlier sowers. These Samaritans were already informed about the appearing of the Messiah, and for this knowledge they were indebted to the faithful ministry of earlier servants of God. That one sows and another reaps had been exemplified in the case of the converted adulteress. Christ had met the need which the testimony of the prophets had awakened within her.
How gracious of the Lord to recognize and own the labors of those earlier sowers! Apparently their work had counted for little. They had sown the seed, yet seemingly the ground on which it had fallen was very unpromising. But now, under the beneficent influence of the Sun of righteousness came the harvest, and the Lord is not slack to remind His disciples of their indebtedness to the labors of those who had gone before. Doubtless, Philip would recall these words of Christ in a coming day (see Acts 8:0 ). And what comfort is there here for the sower today! His labors may seem to go for nothing, but if he is diligent in sowing the proper "seed," let him know that sooner or later all faithful service is rewarded. He may not "reap," but "another" will "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58 ).
"I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor: other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors" (John 4:38 ). There is no doubt a historical reference here which points us back to what is recorded in Matthew 10:0 , from which we learn that the Lord had sent forth the twelve apostles to "preach," and to "heal the sick" (verses 7, 8.). This was in Judea, and the success of their labors is indicated in John 4:1 , John 4:2 they had made and baptized many disciples. One can imagine the elation of the disciples over their success, and it was to repress their vanity that Christ here says to them, "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor: other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors." He reminds them that they had prospered because others had labored before them. It was a word encouraging to the sower, sobering to the reaper. We may observe, in passing, that when the Lord sends us forth to "reap," He directs us to fields which have already been sown. It should also be noted that the toil of the sower is more arduous than that of the reaper: when Christ says, "Other men labored, and ye (the reapers) are entered into their (the sowers’) labors" He used a word which signified "to toil to the point of exhaustion," indeed it is the same word which is used of the Savior at the beginning of this chapter, when we read, "Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey." Luther was wont to say, "The ministry is not an idle man’s occupation." Alas that so often it degenerates into such.
Sowing and reaping are two distinct departments of Gospel ministry, and spiritual discernment (wisdom from God) is requisite to see which is the more needed in a given place. "To have commenced sowing at Sychar would have indicated a want of discernment as to the condition of souls in that city. To have concluded from their success at Sychar, that all Samaria was ready to receive the Lord, would have been manifestly erroneous, as the treatment He met with in one of the villages of Samaria at a later period in His life clearly demonstrates. This, surely, can speak to us, where sowing and reaping may go on almost side by side. The work in one place is no criterion of what that in another place should be; nor does it follow, that the laborer, highly blessed in one locality, has only to move to another, to find that field also quite ready for his reaping-hook" (C. E. Stuart).
"And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did" (John 4:39 ). At first glance it looks as though this verse introduces a change of subject, yet really it is not so. This verse, as also the two following, enunciates and illustrates other principles of service. In the first place, we are shown how that God is pleased to use feeble messengers to accomplish mighty ends. Frequently He employs weak instruments to make manifest His own mighty power. In this, as in everything else, the Lord’s thoughts and ways are very different from ours. He employed a shepherd lad to vanquish the mighty Goliath. He endowed a Hebrew slave with more wisdom than all the magicians of Babylon possessed. He made the words of Naaman’s servants to have greater effect upon their august master than did those of the renowned Elisha. In making selection for the mother of the Savior, He chose not a princess, but a peasant woman. In appointing the heralds of the Cross, fishermen were the ones called. And so a mighty work of grace was started there in Sychar by a converted harlot. "How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!"
"And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did." The full force of this can only be appreciated as we go back to what is told us in verses 28 and 29. She did not say. ‘Of what use can I be for Christ? I who have lost character with men, and have sunken into the lowest depths of degradation!’ No; she did not stop to reason, but with a conscience that had been searched in the presence of the Light and its burden of guilt removed, with a heart full of wonderment and gratitude to the One who had saved her, she immediately went forth to serve and glorify Him. She told what she knew; she testified of what she had found, but in connection with a Person. It was of Him she spoke; it was to Him she pointed. "He told me," she declared, thus directing others to that One who had dealt so blessedly with her. But she did not stop there. She did not rest satisfied with simply telling her fellow-townsmen of what she had heard, nor Whom she had met. She desired others to meet with Him for themselves. "Come" she said; Come to Him for yourselves. And God honored those simple and earnest words: "Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for (because of) the saying of the woman." Thus are we shown the great aim in service, namely, to bring souls into the presence of Christ Himself.
"So when the Samaritans came unto him, they besought him to abide with them; and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his Word; and they said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world" (John 4:40-42 , A. R. V.). We have quoted from the A. B. V. because we believe it is the more correct here. The A. V. makes these Samaritans say, "For we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world." The majority of the Greek MSS. do not contain the words "the Christ" in verse 42. These Samaritans had learned from the lips of the woman who He was, "the Christ;" now they had discovered for themselves what He was the One who met their deepest need, "The Savior."
The above scripture places Samaria in striking contrast from the unbelief and rejection of the Judeans and those dwelling in Jerusalem, where so many of His mighty works had been done, and where it might be expected multitudes would have received Him. Here in Samaria was a people who seemed most unpromising; no record is given of Christ performing a single miracle there; and yet many of these despised Samaritans received Him. And is it not much the same today? Those whom we would think were most disposed to be interested in the things of God are usually the most indifferent; while those whom we are apt to regard as outside, if not beyond, the reach of God’s grace, are the very ones that are brought to recognize their deep need, and become, ultimately, the most devoted among the followers of the Lamb.
Let us now seek to gather up into a terse summary the leading lessons of the verses which have been before us. The whole passage has to do with service, and the fundamental principles of service are here enunciated and illustrated. First, we learn the essential requirement of service, as illustrated in the example of the Samaritan woman a personal acquaintance with the Savior, and a heart overflowing for Him. Second, we are taught the spirit in which all service should be carried on the faithful performance of the task allotted us; finding our satisfaction not in results, but in the knowledge that the will of God has been done by us. Third, we are shown the urgency of service the fields already white unto harvest. Fourth, we have encouragement for service the fact that we are gathering "fruit unto life eternal." Fifth, we learn about the interdependence of the servants "one soweth and another reapeth:" there is mutual dependence one on the other: a holy partnership between those who work in the different departments of spiritual agriculture. Sixth, we have a warning for servants: they who are used to doing the reaping must not be puffed up by their success, but must remember that they are entering into the labors of those who have gone before. Finally; we are taught here the aim ever to be kept in view, and that is to bring souls into the presence of Christ, that they may become independent of us, having learned to draw directly from Him.
We would call attention to the following points brought out in these verses. First, the worldwide missionary need signified in the Lord’s words in verse 35. Second, to the distinctive characteristic of this Age as seen in the absence of any public miracles. There is no hint of Christ performing any miracles here in Samaria: nor is He doing so publicly in the world today. Third, to the means employed as indicated in verses 39 and 41, where we are told that it was the woman’s testimony, and the Word which caused many of the Samaritans to "believe." Thus it is throughout this Age. It is the personal testimony of believers and the preaching of the Word, which are the Divinely appointed means for the propagation of Christianity. Fourth, we may note the striking prominence of the Gentiles in this typical picture: "Many of the Samaritans... believed on Him." While there is a remnant of Israel "according to the election of grace" (typified in the few disciples who were with Christ), nevertheless, it is the Gentile element which predominates in the saved of this Age. Fifth, mark that Christ is owned here not as "The Son of man," nor as "The Son of David," but as "The Savior of the world." This title does not mean that Christ is the Savior of the human race, but is a general term, used in contradistinction from Israel, including all believing Gentiles scattered throughout the earth.
Thus, once more, we discover that with marvelous skill the Holy Spirit has caused this historical narrative which traces the actions of the Savior in Samaria, and which records the instructions He there gave to His disciples, to embody a perfect outline which sets forth the leading features of this present Era of Grace, during which God is taking out of the Gentiles a people for His name. This should cause us to search more diligently for the hidden beauties and harmonies of Scripture.
Below are the questions for the next lesson:
1. How does verse 43 bring out the perfections of Christ?
2. How does "the Galileans received Him" (verse 45) confirm, "no honor in His own country" (Galilee) of verse 44?
3. Why are we told Christ was in Cana when He healed the nobleman’s son? verse 46.
4. Why are we told the nobleman belonged to Capernaum? verse 46.
5. In what way does verse 48 apply to us today?
6. What does the word "yesterday" in verse 52 tell us about the nobleman?
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ in Galilee
What has been before us from verse 4 to the end of verse 42 in this chapter is in the nature of a parenthesis, inasmuch as these verses record what occurred in Samaria, which was outside the sphere of Christ’s regular ministry in Judea and Galilee. Here in the last twelve verses of the chapter we are brought onto familiar ground again. It would seem then, that we may expect to find a continuation of what was before us in the first three chapters of John’s Gospel, namely, historical events and practical teaching in both of which the Divine and moral glories of the Lord Jesus are displayed, and beneath the narrative of which we may discern hidden yet definitely defined typical and prophetical pictures.
We saw in our earlier studies that two things are made very prominent in the opening chapters of this Gospel. First, the failure of Judaism, the deplorable condition of Israel. Some solemn portrayals of this have already been before us. In the second place, we have seen the Holy Spirit drawing our attention away from Israel to Christ; and then at the beginning of chapter four a third principle has been illustrated, namely, a turning from Judaism to the Gentiles. Furthermore, we have observed that not only do we have depicted in these opening sections of our Gospel the sad spiritual state of Israel at the time our Lord was here upon earth, but the narrative also furnishes us with a series of striking foreshadowings of the future. Such is the case in the concluding section of John 4:0 .
Here, once more, we are reminded of the pitiable condition of Judaism during the days of Christ’s public ministry. This is brought out in a number of particulars, which will become more evident as we study them in detail. First, we have the express testimony of the Lord Himself that He had no honor "in his own country." This was in vivid contrast from His experiences in Samaria. Second, while we are told that "the Galileans received him," it was not because they recognized the glory of His person, or the authority and life-giving value of His words, but because they had been impressed by what they had seen Him do at Jerusalem. Third, there is the declaration made by Christ to the nobleman intended, no doubt, for the Galileans also"except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." All of this serves to emphasize the condition of the Jews their inability to recognize the Lord Jesus the Christ of God, and their failure to set to their seal that what He spake was the truth.
It is the practical lessons taught by this passage which are to occupy our attention in the body of this chapter. Before pondering these we submit an Analysis of this closing section of John 4:
1. Christ goes into Galilee, verse 43.
2. Christ’s tragic plaint, verse 44.
3. Christ received by the Galileans, verse 45.
4. The nobleman’s request of Christ, verses 46, 47.
5. Christ’s reply, verses 48-50.
6. The nobleman’s journey home, verses 50-53.
7. This miracle Christ’s second in Galilee, verse 54.
"Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee" (John 4:43 ). Different indeed are God’s ways from ours. During those days spent in Samaria many had believed on Christ to the saving of their souls. And now the Savior leaves that happy scene and departed into a country where He had received no honor. How evident it is that He pleased not Himself! He had come here to do the will of the Father, and now we see Him following the path marked out for Him. Surely there is an important lesson here for every servant of God today: no matter how successful and popular we may be in a place, we must move on when God has work for us elsewhere. The will of the One who has commissioned us must determine all our actions. Failure must not make us lag behind, nor success urge us to run before. Neither must failure make us fretful and feverish to seek another field, nor success cause us to remain stationary when God bids us move on. The one, perhaps, is as great a temptation as the other; but if we are following on to know the Lord, then shall we know when to remain and when to depart.
"Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee." This resumes and completes what is said in verses 3 and 4. The Lord, accompanied by His disciples, left Judea because of the jealousy and enmity of the Pharisees. He "departed again into Galilee" (verse 3). But before He goes there, "he must needs go through Samaria" (verse 4). We have learned something of the meaning of that "must needs." But the need had now been met, so the Lord Jesus departed from Samaria and arrives at Galilee. The religious leaders in Jerusalem regarded Galilee with contempt (see John 7:41 , John 7:52 ). It was there that "the poor of the flock" were to be found. The first three Gospels record at length the Galilean ministry of the Redeemer, but John’s gives only a brief notice of it in the passage now before us.
"For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country" (John 4:44 ). The reference is to what is recorded in Luke 4:0 . At Nazareth, "where he had been brought up," He entered the synagogue and read from Isaiah 60:0 , declaring "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." Those who heard Him "wondered," and said, "Is not this Joseph’s son?" They were totally blind to His Divine glory. The Lord replied by saying, "Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country. And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country" (Luke 4:23 , Luke 4:24 ). Proof of this was furnished immediately after, for when Christ referred to God’s sovereign dealings of old in connection with Elijah and Elisha, we are told, "And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong" (verses 28, 29). Thus was He dishonored and insulted by those among whom His preministerial life had been lived.
He was without honor in "his own country," that is, Galilee; and yet we now find Him returning there. Why, then, should He return thither? The answer to this question is found in Matthew 4:0 : "Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Napthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Naphthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up" (verses 12-16). This furnishes us with another instance of the obedience of the perfect Servant. In the volume of the Book it was written of Him. Prophecy is not only an intimation of what will be, but a declaration of what shall be. Prophecy makes known the decrees of God. As, then, Christ had come here to do the will of God, and God’s will (revealed in the prophetic word) had declared that the people in Galilee who walked in darkness, should see a great light, etc. (Isaiah 9:1 , Isaiah 9:2 ) the Lord Jesus Christ goes there.
"For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country." How this reveals to us the heart of the Savior! He was no stoic, passing through these scenes, unmoved by what He encountered: He was not insensible to the treatment He met with, He "endured such contradiction of sinners against himself" (Hebrews 12:3 ). The indifference, the unbelief, the opposition of Israel, told upon Him, and caused His visage to be "marred more than any man" (Isaiah 52:14 ). Hear Him, as by the spirit of prophecy, He exclaims, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my reward with my God" (Isaiah 49:4 ). So here, when we hear Him testifying, "A prophet hath no honor in his own country," we can almost catch the sob in His voice. For two days He had experienced the joys of harvest. His spirit had been refreshed. The "meat" which had been ministered to His soul consisted not only of the consciousness that He had done the will of the One who had sent Him, but also in the faith and gratitude of the woman who had believed on Him. This had been followed by the Samaritans beseeching Him to tarry with them, and the consequent believing of many of them because of His word. But such joyful harvesting was only for a very brief season. Two days only did He abide in Samaria. Now, He turns once more to Galilee, and He goes with sad foreboding.
"For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country." His use of the word "prophet" here is very suggestive. It was the word that the woman had used when her perceptive faculties began to be illumined (verse 19). There, in Samaria, He had been honored. The Samaritans believed His bare word, for no miracles were performed before them. But now in Galilee He meets with a faith of a very inferior order. The Galileans received Him because they had seen "all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast" (verse 45). So, too, the nobleman’s house (verse 53) did not believe until a miracle had been performed before their eyes. Thus a solemn contrast is pointed. In Galilee He is not honored for His person’s and word’s sake; in Samaria He was. As prophet He was not honored in Galilee; as a miracle-worker He was "received." This principle is frequently exemplified today. There is many a servant of God who is thought more highly of abroad than he is at home. It is a true saying that "familiarity breeds contempt." Ofttimes a preacher is more respected and appreciated when visiting a distant field than he is by his own flock.
"Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast" (John 4:45 ). How this brings out the fickleness and the shallowness of human nature. For upwards of twenty years the man Christ Jesus had lived in Galilee. Little or nothing is told us about those years which preceded His public work. But we know that He did all things well. His manner of life, His ways, His deportment, His every act, must have stood out in vivid contrast from all around Him. Had His fellow-townsmen possessed any spiritual discernment at all they must have seen at once that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Holy One of God. But they were blind to His glory. The perfect life He had lived quietly among them was not appreciated. As the Son of God incarnate He was unknown and unrecognized.
But now things were changed. The humble Carpenter had left them for a season. He had commenced His public ministry. He had been to Jerusalem. There He had sternly corrected the Temple abuses. There He had performed such miracles that many believed on his name" (John 2:23 ). Many of the Galileans who were in attendance at the Feast had also witnessed His wonderful works, and they were duly impressed. On their return home they would doubtless tell others of what they had witnessed. And now that the Lord Jesus returns to Galilee, He is at once "received." Now that His fame had spread abroad the people flocked around Him. Such is human nature. Let a man who lived in comparative obscurity leave his native place, become famous in some state or country, and then return to his home town, and it is astonishing how many will claim friendship, if not kinship, with him. Human nature is very fickle and very superficial, and the moral of all this is to warn us not to place confidence in any man, but to value all the more highly (because of the contrast) the faithfulness of Him who changes not.
"So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum" (John 4:46 ). Why should we be told where the Lord was when He performed the miracle of healing the nobleman’s son? Why, after mentioning Cana, is it added, "Where he made the water wine"? And why tell us in the last verse of the chapter, "This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee?" Surely it is apparent at once that we are to place the two miracles that were wrought at Cana side by side. The Holy Spirit indicates there is some connection between them, something which they have in common. Following this hint, a close study of the record of these two miracles reveals the fact that there is a series of striking comparisons between them, apparently seven in number.
In the first place, both were third day scenes: in John 2:1 we read, "And the third day there was a marriage in Carla of Galilee;" and in John 4:43 we are told, "Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee." Second, when Mary came to Christ and told Him they had no wine, He rebuked her (John 2:4 ), so when the nobleman asked Christ to come down and heal his sick child the Lord rebuked him (John 4:48 ). Third, in each case we see the obedient response made by those whom the Lord commanded (John 2:7 and 4:50). Fourth, in both miracles we see the Word at work: in each miracle the Lord did nothing but speak. Fifth, in both narratives mention is made of the servant’s knowledge (John 2:9 and 4:51). Sixth, the sequel in each case was that they who witnessed the miracle believed: in the one we read, "And his disciples believed on him" (John 2:11 ); in the other we are told, "And himself believed, and his whole house" (John 4:53 ). Seventh, there is a designed similarity in the way in which each narrative concludes: in John 2:11 we are told, "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee," and in John 4:54 , "This is again the second miracle which Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee." Here is another example of the importance of comparing two incidents which are placed side by side in Scripture (sometimes for the purpose of comparison, at others in order to point a series of contrast); here we have an example of comparison between two miracles which, though separated in time and in the narrative, both occurred at the same place, and are the only miracles recorded in the New Testament as being wrought in Cana.
"And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum." The word "nobleman" signifies a royal officer: probably he belonged to Herod’s court; that he was a man of station and means is evident from the fact that he had servants (verse 51). But neither rank nor riches exempt their possessor from the common sorrows of human kind. Naaman was a great man, but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1 ). So here was a nobleman, yet his son lay at the point of death. The rich have their troubles as well as the poor. Dwellers in palaces are little better off than those who live in cottages. Let Christians beware of setting their hearts on worldly riches: as Bishop Ryle well says, "They are uncertain comforts, but certain cares." No doubt this nobleman had tried every remedy which money could produce. But money is not almighty. Many invest it with an imaginary value that it is far from possessing. Money can not purchase happiness, nor can it ensure health. There is just as much sickness among the aristocracy as there is among the common artisans.
"When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto him" (John 4:47 ). This domestic trial was a blessing in disguise, for it caused the anxious father to seek out Christ, and this resulted in him believing, and ultimately his whole house believed. God uses many different agents in predisposing men to receive and believe His Word. No doubt these lines will be read by more than one who dates his first awakening to the time when some loved one lay at death’s door it was then he was made to think seriously and saw the need for preparing to meet God. It is well when trouble leads a man to God, instead of away from God. Affliction is one of God’s medicines; then let us beware of murmuring in time of trouble.
"And besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death" (John 4:47 ). This nobleman evidently had a measure of faith in the ability of the great Physician, otherwise he had not sought Him at all. But the measure of his faith was small. He had probably learned of the miracles which the Lord had performed at Jerusalem, and hearing that He was now in Galilee only a few miles distant he goes to Him. The weakness of his faith is indicated in the request that the Lord should "come down" with him to Capernaum. He believed that Christ could heal close by, but not far away; at short range, but not at a distance. How many there were who thus limited Him. Jairus comes to Christ and says, "My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live" (Mark 5:23 ). The woman with the issue of blood said, "If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole" (Mark 5:28 ). So, too, Martha exclaimed, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:21 ). But let us not censure them, rather let us condemn our own unbelief.
But different far from this "nobleman" was the faith of the centurion that sought the Lord on behalf of his sick servant, and who said, "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed" (Matthew 8:8 ). It seems to us this is the reason (or one reason, at least) why we are told here in John 4:0 that the nobleman came from Capernaum, so that we should link the two together and note the comparisons and contrasts between them. Both resided at Capernaum: both were Gentiles: both were men of position: both came to Christ on behalf of a sick member of his household. But in Matthew 8:0 the centurion simply spread his need before Christ and refrained from dictating to Him; whereas the nobleman bids the Savior "come down" to Capernaum. In Matthew 8:0 we find that the Lord offered to accompany the centurion Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him" (verse 7). He does the very opposite here in John 4:0 . In Matthew 8:0 the centurion declines the Lord’s offer and says, "Speak the word only;" where as the nobleman meets Christ’s rebuke by repeating his original request "Sir, come down ere my child die" (verse 49). Thus we see again the value of observing the law of Comparison and Contrast.
"Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe" (John 4:48 ). This was a rebuke. Not only was the faith of this nobleman weak, but he so far forgot himself as to dictate to the Lord Jesus, and tell Him what to do. The force of Christ’s reply seems to be this: ‘You are demanding signs of Me before you will fully trust your boy’s case into My hands.’ This is a serious mistake which is made by many seeking souls. We must not be so wickedly presumptuous as to tell God how to act and what to do. We must state no terms to the Lord Most High. He must be left to work in His own way. "Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe." How this brings out the omniscience of Christ! He knew this man’s heart. A measure of faith he had, but he was afraid to fully commit himself. The Lord knew this, and so addressed Himself to the suppliant accordingly.
"Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe." How searching this is! Is it not a word that many of us need? Is it not at this very point we most often fail? We ask God for a certain thing, and we have a measure of faith that it will be given us; but in the interval of waiting the bare word of God is not sufficient for us we crave a "sign." Or again; we are engaged in some service for the Lord, and we are not without faith that our labors will result in some fruitage for Him, but ere the fruit appears we become impatient, and we long for a "sign." Is it not so? Is it true of you, dear reader, that "except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe?" Ah! have we not all of us cause to cry, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24 )? Fellow-worker, God has declared that His Word shall not return unto Him void (Isaiah 55:11 ). Is not that sufficient? Why ask for "signs"? Fellow-Christian, God has declared that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us (1 John 5:15 ). Is not His promise enough? Why, then. crave for "signs"?
"The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die" (John 4:49 ). While it is evident that the nobleman was still slow of heart to commit himself, unreservedly, into the hands of Christ; nevertheless, it is good to see the spirit in which he received the Lord’s rebuke. Though he was a nobleman he did not become angry when corrected; instead, he "suffered the word of exhortation," and with commendable importunity continued to plead his suit.
"The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die." Bishop Ryle has a helpful word on this: "There is here a salutary lesson for the young. Sickness and death come to the young as well as the old. But the young are slow to learn this lesson. Parents and children are apt to shut their eyes to plain facts, and act as if the young never die young. The gravestones in our cemeteries show how many there are who never reached to man’s estate at all. The first grave ever dug on earth was for a young man! The first one who ever died was not a father, but a son! He, then, who is wise will never reckon confidently on long life. It is the part of wisdom to be prepared."
We trust these words will come home to the hearts of Christian parents who read this chapter. In the action of this father who came to Christ on behalf of his child there is an example which you will do well to emulate. If you are not deeply concerned about the soul’s welfare of your children, who is likely to be? It is your bounden duty to teach them the Word of God; it is your holy privilege to bring them in prayer to God. Do not turn over to a Sunday School teacher what is incumbent upon you. Teach your little ones the Scriptures from their earliest infancy. Train them to memorize such verses as Psalms 9:17 ; Jeremiah 17:9 ; Romans 6:23 , etc., and God has promised to honor them that honor Him. Be not discouraged if you are unable to detect any response, but rest on the promise, "Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it again after many days."
"The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die." How the response of Christ to this request brought out the perfections of Jehovah’s Servant! This "nobleman," remember, occupied a high social position; most likely he was a member of Herod’s court. To any man governed by fleshly considerations and principles, this would have been a tempting opportunity to make a favorable impression in society; it offered a chance to gain a footing in high places, which a man of the world would have quickly seized. But the Lord Jesus never courted popularity, nor did He ever toady to people of influence and affluence. He ever refused to use the ways of the world. He "condescended to men of low estate," and was the Friend not of princes and nobles, but of "publicans and sinners." Well may each servant of God take this to heart.
"Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth" (John 4:50 ). The Lord never turns away a soul that truly seeks Him. There may be much ignorance (as indeed there is in all of us), there may be much of the flesh mixed in with our appeals, but if the heart is really set on Him, He always responds. And not only so, invariably He does far more for us than we ask or think. It was so here. He not only healed the son of this nobleman, but He did so immediately, by the word of His power.
"Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth." This nobleman was a Gentile, for there were no "nobles" among the Jews; and in harmony with each similar case, the Lord healed his son from a distance. There are three, possibly four, different eases recorded in the Gospels, where Christ healed a Gentile, and in each instance He healed from a distance. There was a reason for this. The Jews were in covenant relationship with God, and as such "nigh" to Him. But the Gentiles, being "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise" were "far off" (Ephesians 2:12 , Ephesians 2:13 ), and this fact was duly recognized by the Savior.
"And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him" (John 4:50 ). Here once more, we are shown the Word (John 1:1 , John 1:14 ) at work. This comes out prominently in the miracles described in this Gospel. The Lord does not go down to Capernaum and take the sick boy by the hand. Instead, He speaks the word of power and he is healed instantly. The "words" He spake were "spirit and life" (John 6:63 ). And this imparting of life at a distance by means of the word has a message for us today. If Christ could heal this dying boy, who was at least ten miles away, by the word of His mouth, He can give eternal life today by His word even though He is away in heaven. Distance is no barrier to Him.
"And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. This is very blessed. It shows us the power of the spoken word not only on the boy that was healed, but on his father, too "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17 ). The nobleman had heard the word of God from the lips of the Son of God, and real faith, saving faith, was now begotten within him. He raises no objections, asks no questions, makes no demurs; but with implicit confidence in which he had heard, he believed, and went his way. No "signs" were needed, no feelings required to impart assurance. "He believed, and went his way." This is how salvation comes to the sinner. It is simply a matter of taking God at His word, and setting to our seal that He is true. The very fact that it is God’s word guarantees its truthfulness. This, we believe, is the only instance recorded in the New Testament where a "nobleman" believed in Christ "not many noble are called" (1 Corinthians 1:26 ).
"And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him" (John 4:51 , John 4:52 ). The word "yesterday" brings out a striking point. Cana and Capernaum were only a comparatively short distance apart: the journey could be made in about four hours. It was only one hour after midday when the Savior pronounced the sick boy healed. Such implicit confidence had the nobleman in Christ’s word, he did not return home that day at all!
I can picture the father on his way back home, going along happy and rejoicing. If some one had enquired as to the occasion of his joy, he would have been told it was because his child, at the point of death, had been restored. Had the enquirer asked how the father knew his child was now well, his answer would have been, ‘Because I have the word of Christ for it what more do I need!’ And, dear reader, we too, shall be full of peace and joy if we rest on the sure Word of God (Romans 15:13 ). The father’s enquiry of his servants was not because of unbelief, but because he delighted to hear a recountal of what God had wrought. As John Wesley remarked on this verse, "The more exactly the works of God are considered, the more faith is increased?
"So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house" (John 4:53 ). The nobleman’s faith here is not to be regarded as any different from what is attributed to him in verse 50: it is simply a repetition, brought in here in connection with his house believing, too. It is a very rare thing to find a believing wife and believing children where the father, the head of the house, is himself an unbeliever. What an example does this incident furnish us of the mysterious workings of God! a boy brought to the point of death that a whole house might have eternal life.
Let the reader study carefully the following questions in preparation for the next lesson:
1. What is the meaning of "Bethesda," and what is the significance of the "five porches"? verse 2.
2. Why are we told the impotent man had suffered thirty-eight years? verse 5.
3. Why did Christ ask the impotent man such a question as is recorded in verse 6?
4. What does the man’s answer denote? verse 7.
5. What important principle is illustrated in verse 11?
6. What moral perfection of Christ is seen in verse 13?
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on John 4". "Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany