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Bible Commentaries

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann
John 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-6

Christ and the Woman of Samaria.

On the way to Galilee:

v. 1. When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,

v. 2. (though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,)

v. 3. He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.

v. 4. And He must needs go through Samaria.

v. 5. Then cometh He to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

v. 6. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus, therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well; and it was about the sixth hour.

Even at this early day the Pharisees were watching the activities of the Lord with jealous eyes. His growing popularity gave them much uneasiness. And there was a disquieting factor also for Jesus in the situation. The testimony of John and His own teaching had their effect in bringing an ever-increasing multitude to His baptism, which He, however, did not administer in person, but through His disciples. While there was not the slightest intimation of unpleasantness on the part of John the Baptist, there was still the danger of invidious comparisons, and Jesus apparently had no intention of interfering with the ministry of John at this time or ever. But the Pharisees, as Jesus found out, had heard the news that He was making more converts than John. These self-righteous hypocrites were declared opponents of the truth and therefore also of John, the teacher of truth. Should they therefore hear that the baptizing of Jesus was having such extraordinary success, they might be constrained to assume that Jesus was acting in opposition to John. This result Jesus wanted to avoid, and therefore, with a fine tact, which deserves wide imitation, He left Judea and set out for Galilee. He was not so sensitive about contamination from contact with Samaritans as many Jews were, who, for that reason, usually took the road on the other side of the Jordan when traveling to Galilee. Jesus took the shortest route, and thus was obliged to travel through Samaria, the country between Judea and Galilee. Samaria took its name from the city Samaria, or Shomron, 1Ki_16:24. When Shalmaneser, in 722 B. C. , carried Israel away into Assyria, a small number of the inhabitants remained in the country. To these were added heathen from Mesopotamia, and the result was a mixed population, in whose midst Jehovah was still nominally adored, but who also worshiped the gods of the heathen. When the Jews returned from their captivity, the Samaritans made an attempt to join them, and when this effort proved unsuccessful, they built a temple on Mount Gerizim. Their religion, in which they accepted only the Pentateuch as the inspired Word of God, was a strange mixture of Judaism and paganism. The territory of Samaria at the time of Christ was included in the tetrarchy of Archelaus and was under the procurator Pontius Pilate. On the north and east was the country of Herod Antipas, Galilee and Perea.

On His journey north with His disciples, Jesus came to the little city of Sychar, which was located almost in the center of Samaria. Near this town there was a piece of land which the patriarch Jacob had given to his son Joseph in addition to his share of the country, Gen_48:22. It was on this piece of land that Joseph was buried. And here was also a well or cistern which Jacob had dug after his return from Mesopotamia. The well, which is now known as Jacob's Well, is within ten minutes' walk of the present village of Askar. It is about a hundred feet deep and is protected by a wall and a coping. Jesus, being a true man, had become very tired literally, tired out—by the long journey of the morning; for it was now high noon. So He sat down at the well, either on the low wall which served as a railing, or on one of the steps leading to the water's edge.


Verses 7-10

The beginning of the conversation:

v. 7. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink.

v. 8. (For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)

v. 9. Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

v. 10. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.

While Jesus was sitting there, exhausted, hungry, and thirsty, there came a Samaritan woman out of the city to draw water from the well, the work of the Oriental women to this day. Here was an opportunity to do work in the interest of saving a soul, and Jesus took good care to make use of the chance. He deliberately began a conversation with the woman, by asking her for a drink of water. Time and occasion were auspicious, since they were undisturbed, the disciples, as the evangelist notes, having gone to the city to buy food for the little company. The woman was surprised at the request of Jesus. In her astonishment she asks how it came about that He, of whom she could tell that He was a Jew, yet asked this favor of her who was a Samaritan. The evangelist explains this by saying that there was no communication between Jews and Samaritans, the hostility going so far as to exclude even all courtesies by the way. See Luk_9:53. But Jesus has no time for racial prejudices when there is a chance to speak of the heavenly wisdom. Instead of being surprised at the question, the woman should have turned right around and, on her own part, made a request. If she had any idea of the fact that the gift of God in the person and work of Jesus is free for all men; if she had an inkling of the beauty and glory of that gift; if she were aware of the identity of Him that had spoken to her, she would waste no time in idle. questions as to proprieties. She would have begged Him at once most urgently and eagerly, and He could and would have given her living water. Jesus here testifies of Himself, of His own person. Living water, in the spiritual sense, from Him, the fountain of life, a water to refresh the soul, a water that gives life. Christ's Word and His salvation, which are given freely according to the grace and mercy of God, were here offered to the woman of Samaria. Incidentally, Jesus challenged the curiosity of the woman by emphasizing living water. The pool before them was probably rainwater, gathered here from the surrounding hills. But the water which He had in mind was far from being stagnant: it had life and strength in fullness.


Verses 11-15

The explanation of the living water:

v. 11. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence, then, hast Thou that living water?

v. 12. Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

v. 13. Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again;

v. 14. but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

v. 15. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.

The Lord had gained His first object; He had awakened the curiosity of the woman; He could now expect to draw her out. The dignity of His speech and bearing caused her to address Him as Lord, but her answer showed that she was very skeptical about His ability to perform what He had promised. He had no vessel to draw water with, and the cistern or well was too deep for Him to get water without the aid of such a vessel; how could He, then, produce water, and living water, that is, water from a spring, at that? In this way, the woman understood His words as referring to physical, earthly water only. If Jesus could give her living water at this place, that is her argument, then He must be greater and mightier than Jacob, whom the Samaritans also, having Israelitish blood in them, regarded as their forefather. Jacob had done much for them in providing this well, out of which he himself had drunk, and his children, and his cattle. If Jesus could give the Samaritans better water than that of this well, then He must be a greater, mightier man. The understanding of the woman was altogether carnal. Jesus therefore tries to open her understanding by an explanation. Every person that drank of the water of that well would become thirsty again. The physical thirst of a person may be quenched for a little while by a drink of water. But the water to which He is referring is not that which is drunk with the mouth. It is of a nature that it quenches one peculiar thirst forever. In all eternity such a person will never be bothered by thirst again; for the water which He proposes to give will become in him that drinks of it a fountain of water bubbling up into eternal life. His gift is living water with the power to produce life and to keep bubbling with life and strength, and thus daily producing new power, enabling the possessor to gain eternal life. All the thirst, all desire and longing of people, is satisfied forever by this water; for that is His salvation, which He has brought and proclaimed. That alone can fully satisfy the heart. The salvation which Christ gives works a new, a spiritual life, and this life is fully realized and completed in eternity. The Lord's purpose to arouse interest, to stimulate desire for this wonderful water, was successful, though the woman did not yet understand what He was referring to. Her one concern is that she may be saved the trouble of coming out here every day to draw water and then to carry it home the long distance. The two qualities of the Lord's water have attracted her: the fact that it quenches thirst forever; the fact that it bubbles up ever anew and needs no drawing.


Verses 16-18

A disconcerting request:

v. 16. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.

v. 17. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband;

v. 18. for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband; in that saidst thou truly.

Jesus, throughout the conversation, showed the true missionary's skill. He had properly prepared the woman's mind to listen to Him as to one that might have a message worth listening to, and not mere idle talk to dispense. The next step is to bring her to an understanding of her sin, to a realization of its guilt. To this end Jesus tells the woman to call her husband, her legal spouse. He knew her heart, mind, and circumstances as well as she did, and better. The woman was struck by the question, but answered quite frankly: A husband I have not. This was a truthful answer, but did not go far enough. And therefore Jesus disposes of her doubtful meaning by emphasizing: Well hast thou said, A husband I have not. She had had five husbands, and had left them all in quick succession. The matter of divorces in Palestine at the time of the Lord was fast approaching the condition in which momentary likes or dislikes decided a woman's choice. This woman was now living with a man without the formality of a marriage ceremony, or at best in a common-law marriage. The Lord told her all this, by His omniscience, for the purpose of making her realize her sinfulness, of making her see the depth to which she had fallen. She must become fully conscious of her guilt against the Sixth Commandment and the entire Law before she would have the proper desire and longing for the riches of Christ's salvation. Note: It is always thus when the Lord converts a sinner. At first there are only a few faint sparks of penitence, which would be extinguished without the aid of the Holy Ghost. But then He deepens the consciousness of transgression and guilt, in order that the longing for salvation may be instilled by the sweet message of salvation, by the Gospel. Very often the real battle in the heart of a person begins only after the desire for salvation has been felt. Then Satan tries to drive the sinner into despair. It is then that grace must much more abound.


Verses 19-24

A question as to true worship:

v. 19. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet.

v. 20. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.

v. 21. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father.

v. 22. Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews.

v. 23. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.

v. 24. God is a spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

The revelation which Jesus had just made astonished and disconcerted the woman. She had probably never given the matter of her loose living a serious thought, since the marriage-tie at that time was considered anything but binding. Yet Christ's way of putting it in such a naked, unvarnished way struck her conscience with peculiar force. Her words were therefore a confession of guilt, though veiled to some extent. She states, first of all, that she now understood and had the conviction; I see that a prophet Thou art. His knowledge of her sins compelled this admission; But she is sensitive upon the subject and would rather not go into details. Not that she was not conscious of guilt, for she had already shown some degree of longing for salvation. Her question rather showed how deeply she was moved. Since this man was a prophet with the Spirit of omniscience, he would surely be able to give the solution of the standing problem of Samaritan religion, one which had now been bothering them for almost six centuries. She wanted to know where the living God was to be found and which was the true worship. She knew that forgiveness was to be found only with the living God. It was the question of a serious seeker after truth. The Samaritans had for centuries worshiped their god, whom they also called Jehovah, on Mount Gerizim, which was situated near Shechem and Sychar. There had formerly been a fine temple on this mountain, which, however, the Jewish ruler Hyrcanus had destroyed in the year 125 B. C. Since that time the temple had not been completely restored, the Samaritans being satisfied to worship in the ruins. But, on the other hand, as the woman correctly states, the Jews claimed that Jerusalem was the only place where people should worship, Exo_20:24; Deu_12:5; Num_9:5; Deu_16:3-6. Now she wanted to know who was right, the Samaritans or the Jews. The Lord answers with one of the greatest and most far-reaching announcements of all times, earnestly inviting the woman, at the same time, to give full credence to His weighty words. The time was coming, was even now dawning, when the old earthly, outwardly visible forms of worship would no longer be reckoned as essential. Both places of the Old Testament cults, that of Mount Gerizim and that of Jerusalem, would then be forsaken. This took place shortly after Christ's ascension. Then the apostles went out and founded a great many congregations, not only in Judea, but also in Samaria. Then the Samaritans that came to faith deserted Mount Gerizim and worshiped the true God in Jesus Christ the Savior. Incidentally, however, Jesus states that there is a difference, even now, though this difference lay not in the place, but in the object of worship. The Samaritan religion had received so many additions through the influence of the heathen religions that the, God whom they still designated as Jehovah was in reality a figment of their imagination, just as the gods are which are worshiped by the lodges of the present day. He that rejects any part of the revelation of God will very shortly lose all light, all understanding. With the Jews it was different. They knew the true, living God. To the Jews God had revealed Himself not only in the Law, in the five Books of Moses, but also in the prophecies. All the books of. the Old Testament were read and explained in the synagogues, and the true Israelites, accordingly, worshiped the true God. The services in Jerusalem were still the right services, as commanded by God. And the reason for this mercy of God, the reason why He had permitted them to keep the right form of worship in Jerusalem, was because by His will and intention salvation was to come from the Jews. The Messiah Himself was a Jew according to the flesh. When salvation had come, when Christ had fully earned the salvation through suffering, death, and resurrection, then the special time of grace for Israel alone was at an end, then salvation was preached throughout the world. With the coming of Christ the hour of God had come in which the external worship of God at Jerusalem must give way to the true service of God. Then those that worship and pray in truth would pray to the Father in spirit and in truth. Jesus purposely calls the true God Father, for He is now the Father of all believers through the merits of the Savior, His Son. All true believers call upon that God whom they know as their merciful Father, who is reconciled to them through the blood of Christ. The New Testament worship is not dependent upon external forms, sacrifices of animals, prescribed forms of altars and appointments, etc. , but is done in the spirit; it depends upon the condition of heart and mind. And it is done in truth, it is the only true, stable, sound method of worshiping. The Father is anxious to have such people as worship and serve Him in this manner, as give Him evidence of the religion of Christ in their hearts, for He Himself is a spirit. God is an invisible being, with reason and will, with self-consciousness and power; He is a personal God. And in accordance with His person He wants to be worshiped in spirit and in truth. He that will worship God properly must direct his spirit, heart, mind, thoughts to Him, must deal with Him and speak with Him as one person with another. That intimate personal intercourse, without any intervening priesthood, that direct dealing of the believer with his heavenly Father, is a characteristic of the New Testament worship. Only believers can therefore truly pray. Such as have no knowledge of, and no belief in, the reconciliation of mankind through the blood of Jesus have no communication with God. Note: We have in these words of Jesus a glorious revelation concerning the true God as the Father of the believers through the reconciliation made by His Son. Through such messages the Lord intends to awaken and strengthen faith in the hearts of all men and trust in God as their true Father.


Verses 25-30

Belief and missionary effort:

v. 25. The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when He is come, He will tell us all things.

v. 26. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He.

v. 27. And upon this came His disciples, and marveled that He talked with the woman; yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her?

v. 28. The woman then left her water-pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,

v. 29. Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?

v. 30. Then they went out of the city and came unto Him.

The woman had listened to Jesus with increasing understanding, not unmixed, however, with some measure of bewilderment over the depth of wisdom which lay in the words of Jesus. But the drift of the Lord's speech seemed to be that the time of Messianic glory was about to be revealed. Now the Samaritans had some dim and uncertain idea of the promised Messiah out of the Pentateuch. And the woman now voices her hope in this Messiah, who is called the Christ; with His coming, she knows, all type, symbol, and prophecy would be at an end, for He would bring them a full and complete message, clear and unmistakable to their understanding, without type and external worship. Jesus now revealed Himself to the woman in a few simple words: I am He, the man that is speaking with thee. Jesus is the one Savior that can and will give to all men the full Gospel of salvation; He is the Savior of the world. There was no danger in this announcement of the Lord in Samaria; for, unlike the Jews, the Samaritans did not regard the promised Messiah as a king who was to inaugurate political changes, but as a prophet and teacher who would give them the full revelation of God's Word and will. But the plain words of Jesus had taught the woman the true meaning of the Messiah, and she, the sinner, believed Him to be the Savior of sinners. Just as Jesus had revealed Himself to the woman, His disciples returned from the city with the food that they had bought. The fact that Jesus was speaking with a Samaritan woman caused them to wonder as to the reason for this unconventional behavior. And yet none of them inquired as to His object in speaking with her or as to the subject of the conversation. They had learned so much that they must not interfere with His methods. But the woman, now that the interruption had taken place, forgot the object of her coming to the well. She was so excited over the revelation she had received and so anxious to tell her news in the city that she left her vessel standing at the well and hurried cityward. The faith which had just been kindled in her heart yearned for expression, it constrained her to become a missionary for the Lord. She went away to the city, where at this time of day there was an intermission in labor, and where groups of men could easily be found. Her missionary call was: Come and see! See Joh_1:46. And she based her invitation upon the fact that Christ had uncovered her past to her. Her saying was not an unconscious declaration of her sin. It was a humble confession of sin, combined with a free confession of her belief in Jesus as the Messiah. The people of the city should come and see for themselves whether this was not the Christ. She is sure that they will gain the same conviction which she has gotten from her interview. Note: That is always the first fruit, the first result, of conversion, that a person acknowledges himself to be a poor sinner and confesses Jesus, his Savior. The woman's announcement was not without results: the men left the city and came to Jesus. A missionary may not have the quick success which the woman here was pleased to see, but the word of confession concerning the Savior, the proclamation of the Gospel, is never without fruit; it will not return to the Lord void.


Verses 31-38

The harvest in the kingdom of God:

v. 31. In the mean while His disciples prayed Him, saying, Master, eat.

v. 32. But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.

v. 33. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him aught to eat?

v. 34. Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.

v. 35. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

v. 36. And he that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

v. 37. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.

v. 38. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor; other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors.

In the meantime, between the woman's leaving the well and the men's coming from the city, a little incident took place at the well which gave Jesus an opportunity to impart to His disciples some very necessary instruction. The disciples having brought food, they begged their Master to eat, and thus to renew His strength after the exertions of the morning. As true man, Jesus not only became tired and exhausted at times, but He ordinarily was obliged to partake of food to sustain His life. But here He had apparently forgotten all about His fatigue. He tells the disciples that He has food to eat of which they know nothing. The Lord made use of every possible chance to raise the minds of the apostles to heavenly things through the medium of earthly matters. But the disciples, with the usual carnal understanding which they exhibited, thought only of earthly food and of the possibility of someone's having brought Him something to eat in their absence. In this sense they discussed the matter among themselves. Jesus, therefore, explains to them wherein His food consists. That is food and drink, complete sustenance to Him, if He does the will of His Father that sent Him, and completes His work. Jesus is sustained by the feeling which He has concerning the world's need of salvation. It was the Father's, the entire Godhead's will from eternity that this salvation should be gained for fallen mankind, and Jesus wanted to carry out the work imposed upon Him by that counsel of the God-head. Jesus tries to make His meaning clear to His disciples by an illustration taken from facts before their eyes. Jesus had gone to Judea in April for the festival of the Passover. About nine months He had spent in the southern province. It was now about December, four months before the beginning of harvest. The disciples should pay much closer attention to the spiritual harvest. Lifting up their eyes, they could see the men of the city coming to seek Jesus. Here was a field white for harvest. The Samaritans were ready for the message of the Gospel unto their salvation, the harvest of their souls could soon be gathered in. They were the firstlings out of the great mass of the heathen. That they turned to Jesus was a sign that the great harvest among the heathen of the world was at hand. And this fact was of great importance to the disciples, who were supposed to be reapers in this great harvest of souls for the kingdom of God. He that gathers the harvest, by doing so gets his reward; and in the spiritual kingdom the reaper, the messenger of salvation, gathers fruit unto life eternal. In the great harvest festival, therefore, which will be held in heaven, both the sower and the reaper will rejoice together. See 1Co_3:6-8. In the case of the Samaritans, the disciples, as reapers, almost trod on the heels of the great Sower, Jesus. In general, it is a great truth that finds its application in the kingdom of Christ: One man has the joy of sowing, another that of reaping. Jesus Himself had done the work of a sower in Judea, and the disciples had had the joy of baptizing many that were convinced by the Word of the Master. It is a truth which always holds true in the preaching of the Gospel. One pastor sows the seed of the Word, the older generation of people work to bring the Gospel to others, and, as a rule, they see but little of the results. But in later years, after the preliminary work has achieved its object, the successors reap the results in wonderful measure.


Verses 39-42

Faith as personal conviction:

v. 39. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.

v. 40. So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them; and He abode there two days.

v. 41. And many more believed because of His own word;

v. 42. and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

The woman did her missionary work well. She spoke with such earnestness and conviction that she persuaded many of the people of the city. Their faith was the result of the woman's testimony, even before they saw and heard Jesus Himself. If we only, individually and collectively, see to it that the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world, we may rest assured in advance that the blessing of God will attend our efforts, and that there will always be some that will come to faith and acknowledge Jesus as their Redeemer. And the testimony of the woman caused also the petition of the Samaritans that the Lord should stay with them. For two days they were privileged to have the Savior in their midst. He taught these souls that were hungry for salvation; He gave them the information which they needed concerning His person and work. And the harvest was rich and plentiful. A great many more were gained through the preaching of Jesus, who frankly told the woman that they no longer believed on account of her narrative. They themselves had heard the words of eternal grace, they had the firm knowledge and conviction that this man was not a mere teacher or prophet, but that He was truly the Christ, the Savior of the world. That is the simple, but unshakable certainty of Christian faith. That is the right faith, that we do not only believe to be true what we hear in regard to the wonderful spiritual experiences of others, but that we have the personal conviction regarding Jesus that He is our Savior.


Verses 43-45

The Healing of the Nobleman's Son.

The passing into Galilee:

v. 43. Now after two days He departed thence, and went into Galilee.

v. 44. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet hath no honor in his own country.

v. 45. Then, when He was come into Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did at Jerusalem at the feast; for they also went unto the feast.

Jesus was constrained by the earnest prayers of the Samaritans to spend two days in their midst. But after that He continued His interrupted journey. He wanted to reach Galilee as soon as possible, an intention which He supported with a proverb: A prophet in his own fatherland has no honor. It was either that He referred to Judea, where His birthplace was situated, and where He had done His first public work, but where the Pharisees were even then showing their hostile attitude more strongly every day; or He had Galilee in mind, for there was situated Nazareth, His home town, and there was little danger of His being too highly honored and of gaining a popularity which would result in a collision with the Pharisees. But His reception in Galilee left little to be desired. Many Galileans had been at the last Passover festival and had witnessed the wonderful things which Jesus had done at that time, and they were very glad to have this prophet in their midst. As one commentator has it, they received Him on account of His fame in Jerusalem, the metropolis, which set them the fashion in their estimate of men and things. But it was not a longing for the Savior of sinners that actuated them at this time, but merely a curiosity to see and hear more of this great countryman of theirs that had dared to purge the Temple in the very presence of the mighty of the nation.


Verses 46-50

The nobleman's plea:

v. 46. So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.

v. 47. When he beard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto Him, and besought Him that He would come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.

v. 48. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

v. 49. The nobleman saith unto Him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

v. 50. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.

The first stopping-place of Jesus in Galilee was Cana, where He had performed His first miracle, now almost a year ago. Undoubtedly, the young married couple whose wedding-feast He had honored by His presence and by His miraculous gift was delighted to have Him visit them once more. But while He was still in this little town, Jesus received a visitor from the lowlands, from Capernaum, an officer of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. This Herod was the son of Herod the Great, who had received the title of king from the Roman senate, an honor which the son likewise hoped to obtain. This officer had heard that Jesus had returned from Judea, and immediately set out for Cana, where he went to Jesus and begged Him to come down from the mountainous section, where Cana was situated, to the lowlands of the Sea of Galilee, where Capernaum was located. He considered the presence of Jesus absolutely necessary for the cure of his son, who was about to die, who lay at the point of death. The Lord gave the man an answer which purposely sounded harsh: If signs and wonders you do not see, you will not believe. Jesus had been performing miracles, deeds which were outside of the usual course of nature, which often contradicted and set aside the laws of nature. And these wonders were also signs, they indicated beyond doubt the divine power, the omnipotence of His person. If faith is based only upon evidence of external help, upon signs and wonders, it has no sound basis. Not as a Worker of miracles, but as the Prophet of truth Jesus wanted to be accepted. "How can this be made to agree? Thus, as I said before. For faith and firm confidence brings the nobleman to Christ; how, then, does He say: You believe not unless you see signs? But, as I have said, He wants to show the man that his faith is not yet strong enough; for he still clings to seeing and feeling the presence of Christ. " Note: That cannot be accepted as true faith, if a person wants to believe only because of signs, and refuses to believe if no miracle is in evidence. If a Christian says: Unless God will help in my present trouble, I shall not believe, he proves that his so-called faith is a matter of imagination. The nobleman in this case received the reproof of Christ's words meekly, but he was not deterred from his purpose. His faith was gaining strength, he was not so easily diverted and discouraged. He repeated his prayer for the Lord to come down lest his boy die meanwhile. But he is still wrong, inasmuch as he persists in the idea that it is necessary for Jesus to be present in person to perform the healing. He had as yet no knowledge of the omnipotent power of the Lord, which is not bound by place and time. But Jesus, in recognition of a faith which, though weak, was yet sound, bade the father return to Capernaum. His son lives, and will live. Christ did not go with him. His cures are independent of His bodily presence and of any material media. And now the man believed the word of Jesus. "His first immature faith has grown into something better. On Christ's word he departs home, believing he will find his son healed. " Although he saw nothing of that which Jesus had told him, the officer was fully satisfied with what he had heard. That is always true advance in faith, when a person believes the simple Word of God, even if there is not the slightest evidence of fulfillment of the promises. "Therefore I have said that all else must be rejected, and one must cling to the Word alone; if we have taken hold of that, then let world, death, sin, hell, and all misfortune rage and storm. But if you give up the Word, then you are bound for destruction."


Verses 51-54

Faith vindicated:

v. 51. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.

v. 52.Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.

v. 53. So the father knew that it was at the same hour in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth; and himself believed and his whole house.

v. 54. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did when He was come out of Judea into Galilee.

The officer did not reach home that evening any more. But early the next morning he was met by some of his servants with the joyful news that his son was alive and doing well. It is a fine testimony for this master that his servants thought so much of him as to set out with their glad tidings at once. The careful official now insisted upon finding out the exact hour when the sickness had receded from his son and left him well. And when they told him that it had been on the day before, at one o'clock in the afternoon, he knew that it was at just that time that Jesus had spoken the words of reassurance. So he experienced the truth of Christ's words, he found out that God keeps His promises. And therefore he himself was confirmed in his faith, greatly strengthened. And his family and servants, to whom he brought the glorious news of the manner of the cure, rejoiced and believed with him. Thus the nobleman's faith progressed from weakness to strength, from trusting in external. visible evidence to believing in the Word only, as is the manner of faith the world over. "Thus the Lord God deals also with us, in order to make us more perfect and place us into a higher station. If we pass through such experiences, then we gain knowledge and become sure of our faith. " This miracle Jesus performed as the second in Galilee after He had come from Judea. The time of the full ministry of miracles in Galilee was still in the future.

Summary.Jesus has a long conversation with the woman of Samaria, through which He works faith in her heart and willingness to do missionary work for Him,. He then passes on into Galilee and heals the son of the nobleman of Capernaum.

 


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Bibliography Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 4:4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/john-4.html. 1921-23.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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