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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel
John 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1
When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John1
    JESUS SETS OUT FROM JUDEA FOR GALILEE. A. REASONS FOR RETIRING TO GALILEE. Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:19,20; John 4:1-4

  1. When therefore the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John. We saw at being informed by his jealous friends. Like jealous friends, no doubt, informed the Pharisees. Jesus may have known of this information being given by reason of his supernatural powers, but it is more likely that he heard of it in a natural way.


Verse 2
(although Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples)1,

  1. (Although Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples). Jesus, as divine Lawgiver, instituted baptism, and his disciples administered it. We nowhere hear of the disciples of John administering baptism. In fact, the Baptist, like the disciples of Jesus, baptized under a divine commission, and could not delegate the power to others. It was the office of Jesus to commission others to this work, not to perform it himself. Had he done so, those baptized by him might have foolishly claimed for themselves some peculiar honor by reason thereof (1 Corinthians 1:14,15). Jesus was the spiritual baptizer, in which baptism the efficacy lies in the administrant; but water baptism, the efficacy of which lies rather in the spirit of the one baptized than in the virtues of the administrant, Jesus left to his disciples.


Verse 3
he left Judea, and departed again into Galilee1.

  1. He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. We have in these verses two reasons assigned for the withdrawal of Jesus into Galilee, namely: (1) The imprisonment of John the Baptist (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14). (2) Knowledge of the Pharisees that Jesus was baptizing more disciples than John (John 4:1). The first gives us the reason why he left Judea; the second, the reason why he left fot Galilee. Jesus did not go into Galilee through fear of Herod, for Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. The truth is, the absence of John called for the presence of Jesus. The northern part of Palestine was the most fruitful soil for the gospel. During the last six or eight months of John's ministry we find him in this northern field, preparing it for Christ's kingdom. While we cannot say definitely that John was in Galilee (Bethabara and Aenon being the only two geographical names given), yet he certainly drew his audiences largely from the towns and cities of Galilee. While John occupied the northern, Jesus worked in the southern district of Palestine; but when John was removed, then Jesus turned northward, that he might sow the seed of the kingdom in its most fruitful soil. But if there was a reason why he should "go" to Galilee, there was an equal reason why he should "depart" from Judea. His popularity, manifesting itself in the number of his baptisms, was exciting that envy and opposition which caused the rulers of Judea eventually to take the life of Jesus (Matthew 27:18). The Pharisees loved to make proselytes themselves (Matthew 23:15). They no doubt envied John's popularity, and much more, therefore, would they be disposed to envy Christ. The influence of the Pharisees was far greater in Judea than in Galilee, and the Sanhedrin would readily have arrested Jesus had he remained in Judea (John 7:1; John 10:39), and arrest at this time would have marred the work of Jesus. Therefore, since it is neither sinful nor unbecoming to avoid persecution, Jesus retired to Galilee, when he remained until his second passover. By birth a prophet of Judea, he became, in public estimation, by this retirement, a prophet of Galilee. Though Jesus first taught in Judea, the ministry in Galilee so far eclipsed the work in Judea that it was spoken of as the place of beginning, (Luke 23:5 manifestation (Matthew 4:14-16).


Verse 4
And he must needs pass through Samaria1.

  1. And he must needs pass through Samaria. The province which took its name from the city of Samaria, and which lay between Judea and Galilee. Owing to the hatred which existed between Jews and Samaritans, many of the Jews went from Jerusalem to Galilee by turning eastward, crossing the Jordan, and passing northward through Perea. This journey required about seven days, while the more direct route, through Samaria, only took three days. Galileans often passed through Samaria on their way to and from the Jerusalem feast (Josephus' Ant. 20:6,1). The arrest of John would scatter his flock of disciples (Mark 14:27), and Jesus, as chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4), hastened to Galilee, to gather together those which might else go astray and be lost.


Verse 5
So he cometh to a city of Samaria, called Sychar1, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph2:
    JESUS SETS OUT FROM JUDEA FOR GALILEE. B. AT JACOB'S WELL AND AT SYCHAR. John 4:5-42

  1. So he cometh to a city of Samaria, called Sychar. Commentators long made the mistake of supposing that Shechem, now called Nablous, was the town here called Sychar. Shechem lies a mile and a half west of Jacob's well, while the real Sychar, now called 'Askar, lies scarcely half a mile north of the well.

  2. Near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. It was a small town, loosely called a city, and adjoined the land which Jacob gave to Joseph (Genesis 33:19; Genesis 47:22; Joshua 24:32), Joseph's tomb being about one hundred yards east of it. The mummy of Joseph, carried out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, was buried in this parcel of ground, and there is but little doubt that it really rests in the place indicated by the tomb; and though the name Sychar may be derived from the words "liar" or "drunkard", it is more likely that it means "town of the sepulcher", referring to this tomb.


Verse 6
and Jacob's well was there1. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus by the well2. It was about the sixth hour3.

  1. And Jacob's well was there. The Old Testament is silent as to when or why Jacob dug this well. It lies on the southern side of the valley of Shechem, where it opens upon the plain of Moreh (now called el-Mukhnah), about a hundred yards south of the foot of Mt. Gerizim. It was one of the few Biblical sites about which there is no dispute, and probably the only place on earth where one can draw a circle of a few feet, and say confidently that the feet of Christ have stood within the circumference. Maundrell, who visited it in 1697, said that it was 105 feet deep, and had in it fifteen feet of water. But travelers have thrown stones into it to sound its depth, until at present it is only sixty-six feet deep, and has no water in it except in very wet winters. It is seven and half feet in diameter, and is walled with masonry to a depth of about ten feet, below which it is cut through the solid rock. It lies four hundred yards nearly due south from Joseph's tomb. As the neighborhood abounds in springs, the well would hardly have been dug save by one who wished to be independent of his neighbors--as Jacob did.

  2. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus by the well. John gives us important items as to the humanity of Jesus. He tells us how he sat as a wayworn traveler, hungry and thirsty, at Jacob's well; and he alone records the words, "I thirst", spoken on the cross (John 19:28). The top of the well is arched over like a cistern, and a round opening is left about twenty inches in diameter. On this arch or curbing Jesus sat. We should note the perpetuity of blessings which springs from a good deed. Gutenberg did not foresee the newspaper when he invented printing; Columbus did not anticipate the land of the free when he led discoverers to our shore, nor is it likely that the prophetic eye of Jacob ever saw the wearied Christ resting upon the well-curb which he was building.

  3. It was about the sixth hour. That is, twelve o'clock, if we reckon by Jewish time, or six o'clock in the evening, if we reckon by the Roman method. We prefer the latter method.


Verse 7
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water1: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.

  1. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. She was not of the city of Samaria (which was then called Sebaste--the Greek word for Augustus--in honor of Augustus Caesar, who had given it to Herod the Great), but a woman of the province of Samaria, which lay between Judea and Galilee, and reached from the Jordan on the east to the Mediterranean on the west, comprising the country formerly occupied by the tribe of Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh.


Verse 8
For his disciples were gone away into the city to buy food1.

  1. For his disciples were gone away into the city to buy food. Had the disciples been present they would have bargained with the woman for the use of her rope and pitcher; but in their absence Jesus himself asked her for a drink. He met her on the ground of a common humanity, and conceded to her the power of conferring a favor. Women have been immemorially the water-carriers in the East (Genesis 24:13,14; Exodus 2:16). Palestine is in summer a parched land, inducing intense thirst, and the people usually comply cheerfully with the request for water; it was probably so in Jesus' day (Matthew 10:42). Mohammed commanded that water should never be refused.


Verse 9
The Samaritan woman therefore saith unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew1, askest drink of me, who am a Samaritan woman? (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

  1. Thou, being a Jew. As his language and dress declared.

  2. (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans). It is not likely that she meant to refuse his request, but she yielded to the temptation to banter one who she thought despised her, and whose necessities now caused him for a moment to forget his pride. The ancestors of the Samaritans were introduced into the land of Israel by the king of Assyria, after he led the ten tribes into captivity (2 Kings 17:24-41). When the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon and began to rebuild their temple, the Samaritans asked permission to build with them, and when this was refused, an enmity arose between the two people which never died out (Ezra 4:1-5; Nehemiah 2:10,19; Nehemiah 4:1-3). We must, however, restrict the word "dealings" to social intercourse. Race antipathy did not ordinarily interfere with trade or other matters involving money, as is shown by John 4:8. According to later tradition, a Jew accepted no hospitality from a Samaritan, and to eat his bread as a guest was as polluting as to eat swine's flesh, but such social courtesy was the very thing which Jesus here asked. There are today between one and two hundred Samaritans dwelling in Shechem at the foot of Mt. Gerizim, and Dr. Robinson says of them that they

    "neither eat, nor drink, nor marry with the Jews, but only trade with them."


Verse 10
Jesus answered and said unto unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God1, 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 water2.

  1. If thou knewest the gift of God, etc. Jesus is himself the Gift of God (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 9:15). But she knew not that God had bestowed a special Gift, and much less that the one to whom she spoke was that Gift. Had she known she would have understood that though physically Jesus was the object of her charity, spiritually their cases were reversed, and she was the needy one, as Jesus intimates.

  2. Living water would mean literally running or spring water, as contrasted with still or cistern water. Jesus here uses it in the spiritual sense. He fills us with his grace and truth (John 1:14) and grants unto us continual, untold refreshing (Revelation 7:17). The reviving and regenerating effects of the Holy Spirit are likewise called living water (John 7:37-39).


Verse 11
The woman saith unto him, Sir1, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: whence then hast thou that living water2?

  1. Sir. This word ("kurios" in Greek) is elsewhere translated "Lord".

  2. Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: whence then hast thou that living water? She understood his words literally, and was puzzled by them; but, won by the courtesy which suggested an exchange of gifts, she answered respectfully, though incredulously.


Verse 12
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his sons, and his cattle1?

  1. Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his sons, and his cattle? We should note three points in this verse: (1) The greatness of Jesus. The woman had just called him "Lord". The man at Bethesda, though he knew not Jesus, afterwards did the same (John 5:7). People felt the majesty and dignity of Jesus. When he offered to give a greater blessing than that given by Jacob, the woman at once contrasted him with Jacob--Jacob with sons and cattle and wealth--and wondered if this lonely stranger could really imagine himself greater than the illustrious patriarch. (2) She claimed descent from Jacob; it was a false claim. Jesus classed the Samaritans with Gentiles (Matthew 10:5), and spoke of them as strangers or aliens (Luke 17:18). (3) She spoke of the well as given by Jacob. She meant that it had been given to Joseph (Genesis 48:22), and that her people had inherited it as descendants of Joseph.


Verse 13
Jesus answered and said unto her, Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again1:
    John 4:13,14

  1. Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again. Jesus here draws a contrast between earthly and heavenly blessings. No worldly joy gives lasting satisfaction, but Jesus is the bread and water of life to his disciples (John 6:35) their unfailing satisfaction.


Verse 14
but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life1.

  1. But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life. A beautiful figure of the joy in Christ. In heat, in cold; in drought, in shower; in prosperity, in adversity; it still springs up, cheering and refreshing the soul, and this unto all eternity (Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:6).


Verse 15
The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come all the way hither to draw1.

  1. Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come all the way hither to draw. She but dimly comprehended the nature of Christ's offer, but was persuaded of two things: (1) The wonderful water was to be desired. (2) Jesus was able and willing to give it. When she spoke of coming "to draw", her words suggested the household to which it was her duty to minister, and prepared the way for the command of Jesus to bring the head of the household.


Verse 17
Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither1.

  1. Go, call thy husband, and come hither. She had asked Jesus for the water of God's grace, but she needed to be made conscious of how much she needed it--conscious (if we follow the figure) of her dormant thirst. Jesus, therefore, gave command to call her husband, that by so doing he might reveal her life and waken her to repentance.


Verse 18
for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: this hast thou said truly1.

  1. For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: this hast thou said truly. The divine wisdom of Jesus brought to light a sad state of affairs. During the period of five marriages the woman's life had at least some outward show of respectability, but now it was professedly clean. The number of marriages reflects somewhat upon the character of the woman, and hints that some of them may have been dissolved by her own fault, though the loose divorce law of that age permitted a man to dissolve the marriage ties on very slight provocation. Among the Jews the great Hillel is reported to have said that a man might properly divorce his wife if she burnt his dinner while cooking. It is not likely that any higher ideals of matrimony obtained among the Samaritans.


Verse 19
The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet1.

  1. Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. She had heard of the miraculous knowledge of the Jewish prophets, and this evidence given her by Jesus persuaded her that he was one of them, as a like evidence had persuaded Nathanael (John 1:48,49). By thus calling him a prophet, she virtually confessed the truth as to all the things concerning which he had accused her.


Verse 20
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain1; and ye say2, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship3.

  1. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain. That is, Mt. Gerizim.

  2. And ye say. You Jews.

  3. That in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Though a desire to divert the conversation from her own sins may have, in some slight measure, prompted the woman to bring up this question about places of worship, yet her main motive must have been far higher. If we ourselves stood in the presence of one whom we felt assured to be fully inspired of God, how hastily would we propound to him some of the vexed questions which befog the religion of our time! Prompted by such a feeling, this woman sought to have the great dispute between Jews and Samaritans decided.

    Solomon's temple in Jerusalem was soon after its erection confronted by those who denied its claims to be exclusively the place set apart for divine worship. Jeroboam, the rebellious servant of Solomon, taught the people that Bethel and Dan were as acceptable for worship as Jerusalem. But Jerusalem, as the site of the first great temple, held precedence above all rivals until its claims were discredited in popular estimation by the fact that it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. When, after many years, the returning captives rebuilt its walls, it lacked the sanction of age, and it had lost many of the features of divine recognition, which contributed to the sacredness and grandeur of the first structure. Soon after its erection in the days of Nehemiah, Manasseh, son of the high priest Joiada, and brother of the high priest Jonathan (Nehemiah 12:10,11; Nehemiah 13:28), married to the daughter of Sanballat, Persian governor of Samaria. Refusing to dissolve this marriage at the decree of the governor of Jerusalem, Manasseh was chased by Nehemiah from Jerusalem, and his father-in-law made him high priests of the Samaritans, and undertook to build for him the temple which afterwards crowned the summit of Mt. Gerizim. Manasseh left Jerusalem about B.C. The temple built for him was destroyed by John Hyrcanus about B.C. 129, but the place where it stood was still the sacred center of Samaritan worship, as it is to this day.

    Mt. Gerizim, and its supporting city of Shechem, had many grounds on which to base their claims to be a sacred locality: (1) Here God appeared to Abraham for the first time after his entering Canaan (Genesis 12:6,7); (2) here Jacob first dwelt (Genesis 33:18); (3) here Joseph came seeking his brethren (Genesis 37:12,13); (4) here was a city of refuge (Joshua 24:1); (5) here Joshua read the blessings and cursings (Joshua 8:33); (6) here also he gave his last address (Joshua 24:1); (7) here were buried the bones of Joseph (Joshua 24:32), and the neighborhood was prominent at the time of the division of the ten tribes (1 Kings 12:1,25). If we may consider Samaritan traditions of that day as similar to those of the present, they had added greatly to the real importance of the neighborhood, for they now contend that (1) Paradise was on the summit of Mt. Gerizim; (2) Adam was formed of the dust of Gerizim; (3) On Gerizim Adam reared his first altar; (4) Seth here reared his first altar; (5) Gerizim was the Ararat on which the Ark rested, and the only spot which the flood did not overflow; and therefore the only place which escaped the defilement of dead bodies; (6) on it Noah reared his altar; (7) here Abraham attempted to offer Isaac; (8) here he met Melchizedek; (9) here was the real Bethel, where Jacob slept and saw his ladder vision. Backed by such high claims, the woman deemed it possible that this prophet might decide in favor of Samaria's holy place. We should note that the Samaritans worshiped in Mt. Gerizim because they could say, "Our fathers did so". Thus many errors are perpetuated today because our fathers practiced them; but our fathers had no more authority to alter or amend God's word than we have. The Jews worshiped in Jerusalem because it had been prophesied that God would select a spot as the peculiar place for his worship (Deuteronomy 12:5-11), and because according to this prophecy God had selected Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem (1 Kings 9:3; 2 Chronicles 3:1,2).


Verse 21
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh1, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father.

  1. The hour cometh. Jesus used the word "hour" to indicate that the time was "near at hand" when all religious distinctions as to places would be abolished, and when every spot might be used for purposes of worship (1 Timothy 2:8).


Verse 22
Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know1; for salvation is from the Jews2.

  1. Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know. Jesus here speaks as a Jew, and draws a comparison between the intelligent worship of his people and the ignorant worship of the Samaritans. Though the Samaritans possessed the Pentateuch, they were without the revelation of God which the prophets of Israel had developed, and their worship was neither authorized nor accredited by God. Moreover, it led toward nothing; for salvation was evolved from the Jewish religion, and not from that of Samaria.

  2. For salvation is from the Jews. Salvation proceeded from the Jews. From them, according to the flesh, Christ came, and from them came also the prophets, apostles, and inspired writers who have given us that full knowledge of salvation which we possess today. We must take the words of Jesus as referring rather to the two "religions" than to the two peoples. Though as a body the Jews did not know whom they worshiped, and though their teachers were blind leaders of the blind, yet the fault was in their unbelief, and not in the revelation or religion in which they refused to believe. On the contrary, if the Samaritans had believed his religion to the full, it would hardly have been sufficient to have enabled him to know what he worshiped. Samaria was, in the days of idolatry of Israel, a chief seat of Baal worship, and in later days it was the home of magicians and sorcerers.


Verse 23
But the hour cometh, and now is1, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth2: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers3.

  1. But the hour cometh, and now is. The hour is really here, but the knowledge of it is not yet comprehended.

  2. When the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth. Jesus draws the mind of the woman from the place of worship to the Person or Being worshiped, and from the form to the spirit of worship.

  3. For such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God seeks for genuine and not formal worshipers, and for those who worship him in truth; that is, those who render him the obedience of faith with a filial spirit, and not those who render him the empty service of types and shadows, ceremonies and rites, which, through disbelief, have lost their meaning.


Verse 24
God is a Spirit1: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth2.

  1. God is a Spirit. These words contain one of the most simple, yet most profound, truths which ever fell upon mortal ear. Their truth is one of the great glories of revelation, and corrects the mistaken conclusion of human reason. They show that (1) God is absolutely free from all limitations of space and time, and is therefore not to be localized in temples (Acts 7:48); (2) that God is not material, as idolaters contend; (3) that he is not an abstract force, as scientists think, but a Being; (4) that he is lifted above all need of temples, sacrifices, etc., which are a benefit to man, but not to God (Acts 17:25). Spiritual excellence raises man above the beast, and spiritual excellence in turn raises God above man (Isaiah 31:3).

  2. And they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth. That is, men must offer a worship corresponding with the nature and attributes of God.


Verse 25
The woman saith unto him, I know that Messiah cometh (he that is called Christ): when he is come, he will declare unto us all things.

  1. I know that Messiah cometh . . . he will declare unto us all things. The breadth and largeness of Jesus' teaching suggested to her the great Teacher who was to come, and caused her to yearn for him who could tell, as she thought, perhaps even larger things. The Samaritans justified their idea of a coming Benefactor by passages found in the Pentateuch, and got their name for him from the Jews. Relying on the prophecy found at Deuteronomy 18:18, modern Samaritans regard the Messiah as a returning Moses, calling him El-Mudy, the Guide. They contend that his name will begin with M, and that he will live to be a hundred twenty years old. This woman's idea of the Messiah was probably also very crude, but it was in part an improvement on the general Jewish conception, for it regarded him as a teacher rather than a world- conquering, earthly prince.


Verse 26
Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am [he].

  1. I that speak to thee am [he]. That is the first recorded declaration of his Messiahship made by Jesus. He was not confessed to be Messiah by Simon Peter till the last year of his ministry (Matthew 16:16). Jesus spoke more freely as to his office in Samaria than in Judea or Galilee, for, (1) the Samaritans would make no effort to take him by force and make him a king (John 6:15); (2) his short stay in Samaria justified an explicit and brief revelation.


Verse 27
And upon this came his disciples; and they marvelled that he was speaking with a woman1; yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why speakest thou with her?

  1. And upon this came his disciples; and they marvelled that he was speaking with a woman. The spirit of the Rabbis is shown by their later precept; viz.:

    "Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife."

    The estate of woman was then, and had been for a long time previous, very low. Socrates thanked the gods daily that he was born neither a slave nor a woman. Roman law gave the husband absolute authority over the wife, even to put her to death; and Jewish contempt for women is made apparent by the readiness with which the Jews divorced them.

  2. Yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why speakest thou with her? So deep was their reverence and respect that they did not question, though they did not understand.


Verse 28
So the woman left her waterpot1, and went away into the city, and saith to the people,

  1. So the woman left her waterpot. In the forgetfulness of great joy, and as the unconscious pledge of her return.

  2. Went into the city. Sychar (John 4:5).


Verse 30
Come, see a man, who told me all things that [ever] I did1: can this be the Christ2?

  1. Come, see a man, who told me all things that [ever] I did. To publish Christ is one of the first impulses of those who feel Christ's gracious power. Her invitation is like that given by Philip (John 1:46). On second thought her statement is not so much of an exaggeration as it at first appears. Her five marriages and present state covered the whole period of her adult life, and the way in which Jesus had disclosed it all convinced her that every detail of it was spread out before him.

  2. Can this be the Christ? Her question does not imply that she herself had any doubts about the matter. She uses the interrogative form because she does not wish to be dogmatic, but prefers to let the people judge for themselves. Observe the woman's change of mind concerning Jesus. She first called him "Jew", then "Sir," then "prophet" (John 4:9,11,19), and now she invites her city to come forth and see "the Christ".


Verse 32
In the mean while1 the disciples prayed him, saying, Rabbi, eat.

  1. In the mean while. The time between the departure of the woman and the arrival of her fellow-townsmen.


Verse 33
The disciples therefore said one to another, Hath any man brought him [aught] to eat1?

  1. The disciples therefore said one to another, Hath any man brought him [aught] to eat? They understood his words literally, as a declaration that he had dined.


Verse 34
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work1.

  1. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work. Jesus' delight at the woman's conversion, as a part of the work which his Father had given him to do, overcome for a time his desire for food. Food has several characteristics: (1) enjoyment; (2) satisfaction of desire; (3) refreshment and strength. God's work had these characteristics to Jesus, whose life fulfilled the principle that man shall not live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4).


Verse 35
Say not ye, There are yet four months, and [then] cometh the harvest1? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields2, that they are white already unto harvest.

  1. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and [then] cometh the harvest? Jacob's well overlooked the luxuriant grainfields of the plain of Moreh. As the disciples looked abroad over its patches of varying green, they would say that it would yet be four months before these patches could be harvested. Some commentators look upon the words of Jesus as proverbial, but there is no proverb extant which places only fourth months between sowing and reaping. In Palestine this period covers six months. We must, therefore, take the words of Jesus as a plain statement as to the length of time between the date of his speaking and the date of harvest. Harvest begins about the middle of April, and counting back four months from that date we find that this visit to Sychar occurred somewhere about the middle of December.

  2. Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields,
  3. that they are white already unto harvest. The harvests in the natural world are slow. But turning their eyes toward Sychar, the disciples could see the citizens of the town in their white garments pouring forth to see Jesus, and to be gathered by him as a harvest of disciples which had sprung up and ripened from the seeds of truth sown by the woman but a few moments before. Spiritual sowing brings speedy harvests.


Verse 36
He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together1.

  1. That he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. Harvest times were seasons of great joy (Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Psalms 126:6 Isaiah 9:3). But the joy of joys shall come when God gathers his redeemed into the heavenly garner. In this present the humble teacher sows and the evangelist, or more gifted brother, reaps; but in that glad hour it shall matter little whether we have been a sower or a reaper, for we shall all rejoice together. Sower and reaper alike shall receive wages, a part of which shall be the "fruit" gathered--the soul saved. Jesus regarded gaining a brother as a large compensation, a great gain (Matthew 18:15).


Verse 37
For herein is the saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth1.

  1. For herein is the saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. See Isaiah 65:21,22; Leviticus 26:16; Job 31:8; Micah 6:15.


Verse 38
I sent you to reap1 that whereon ye have not labored2: others have labored, and ye are entered into their labor3.

  1. I sent you to reap. Christ, as Lord of the harvest, sent both sowers and reapers.

  2. That whereon ye have not labored. In earlier days many prophets and holy men had labored to prepare the people of Palestine, that they might be gathered of Christ as disciples. Later John the Baptist had wrought a mighty work toward this same end.

  3. Others have labored, and ye are entered into their labor. Into a field thus sown and cultivated Jesus was now leading his apostles, that they might reap for him the ripened harvest. He bids them observe the speedy and easy reaping on this occasion as an encouraging example to them, that they may go forth with strong assurance and confidence. Even the minds of the Samaritans were prepared to receive him, and a quick harvest could be gathered among them.


Verse 39
And from that city many of the Samaritans believed on him because of the word of the woman, who testified1, He told me all things that [ever] I did.

  1. And from that city many of the Samaritans believed on him because of the word of the woman, who testified. The Jews rejected the testimony of the prophets and holy men of God as recorded in the Scripture (John 5:46,47), but the Samaritans accepted the testimony of this woman, and she was a sinner.


Verse 41
So when the Samaritans came unto him, they besought him to abide with them1: and he abode there two days2.

  1. So when the Samaritans came unto him, they besought him to abide with them. "His own received him not" (John 1:11), but these "strangers" welcomed him.

  2. And he abode there two days. The stay was brief, but long enough to prepare the way for a future church among the Samaritans in the neighboring city of Samaria (Acts 8:5-8). From the nearer town of Shechem came Justin Martyr, one of the greatest Christian writers of the second century.


Verse 42
and they said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world1.

  1. Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world. Only such ready hearers could arrive at so great a truth in so short a time. Wealth of revelation and blessing had made the Jews selfish, and their conception of the Messiah was so perverted by this selfishness that they could not conceive of him as being a "world" Savior. Thus wealth often dwarfs where it should rather enlarge the heart. The incident comprised in this section presents the expansiveness of Christianity in a threefold aspect; viz.: (1) we see it breaking down the walls of racial prejudice; (2) we observe it elevating woman, and certifying her fitness to receive the very highest spiritual instruction; (3) we behold it lifting up the degraded and sinful, and supplying them from the fountains of grace. Such is real Christianity--the Christianity of Christ.


Verse 43
And after the two days he went forth from thence into Galilee2.
    JESUS SETS OUT FROM JUDEA FOR GALILEE. C. ARRIVAL IN GALILEE. Luke 4:14; John 4:43-45

  1. Now after two days. The two days spent among the Samaritans at Sychar.

  2. He went forth from thence into Galilee. From Samaria.


Verse 44
For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country1.

  1. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country. Galilee was Jesus' "own country" (John 1:46; John 2:1; John 7:3,41,52 Luke 23:5-7). In Judea he had begun to receive so much honor as to bring him into danger at the hands of the Pharisees; he would receive less in Galilee. John 4:43 resumes the itinerary of John 4:1,2, after the interlude which tells of the woman at Sychar.


Verse 45
So when he came into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did in Jerusalem at the feast1: for they also went unto the feast2.

  1. So when he came into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did in Jerusalem at the feast. The works which Jesus had done in Jerusalem were for the most part fruitless as to its inhabitants, but they bore the fruit of faith in far-off Galilee.

  2. For they also went unto the feast. Of "the many who believed on him" in Jerusalem (John 2:23), it is highly probable that a large number were Galilean pilgrims who were then there attending the passover.


Verse 46
He came therefore again1 unto Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine2. And there was a certain nobleman3, whose son was sick at Capernaum4.
    THE SECOND MIRACLE AT CANA. John 4:46-54

  1. He came therefore again. That is, in consequence of the welcome which awaited him.

  2. Unto Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. See John 2:1.

  3. And there was a certain nobleman. Literally, "king's man", a word which Josephus uses to designate a soldier, courtier, or officer of the king. He was doubtless an officer of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. That it was Chuzas (Luke 8:3) or Manaen (Acts 13:1) is mere conjecture.

  4. Whose son was sick at Capernaum. The nouns in this verse are suggestive. We have a "nobleman", yet neither riches nor office lifted him above affliction; a "son", yet approaching an untimely death before his father; and both these parties came to sorrow in "Capernaum", the city of consolation. Neither circumstance, nor age, nor situation can guarantee joy. We must still be seeking Jesus.


Verse 47
When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee1, he went unto him2, and besought [him] that he would come down, and heal his son; for he was at the point of death3.

  1. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee. And was therefore within not very easy reach of his sick child's bedside.

  2. He went unto him. Literally, "he went away unto him". The verb contains a delicate suggestion that the father was reluctant to leave the son, even to seek aid.

  3. And besought [him] that he would come down, and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. Many, like this father, only seek divine aid when in the utmost extremity.


Verse 48
Jesus therefore said unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will in no wise believe1.

  1. Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will in no wise believe. Though Jesus spoke these words to the nobleman, yet he also intended them for those who stood by, for he used the plural "ye". That the Galileans in general deserved reproof for their lack of faith, is shown by the upbraiding words which he spoke concerning their cities (Matthew 11:20-24). Jesus wanted men to believe in him because of his self-evidencing character and words (John 10:38; John 14:11; John 15:22-24; John 20:29). But the people required to have their faith buttressed by miracles. There is a vast difference between believing in a man, and believing his credentials. Miracles were our Lord's credentials; his ministry among men cannot be thought of without them; and when the Baptist's faith in Christ himself wavered, Jesus referred him to them (Matthew 11:4,5). See also aspects of miracles. To the thoughtful they were signs or attestations that the one who performed them acted under the authority and approval of God; to all others they were mere wonders, which startled by their strangeness. Jesus was fresh from Sychar, where many required no other sign than his words.


Verse 49
The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die1.

  1. Sir, come down ere my child die. The father felt that the case was too urgent to admit of delay for argument. It seemed to him that he raced with death. His faith differed from that of the centurion in that he felt that the PRESENCE of Jesus was required to perform the miracle. He also regarded the powers of Jesus as limited to the living; but we must not censure his faith as particularly weak, for in both these respects it resembled that possessed by Mary and Martha (John 11:21,22,32,39).


Verse 51
Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth1. The man believed the word that Jesus spake unto him, and he went his way.

  1. Go thy way; thy son liveth. Jesus enlarges the nobleman's conception of his divine power by showing him that his words take effect without regard to distance.


Verse 52
So he inquired of them the hour when he began to amend1. They said therefore unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him2.

  1. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to amend. The father expected that the fever would depart slowly, as it usually does; but the reply of the servants shows that he was mistaken.

  2. They said therefore unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. Though for harmonistic reasons we are persuaded that John himself uses the Roman method of computing the hours, which would make the phrase here mean 7 P.M., yet since the phraseology here is not his, but that of the Galilean servants, we take it to mean 1 P.M., for they would use the Jewish method of computing from sunset to sunset. If both parties had started at once, they would have met before sundown, as each had but eleven miles to traverse. But it is more reasonable to suppose that the wearied but now-believing father sought some refreshment and a brief rest before returning, and that the servants tarried awhile to see if the child's recovery was permanent. This would lead to their meeting after sundown, at which time, according to the invariable custom, they would call the previous period of daylight "yesterday".


Verse 53
So the father knew that [it was] at that hour in which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house2.

  1. So the father . . . himself believed. We note here a growth in the faith of the nobleman. He first believed in the power of Jesus' "presence", then in the power of Jesus' "Word", and finally he believed generally in Jesus, and his household shared his belief.

  2. And his whole house. This is the first mention of a believing household; for others see Acts 16:14,15,34; Acts 18:8.


Verse 54
This is again the second sign that Jesus did, having come out of Judaea into Galilee1.

  1. This is again the second sign that Jesus did, having come out of Judaea into Galilee. One small sign and many converted in Samaria; two great miracles and one household converted in Galilee. Such is the record. Jesus doubtless had many other converts in Galilee, but it is often true that the greater brings the lesser harvest.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 4:4". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/john-4.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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