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JOHN CHAPTER 4
John 4:1-43.4.26 Christ talketh with a woman of Samaria, and revealeth himself unto her.
John 4:27-43.4.30 His disciples marvel; the woman calleth the men of her city to see him.
John 4:31-43.4.38 Christ showeth his own zeal to do God’s work, and the blessedness of his disciples, who were to reap the fruit of his labours.
John 4:39-43.4.42 Many Samaritans believe on him.
John 4:43-43.4.54 He goeth into Galilee, and healeth a nobleman’s son who lay sick at Capernaum.
Our Saviour knew as God, from that omniscience which is inseparable from the Divine nature, or as man, by the relation of others, that the Pharisees, (who had the greatest stroke in the sanhedrim), and the government of the church of the Jews, had received an information concerning him, that he had, by his doctrine which he preached, and confirmed by miraculous operations,
made and (by his disciples) baptized more disciples than John, thereby initiating them into a new church.
For he himself did not personally baptize any, but left it to his disciples, himself attending to the greater work of preaching the gospel, by which men and women were made fit for the ordinance of baptism.
He left the province of Judea, which was near to Jerusalem, where the Pharisees had their chief residence and greatest power; and went the second time into Galilee, whither he went once before, John 1:43, where he found Philip and Nathanael. Galilee was a province under the jurisdiction of Herod, Luke 3:1. This motion of our Saviour’s into Galilee, is reported by Matthew in Matthew 4:12, and also by Mark in Mark 1:14 and Luke in Luke 4:14. The two former give another reason of his motion, viz. his hearing that John was cast into prison; of which, and the cause of it, see Matthew 14:3-40.14.6; so as after that he publicly preached no more, which might possibly augment the number of Christ’s disciples; John’s disciples following him. Both these causes probably concurred, to cause this motion. John, who by preaching and baptizing had laid the foundation of a gospel church in Galilee, was imprisoned; and our Saviour knew that, the number of his disciples increasing upon John’s confinement, an information had been carried against him to the Pharisees; this made him, knowing that his time was not yet come, withdraw himself out of the province of Judea into that of Galilee, as well to supply the want there (John being in prison) as to provide for his own security.
Josephus tells us that Samaria is seated between Judea and Galilee, and begins at a town called Ginea: see Luke 9:51,Luke 9:52; Luke 17:11. There were two passages from Judea into Galilee; the one was through the midst of Samaria, Luke 9:51; the other through the eastern parts, by the royal valley, by Jordan, in which it is said that Sichem was. By
Samaria must not be understood the city of Samaria, built by Omri, but the whole country so called, and possessed by the Assyrians, with a mixture of Jews amongst them. Some think that the evangelist addeth this, to excuse our Saviour for going amongst the Gentiles.
The most valuable interpreters agree, that this Sychar is the city called Shechem; it was originally a parcel of a field bought by Jacob of Hamor, the father of Shechem, Genesis 33:19. Jeroboam built the city there, called Shechem, 1 Kings 12:25. It was in the lot of Mount Ephraim. Joseph’s bones were there buried, Joshua 24:32. Jacob gave it to his son Joseph, as a parcel above his brethren, Genesis 48:22; a parcel of ground near unto which was this city called Sychar, anciently Shechem.
It was called Jacob’s, either because he digged it, (as we read of Abraham’s digging a well), Genesis 21:30, and Isaac, (Genesis 26:18) or because he and his family used it, as John 4:12. Our Lord used no horse or chariot ordinarily in his travels, but went on foot; we never read of him in a coach or chariot, but once upon the back of a beast (that was when he rode into Jerusalem upon an ass); he ordinarily travelled on foot; and the evangelist taketh notice of his weariness, to let us know that he was truly man, and subjected to weariness, and other human infirmities. And he rested himself upon the sides of the well, and it was about now time; for that was, according to their computation,
the sixth hour. John 4:8 tells us his disciples were gone to the city to buy meat, so as he was alone.
It is uncertain whether this woman was a citizen of Samaria, which city is said to be at two miles distance from this place, or one of that country, which went by that name (for Samaria was the name of that region, as well as of a city). She came not out of any design to meet with Christ there, but came to draw water; they having not pumps and wells so common as we have, were forced to travel for water for their necessary uses. Thus it often happeneth that we meet with Divine mercy when we think not of it. God is found of those who seek him not, nor inquire after him, Isaiah 65:1; which lets us see how all our motions and actions are at the Divine disposal and government. Rachel went not to the well to meet with the tidings of a husband, but to water her father’s flock; but yet there she met with Jacob, Genesis 29:9; as it had happened to Rebekah before, Genesis 24:15. This woman (as appeareth by what followeth) was no better than a harlot; to her Christ (fleeing from the Pharisees, the great doctors of the Jews) bringeth the glad tidings of the gospel, and she receives them. So admirable are the dispensations of Divine Providence. He prevents this woman, saying unto her,
Give me to drink.
This is added, lest any should say, How came our Saviour in this discourse with the woman of Samaria? They were travelling upon the road, and came near to Sichem. Our Lord’s disciples were gone to the city to buy some food for them; in the mean time, our Saviour coming to the well, called Jacob’s well, sets him down, and this Samaritan woman cometh to that well to draw water; our Saviour, being thirsty, asks of her some water to drink; this giveth occasion to the following discourse.
There was a great estrangement of the Jews from the Samaritans, the Samaritans having a peculiar temple built upon Mount Gerizim, in opposition to that at Jerusalem. It is said that the Jews did buy of and sell to the Samaritans, but were restrained by an order of the sanhedrim from using any familiarity with them, or borrowing or receiving any thing as a gift from them; which was the cause of this reply of the woman of Samaria, knowing our Saviour, either by his habit or by his dialect, to be a Jew: this is thought to be the sense of συγχρωνται in this text, though it hath a larger significance, extending to all kinds of commerce.
Many by the gift of God here understand Christ, whom God gave to the world, John 3:16; and who is the greatest gift that God ever gave to the world; so as the latter words, who it is, &c., expound the former.
Thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee, either a true knowledge of the doctrine or the grace tendered in the gospel; or the Holy Spirit, called water, because it washes and cleanses the soul; and
living water, because it is always running and flowing.
Ver. 11 What our Saviour spake metaphorically, comparing his grace, or his Spirit, or the doctrine of his gospel, to living water, this poor woman understandeth literally; and knowing that the well was very deep, (some say forty cubits), and seeing him, as a traveller, not provided with any thing to draw with, or into, she asks him whence he had that living water? A question much like that of Nicodemus, John 3:4. So ignorant are persons of spiritual things, till they are enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God.
She asks him if he judged himself wiser than Jacob, whom she calleth their father? It is often observed, that the Samaritans would ordinarily claim kindred with the Jews when the Jews were in prosperity; but in their adversity constantly disowned any relation to them. There were some Jews, (Ephraimites especially), mixed with a far greater number of Assyrians, which made up this body of people called the Samaritans. Now, saith the woman, Jacob, who was the father of Joseph, from whom we claim, was a wise man, and he could find no better water here abouts for himself and family than that of this well; art thou wiser than he?
Our Saviour in his reply justifieth the excellency of that living water, which he had before declared to be in his power to give, and his readiness to have given to this woman, if she had asked it of him, from the perishing virtue of the water of this well, and the continuing virtue of his grace, which he compared to this living water: no man so assuaged his thirst by drinking of the water of Jacob’s well, but he was subject to thirst again.
But he who receiveth the Holy Spirit, and the grace thereof, though he will be daily saying, Give, give, and be continually desiring further supplies of grace, yet he shall never wholly want, never want any good thing that shall be necessary for him; the seed of God shall abide in him, and this water shall be in him a spring of water, supplying him until he come to heaven. But this text was excellently expounded by our Saviour, John 7:38,John 7:39, He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive. From which it is plain, that our Saviour here by the living water he speaketh of understood the Holy Spirit.
I am not of their mind, who think that this woman understood our Saviour speaking about spiritual water, only she had a mind to talk; and indeed it is hard to conceive how a woman of her education, and way of life, should understand any such thing; but it is plain that she did not understand him in what he was discoursing about, but doth, as it were, deride him, believing that he had no such thing to bestow. She taketh no notice of the water which our Saviour had spoken of, springing up to eternal life; but regarding only the present life, and her ease in that, desires favour of Christ only to supply her wants in this life, and that she might live more at ease: so true is that of the apostle, Romans 8:5, They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh.
Not that Christ did not know, what she afterward confessed, that she lived in whoredom, and had no legitimate husband; but he said this probably to check her petulancy, and mocking at what he spake about the living water, and to bring her to a sense of her sin, that she might be more fit to receive the glad tidings of a Saviour, which he was about to publish to her; and this seems rather to be our Saviour’s design in bidding her go call her husband, than (as some of the ancients thought) that he might better instruct her, or avoid any scandal to himself, by a longer private discourse with a woman alone, who was of no better reputation.
I have no husband; that is, none who is my lawful husband she denieth not that she had one whom she used and lived with as a husband, but that she had any legal husband, to whom she clave, and to no other: still she goeth on, thinking to deceive Christ, and to put tricks upon him. Christ tells her, she in this did speak truth; he knew she had no legal husband.
He tells her, that she had had five husbands; whether successively, the former being dead, and she marrying another, or five from whom she had been divorced for adultery, is not agreed; the best modern interpreters judge, that she had had five men to whom she had been in marriage, but so behaved herself toward them, that either for her adultery, or some other froward behaviour towards them, they had given her a bill of divorce; and though she now used and lived with one as her husband, yet in this she said truly, because, her former husbands yet living, he was not her husband. This seemeth more properly the sense, than that after five legal husbands’ death, she lived in whoredom with a sixth person. By this discovery, our Saviour both bringeth her to the sense of her sin, and also to an acknowledgment of him as the Messiah.
Whose office is to reveal the will of God, and to whom God revealeth secret things; one to whom the Lord maketh known himself in a vision, and speaketh in a dream, Numbers 12:6. The woman’s reply seemeth to signify both. Her acknowledgment of Christ as a prophet, upon his telling her secret things, justifieth her looking upon him as one to whom God revealed things not known ordinarily to men; and this report of her meaning appeareth by what she said John 4:29, to her fellow citizens, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did; but the following verse, in which she entereth into a discourse with our Saviour about the controversy betwixt the Jews and the Samaritans about worship, lets us know that she looked upon him as a prophet in the more ordinary sense as prophet signifies one influenced by God to reveal his mind and will unto men; and indeed there was no prophet in the former sense, but was also in the latter; though there were many prophets in the latter sense, sent of God, and enabled to reveal the will of God unto men, who were not influenced so far as to foretell things to come. The difference betwixt a hypocrite and one truly brought to a sense of sin, is very conspicuous in the example of this woman; she doth not deny her sin, as Cain, Gehazi, and Ananias and Sapphira; neither doth she discover any anger upon the discovery of it, as the scribes and Pharisees, the wicked princes of Israel and Judah, and Herod did; neither doth she go about to excuse or mitigate her sin; but she applies herself to Christ as a prophet, to teach her what to do. The example also of this woman informs us what use we ought to make of prophets, to guide us into the right way, and faithfully to acquaint us with the will of God.
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; the mount Gerizim, which was an exceeding high mountain, and near unto Sichem. Jacob made an altar thereabouts, which he called El-elohe-Israel, Genesis 33:20. Some say that it was upon this, mountain that Abraham should have offered up Isaac, Genesis 22:1-1.22.18, but that had another name. Certain it is, that from that mountain Moses pronounced the blessings, Deuteronomy 27:12. But it is very probable that the woman had respect to none of these, but to the common usage of the Samaritans, to worship in a temple built upon this mountain, in opposition to that at Jerusalem: the story of which will be very proper here to relate, for the full understanding of this text. Sanballat was governor of Samaria, constituted by Darius; of this Sanballat we read in Nehemiah, who tells us that one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son-in-law to this Sanballat the Horonite; therefore I chased him from me, Nehemiah 13:28. This son-in-law’s name (as Josephus tells us) was Manasses. He was driven out of Jerusalem upon the account of the covenant made, Ezra 10:3, that those who had married strange wives would turn them away. The sacred story here leaving us, we must supply it out of Josephus, who (Antiq. 1. 11. cap. 8.) tells us, that he being thus driven from the sacrifice, applied himself to Sanballat, and would have put his wife away, who was Sanballat’s daughter; but Sanballat promised him, that if he would keep his daughter as his wife, he would not only continue him in the priesthood, but make him a high priest, and build him a temple like that at Jerusalem, upon Mount Gerizim, with the leave of Darius; upon this Manasses staid with Sanballat, and there also resorted many to him whom Nehemiah had turned out of the priesthood at Jerusalem for marrying strange wives. Sanballat was very near losing his opportunity through the favour of Darius, by the conquest of Darius by Alexander the Great. But it was regained by his brother Jaddus’s stubbornness, who was high priest in Jerusalem, and refused to own the new conqueror; which advantage Sanballat took, and offered Alexander the surrender of all places in his trust to him; and being by that means ingratiated with Alexander the Great, he thereby obtained leave of him to build a temple in Mount Gerizim, where his son-in-law Manasses should be the high priest, promising Alexander that by this means the force of the Jews would be broken, so as there would be no danger of their conspiring. Accordingly he presently built this temple, and soon after died, leaving his son-in-law Manasses, brother to Jaddus the high priest in Jerusalem, high priest in this new temple, which afterwards proved an asylum or sanctuary for any who were accused amongst the Jews at Jerusalem. Thus these two temples stood for about two hundred and twenty years; then Hircanus, a high priest of the Jews at Jerusalem, destroyed it; but still they looked upon the ground as holy, and came thither to perform their devotions. With reference to this superstitious practice, the woman of Samaria saith, Our fathers worshipped (that is, have used time out of mind to worship) in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship; and the Jews hold, that none might worship God by sacrifice any where but at Jerusalem, according to the law, Deuteronomy 12:14,Deuteronomy 12:26.
Woman, thou ownest me as a prophet, whose office it is to reveal the will of God unto men; it is therefore thy duty to give credit to what I shall reveal to time about the true and right way of worshipping God. The time is coming, yea, at hand, when you shall neither in this Mount Gerizim, (where your fathers have long worshipped God superstitiously without any direction from him), nor yet at Jerusalem, (which is the place which the Lord made choice of for his worship), worship my Father, or your Father. God is putting an end to both these places, and to all that worship which I shall not institute under the gospel.
You have no certain rule for your worship, but only do things which your fathers did, without any revelation of the Divine will, by which you may be assured that what you do is acceptable to God. We know that God hath revealed his will, that his people should worship him at Jerusalem by such rites and performances as he himself hath instituted in his word, so as we are certain that what we do is acceptable to God: for unto the Jews (of old) were committed the oracles of God, the ordinary means of salvation; Out of Zion went forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, Isaiah 2:3.
Under the gospel, and the kingdom of the Messiah, which is yet further coming, and is already began in the world, the true worshippers of God shall not worship him, as you Samaritans, who worship you know not what, without any rule or prescript of the word; nor yet as the hypocritical Jews, who rest upon their sacrifices and ritual performances, as if they should purge away their sins, Psalms 50:8; Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 66:3; Micah 6:7; no, nor yet as the more sincere Jews, who indeed do truly and with their hearts worship God; but, while the first tabernacle was yet standing, which was a figure for the time then present, by sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, —by meats and drinks, and divers ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation, Hebrews 9:8-58.9.10. That time of reformation is now come, when the true worshippers of God shall offer up to him a more spiritual worship, not that carnal worship; and a more true, and real, and solid worship: for God my Father seeketh such to worship him, as shall not worship him with a mere bodily labour and homage, but with their hearts and spirits; nor with those ceremonial performances now in use by God’s prescript at Jerusalem, but without them, I being come, whom all those services did but prefigure and point unto.
God is not a corporeal being, made up of blood, and flesh, and bones, having senses as bodies have, to be pleased with sensible things; but he is a spiritual Being, the Father of spirits, and requireth a spiritual service proportioned to his being; and therefore those that pay a religious homage to him, must do it with their spirits, and according to the rule that he hath prescribed, in truth and reality. This is now the will of God; and though he required of his people under the law a more ritual, figurative service, yet that is now to cease; and therefore the woman of Samaria need not trouble herself which was the truest worship, that at Mount Gerizim, or at Mount Zion, for both of them were very suddenly to determine, and a new and more substantial spiritual worship was to succeed, to the learning of the way and method of which she was more to attend, and not to spend her thoughts about these things which were of no significance, and tended only to minister questions of no use.
The woman by this reply, though a woman of Samaria, showeth herself to be a Jew, for she was one of them who lived in an expectation of one whom the Jews called the Messiah, prophesied of by Daniel under this notion, Daniel 9:25,Daniel 9:26, and by the psalmist, Psalms 2:2; which term Messiah signifieth Christ (that is, anointed) in the Greek. She had a further notion, that this Messiah should be a great Prophet, Deuteronomy 18:15; yea, she appears to have had a further notion of the Messiah, viz. that when he came he should reveal to them the whole will of God as to the salvation of man, and the worship of God: this lets us know, that she was none of the Assyrian part of the inhabitants of Samaria. If any ask, how she, being a Samaritan, should know any thing of the Messiah, the Samaritans receiving only the five books of Moses? It is easily answered, That even the five books of Moses make mention of the Messiah, under the notion of the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15, the seed of Abraham, Genesis 12:3, Shiloh, Genesis 49:10, the Prophet like to Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15. And for the name Messiah, she might easily learn it from other Jews, that the Person called Shiloh, and the Prophet, was called by Daniel the Messiah.
The same Messiah, of whom thou declarest thyself to have some expectation, and from whom thou expectest to hear all things necessary to salvation. Some here inquire, why our Saviour maketh to this woman such a plain discovery of himself, whereas we find in the Gospel so cautious, and so often charging his disciples not to make him known. Some think our Saviour thus gratified the honesty and simplicity which he discerned in this woman, not coming to catch him, but to be instructed from him; but possibly, if we wistfully consider those texts wherein he charged his disciples not to make him known, we shall find that the thing which he cautioned them against, was their publishing of him as the Son of God, which our Saviour desired should be concealed, till he should be so declared with power by his resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4; that his enemies, by a charge of blasphemy against him, might not cut him off before his hour was come. Now we shall observe that the Jews, though they expected a Messiah, yet had no such notion of him.
The disciples, as we heard before, were gone into the city Sichem to buy food, and were kept there by the providence of God till our Saviour had finished this discourse with the woman of Samaria, but came after the discourse was done. They
marvelled, possibly at his talking with a woman in the road, (a thing forbidden by their traditions), especially a woman of Samaria, with whom the Jews had no commerce. But yet they had so much reverence and respect for their Master, that they inquired not curiously into the matter or reason of his discourse.
She had no sooner tasted of the living water spoken of by Christ, but she left her water pot: thus Peter tells our Saviour, that they had left all and followed him. She goeth into the city Sichem (no doubt) or Sychar, mentioned John 4:5; and doth not herself enter into a long discourse with the citizens, only invites the citizens to come and see Christ, that they might judge from the hearing of their own ears, and the sight of their own eyes.
She invites them to him under the notion of a man, who had told her all things that she ever did. Christ doubtless had told her, and spoken to her, much more than John hath left us upon sacred record; yet not all things she ever did, but
all things (as often) signifies many things, and those such things as she might know that he who could tell those things could have told her all things, if they had been so proper for him to have repeated to her as those things which he did tell her. This induced her to believe that he was the Messiah; she offereth it to their opinion and judgment.
Sitting still at the well, they (many of them at least) did not contemn the news as the relation of a woman, but went (possibly but out of curiosity) to see and to hear this man.
While the woman was fetching her citizens to come and see and hear Christ, his disciples, knowing that he must be weary and hungry with his journey, and having brought him some food out of the city, where they had been to fetch it, put him upon refreshing himself with the food they had brought.
But our blessed Lord was more intent upon gospelizing the Samaritans, than satisfying his hunger: what this meat was, he opens himself, (see John 4:34).
His disciples, being yet carnal, did not understand him, but thought that he had spoken of bodily nourishment. See the like instances, Matthew 16:7; Matthew 11:13. They were wondering how he came by meat, and who should bring it him: so hard are we to conceive of spiritual things, till God openeth our eyes.
Our Lord, without any reproof of them for their dulness in understanding, and having compassion on their infirmity and ignorance, tells them what he meant by his former words; telling them, that the doing of his Father’s will, and the finishing of his work, was that which he more hungered after, and look more delight in, than in eating and drinking: this is what he sought, John 5:30, that which he came down from heaven for, John 6:38. As the law of God was sweeter to David than the honey or the honey comb, so the publishing of the gospel was to Jesus Christ, the calling sinners to repentance, and publishing the glad tidings of the Messiah; that was his work, which he tells his Father he had finished, John 17:4. Hereby teaching ministers, and people also, to prefer spiritual things before temporal; and the ministers of the gospel especially, to prefer the publishing of the gospel (which is their work) to any other employment whatsoever.
There was in those countries but four months’ space betwixt seed time and harvest; yet they fed themselves (as soon as they had sown) with the expectation of it. My harvest, saith our Saviour, is the gaining of souls for my Father: look yonder what a troop of the citizens of Sichem are coming to me, upon my revelation of myself to the woman of Samaria; I have but just sown my seed, and the fields are white to this spiritual harvest, Matthew 9:37. In the judgement of the, best interpreters, our Saviour in this verse useth a comparison, and passeth from his similitude used in the former part of the verse, fetched from a worldly harvest, to discourse of that spiritual harvest, which he by and by reaped of the citizens of Sichem coming to him; it is of that he saith, that the fields were already white, by which (as will appear from the following verses) he quickeneth his disciples to put in their sickles. Some critical authors, understanding both the former and latter part of the text of a worldly harvest, have used their wits to determine how the fields should be
white to harvest four months before it came; but the most and best interpreters interpret the latter part of a spiritual harvest, and that will be also justified by what followeth.
You that are the Lord’s instruments, to reap what the prophets of old, and John Baptist lately, have sown, shall not lose your labour, you shall receive wages; and your wages shall not be small, it shall be no less than eternal life: They that turn man, to righteousness, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever, Daniel 12:3. Thus the prophets, and John the Baptist, who sowed the seed of the gospel, and you that succeed them, and reap the fruit of what they did sow, shall have the same reward in glory and rejoice together. The ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed, as Amos speaks, Amos 9:13. This text is of great use to those godly ministers who faithfully sow the seed of the word, but do not in their lifetime see any great effects of it; it may be it comes up when they are in their graves. The reward of a faithful preacher doth not depend upon his success in his labours, but upon his faithful discharge of his work; though one soweth and another reapeth, yet both he that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together.
It was a proverbial expression, most commonly used with reference to those who unjustly invaded the rights and possessions of other men; but as applicable unto those who, by the disposing providence of God, rightly inherit the fruit of other men’s labours, as the Jews inherited the land of Canaan; A land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, Joshua 24:13. This saying (saith our Saviour) is fulfilled in you.
I have sent you to reap that which you did not first labour for; the prophets, and John the Baptist, and myself, have sown the seed, and by their doctrine prepared for the Lord a people; you enter upon their labours, gathering them into a gospel church.
That city was Sichem, or Sychar, but it was within the province of Samaria, from whence it is that they had the name of Samaritans as well as Sichemites.
Many of them, upon the testimony of the woman; That he had told her such secret passages of her life, as he could not have told her if he had not been able, if he had pleased, as well to have told her all things,
believed on him; that is, they owned him as a prophet, and agreed to what the woman said in that particular, and were by it excited to come to see and further discourse with Christ. This justifieth what our Saviour said, that there was then a people prepared for the Lord, the fields were white unto the harvest; that they were thus far wrought upon by the discourse of a woman, and she one not of the highest reputation, and only telling them that he had told her all things she had done. Small means have great effects when God’s time of working is come.
The Sichemites being come to Christ, had some discourse with him, as appeareth from John 4:41,John 4:42. What the subject matter of their discourse was we are not told; we may know that it was spiritual, and something proper to excite faith in them, for believing was the effect of it. They desire that he would abide with them: thus their faith wrought by love. Our Saviour, that he might not discourage the beginning of their faith, did stay with them two days: for although, when he sent out his disciples, he commanded them not to go into the way of the Samaritans, yet himself was not obliged by that law, and did sometimes, by preaching to heathens, and converting of them, give an earnest of the calling of the Gentiles, whose fuller calling was reserved to after times; yet, probably, the reason why he would not stay longer with them than two days, was because the time was not yet come for the fuller calling of the Gentiles, and he was not willing by a longer abode with them to give offence to the Jews, between whom and the Samaritans was a rooted hatred upon the account of their differing religion.
Believing seemeth here to be taken in a different sense from what it was taken in John 4:39, from what followeth, John 4:42. There it seemeth only to signify a lower degree of assent, that he was a prophet, upon the woman’s saying that he had told her all she had done; here it signifieth a giving credit to him as the Christ, the Saviour of the world, of which they were convinced by what they heard from himself. Thus that of the apostle, Romans 10:17, is justified, that faith cometh by hearing; and the influence of Christ upon the souls of believers is also justified. We read of no miracles our Saviour wrought here; they believed not because of any signs they saw, but because of his word; wherein also they further showed themselves the first fruit of the Gentiles, the generality of which were afterward converted to the faith of the gospel, after that miracles were ceased, by hearing the gospel preached.
Several things may be the occasion of faith, which are neither the principal efficient causes, nor the proper instrumental cause of it. The principal efficient cause of the faith of these Samaritans was, undoubtedly, the finger of God upon their souls, enlightening their minds with the saving knowledge of the gospel, and bowing their wills to the obedience of it. The proper instrumental cause was their hearing the words of Christ; but the occasion of this was what the woman had told them: so as, though they in a sense believed because of what she had said, because that occasioned their coming out to see and hear Christ; yet the proper instrumental cause was their hearing Christ, God upon their hearing him working in their hearts an ability and a willingness to receive and to close with Christ. Thus the church gives us the first occasion of receiving the Scriptures, and believing them to be the word of God: we, having them put into our hands by the church, read them, and find such impresses and stamps of Divinity in them, that we conclude, from our reason very probably, that they are more than human writings; but never firmly and fixedly receive them as such, until persuaded of it by the Holy Spirit. These Samaritans do not only own Christ as a prophet, nor do they only suspect that he must be the Messias, but they profess to know that he was the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
Christ (as we heard before, John 4:3) was upon his journey into Galilee, only he stopped two days at Sichem to gratify the desires of the Samaritans of that city; which two days being now spent, he keepeth on in his journey. But here ariseth a question, viz. Whether he first went to Nazareth, or to Cana? For the opinion of those who think he first went to Nazareth, is quoted Matthew 4:12. Besides, it is said that Nazareth was in his road to Cana, and, Luke 4:24, he is said to have uttered these words there. Chemnitius thinks he went first to Cana, according to what John relates in the following verses. And, Luke 4:16, he is said to have gone out of Galilee to Nazareth: and besides, the next mentioned miracle is (John 4:54) said to have been Christ’s second miracle, which it could not have been had he first gone to Nazareth, for, Luke 4:23, those of Nazareth mention some miracles which he had wrought at Capernaum.
Christ spake those words more than once, Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24. But the question is, what force of reason this hath why he went into Galilee, whereas Nazareth, which was in Galilee, was his own country; for though he was born in Bethlehem, yet he was educated at Nazareth; upon which account, Luke 4:23, it is called his own country? The best resolution of this difficulty is, that by Galilee here is to be understood, the country part of Galilee, exclusive to Nazareth; and this is not given as a reason why our Saviour went into Galilee, but why he did not go to Nazareth, but into the country part of Galilee, because Nazareth was his own country, and
a prophet is not without honour, except in his own country.
When he came not to Nazareth, but to some parts of Galilee, the Galilaeans entertained him hospitably; and this they did because of those miracles they had seen wrought by him at the passover feast, where Christ was, John 2:1-43.2.25. For these Galilaeans, though they lived at a great distance from Jerusalem, yet were observant of the law which commanded all the males of the Jews to be present at that solemnity. The Samaritans saw no miracle, but believed Christ upon his word. The Galilaeans also received Christ, but their seeing of his miracles at the feast is given as the cause of their receiving him; their faith was not so noble as that of the Samaritans. Blessed (saith our Saviour) are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.
Our Saviour, coming into Galilee, made choice of Cana, the place where, being at a marriage feast, he turned water into wine, John 2:1-43.2.25, first to fix in: the reason is not expressed, and therefore vainly guessed at by interpreters. There he worketh a second miracle, not upon the person of any one of Cana, but upon the son of one who was at Capernaum, which was a city in the tribe of Naphtali, upon the shore of the famous river Jordan. This person is described to be one that was βασιλικος, a
nobleman; whether of the blood of Herod, that was tetrarch of Galilee, or some courtier or principal servant of his, it is not said.
Christ had been in Galilee before, and in this town, and wrought a miracle, and if this courtier were a disciple of John, (as some think, but it is hard to prove), it is probable he had been at the passover, and seen the miracles he wrought there, or at least might have heard of them from some who were there. Though it was a good way from Capernaum thither, yet his love to his son carried him, and humbled him to beseech Christ that he would come down and heal his son; by which he showed a great weakness of faith, as if he thought that Christ could not put forth his healing virtue at a distance, but his personal presence was necessary; as Naaman the Syrian thought that Elisha must come down and lay his hand upon him. His son, it seems, was in human appearance dying.
It may seem strange to such as do not well weigh all circumstances, that our Saviour, who at other times went without asking, showed himself so hard to be entreated by this courtier, and answereth him so roughly; but we must not take ourselves to be able to give a certain account of all Christ’s actions, and different dealings with persons, whose hearts he well enough knew. Thus much is certain, that our Saviour always preferred that faith which was given to his bare word, before that which waited for a miracle confirmative of that word, John 20:29. Our Saviour saw that this courtier came to him purely upon a natural account, for the recovery of his dying son, without a desire to be instructed in his heavenly doctrine; therefore (as it may be presumed) he checks this courtier; and not him alone, but the generality of the Jews, who were only struck with admiration of his works, and drawn from curiosity, or some temporal benefit, to follow him, without a due regard of his person, or the heavenly, saving truths preached by him.
The courtier, though probably of spirit enough to have shown some discontent at our Saviour’s no kinder answer to him before, yet was so intent upon his son’s life, that he takes no notice of it, but renews his request, still discovering the weakness of his faith, as thinking that Christ’s personal presence was necessary to the life of his son.
Our Saviour would neither discourage the weak faith of this nobleman, nor yet encourage his weakness: he healeth his son for the encouragement of his faith; he doth it by his word, without going down to him, that he might not gratify his weakness, thinking his personal presence was necessary; he bids him go, for his son was recovered (that is here meant by liveth). Upon this his faith groweth, and he who before only believed Christ to be a prophet, probably upon others’ hearsay, now believeth his word, that is, was persuaded that his son was indeed recovered.
The servants that met him to bring the acceptable news of his son’s recovery, knew nothing of the passages that had been betwixt Christ and their master, but merely came to tell their master what they knew would be acceptable to him.
He inquires the precise time; they tell him it was about
the seventh hour. The miracle appeared in the suddenness of the recovery, and also that it was without the application of means, at least any that could have produced so sudden an effect.
The circumstance of the time when his son recovered agreeing with the very hour when Christ had said unto him,
Thy son liveth, was a mighty confirmation to him, that he was beholden to Christ for his cure, and consequently that Christ was no ordinary man, more than a prophet, even the Son of God. This works upon his faith to a higher degree: he first believed the report of him, then he gave credit to the word that he spake, now he believeth savingly, and not he alone, but his whole family became Christians. Such instances we have concerning Lydia, Acts 16:14,Acts 16:15, the jailer, Acts 4:34, and Crispus, Acts 18:8.
His turning water into wine John 2:1-43.2.25 was the first, this was the second, and so in order of time before any of those miracles which he wrought in Galilee, of which we read, Matthew 4:23.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 4". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany