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Christ talketh with a woman of Samaria, and revealeth himself unto her: his disciples marvel; he declareth to them his zeal for God's glory. Many Samaritans believe on him: he departeth into Galilee, and healeth the ruler's son that lay sick at Capernaum.
Anno Domini 30.
John 4:1-43.4.3. When therefore the Lord knew, &c.— The Baptist's imprisonment happened while our Lord was in Judea (see Mark 6:17., &c.) where he continued till the fame of his doctrine, disciples, and miracles, reaching Jerusalem, gave umbrage to the Pharisees. These men, claiming it as the privilege of their sect to direct the consciences of the people, were enraged to find numbers of them acknowledging as the Messiah one whose birth and fortune so little suited the notions which they had taught concerning the great deliverer of the nation; wherefore, to shun the effects of their malice, Jesus, who knew all that passed, retired with his disciples into Galilee. His presence it seems was necessary there, as the ministry of his forerunner in that country was now brought to a period. The evangelist observes, Joh 4:2 that Jesus himself baptized not, which perhaps he omitted to do, because he did not choose to baptize in his own name, and because it was of more importance to preach than to baptize. (1 Corinthians 1:17.) Besides, it might have given those who were baptized by him, occasion to value themselves above others; as happened in the church of Corinth, where the brethren valued themselves upon the character of the person who had baptized them. Perhaps too this might be partly to avoid importunate inquiries whether he was the Messiah, and partly to prevent those prejudices which might have arisen against the more perfect form of baptism afterwards instituted, if any had received this less perfect baptism from Christ himself. Indeed the baptism properly his, was that of the Holy Ghost.
John 4:4-43.4.5. And he must needs go through Samaria.— In his way to Galilee, Jesus was obliged to pass through Samaria, where one evening, being wearied with his journey, he sat down by Jacob's well, not far from the city of Sychar, which the evangelist tells us was near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his Son Joseph. Now if, as Mr. Maundrell conjectures, the plain beginning at Jacob's well was part of that parcel, Sychar might justly be said to be nigh to it, though it was as far distant as the present Naplosa, which is about a mile from it; but if Sychar in our Lord's time, as is probable, extended further towards the well than Naplosa does at present, the propriety of the evangelist's expression will appear yet more fully. It seems evident, however, from this history, that Sychar was at some distance from the well: for the disciples are said to have gone away into the city to buy meat, Joh 4:8 while the woman talked with Jesus at the well; and Joh 4:30 we are told that the Samaritans, on hearing what the woman said concerning Jesus, went out of the city, and came to see him, John 4:40. Besides, that the town was at some distance from the well, seems highly probable from the earnestness wherewith the woman begged Jesus to give her such water as would prevent her from being athirst, and from coming thither to draw. It seems, her coming from the town to the well was a great labour, from which she wished to be free. The name of this place was originally Sichem, but was changed into Sychar by the Jews, as a name of reproach; for Sychar signifies, in the Syriac language, a drunkard and a liar.
John 4:6. Now Jacob's well was there.— Mr. Maundrell, in his Travels, gives the following account of Jacob's well: "About one-third of an hour from Naplosa (the ancient Sychar, as it is termed in the New Testament) stood Jacob's well, famous not only on account of its author, but much more for the memorable conference which our blessed Lord had there with the woman of Samaria. If it should be inquired whether this be the very place it is pretended to be, seeing it may be suspected to stand too remote from Sychar for the woman to come and draw water, we may answer, that in all probability the city extended farther in former times than it does now, as may be conjectured from some pieces of a very thick wall, the remains perhaps of the ancient Sichem, still to be seen not far from hence. Over it stood formerly a large church, erected by that great and devout patroness, of the Holy Land, the Empress Irene; but of this the voracity of time, assisted by the hands of the Turks, has left nothing but a few foundations remaining. The well is covered at present with an old stone vault, into which you are let down by a very straight hole; and then removing a broad flat stone, you discover the well itself. It is dug in a firm rock, is about three yards in diameter, and thirty-five in depth, five of which we found full of water. This confutes a story commonlytold to travellers, who do not take the pains to examine the well; namely, 'that it is dry all the year round, except on the anniversary of that day in which our blessed Saviour sat upon it, but then bubbles up with abundance of water.' At this well the narrow valley of Sichem ends, opening itself into a wide field, which probably is part of the piece of ground given by Jacob to his son Joseph. It is watered by a fresh stream running between it and Sichem, which makes it so exceeding verdant and fruitful, that it may well be looked upon as a standing token of the kindness of that good patriarch to the best of sons." See Genesis 48:22.
Jesus therefore—sat thus on the well— Sat down immediately by the well. Doddridge. Whitby says "Sat down thus, means, weary as he was." And it was about the sixth hour, says the evangelist, that is, about six in the evening, and not, as commentators have generally thought, in the middle of the day, or at highnoon; for in those countries the women never draw water in the middle of the day, but always about sun-setting, as is evident from Genesis 24:11. Wherefore, as the woman came to draw water while Jesus was sitting by the well, it cannot be the Jewish but the Roman sixth hour, of which the sacred historian speaks. See on Ch. John 1:39. By this time, as the verse informs us, Jesus was fatigued with his journey; and therefore, before he proceeded, he sent his disciples to the nearest town for refreshment, as there was no place upon the road where he could meet with any accommodation. It may be objected, that the circumstances of the history oblige us to suppose, that this journey through Samaria was made so late in the year, that the transactions could not happen at six in the evening. But it may be proved, that when Jesus preached in the synagogue of Nazareth, after leaving Samaria, it was about the beginning of September; whence it will appear, that he travelled through Samaria in August: if so, all the particulars here related may have happened in the time allotted to them on this supposition: for when Jesus sat down by the well, it was about the sixth hour, perhaps near half an hour before it; and from that time till it was dark, was sufficient for all the transactions mentioned in this history.
John 4:7. There cometh a woman of Samaria, &c.— An inhabitant of the country, not the town of Samaria; for Sebaste, the ancient Samaria, according to Mr. Maundrell, is about two hours or six miles distant from Sychar, consequently about seven miles from the well; a distance by far too great for one, even in that country, to come and fetch water. Though Jesus did not choose to go to the town himself, he sent his disciples thither to buy meat; for it seems the Jews might buy what they would of the Samaritans, as they might likewise from heathens; but they were not to accept of any thing from them in the way of beneficence, (see on John 4:9.) that being a crime, in their opinion, equal to the eating of swine's flesh; so bitter was the animosity which subsisted between the Samaritans and the Jews! See Ch. Joh 8:48 and the note on Luke 10:33.
John 4:9. For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.— Have no friendly intercourse, &c. This must be the meaning of ου συγχρωνται here; for it is evident from Joh 4:8 that the Jews had some dealings with them. It has been frequently observed, that many causes concurred to occasion this inveterate hatred of the Jews towards the Samaritans; such as their foreign extract,—and the early mixture of superstitionandidolatryintheirreligion, 2 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 17:41.—the injurious manner in which they treated the Jews after their return from the captivity, Ezra 4:1-15.4.6. Nehemiah 6:1-16.6.14, and especially their building a temple on mount Gerizim, which they made the centre of their worship, in opposition to that at Jerusalem: and perhaps nothing contributed more to expose them to the contempt and abhorrence of the Jews, than the infamous offer which they made to Antiochus, of dedicating that temple to Jupiter, and admitting the rites of his idolatrous worship, at a time when the Jews were suffering the utmost extremities in defence of theirreligion. We may observe, it is not said, that the Samaritans had no dealings with the Jews, but that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans; whence it is natural to conclude, that the enmity was greatest on the side of the Jews. As a proof of this, see a remarkable passage in Sir 50:25-26.
John 4:10. Jesus answered,—if thou knewest the gift of God,— If thou knewest what an opportunity God hath put into thine hand, of receiving the greatest blessing that ever was bestowed, as well as who, and how great a person, he is that speaks to thee; instead of scrupling to grant him so small a favour, thou wouldst surely have asked him: (for such is the force of the original) and he, without objecting to thee on account of the people to whom thou belongest, would readily have given thee living water; far better than what thou art now drawing: by which our Lord intimated his ability and readiness to communicate those influences of God's holy Spirit, which afford the noblest refreshment to the soul, and are therefore often described by water. It is certain, that the phrase living water, signifies in many good authors spring water, or running water, in opposition to that which stagnates; yet as our Lord elsewhere, in a remarkable passage recorded by this evangelist, Ch. Joh 6:51 calls himself living bread, because by feeding upon him lifeis to be obtained,—it is proper to adhere literally to the original in the version; though there is no doubt that the woman understood our Lord, not of living spiritual water, but of some fine spring water, which flowed so easily as not to need the pains of drawing, and was, on this account, at least, preferable to that of Jacob's well: and our Lord's reply, Joh 4:13-14 shews that the simile would hold in that respect. Our Lord, on this occasion, demonstrated the greatness of his condescension and benevolence; for though this woman was a person of an infamous character, and though he himself was pressed with thirst, he delayed refreshing himself that he might bring her who was spiritually dead, to the water of life. Comp. Leviticus 14:6. Jeremiah 2:13.
John 4:11. Thou hast nothing to draw with, &c.— Literally, Thou hast no bucket. See Joh 4:28 and on John 4:6. In the dry countries of the East, the inhabitants find themselves obliged to carry with them great leathern bottles of water, which they fill from time to time as they have opportunity; but what is very extraordinary, in order to be able to do this, they, in many places, are obliged to carry lines and buckets with them. So Thevenot, in giving an account of what he provided for his journey from Egypt to Jerusalem, tells us, "He did not forget leathern buckets to draw water with." Rauwolff goes farther; for he gives usto understand, that the wells of inhabited countries there, as well as in the desarts, have no implements for drawing of water, but what those bring with them who come thither; for, speaking of the well or cistern of Bethlehem, he says, "It is a good rich cistern, deep and wide; for which reason, the people that go to dip for water, are provided with small leathern buckets and a line, as is usual in those countries; and so the merchants, who go in caravans through great desarts in far countries, provide themselves also with these, because in these countries you find more cisterns or wells, than springs that lie high." In how easy a light, says the author of the Observations, doth this place the Samaritan woman's talking of the depth of Jacob's well, and her remarking, that she did not observe our Lord had any thing to draw with, though he had spoken of presenting her with water.
John 4:12. Art thou greater than our Father Jacob,— "Are you a person of greater power, or more in favour with God, than our common father Jacob, that you can procure water for yourself by supernatural means?—He was obliged to dig this well for the supply of himself and his family; can you create water?"—The mention of Jacob as a progenitor was highly proper in an address to a Jew; who might be supposed to reverence that patriarch in the highest manner, as well as the Samaritans, and could never be suspected guilty of the least disrespect to so venerable a na
John 4:13-43.4.14. Whosoever drinketh of this water, &c.— "This water can allay the pain of thirst only for a little while, because, though it be drank ever so plentifully, the appetite will return again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; shall at no time be subject to any vehement painful sensations, arising from unmortified irregular appetites; but the water, &c. shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life; shall yield him divine satisfaction now, and shall be the source of happiness to the faithful to all eternity in heaven; where they shall feel none of the bodily appetites or wants so troublesome to men in this life." Thus Jesus, under the image of living, or spring water, taken from the well beside which he was sitting, beautifully described, as his manner was, the efficacy of the influences of the Spirit of God; for, as water quenches thirst, so these, by quieting the agitation, and cooling the fervency of earthly desires, beget an unspeakable inward peace. By this image he also set forth the plenitude and perpetuity of the celestial joys, flowing from holy dispositions, produced by the influences of the Spirit of God. For these, by an innate power, satisfying all the capacities and desires of the soul, render it so completely happy, that it is not able to form a wish or a thought of any thing better.
John 4:15. Sir, give me this water,— The woman still ignorant of his spiritual meaning, and understanding him only of natural water, says to him with great respect, Sir, Κυριε, Lord,—I claim thy promise, Give me this water. The title which she gives our Lord, though a Jew, and as such esteemed an inveterate enemy to her nation, indicates great reverence and delicacy, which indeed is visible in her whole behaviour on this occasion.
John 4:18. He whom thou now hast, is not thy husband:— This can imply no less than that she wasnot married to the man she now lived with; for Christ seems to have allowed the other five to have been husbands, though her separation fromsome of the former, and her marriage with the rest, had probably been unlawful.
John 4:19. I perceive that thou art a prophet.— To find a person who was a perfect stranger, and who, on account of the national animosity, could not be suspected of having any intercourse with her townsmen, or with the Samaritans in general, discovering, nevertheless, the most secret particulars of her life; made so sensible an impression on her mind, that she could not but confess such a degree of knowledge more than natural; and, consequently, that the person possessed of it was a prophet, and had it communicated to him by divine inspiration. It is worth our while to trace the gradual progress of this woman's conviction: she at first gives him the appellation of a Jew only; she then wonders that he should so far have laid aside the prejudice of his nation, as to ask a favour of a Samaritan; she next calls him Sir or Lord; she then acknowledges his prophetic character; and, in consequence of that persuasion, proposes for his decision one of the most important questions in dispute between the two nations. When the Pharisees were reproved by our Lord for their hypocrisy, they furiously rejoined, He was a Samaritan, and had a devil; but when the Samaritan woman heard her most secret sins thus discovered, shewas so far from recriminating, that she cries out, Lord, I perceive thou art a prophet.
John 4:20. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain;— Whom the woman meant by the appellation offathers, is a point much disputed: they who think that she meant the Ephraimites, from whom the Samaritans pretended their descent, hold that the mountain on which they worshipped was mount Ephraim, wherewas Shiloh, the seat of the tabernacle for several years. Another account, more generally adopted, is to this effect: Sanballat, by the permission of Alexander the Great, had built a temple upon mount Gerizim, for Manasseh his son-in-law, who, for marrying Sanballat's daughter, was expelled from the priesthood, and from Jerusalem. See Nehemiah 13:28. This was the place where theSamaritans used to worship, in opposition to Jerusalem; and it was so near Sichem, the scene of this history, that a man's voice might be heard from one to the other; Judges 9:7. Now as Gerizim was the mount which the woman meant, it will easily appear whom she meant by the fathers who worshipped there. Itis generally known and acknowledged, that the Samaritans, though a mixture of Jews and foreigners,pretended to derive their origin from the patriarchs, especially from Abraham, Jacob, &c. Now it appears from scripture, that Abraham and Jacob erected altars in this place, where also the blessings were pronounced in the time of Joshua; and it is probable, likewise, that it had been a place consecrated to religious worship by the inhabitants of Sichem. See Genesis 12:6-1.12.7; Genesis 33:18; Genesis 33:20. Deuteronomy 11:29. Joshua 8:33.
John 4:21. Woman, believe me, &c.— To understand the force of our Lord's reply, it will be necessary to recur to the origin of this dispute between the two nations. We shall first premise that Christ waves the decision of the question put to him by the woman, and with good reason; for he was about to destroy all local worship, by introducing a religion suited to all climates, and to be observed in all nations of the world. To talk then of the preference of this or that mountain, or to decide the point in favour of either, would have been inconsistent with his doctrine. This premised, we observe, that at the time of the migration of the Hebrews from Egypt, the whole world was sunk into idolatry; they alone were blessed with the knowledge of the true God; yet even they were perpetually relapsing into the absurdities of idol worship. Hence that load of peculiar ceremonies was imposed upon them; tending particularly, amongst other wise purposes, to the keeping them pure from idolatry, to the separating them from the worship of the Pagan nations which surrounded them, and to the confirming them in that of the true God: to this end the temple was built, and the worship established at Jerusalem. Hither the whole nation was obliged to resort at stated times, to prevent their relapse into idolatry. The Samaritans, who had divided from the Jews, had built a temple, partly for the same ends, on mount Gerizim, where theyperiodically performed the ceremonies enjoined by the law. These ceremonies, and this separation of Jews from Gentiles, were designed by Providence to be continued till the coming of Christ, when a glorious change was to take place. The world was prepared by higher degrees of knowledge for the reception of the gospel. This was the hour appointed for the sun of righteousness to arise: now was to be done away every circumstance and ceremony tending to keep up the former separation; nothing was to be established, save what conduced to a general union of mankind; and the peculiar, the local, and periodical worship of Jerusalem, was to be swallowed up in that more spiritual dispensation, which was designed to produce universal peace and love. In this view, we have only to read over the passage before us, to discover at once its meaning and propriety.
John 4:22. Ye worship ye know not what:— The Samaritans worshipped the true God, and seem to have had as just notions of his perfections in general as the Jews; for they drew them from the five books of Moses, the authority of which they acknowledged. If so, the meaning of the clause in the original, can hardly be what our version has affixed to it, Ye worship ye know not what; but its proper translation seems to be, Ye worship the Deity whom ye do not know; viz. "by any revelation which he has made of himself to you," — the words το θειον, the Deity, being understood, "Whereas we Jews worship the Deity, whom we know; viz. by a revelation which he has made of himself to us;—for salvation is of the Jews:—What knowledge you have of salvation, as well as the author of salvation, cometh, by your own confession, from us;—you have your religion from us." If the reader thinks that this interpretation makes too great a supplement necessary, let him look to the following passages, particularly the words inserted in italics merely by the translators, as they stand in the common version: Mark 7:4; Mark 7:11.Luke 6:22; 2 John 1:82 John 1:8; 2 John 1:8; John 9:1; Joh 15:25 and particularly Joh 18:28 where the original words αλλ ινα φαγωσι το πασχα, must be rendered, But stood without, that they might eat the passover. These examples prove, that the elliptical stile is familiar to St. John; and the one last mentioned is no less peculiar than that which may be supposed in the passage under consideration. See also 2Th 2:3 where the words, that day shall not come, are necessarilysupplied in our language by our translators. Some indeed give our Lord's words a more easy sense, thus: "Since God has declared that Jerusalem is the place of offering sacrifices acceptably, ye worship him without just conceptions of him, when you fancy he has chosen Gerizim." Yet it may be doubted whether the error of the Samaritans concerning the place of worship, would be reckoned by our Lord as a sufficient reason for saying of them, that they worshipped they knew not what. There are others who would paraphrase the whole passage thus: "As you take me for a prophet, believe me, that the occasion of this dispute about the place of worship, will soon be removed; sacrifices, now offered at both places, shall ere long cease for ever; a new dispensation will be opened, which will require the true disciples of it to worship in all places; every where offering up their hearts to God, and disposed to obey him in all things. When your ancestors came into this land, they knew not the manner of God's worship; and indeed knew not God himself: And even you, though better instructed, are yet, in both respects, defective in your knowledge. Knowledge is more abundant with us the people of the Jews; and from among the Jews cometh salvation, by reason of the Messiah's birth among them, who is to introduce this new dispensation, and to render a temple unnecessary, either on Gerizim, or at Jerusalem."
John 4:23. But the hour cometh,— The thing you are chiefly concerned to know is, that a dispensation of religion is now beginning, under which all languages, countries, and places being sanctified, men are to worship God, not in Jerusalem, but in spirit; by offering the sacrifice, not of beasts, but of themselves; to love and obey him in all things, which is the truth of worship; thething signified by every sacrifice and service enjoined in the law, and whatalone was acceptable to the Father, even under the legal dispensation. See Ch. John 1:14; John 1:17.
John 4:24. God is a Spirit, &c.— As a further answer to the woman's question, our great Teacher delivered a doctrine which may justly be called his own, as it exhibits an idea of the Supreme Being, and of the worship due to him, far more sublime than the best things which the philosophers have said on that subject. God is a Spirit, &c. "God is the supreme mind or intelligence, who by one act sees the thoughts of all other intelligences, and therefore may be worshipped in every place. And the worship of God must partake of his nature: his nature is spiritual; his worship should be so likewise. Faith and love, therefore, constitute the true spiritual worship which we owe to the Supreme Being, and which cannot but be acceptable to him, wherever offered."
John 4:25. I know that Messias cometh,— This, as well as John 4:29; Joh 4:42 plainly proves, both that the Samaritans expected the Messiah, and that they concluded he would be a prophet. The general expectation which now prevailed, that a great prince was to arise in Judea, together with Moses's prophesy concerning him, constrained the Samaritans to a right sentiment with respect to the Messiah's nation: for though they contended that the true place of acceptable worship was in their country, they did not assume the honour of being progenitors of the deliverer of mankind. They seem also to have formed some just, though partial, ideas of the Messiah's character.
His kingly dignity being chiefly described in the prophetical books, which they are said to have rejected, they considered him only as a Saviour, Joh 4:42 and a prophet or teacher, according to Moses's description of him, Genesis 22:18. Deuteronomy 18:18. See also Nehemiah 7:65. Hence the woman, speaking of the Messiah, said, When he is come, he will tell us all things; and therefore while our Lord industriously avoided the title of Messiah among the Jews, he without scruple discovered himself to the Samaritans, because he could do it with success; the meanness of his condition being no way inconsistent with the prophetical character. We may just observe, that the words which is called Christ, should be in a parenthesis; they being the words of the evangelist, not of the woman.
John 4:26. I that speak unto thee am he.— That Christ was very cautious of acknowledging himself to be the promised Messiah, in his conversation with the Jews, is very apparent. The reason for that caution has been frequently explained in this commentary, and is intimated in the foregoing note, together with his reasons for acting otherwise at present.
John 4:27. Talked with the woman:— The wonder of the disciples was raised by their Lord's talking with a Samaritan woman.
John 4:28-43.4.29. The woman then left her water-pot, &c.— When the woman heard Jesus call himself the Messiah, she set down her pitcher, and ran into the city, where she published the news in the streets, and desired all she met to go with her, and see him, assuring them that he had told her the principal occurrences of her life; so strong an impression had that circumstance made upon her mind. The fulness of her conviction, and the haste she was in to communicate the joyful news to her countrymen, place her in an amiable light. She was so certain that our Lord was the Messiah, that she ran to call others, that they might be convinced likewise. What a contrast is there between this woman and the Jews! So far were they from bringing others to him, that they hindered them from coming, when desirous to do so. In this respect we should imitate the Samaritan woman.
John 4:31-43.4.34. In the mean while his disciples prayed him,— While these things were doing, the disciples set the meat which they had bought, before their Master; but he regarded it not, though he then stood much in need of refreshment. He was wholly intent on the duties of his mission, preferring them to his necessary food. Hence, when his disciples entreated him to eat, he told them, that he had meat to eat which they knew nothing of; meaning the satisfaction that he was about to receive from the conversion of the Samaritans; for meat is often used in the Jewish writings to signify that which satisfies the desires of the soul, as well as the wants of the body. Hence also our Lord says, John 4:34. "My meat, my true satisfaction, and best refreshment, is to do the will of him that sent me,—and to finish his work as fast as possible, in the conversion of souls, and in the propagation of his kingdom; and I with pleasure can assure you, that it is now going on successfully." See the next note.
John 4:35. Say not ye, There are yet four months, &c.— Whitby, Grotius, and many others, understand this as if our Lord had said, "It is a proverbial expression for the encouragement of husbandmen, that there are but four months between seed-time and harvest." The author of the translation of 1729 renders it, "You commonly say, The other four months, and the harvest will come." And indeed the passage itself is an iambic verse, and should be read thus:
u917?τι τετραμηνον, κ ο θερισμος ερχεται :
Which, joined to the reasons arising from the text, proves that the passage is proverbial. It is taken from the time which commonly intervenes between sowing and reaping, and signifies, that after having used the meansof procuring a thing, the effect must not be expected to follow all on a sudden, but must be waited for with patience. Our Lord told his disciples, that in the present case, they could not apply that proverb, because, if they would lift up their eyes, they would see the fields white already to harvest; that is, would see a multitude, coming in a fit disposition to believe (see John 4:39-43.4.42.), notwithstanding the seed had been sown but an hour or two before; so that he had what was his proper food to eat,—a convenient opportunity of doing the will of him that sent him, and of finishing his work. Probably, when our Saviour said, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, &c. he might stretch forth his hand, and point to the Samaritans, who were now coming from the city to him, on the report of the woman. This appears to be the true meaning of the passage, which is by no means to be taken in a literal sense.
John 4:36-43.4.38. And he that reapeth, &c.— As the disciples laboured together with our Lord in this spiritual harvest,—to encourage them, he put them in mind of the reward. The passage should be read as follows: "He that reapeth and gathereth the fruit [of souls] unto life eternal; he that conducts others into heaven (alluding to the gathering of reaped corn into barns) such a person—receiveth wages; that both he that soweth, and he that reapeth, may rejoice together; namely, in the reward bestowed on them, the pleasure of which will be increased by their joint participation of it." Our Lord then proceeds to apply another proverb, John 4:37. The words, whereon ye bestowed no labour, Joh 4:38 mean, "no labour of sowing;" Other men laboured, namely, in sowing the feeds of piety and holiness among the Jews, and therebyexposed themselves to great persecutions, (he meant the prophets of old;—) "and ye are entered into their labours,—into the field on which their labour had been carefully employed;" εις του κοπον αυτων .—Comp. 2 Corinthians 10:15. "Ye are employed to reap that, which they with great difficulty sowed; for ye are gathering into the kingdom of heaven those, who, by the writings of the prophets and the grace of God, having been imbued with a sense of piety and virtue, are prepared for entering into it." This application of the proverb, one soweth and another reapeth, does not imply any discontent in the persons who sow without reaping, as it seems to do in common use; for the sower and the reaper are represented as rejoicing together in the rewards of this spiritual husbandry.
John 4:39-43.4.40. And many of the Samaritans—believed— Many of the Samaritans had been so struck with the account which the woman gave of Jesus, that they believed him to be the Messiah on her testimony. Accordingly, being come to him, they begged him to take up his residence in their city. Jesus, in compassion to their wants and desires, complied so far as to stay with them two days; which was a proper mediumbetween his entirely neglecting them, and the giving them so much of his time and company as would have broken in upon the design of his journey into Galilee. During the time of his stay, the discourses which our Lord delivered were attended with great power, as appeared by their success: for they brought many of the Sycharites to believe on him as the Messiah.
John 4:41-43.4.42. And many more believed— This was the more extraordinary, as they not only had a natural prejudice against him asa Jew; but, living near mount Gerizim, had a particular interest in maintaining the usual worship there, which must have been very advantageous to the neighbourhood in a temporal point of view. Perhaps on this they would no longer worship there, which might irritate the rest of the Samaritans, and mightin part excite the ill usage which Christ afterwards met with in this country. Luke 9:52-42.9.53. It is observable, that the Samaritan woman expressed her expectation of the Messiah; that Jesus made a clear declaration to her of his being so; that she believed him to be so; that she went hastily into Sychar, full of the interesting discovery; that at the importunate request of the inhabitants, Christ continued in the town at the foot of Gerizim for two days; and that many of the Samaritans, through divine grace, were such candid judges, so ingenuously disposed to embrace the truth, that without the cogency of miracles they confessed, We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world; a confession of faith higher by some degrees, as Dr. Lightfoot remarks, than the Jews' common creed concerning the Messiah; for they held him only for a Saviour of the Jewish nation: whence we may see how deeply and cordially these Samaritans had drunk in the water of life, so as to acknowledge Christ in his proper character. Probably the Samaritans might have collected from Gen 49:10 thatChrist was to be the Saviour of the world; that the Gentiles were to receive some benefit from the Messiah's coming, and one way or other to be subjected to him; and our Lord's discourse might confirm that apprehension: but there is no reason at all to believe, that they perfectly understood the doctrine of the calling of the idolatrous Gentiles, which was so long a mystery even to the apostles themselves?
John 4:44. For Jesus himself testified, &c.— It is plain that this is spoken as the reason why he rather chose to travel into those parts of Galilee, than to go directly to Nazareth, which is particularly called his own country, in distinction from Galilee, and even from Capernaum. Luke 4:23. The time when Jesus made the testimony in this verse, is not limited; for the tense of the verb εμαρτυρησεν, testified, is used in a vague sense, and applied to things past, present, and future; the testimony therefore might have been given some time after, without the least impeachment of the sacred historian's order. See Matthew 13:57.
John 4:46. There was a certain nobleman,— Though Herod was only tetrarch of Galilee, yet he was commonly distinguished by the title of king; and as Capernaum lay in his dominions, this person was probably a nobleman of some distinction belonging to his court; for this is the proper signification of the original βασιλικος, which the Syriac and Arabic versions render, a minister or servant of the king; and many have conjectured, that the person who is here spoken of was Chuza, Herod's steward, whose wife is thought to have been converted on this occasion, and to have become henceforth an attendant upon Christ. See Luke 8:3.
John 4:47. He—besought him that he would come down— Though this nobleman's faith in our Lord's miraculous power was certainly very great, for he came at least a day's journey across the country to him,—which may be fairly inferred from Joh 4:52 as well as from the accounts which the best geographers give us of the situation of Cana and Capernaum;—yet it is plain, that it was not equal to that of many others mentioned in the gospels; for he appears to have thought it necessary that Jesus should be personally present, if he were inclined to grant his petition, and perform the cure.
John 4:48. Except ye see signs, &c.— Jesus said to him, and to them that were about him, "I perceive that though the Samaritans shewed so great a regard to my word, as to believe without the cogency of miracles, (see on John 4:41.) yet unless you see with your own eyes some remarkable and repeated miracles, you will not believe;)"—therebyjustly reproving him and them for that mixture of suspicion and slowness of faith which he discerned in their minds. See the preceding note. It seems necessaryto suppose some such reference, to illustrate the justice of this reproof; for in the general it was very reasonable to expect that Christ would work miracles in proof of his divine mission, as he himself plainly intimates elsewhere. SeeCh. John 15:24. Possibly the person now applying to him, might have made a declaration, that he would neverbelieve such things till he saw them with his own eyes. Christ might mean, by this reflection, to humble him, to shew him a specimen of his extraordinary knowledge as well as power, and thus to give increase and strength to his faith
John 4:49-43.4.50. The nobleman saith unto him, &c.— Weak as his faith was, the nobleman urged only parental affection, determined to press the matter to the utmost; and therefore, without any explication or apology respecting our Lord's reproof, he entreats him to come down ere his child die; urging that the case was so extreme, that a delay might be attended with the most fatal consequences; but not having an idea that Christ, as the Lord of life as well as of health, could as easily remedy those consequences, as heal his son. Jesus, upon this,—fully to convince the nobleman of his omnipotence, and to shew that it was not necessary for him, who could speak, and it was done, to go in person to accomplish the cure,—says to him, "Go thy way home; thy son liveth; at the instant I am speaking to thee, he is recovered from his illness." There is something remarkable and sublimely striking in our Lord's words: No doubt they had their influence upon this man's heart; for we read, that he believed the word which Jesus spoke, and went away without any further importunity, though he had never seen or heard of a parallel case. It is indeed plain, that he had heard of Christ's miracles; but this is the first recorded in which he cured the patient at a distance.
John 4:52. Yesterday at the seventh hour, &c.— That is, it left him all of a sudden; so that being restored to perfect health in an instant, the whole family knew that he was miraculously cured, and particularly the nobleman himself, who, by the time of the cure, perceived that it happened at the very moment that Jesus had pronounce
John 4:54. The second miracle— Some render it, A second. Others translate it, This second miracle Jesus performed, when he came out of Judea; for it is manifest that the words must be taken with this limitation, as Christ had wrought many miracles in other places.
Inferences drawn from the cure of the ruler's son, John 4:46-43.4.54. The divine mercies are as comfortable in their issue, as in themselves; seldom or ever do blessings go alone: where our Saviour supplied the bridegroom's wine, there he heals the ruler's son: he had not in all the coasts of Galilee done any miracle but there.
We do not find Christ often attended with nobility; here he is: it was some noted courtier that was now a suitor to him for his dying son: earthly greatness is no defence against afflictions: we men pay homage to the mighty; disease and death know no faces of lords or monarchs: could these be bribed, they would be too rich: why should we murmur at not being privileged, when we see that there is no indulgence toward the greatest?
This noble ruler listens to hear of Christ's return into Galilee. Happy was it for him that his son was sick; he would not perhaps otherwise have been acquainted with his Saviour: his soul might have continued sick of ignorance and unbelief. Why does our God send us pain, losses, opposition, but that he may be sought to? Are we afflicted,—whither should we go, but to Cana, to seek Christ? Whither but to the Cana of heaven, where our water of sorrows shall be changed into the wine of gladness; to that omnipotent Physician, who healeth all our infirmities; that we may at once say, It is good for me that I was afflicted.
It was about a day's journey from Capernaum to Cana; thence did this courtier come hither for the cure of his son's fever. What pains even the greatest can be content to take for bodily health!—No way is long, no labour is tedious to the desirous. Our souls are sick of a spiritual fever, labouring under the cold fit of unbelief, and the hot fit of self-love; and we sit still at home, and see them languish unto death.
This ruler was neither faithless nor faithful; had he been quite faithless, he had not taken such pains to come to Christ. Had he been faithful, he had not made this suit to Christ, when he was come, John 4:47; John 4:49. Come down, and heal my son ere he die.
"Come down;" as if Christ could not have cured him absent; "ere he die;"—as if that power could not have raised him being dead: How great a difference was there between the centurion (Matthew 8:0. Luke 7:0.) and the ruler! The one came for his servant, the other for his son. This son was not more above the servant, than the faith which sued for the servant, surpassed that which sued for the son: the one can say, Master, come not under my roof, for I am not worthy; only speak the word, and my servant shall be whole. The other can only say, "Master, either come under my roof, or my son cannot be whole." Heal my son, had been a good suit; for Christ is the only physician for all diseases; but, come down and heal him, was to teach God how to work.
There is good reason why he should challenge the right of prescribing to us, who are every way his own: it is presumption to limit him to our forms. What expert workman can endure to be taught by a novice? how much less shall the all-wise God be directed by his creatures! This is more egregious, than if the patient should take upon him to give a recipe to his physician: that God would give us grace, is a becoming suit; but to say, "Give it me by prosperity," is a saucy motive.
As there is faithfulness in desiring the end, so is there a modesty and patience in referring the means to the author. In spiritual things, God hath acquainted us with the means whereby he will work even his own sacred ordinances: upon these, because they have his own promise, we may call absolutely for a blessing. In all others, there is no reason that beggars should be choosers. He who doth whatsoever he will, must do it how he will: it is for us to receive, not to appoint.
He who came to complain of his son's sickness, hears of his own; except ye see signs and wonders, (John 4:48.) ye will not believe. This nobleman, probably, was of Capernaum: there had Christ often preached; there was one of his chief residences; either this man had heard our Saviour often, or might have so done. Incredulity was the common disease of the Jews; which no receipt could heal, but wonders. A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh signs. Had they not been wilfully graceless, there was already proof enough of the Messiah: the miraculous conception and life of the forerunner, Zachary's dumbness, the attestation of angels, the appearance of the star, the journey of the sages, the vision of the shepherds, the testimonies of Anna and Simeon, the prophesies fulfilled, the voice from heaven at his baptism, the divine words which he spake:—and yet, they must have all made up with miracles; which though he be not unwilling to give at his own time, he will not be tied to at theirs. Not to believe without signs, was a sign of stubborn hearts.
It was a fond fault and a dangerous one; Ye will not believe. What is it that shall condemn the world, but unbelief? What can condemn us without it? No sin will condemn the penitent believer; where then true faith is, there can be no condemnation.
Oh what shall become of us, who reel and fall in the clearer sunshine that ever looked forth from heaven upon any people! Be thou merciful unto our sins, O God, and say any thing of us, rather than, Ye will not believe.
Our Lord tells this nobleman of his unbelief: he feels not himself sick of that disease: all his mind is on his dying son.—Yet, O the meekness and mercy of this Lamb of God! when we might have expected that he would have punished this suitor for not believing, he condescends to him, that he may believe, John 4:50. Go thy way; thy son liveth. If we should measure our hopes by our own worthiness, there could be no expectation of blessings; but if we measure them by his bounty and compassion, there can be no doubt of prevailing. As some tender mother, who gives the breast to her unquiet child, instead of the rod, so frequently deals the Saviour of sinners with our perversenesses.
How evidently doth God distinguish men according to the genuine living faith which they have in him! The centurion's servant was sick, so was the ruler's son; the centurion does not sue to Christ to come; he only says, My servant is sick of the palsy: Christ answers him, I will come and heal him. The ruler sues to Christ, that he would come and heal his son; Christ will not go; he only says, Go thy way; thy son liveth: outward things carry no respect with God; the image of that divine majesty shining inwardly in the graces of the soul, is that which wins love from him, in the meanest estate: the centurion's faith, therefore, could do more than the ruler's greatness; and that faithful man's servant has more regard, than this great man's son.
The ruler's request was, come and heal; Christ's answer was, Go thy way; thy son liveth. How sweetly does he correct our prayers! and while he does not give us what we ask, he gives us better than we could hope to obtain.
Justly doth he forbear to go down with this ruler, lest he should confirm him in an opinion of measuring his power by conceits of locality and distance; but he doth that in absence, for which his presence was required with a repulse; thy son liveth; giving a greater demonstration of his onmipotency than was desired: how often doth he refrain to hearken to our will, that he may hear us to our advantage! The believer sometimes would be rid of temptations,—he hears of a supply of grace; the sick man asks release, he receives patience: let us ask what we think best; let him give what he knows best.
With one word doth Christ heal two patients, the son and the father; the son's fever, the father's unbelief: that operative word of our Saviour was not without the intention of a trial. Had not the ruler gone home satisfied with that intimation of his son's life and recovery, neither of them had been blessed with success; now the news of performance meets him one half of the way; and he that believed somewhat ere he came, and more when he went, grew to more faith in the way; and when he came home, enlarged his faith to all the skirts of his family. A weak faith may be true, but a true faith is growing: he that boasts of a full stature in the first moment of his ascent, may presume, but he does not believe.
Great men cannot want clients; their example sways some, their authority more: they cannot go to either of the other worlds alone: in vain do they pretend to power over others, who labour not to draw their families to God.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Judea being now become a dangerous abode, through the malice of the Pharisees, our Lord retires into Galilee, that he might be farther removed from Jerusalem, where his bitter enemies chiefly resided: his preaching in Judea having been very successful, and great multitudes having followed him, who were admitted by baptism into the number of his professing disciples, he knew the wicked designs that his Pharisaical enemies had formed, on the information which they received concerning his growing fame and interest among the people; as if he far exceeded John in his popularity and number of converts, and therefore was to be apprehended as a more dangerous rival than the Baptist; though, in some particulars, the information given to the Pharisees seems to be false; for as it is not probable that they who were baptized by the disciples of Jesus, were more than those whom John had baptized; so it is certain, that Jesus baptized not, but his disciples, maintaining the dignity of his character, as sent to baptize with the Holy Ghost, and far superior to John, or any others: this also might have been designed to remove all emulation from his disciples, which might arise, if he baptized some, and his servants others; or to shew, that the validity of the ordinance depended not on the worthiness of the ministry, but on his blessing and institution. Note; (1.) The enemies of the gospel are ever envious and exasperated at its success. (2.) When danger threatens, it is prudent to avoid the storm by flight, where duty does not require us to stand and suffer.
2nd, As Samaria lay between Judea and Galilee, he must necessarily pass through it on his way thither, unless he took a large compass about. That country was inhabited by the posterity of the colonies which the king of Assyria had planted there after the captivity; who, being mingled with many apostate Jews, became a mixed race, who, though retaining many heathen idolatries and superstitions, professed themselves worshippers of Israel's God, and received the books of Moses; were circumcised, and erected a temple on mount Gerizim, in opposition to that at Jerusalem, pretending that this was the spot where God ought to be worshipped. Hence arose the bitterest animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews, the latter regarding the former as the most abominable of mankind. In this journey we are told,
1. The place where our Lord stayed to rest himself awhile, being wearied with his journey. It was by a well-side belonging to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, which bordered on a piece of land that Jacob, having purchased of the sons of Hamor, had given to his son Joseph. The well was called Jacob's, either because he dug it, or used it for himself and family. Our Lord here appears truly man, subject to our sinless infirmities, weariness, thirst, and hunger; for it became him in all things to become like unto his brethren, sin only excepted. It was about the sixth hour, or six in the evening, if we follow the Roman method of reckoning.
2. The discourse which passed between Jesus and a woman of Samaria. She happened just at that time to come to draw water: so divine Providence ordered it, leading her to Christ in a way that she knew not. The disciples being gone into the city to buy meat, he was alone, and is pleased graciously to improve that moment's leisure for the benefit of this poor stranger's soul.
[1.] He addressed her first, begging a little water to drink; for though he was rich, for our sakes he became thus poor, and condescends to ask a cup of cold water. Yet he had a farther end in view, even to engage her in conversation, and thereby to make to her the gracious offer of salvation. Occasional discourse with strangers has been often found to have a blessed and abiding influence, and should encourage us, when travelling, to open our mouths, and speak a word for God, and for immortal souls.
[2.] The woman expressed her surprise, that he, who appeared to be a Jew, should deign to receive an act of kindness at the hands of a Samaritan; or that he should expect the least favour would be granted from one to the other, where the enmity between the two nations was so bitter and irreconcileable, as to cut off all manner of friendly intercourse between them. Religious quarrels are thus usually seen to be the most implacable; but where the spirit of bigotry and uncharitableness dwells, which-ever side is right in the point disputed, the spirit of both is wrong, and utterly opposite to pure and undefiled religion.
[3.] Waving the subject of the controversy between the Jews and Samaritans, Christ designed to lead her to the knowledge of himself, and therefore replied, If thou knewest the gift of God, what an amazing instance of his love he has given in sending his own Son into the world; and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; even that divine Person now become incarnate; thou wouldst have laid aside all these national prejudices, and have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water; those gifts of grace, and comforts of his Spirit, which to the sinner's soul are more desirable than the coolest and most refreshing stream to the parched throat and weary traveller. Note; (1.) Christ is the fountain of gardens, and well of living waters, open for every poor sinner, and freely given, that whoever will, may come unto him, and drink of the riches of his grace. (2.) Many carelessly disregard the invaluable blessings of the gospel, because they are wilfully ignorant of their excellence, and of their want of them. (3.) They who would obtain the blessings of grace from Jesus, and his holy Spirit, must seek them in importunate prayer; and he who is faithful and true, hath promised, that none such shall ask in vain.
[4.] The woman, mistaking Christ's meaning, and taking his discourse literally, answered, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? and therefore concludes that his boasts were absurd. They who are wholly taken up with the objects of sense, have no understanding of spiritual things; they are foolishness to them: the hidden springs of grace in Christ, being unseen, are disbelieved by such. Besides, she regards it as a great piece of presumption in him, to prefer any other waters before those of a well so highly distinguished. Art thou greater than our father Jacob, from whom we Samaritans, as well as you Jews, claim our descent; which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Vain boasts these! when they had so poor a title to claim kindred with the patriarch, and were no better than usurpers of that country, which they pretended came to them by gift from Jacob to Joseph, and so in a right line of descent to them. The bitterest enemies of the church thus often usurp, and would monopolize its privileges.
[5.] Though she had spoken foolishly, Christ kindly bore with her, and continued his discourse, saying, Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again; this was but common water, and could only slake the present thirst, which must soon return: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst. All the comforts of the world are insufficient to give any abiding satisfaction; Christ alone can bestow the substantial portion on the soul. They who pant after the earth, and its enjoyments, drink and thirst again; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Such is Christ, when formed in the hearts of the faithful. [1.] He delivers the soul from the dominion of all the former unsatiable appetites and inclinations after sensual objects. [2.] He furnishes us with continual supplies of grace and consolation from himself, the everflowing overflowing fountain of mercies; so that in our heavenly journey we can never faint nor be weary, while we drink of these living streams, as of the water from the rock, which followed Israel's camp through the desert. [3.] Wherever his grace is thus implanted in the soul, it bears the affections heavenward.
[6.] The woman, desiring what, could it be possessed, would save her so much trouble, replied, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
[7.] To impress deeper seriousness upon her soul, or to convince her of the dignity of his character, of which she was not at all apprized, Jesus turned the discourse to another topic, which he knew must nearly and deeply affect her; and, bringing her sin home to her conscience, might, through his blessing, engage her to embrace him as her Saviour. Therefore he says to her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. Conscious of the guilty state in which she at present lived, she wanted to conceal her shame, and said, I have no husband, conceiving it impossible for him to detect the lie. But, to her amazement, she finds him intimately acquainted with all the most secret transactions of her life, which he lays before her. Thou hast well said, I have no husband; so far is true; for thou hast had five husbands, from whom perhaps she had been successively divorced; and he whom thou now hast, is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly, the person with whom she now cohabited not being married to her, or her former husbands being yet living. He does not reproach her either for her evasion or lewdness, but rather leaves it to her conscience to make the application. Gentle reproofs, by insinuation, are often more effectual than more immediate rebuke.
[8.] Struck with what she heard, and convicted in her own conscience, she would willingly have turned off the discourse from so painful a subject; and persuaded, by what he had told her, of his more than human knowledge, she proposes to him the grand point in debate between the Jews and Samaritans: Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; there Abraham built an altar; and there the tribe of Joseph stood, when the blessings and curses were pronounced by the tribes on mount Ebal and Gerizim; and therefore on this mountain Gerizim, the Samaritans insisted that sacrifices and offerings should alone be offered to God, in the temple which they built there: and ye who are Jews, say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship, at the temple on mount Zion, where alone the oblations of God's altar are accepted: and therefore she wished, that he, who appeared so able, would resolve her in this important point. That God should be worshipped, there was no doubt: the question was, Where was the place of divine appointment? and herein she did well to improve the present opportunity in conversing about divine things, when she had with her so able an adviser.
[9.] Jesus kindly leads her even farther than her inquiry reached. He saith unto her, Woman, believe me, and, since you esteem me a prophet, weigh well what I am now about to declare, the hour cometh, when a final period shall be put to all ceremonial distinctions, and to the peculiar holiness of places set apart for the worship of the Divine Being; when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father; that is to say, exclusively; since under the gospel dispensation every place would be alike acceptable to God, where holy hands were lifted up without wrath or doubting; and shortly both the temple at Gerizim and that on mount Zion would be made desolate, and no sacrifices be any longer offered there. Indeed at present the Samaritans were wrong; Ye worship ye know not what (See the Annotations): we know what we worship; for God is known in Israel; and he, as one of that nation after the flesh, reckoned himself among the true worshippers, who paid their adorations according to the divine prescription, and were possessed of the whole of that revelation which he had been graciously pleased to make of himself in his sacred oracles. For salvation is of the Jews; the promises of salvation were peculiarly made to them; and he who came to be the salvation of the ends of the earth, sprang from them. But, though in this respect the Samaritans were wrong, and not to be compared with Abraham's true descendants, yet these distinctions of nations and places were now about to cease; the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The place of worship is now become indifferent; the spirit and temper of the worshipper alone makes the acceptable service. All carnal ordinances are abolished, and a spiritual worship is introduced, where the heart, under the powerful influences of the Holy Ghost, must be lifted up in faith and love to God; and in truth, with simplicity and godly sincerity, according to the divine institution, and through Christ alone, who is the way, the truth, and the life; for the Father seeketh such to worship him: he will graciously accept their services, and can be pleased with no other. For God is a Spirit of infinite perfections, incorporeal, invisible, eternal, omniscient; requiring not the adoration of the lip or knee, but of the heart; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth: without which, the place, the form, the manner of our religious worship, avail nothing, and are in his view of no account. And what Christ says to her, is an eternal truth and merits our most serious notice and regard; that so we may not mock God, and deceive ourselves, when we approach him in the ordinances of his worship.
[10.] The woman, though unable to object to the truths here advanced, yet professes to suspend her judgment till He should come, who would set all things right. She saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, (which is called in the Greek, Christ, or the anointed), this expectation being generally entertained by the Samaritans as well as the Jews. When he is come, whom we expect as ready to appear, he will tell us all things; will put an end to our controversies, clear up our doubts, and give us a distinct knowledge of all the will of God. Hereupon Jesus, in answer to her expectations of the Messiah's coming, plainly declares to her his character: I that speak unto thee, am he: so much nearer to us is the Saviour often than we are aware. Speak, Lord, to my heart, and make me know that thou art with me, in me!
3rdly, Just as the Lord had so far advanced in his discourse, and manifested his glorious character to this poor Samaritan, we are told,
1. The interruption given to the conversation by the arrival of the disciples, who had been sent to procure provisions; and, influenced by the common Jewish prejudices, they wondered to see him thus engaged with a Samaritan woman. Yet, submitting to his will and wisdom, and with deepest reverence silent before him, none dared presume to ask him what he sought of the woman, or what he said to her. Note; We must not question the Lord concerning any of the dispensations of his providence or grace, but rest assured that he doth all things well.
2. Deeply convinced, by what Jesus had spoken, of his being indeed the Messiah, with eagerness and joy the woman ran back to the city, leaving her water-pot behind her, careless about that when greater concerns engaged her soul; and said to the men, the inhabitants of the place, Come, opportunity is precious, and not a moment to be lost: come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? He told me such secret passages of my life, as none but God could know; and has impressed such a sense of them on my conscience, as fully convinces me he is the promised Messiah; haste therefore to him, and judge for yourselves, that you may be convinced also. Note; (1.) They who run on Christ's errands, gladly disencumber themselves of every thing which would retard their speed, and sit loose to all that they leave behind them. (2.) When we have ourselves tasted that the Lord is gracious, we cannot but delight to invite others to come and see how good he is, and to partake with us in his rich mercies. (3.) We never know Christ truly, till, experimentally feeling the convictions of his word and Spirit, and brought to a deep and humbling discovery of our sins, we feel the necessity of that salvation which he brings.
3. Multitudes, on this strange report, bad as the woman's character had been, resolved to go and see for themselves.
4. Christ in the mean time improved the interval in profitable discourse with his disciples. So set was his mind on the blessed work before him, that, though hungry, he seemed to forget for a while to eat his bread. The disciples pressed him, as weary, and fasting too long, to eat of the provision which they had brought; but he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. The gracious work begun on the heart of this poor Samaritan woman, and the prospect of multitudes flocking towards him, were more delightful and refreshing to his soul, than the richest entertainment to his body. The disciples, who understood him literally, with surprise said one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? so dull were they of understanding. But their Master soon corrected their mistake, saying unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work; this is my greatest satisfaction, to be engaged in the blessed work of seeking and saving that which was lost, for which great end I came into the world: and what was his delight, should be theirs, as the husbandman labours with satisfaction in the view of the approaching harvest. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Does this joyous season please you in the prospect? Behold, an infinitely better is in view; I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields (where probably multitudes of the Samaritans now appeared in view), for they are white already to harvest; immortal souls are ready to be gathered into the gospel church; and therefore this is no time to eat and drink, but to rise and labour. And, for an inducement hereunto, he suggests the glorious recompense of reward, which would be the wages of their fidelity: He that reapeth, receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; the wages of present comfort, increasing strength and success in his labours, and, if faithful unto death, life everlasting in the world to come: and this not only for himself, but for many of those among whom he ministers; the blessed effects of which will be, that both he that soweth, and he that reapeth, may rejoice together. The ministers who begin, and they who carry on the good work, will alike partake of the comforts of it. And herein is that proverbial saying true, One soweth and another reapeth: the apostles reaped what the prophets sowed; and, after their Master's resurrection, gathered a plenteous harvest of souls. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours: the writings of the prophets, and the preaching of John, greatly facilitated their ministry and contributed to its success; and going forth with such advantages, they had peculiar encouragement, and double cause for their diligence. Note; (1.) Gospel ministers, like harvest-men, must labour diligently and cheerfully in the service of God, and of immortal souls. (2.) When the people appear eager and attentive to hear, it is a most powerful excitement to the minister, to preach with liveliness and zeal. (3.) Nothing will turn to so glorious an account in the day of God, as immortal souls gained to his kingdom through our ministry. (4.) The preachers of the gospel have different talents; some more adapted to break up the fallow ground, and sow the seed; others, to nourish up, and rear to maturity, the trees of righteousness: each are useful in their place, and, if faithful, will rejoice together at the last in the fruit of their joint labours.
5. Great was the effect of the woman's testimony concerning Christ. 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. She was indeed a weak instrument; but God can work by the most unlikely means. Persuaded of his prophetical character, and receiving him as the Messiah, they humbly besought him to favour them with his company for a while, that they might enjoy his holy instructions. Nor did he disdain their request, but abode with them two days, teaching them concerning the things that made for their everlasting peace. And so powerful was his ministry among them, that many more believed, because of his own word: not only those who believed in him on the woman's report, were confirmed in the faith; but those who had paid less regard to her, now felt the divine conviction of the Saviour's discourses, and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying, merely, but on the most unshaken authority of the word of Jesus himself; for we have heard him ourselves, and know, by the powerful energy of his word upon our consciences, that this is indeed the Christ, the so long promised and expected Saviour of the world; not of the Jews only, but of the Samaritans also, and of all the nations of the earth, who would receive his word of salvation. Note; (1.) The greatest fruit is often reaped where it was least expected. The Samaritans readily embraced that Saviour whom the Jews rejected. (2.) Christ is indeed the Saviour of the world; but we must believe in him, before we ourselves can be experimentally acquainted with his salvation.
4thly, Jesus made but a short visit to Sychar; he had other work to do, and therefore after two days he departed thence. Yet perhaps two more successful days passed not during his ministry; a gracious earnest of the success which his gospel should meet with in the heathen world.
1. Christ pursued his journey to Galilee, but went not to Nazareth; well knowing, as he had before observed and experienced, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country; those with whom we have been brought up from infancy, usually paying little respect to the person as their teacher, with whom they have been familiar, as their junior, their schoolfellow, or their companion.
2. The Galileans gladly received him, having seen his miracles at the feast of the passover; to celebrate which, distant as they were, they went up with the other Jews to Jerusalem. Note; They who love God's ordinances, will not grudge to go far to enjoy them, and never will have reason to regret their pains.
3. He visited, among other places, Cana, where his first miracle was wrought of turning the water into wine; and there another notable miracle is wrought by him, which is not recorded by any of the other evangelists.
[1.] The person who made application to him, was a nobleman; probably, one of Herod's courtiers, perhaps Chuza, (Luke 8:3.) or Manaen, (Acts 13:1.) and the patient was the nobleman's own son. Note; (1.) Greatness is no protection from disease, nor from any of the common calamities incident to humanity. (2.) Afflictions often drive those to Christ, who, otherwise, probably had never applied to him; and then indeed they are blessings in disguise.
[2.] His address was earnest, and bespoke his confidence in the power of Jesus. He came himself from Capernaum to Cana, to beg his help. The case was desperate, and past all other aid but his; for his child was at the point of death; and therefore he entreats him to hasten down without delay. He thought the presence of Jesus was needful to the cure, herein dishonourably limiting the holy One of Israel. Note; Our sins have reduced us all to the point of eternal death: unless Jesus save, we must inevitably perish.
[3.] Christ rebukes his confined notions of his almighty power, and the backwardness of the Jews in general to believe. The Samaritans believed as soon as he had preached among them; but they required repeated signs and wonders, not satisfied with those which they had already seen him work at Jerusalem, during the feast.
[4.] The nobleman renews his importunate request. Every moment of delay was, in his apprehension, imminently dangerous; for though he had faith in Christ, that he could cure his son if he was present with him; yet he seems to have no apprehension that he could heal at a distance, or, if the child was dead, restore him to life again.
[5.] Christ relieves him of his pain, saying, Go thy way; thy son liveth. Nothing more was needful to the cure: his word wrought as effectually at a distance, as if he had gone in person. He speaks, and it is done. O that we had but faith to trust him at all times!
[6.] The power which wrought the cure of the son, as effectually influenced the heart of the father; so that in full assurance of faith he departed, perfectly satisfied, that the word which Jesus had spoken was sure, and that he should find his son alive and well. He appeared thus a true son of Abraham, and none like him ever trusted the Lord, and was confounded.
[7.] His servants met him, as he returned, with the joyful news of his son's recovery; and on inquiring when the happy change took place, they told him, at the seventh hour the fever left him; not gradually, but in a moment he recovered; and the father immediately remembered that that was precisely the hour when Jesus had spoken to him.
[8.] The effect of this miracle was the conversion of himself and his family. Himself believed and his whole house. He had begun to believe before; now his faith was more confirmed in Jesus as the Messiah, and he became a professed disciple; while his household, who were eye-witnesses of the miracle, followed his example. Note; (1.) One word of Jesus spoken to the heart, brings salvation with it. (2.) When the master of the family sets the gracious example, it is often greatly influential to all his house.
Lastly, The evangelist remarks this as the second miracle which Jesus had wrought in Cana of Galilee. Thus by two or three witnesses he established the authority of his mission; and probably the quality of the patient made the cure to be the more observed. When persons of a superior rank submit to be saved by grace through faith, the change wrought on them engages more particular attention.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on John 4". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent