The Pulpit Commentaries
7. The ministry and revelation of the Lord to those beyond the strict compass of the theocracy. This passage describes an incident of consummate interest, and records a specimen of our Lord's intercourse with individuals, and the reaction of that instruction upon the disciples. The event is a solitary chink through which the light of historical fact falls upon an otherwise darkened and unknown period of the Saviour's life. When we skirt a forest we see at intervals, where by some accident of growth the light falls upon a narrow space, a miniature world of life and loveliness of every kind, suggesting what might happen if every square yard of the forest could receive a similar illumination. Every day of that wondrous life of Christ may have been equally full of meaning to some souls. "These things are written, that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God; and that believing we may have life."
The relation of the Jews to the Samaritans gives a special character and both typical and symbolical meaning to the incident. The lifelike reality of the scene, the extreme unlikelihood of such an event having been fabricated with consummate art to establish any specific theological conclusion, the natural appropriateness of the transaction, all confer a high value and historicity upon this paragraph. Thoma, after the manner of Strauss, finds the origin of every detail in the story of Eliezer at the well; but there are no limits to what allegorists may dream, if the reins are thrown on the neck of imagination. The story of Philip's ministry in Samaria and the successes of the gospel in the early days of Christianity are also supposed to have aided the composition of the story. In our opinion, Acts 8:1-40 is better explained from John 4:1-54 than the reverse process. Baur's supposition, that the author sought to contrast the cautious hesitation of the Jewish doctor with the susceptible emotional disposition of the Samaritan woman as the representative of the Gentile world, is unreasonable. The woman is represented as a believer in Divine revelation and worship, in the early traditions of the Jews themselves, and even in their Messianic hopes, which, in this instance, were more spiritual than those of the Jews.
There are numerous debates as to the origin of the Samaritan nation, and opinions waver as to whether they were the descendants of those remnants of the kingdom of Israel who were left in the district once occupied by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, after the final deportation under Shalmaneser (or Sargon, as the Assyrian inscriptions make probable), together with the heathen settlers who had been mixed up with them, or were solely and purely of Assyrian origin, as they appear to maintain (Ezra 4:2). The narrative of 2 Kings 25:12 implies that all the inhabitants were carried away to cities of the Medes, but it is tolerably clear and eminently probable (2 Chronicles 34:9) that there were some of the people left behind; so that the extent to which Israelitish blood and ideas prevailed in the mongrel race is very difficult to determine. We know that heathen notions of Jehovah, and the worship of graven images, were curiously blended (2 Kings 17:28-41; 2 Chronicles 34:6, 2 Chronicles 34:7). But this is only what might be anticipated if their moral and religious degeneration corresponded with the charges brought against them by Hosea and Amos. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, efforts on their part to share in the honours and independence of Judah were sternly interdicted, and the interdict avenged by angry recriminations which delayed the progress of reconstruction. The antagonism commenced then was deepened into a deadly rivalry by the erection of a temple to Jehovah on Mount Gerizim, and by Manasseh, brother of the high priest of Judah, being driven from Jerusalem by his refusal to renounce Sanballat's daughter, and by his becoming high priest of the heretical temple. This temple on Gerizim, in close proximity with the site of Shechem, the abode of the first patriarchs, gave dignity and solidity to some of their traditions and claims; and the modifications they had introduced into the text of the Pentateuch in their celebrated version of it helped to aggravate the schism between the two peoples. The district of country was held during the quarrels of the Ptolemies and Seleucidae alternately by both. Samaritan hatred of the Jews led them to purchase peace during the cruel oppression of Judah under Antiochus Epiphanes, by dedicating their temple to Zeus (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12:5, 5), and again by siding with the Syrians against the Maccabees. Their temple was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 130, and its ruins only were visible in the time of Christ. The city of Sebaste was built by Herod, on the site of the city of Samaria, and Flavia Neapolis, now called Nablous, was erected on the site or close neighbourhood of the ancient Shechem. There were mutual recriminations between Jews and Samaritans, which led to strained relations and fierce condemnation, and yet, strange to say, the rabbis did not treat the land as "unclean", and consequently the disciples were not precluded from purchasing articles of food from the Samaritan village. They were the "foolish people," "abhorred" of devout Jews (Ecclus. 50, 25, 26); and Rabbi Chuda treated them as heathens, yet Simon ben Gamaliel regarded them as Israelites, and the 'Mishnah' shows that in many of their customs they resembled the Jews. It is doubtful whether they denied the resurrection, and it is certain that their principal tenets and practices were derived from the old revelation. The opposition was felt so strongly by some Jews in the northern province of Galileo that they travelled to Jerusalem through Persea in order to avoid it.
Our Lord's treatment of Samaritans in this narrative seems at first sight inconsistent with Matthew 10:5, where the apostles are advised to avoid cities of the Samaritans on their first experimental journey. Still, there is a difference between Christ's "passing through" Samaria, on his way to Galilee, and his limiting the early proclamation of the kingdom to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The disciples were not then to be entrusted with a commission which, not until after Pentecost, they would fulfil with so much joy (Acts 8:1-40.). The success of Philip, Peter, and John may have been due to the first sowing of the heavenly seed by the Lord himself.
That Christ should have chosen a woman of doubtful reputation from a semi-alien and accursed race to have received some of his greatest teaching is akin to many of the mysteries of his life. Why, it is sometimes asked, did he not proclaim his sublimest thoughts in the schools or temple courts? Why did he confine them to Nicodemus and the Samaritaness? There is no reason to compel us to any such conclusion. The simple fact before us is full justification of the belief that on many another occasion as well as on this, he uttered like things.
(1) The contrast between Jewish unsusceptibility and Samaritan pre-disposition to faith.
John 4:1, John 4:2
When therefore the Lord £—a few occasions are found in the Gospels where this appellative, without any proper name, is used for Jesus (John 6:23; John 11:2; Luke 10:1; Luke 17:5; Luke 22:61), and on these occasions some special suggestion is made of the Divine rank and personality of Jesus—knew that the Pharisees heard; i.e. were taking notice, after their wont, with secret machination and with open hostility, of the course which he was pursuing. The treatment which John the Baptist received at their hands was pointedly referred to by our Lord on two occasions (Matthew 17:12, Matthew 17:13; Matthew 21:23-32). They did not believe in John's baptism. The publicans and harlots had repented and pressed into the kingdom before them. This "generation" did whatever it listed to the Elias. Therefore we judge that Herod's persecution, stimulated by his guilty passions, was assisted by "the offspring of vipers." They had probably broken up the baptismal enthusiasm of the multitudes, and aided Herod to shut up John in the castle of Machearus, and hence their present "hearing" meant immediate and hostile action. Jesus had left the temple, and retired to the courts and homes and neighbourhood of Jerusalem; and then was only visited at night by solitary men, who ought to have come in crowds. He left Jerusalem itself for some point in Judaean territory, and there continued for a season the preparatory call for repentance and conversion. The extraordinary success of Jesus at this period excited the special attention of the Pharisees. The matter that came to their ears was that Jesus makes and baptizes more disciples than John. In other words, they heard of an extraordinary wave of popular excitement, yet of nothing answering to the Baptist's imagination of what ought to have taken place. John's ideas corresponded more closely than the teaching of Jesus did with the tenets and methods of the Pharisees. We find that the disciples of John are coupled with Pharisees in the matter of fasting (Matthew 9:14 and parallel passages), yet that John's preaching and baptism were distasteful to the Pharisees. A fortiori the baptism of Jesus would be still more offensive, for it was doubtless accompanied by more searching demands. It had invaded the temple precincts, it had advanced more conspicuous personal claims. John said, "I am come to prepare the way of the Lord;" Jesus said, "I am come down from heaven." (Although (and yet) Jesus himself (in person) baptized not, but his disciples performed the act.) This parenthetical clause, explanatory of the statement of John 3:22, as well as of the previous verse, is justified on the simple ground that Jesus baptized with the Spirit, and not with water. For him to baptize into his own name would have been to darken the mystery; for him to baptize into One who should come would in a way have hidden the fact that he had come. The administration of the rite by the few disciples who were with him would preserve all the symbolism of the new observance. We have no repetition of this statement, nor the faintest hint that the apostles continued this Johannine ceremonial. Moulton and some others lay emphasis on the present; tenses, "makes and baptizes," and therefrom argue that the ministry of John had not yet been brought to a termination, that John was not yet cast into prison, and that the journey into Galilee does not correspond with that described in Matthew 4:1-25, but thai; our Lord removed from Judaea simply to avoid the apparent rivalry between the two baptismal and evangelistic ministries. When Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard, etc., he resolved upon a new and startling course.
He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. But it should be observed that ἀφῆκε is a very peculiar word for a simple departure. The verb ἀφίημι is used when καταλείπω might have been expected (Westcott). The word means "to leave a thing to itself," to its own ways, to treat it as no longer exercising an influence on the mind. (It is, with the noun ἄφφεσις, used for "forgive," "forgiveness," of sins.) Jesus left Judaea, which had so imperfectly accepted his claims. The word suggests that his departure was a consequence of the action of the Pharisees; And he departed again.£ This refers to the first departure after the early testimonies of John, when Jesus went to Cana and Capernaum (John 1:43). Whether this journey corresponded with that mentioned in Matthew and Mark, as following the baptism and temptation of Jesus, or not, it is not to be confounded with the journey which John had already recorded.
And he must needs go through Samaria. There was no physical necessity about it. He might, as bigoted Jews were accustomed to do, have crossed the Jordan and passed through Peraea instead. There was no such animus in the heart of Jesus, and a Divine and providential monition was the occasion of his taking the direct road. Geikie has drawn a vivid picture of the difficulties to which Jewish travellers on the borders of Samaria were exposed (see Hosea 6:9; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 20:6. 1; 'Bell. Jud.,' Hosea 2:12. 4; 'Vit.,' 52), and also of the physical features of the land. Samaria, as a name of the small district of central Palestine, arose from the name of the city "Samaria," built by Omri, and made the site of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:24), and that of the Baal- and of the calf-worship. Samaria suffered from the siege, and the city was depopulated by Shalmanezer (Sargon), and colonized with Assyrians under Esarhaddon. It was destroyed by Hyrcanus, and rebuilt in splendour by Herod the Great, and by him dedicated to Augustus, and called Sebaste after him. Though Shechem (equivalent to Sichem) was the more famous site, and overshadowed Herod's city by its historical interest, yet "Samaria" was the name which has survived all others, and covered a larger space. Jesus was probably on the borders of Samaria, in the Judaean country, before he commenced his journey. Samaria was included in the tetrarchy of Archelaus, and formed part of the province under the pro-curatorship of Pontius Pilate; while Herod Antipas reigned over Galilee and Persia. The Lord was fulfilling the Divine will, in commencing his Galilaean ministry, in leaving Judaea proper for the present, and passing through Samaria. It is worthy of notice that John here attributes to "the Pharisees," rather than "the Jews," the opposition which indicated the wisdom or necessity of this course.
He cometh therefore to a city of Samaria, called Sychar ( συχάρ, with all the principal uncials; not σιχάρ, as read by the Elzevir edition of Stephens, with one cursive, 69); not "the city" Shechem—the συχέμ of Acts 7:16, or σίκιμα of Josephus (Genesis 33:18; Joshua 20:7; 9:7)—not Sebaste (Samaria), but "a city," one of the cities requiring special designation beyond its mere name, which would hardly have been necessary, if so renowned a spot as the metropolis of the ancient kingdom, or the ancient patriarchal city of Shechem or Sychem, had been thought of. The similarity of the names Sychar and Sichem led many to suppose that John confounded either the names or the places. Those who were anxious to undervalue the accuracy of the author have attributed it to mistake. Schenkel still sees the error of a Gentile Christian. Others have supposed that the word meaning "town of drunkards" (Isaiah 28:1, רכָשֵׁ ), or "town of liars" Habakkuk 2:18, רקֶשֶׁ ), was intentionally applied by John to Shechem, or that some provincial pronunciation of the name of the old city had thus been commemorated. Hengstenberg suggested that Sychar was a suburb of Siehem or Shechem, and Robinson placed the latter much nearer to Jacob's welt than the present Nablous. Tholuck gave a philosophical solution—that m and r in the two words, being liquids, were interchanged; and Meyer at one time held that John simply applied the vulgar name. Jerome ('Quaest. Web. in Genesis 48:1-22.') said it was a corruption of the name Sichem. But Eusebius discriminated Shechem from Sychar in his 'Onomasticon,' sub voce; and a place called Sochar or Sichra is mentioned, and also its "well," in the Talmud. Delitzsch has quoted seven passages which refer to the place as the birthplace of rabbis, and as having been alternately occupied by Jews and Samaritans. Moreover, in late years, Palestine explorers have found, within half a mile of Jacob's well, a village, El 'Askar, preserving to the present day the old name.£ Nor has the name been in late years drawn from this narrative and given to this insignificant village, for a Samaritan chronicle, dating from the twelfth century, preserves the name as Iskar. A priori it is far more probable that a woman of Sychar, than one of Shechem, should have come to draw water, in consequence of the nearer proximity of the former "city" than of the latter to Jacob's well. It is further characterized as near to the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. In Genesis 33:19; Genesis 34:25; Genesis 48:22 (LXX.); Joshua 24:32, we see that Jacob's treaty with the sons of Humor, and the summary violence of his sons in punishment of Dinah's dishonour, were treated by him as giving him special possession in Shechem (the LXX., in Genesis 48:22, have translated the word for "portion," מכֶשְׁ as σίκιμα, erroneously supposing that the word was a proper name, instead of an allusive play on the word "Shechem"), and he solemnly bequeathed it to Joseph. In Joshua 24:32 we find the bones of Joseph were deposited there. (Knobel translates Genesis 48:22 as the portion which he, Jacob, (by his sons) would win (not had won) with sword and bow.) Geiger, 'Urschrift.,' p. 80 (referred to by Edersheim, i.e., 1:404), shows that St. John's interpretation of Genesis is perfectly in harmony with rabbinic tradition.
Now Jacob's well was there; more literally, now there was a spring there, Jacob's. The word generally translated "well" is φρέαρ, the representative of ראֵבְּ, puteus; but πηγή, the word here used, corresponds with ניִעַ, fons. In John 4:11, John 4:12 the word φρέαρ is used of the same place. To the present day this indubitable site goes by both names. This district abounds in springs (Deuteronomy 8:7), and the digging of this deep well was a work of supererogation, such as might be performed by a stranger in the land. The well is indeed fed by fountains of water in the neighbourhood. It has been known as Jacob's well by a continuous tradition, and is situated in the plain of Mukhhan, under the rough sides of Gerizim, just beyond the spot where the plain is entered almost at right angles by the eastern end of the vale of Shechem. The latter vale is constituted by the two mountain ridges of Gerizim on the south and Ebal on the north. Nablous, or Shechem, is not visible from the well of Sychar, being hidden by the spur of Gerizim from view, and higher up the valley of Shechem are the present ruins of Sebastich or Samaria proper. Dean Stanley said it was one of the most beautiful spots in Palestine. Sychar lies half a mile to the north of the traditional well. The well, two hundred years ago, was declared by Maundrell to be a hundred and five feet deep, and built of solid masonry. In 1866 Lieutenant Anderson found it seventy-five feet deep, and quite dry. It is nine or ten feet in diameter; and it is one of the most indubitable spots where we may feel certain that the feet of the blessed Lord have trod. Efforts are now being made by the Palestine Exploration Society to protect and restore the well. Jesus therefore, being wearied ( κοπιάω is "to labour unto weariness," from κόπος, exhausting toil) with his journey. A long, exhausting march told upon him, and he felt the weakness of our humanity. Thoma suggests that, because the woman that Jacob found at the well was Rachel, the mother of Joseph, the Samaritans' special patriarch, and because Leah was the mother of Levi and Judah, and her name means "wearied," so Jesus is represented as weary with his journey unto the home of Rachel! It is far more important to notice that the author of this Gospel, whose main idea was that Jesus is "the only begotten Son of the Father," "the Word made flesh," yet impresses upon us continually his realization of the full humanity, the definite, concrete human existence of Jesus. His life was no phantasm of the imagination, no mere docetic manifestation, as the Tubingen school attribute to the Johannine Christ, but veritable man. This Gospel alone records his presence and miracle at Cana, his travel-worn sympathy with our weakness, his making clay with spittle, his weeping over the grave of a friend, his thirst upon the cross, the blood that issued from his wounded side, and the obvious physical reality of his risen body, and thus furnishes the Church with the grounds on which the apostle maintained his Divine humanity. Jesus was seated thus—or, sat thus; i.e. wearied, exhausted—on the well; or on the low parapet of the well, which protected its mouth, he sat there comparatively, if not quite, alone. The position of the word "thus" after "sat" would, in classic Greek, make the οὕτως mean "simply, without other preoccupation;" but there is no logical reason to deprive the οὕτως of its full meaning (Hengstenberg). The Lord, taking his seat by this memorable spot, rich in varied associations, becomes at once a type of the richer and diviner supply of life which he is able and ready to dispense to mankind. The weariness and waiting of the Lord at the well was a sublime hint of the exhaustless supply of grace which was ever flowing from the broken heart of the Son of God. It was about the sixth hour. The author is remarkable for his repeated mention of the hours at which some of the most memorable crises of his life took place, and thus gives a vivid impression of reality and of the presence of the eyewitness. He must himself have waited by the side of the Lord, and overheard the conversation which followed, just as he did the conversation with Nicodemus. Great difference of opinion prevails as to his method of computing time; i.e. whether he adopted the Jewish computation, from sunrise to sunset into twelve variable hours, or the Roman method of computation, from midnight to midday, from noon to midnight, into twelve hours of equal length. Some difficulties are reduced by the latter hypothesis. The hour referred to would then be about six o'clock in the evening, the very time when purchases would be made, and when women are in the habit of drawing water. The difficulty that presents itself is the brevity of the time remaining for all that happens as described in John 4:27-38, broad daylight being almost presupposed in John 4:35. Still, if "about the sixth hour" was five o'clock, even in January there would be possible time for the conversation, for the return of the disciples, and also for the approach of the Samaritans; though it must be remembered that twilight in Palestine is very brief, and that the whole narrative suggests the idea of leisure rather than hurried converse. If the Roman method of interpretation were adopted, the sixth hour might mean six o'clock in the morning, which was the hour intended, if the Roman computation must be supposed in John 19:14. This suggestion has further difficulties. The weariness of the Lord at that early hour would imply a long journey before daybreak, which is extremely improbable (see John 11:9). Besides, though Townson and M'Clellan lay emphasis on this Roman computation of time in Asia Minor, and advance some proof of it, yet some of their authorities are far from proving it. Luthardt says we have no right to suppose that John would deviate from the current Jewish computation. "About the sixth hour" would therefore mean "about noon," the very time when it is so common to rest after a morning journey. Lucke, Meyer, Hengstenberg, Godet, Lange, Schaff, Geikie, Watkins, all press the same interpretation of the words. Lucke justly says that there is no hint of the Lord and his disciples intending to remain by the well, but to pursue their journey after rest and food. This is inconsistent with the idea of an evening halt.
(2) The revelations and misunderstandings comprised in the interview with the Samaritaness.
(a) The Giver of all asks alms, submitting to conditions of humanity.
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. The ἐκ τῆς σαμαρείας undoubtedly qualifies the word γυνή, and not ἔρχεται; therefore the country, not the city, of Samaria is referred to. Besides, that city was at much too great a distance to be the home of this Samaritaness. There were other springs still nearer to the city of Sychar, which the women of the place would frequent. We need not, with Hengstenberg, suppose that, from a religious motive, one of reverence for the well of Jacob, this woman had chosen the longer walk and greater exertion, in the heat of the day. No hint of the kind occurs. The simple supposition that her home was hard by the well is sufficient to explain the somewhat unusual circumstance that she should have come alone and at midday. No longer, as in ancient times, did women of social position perform this duty (Genesis 24:15; Exodus 2:16). She by her action proclaimed her humble station in life. Hard work is performed by women at the present day in the East and South. Jesus saith to her, Give me to drink. This form of expression is not uncommon. The Lord was not only weary, but veritably thirsty. He had taken upon himself all our innocent desires and cravings. "He would know all, that he might succour all," and was intent upon conferring a blessing by asking a favour. He put it into her power to do him a kindness, just as when God evermore says, "Give me thy heart," when he is yearning to give himself to us. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." He will at once confer on this poor "waif and stray" the unspeakable privilege of bestowing the cup of cold water on the Lord of all. It is not that in the first instant he implied that he was thirsting for her salvation; that interpretation would almost lift the narrative into the purely symbolic region, greatly to its injury, and to the damage of the entire Gospel.
For his disciples had departed into the city to buy food. This is stated as a reason why he asked water from the chance wayfarer, who had obviously with her the "water pot" and the ἄντλημα (John 4:11), a word used for the rope with which the bucket or water jar was let down into the well. There are very discordant statements as to the degree of separation which the Jews insisted upon between themselves and Samaritans. The later rabbis greatly aggravated the feeling. They refused to eat the bread of Samaritans, as though it were more defiling than swine's flesh; objected to drink their wine or vinegar; and, if this animosity at the time of Christ had been equally pronounced, would have limited the disciples in their choice of food to uncooked eggs, fruits, and vegetables, and possibly to meal and wine. But it seems, from the earlier rabbinical books (Edersheim quotes several, which modify Lightfoot's authorities), that the meat of a Samaritan was lawful food if an Israelite had witnessed its killing, and that their bread, wine, etc., were not forbidden. We see no reason for thinking that Jesus was left absolutely alone on this occasion, and, from John's habitual method of avoiding direct mention of himself, it becomes perfectly possible that he was there listening silently to all these gracious words. Moulton cannot doubt that the beloved disciple subsequently received the whole from the Lord's own lips; but there is no reason to conclude that he must have been absent, and very much to suggest his quiet presence (Weiss, 'Life of Christ,' 2:34).
The Samaritan woman therefore saith to him, How is it (compare this "how" with that of Nicodemus. Jesus had at once provoked inquiry, which he was not unwilling to gratify)—How is it that thou, being a Jew? She would have known that he was a Jew by his speech, for the Samaritans were accustomed to turn the sound of sh into that of s; and so, when Jesus said in Jewish Aramaic, Teni lishekoth, "Give me to drink," while she would herself have said, Teni lisekoth, his speech would betray him. Again, the contour of the Jewish face differs greatly from that of the Samaritan, and the customary fringes on their robes were of different national colours. Moreover, his appearance, travel stained, weary, and thirsty, on the great highway between Galilee and Judaea, would have suggested at once that he was no Samaritan. Askest drink from me, who am a Samaritan, and a woman, too? Already this was a startling puzzle, for her experience so far had only shown her that Jews have no dealings (a word only once and here used in the New Testament) with Samaritans.£ Most commentators suppose that this is an explanatory remark of the evangelist, pointing to the absence, in a hostile and haughty spirit, of all pleasant relations between the peoples (see note at commencement of chapter). We are not compelled to this conclusion. The words may just as likely have been the pert, half-ironical tone of the woman, who was drawing a contrast between the current profession of Israelites and the request which the need of Jesus had extorted (Moulton). The eighth verse had just said that the disciples had clearly some dealings with Samaritans, and had gone to purchase food at Sychar, taking with them the apparatus used for drawing water. This last fact is the evangelist's reason for introducing the remark of the woman. He would hardly have made it himself.
(b) The living water offered and misunderstood.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou hadst known the gift of God (but thou dost not;—this conclusion is involved in the form of the conditional sentence), and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink. Many suggestions are offered as to the meaning here of the "gift of God." Elsewhere (John 3:16) Christ is himself God's Gift, and St. Paul speaks of Christ as God's unspeakable Gift (Hengstenberg). Paul also declares that "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ." The living water, the refreshing, life-giving stream of blessedness which Christ is opening in this wilderness, is the meaning put back by some into these memorable words as they first fell from the lips of Jesus. So Lampe and Godet. But Augustine and others point to John 7:39, where John tells us that the living water of which Jesus speaks as welling up like a river in the heart of a believer, in the bosom of one who has come to him to slake his otherwise quenchless thirst, is "the Spirit," which those who believe on him should receive when Jesus would be glorified. This sublime renewal of the greatest gift of God by the Spirit is set forth under similar imagery in Isaiah 44:3 and Joel 2:28. However, words are functions of two minds; what they must or might have meant to her must have been Christ's meaning when he uttered them. The explanatory clause, Who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, solves the perplexity. That the Son of God, that the Loges in flesh, should have so emptied himself of his eternal glory as to ask for water from a Samaritan, and a woman, is in itself a gift, the supreme gift, of God. She did not know the fulness of his nature. So Lange, Grotius, and others. A remark by Dr. Yeomans is singularly suggestive: "The context shows that 'the gift of God' is a gift which God had already given, rather than one yet held in reserve—the actual gift of his condescension, rather than the offered gift of living water, or the Holy Ghost." Had she known it and put the two thoughts together in the rudest fashion, she would have known the gift of God, and she would have become the suppliant at once and he the Giver. Thou wouldest have asked (prayed, taken the position of the inferior) of him, and he would have given to thee living water. (For the phrase, "living water," see Genesis 26:19; and for its application, Zechariah 14:8; Jeremiah 2:13; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:1.) The Divine supply of heaven-sent life, which will slake all thirst for lesser gifts, and which will constitute the perennial blessedness of saved and glorified spirits. The gift of God is the full discovery of personal relations with the veritable Source of all life. This becomes life eternal as it leads to knowledge of the only God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent; and assists a full realization of the life, the Source and End of which are God. It is interesting to notice that Philo, in many places, declares these wells of water (Genesis 29:2) to mean "true philosophy or wisdom, deep and only with difficulty drawn upon." "Flowing water is the Loges himself, 'cisterns' represent memories of past knowledge;" but the Old Testament usage quoted above is a far more rational justification of the language used by our Lord.
The answer of the woman shows that, though startled as Jesus meant her to be by his self-assertion, she had not moved out of the limited region of her own thoughts—her physical thirst, her daily needs, and common appliances for meeting them. There is a touch of humour for this light-hearted creature in the contrast between the large offer and the apparent helplessness of the Offerer. God's folly is compared with man's wisdom; God's weakness is set over against man's strength. Sir (my master—a phrase here of simple courtesy, yet showing some advance on what had gone before, "Thou being a Jew"), neither hast thou the vessel to draw with, and, moreover, the well is deep (see above on John 4:6). The water of this well cannot be lifted without an ἄντλημα, and, when the water is reached, it is still open to question whether it be living, flowing water or not. Whence then hast thou the living water of which thou hast spoken?
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his sons, and his cattle? We observe here the Samaritaness's claim to be a descendant of Ephraim, of Joseph, of Jacob himself who dug the well. By rising up behind the family of Ephraim to the father of Judah as well as of Joseph, the woman claims a kind of kinship with Jesus. The "our" in this case is not a monopoly of the honours of Jacob for herself and her people. Her national pride is softening under the glance of the great Son of David, and she has a growing sense of the claims and dignity of the Person she is addressing, though her thought is couched in words that may be ironical. This was the kind of challenge which our Lord never refused to honour. Just as on other occasions he claimed to be "greater than the temple," and "Lord of the sabbath," and "before Abraham," and "greater than Moses, Solomon," or "Jonas," so here he quietly admits that he is indeed greater than "our father Jacob." The lifelike reality of the scene is evidenced in the alertness and feminine loquacity of the final clause ( θρέμματα are "cattle," not "servants," as seen in passages quoted by Meyer from Xenophon, Plato, Josephus, etc.). The nomadic condition of the first fathers of this race is brilliantly touched off by the sentence.
Jesus answered and said to her—leaving the question of his superiority to "our father Jacob" to be settled when she should understand him better—Every one who drinketh (is in the habit of drinking) from this water, or any similar fountain, will thirst again. Earthly desires obtain temporary satisfaction, and then resume their sway. Our whole life is made up of intermittent desires and partial satisfaction, of passion and satiation, of ennui and then of some new longing. This flow and ebb, ebb and flow, of desire belong to the very nature of human appetite. More than that, human desire is never really satiated. Our souls can never be at rest till they find rest in God. This water, even from the well of Jacob, is no exception to the rule.
But whosoever shall have drunk of the water which I will give him (of which I am speaking) shall not (by any means, οὐ μὴ) thirst again forever. How different from the words of the son of Sirach (Ecclus. 24:21), "They who drink of me," says Wisdom, "shall thirst again"! They will experience neither continuity nor completeness of enjoyment, but periods of incessant and recurrent desire. Jesus speaks of a Divine and complete satisfaction. The spiritual thirst once slaked, the heavenly desire once realized by appropriating the gift of God, is fundamentally satisfied. The nature itself is changed. How closely this corresponds with the idea of birth into a new world! and how nearly akin to the promise of living water in John 7:37, etc. (see also the language of John 6:35)! But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water leaping up (welling, bubbling up and forth) into eternal life. This is the explanation of the full satisfaction of desire. I do not give a simple "drink of water," but I cause a spring, a perennial fountain, a river of Divine pleasure to issue and flow from that inward satisfaction which follows a reception of my gifts; and it is so abundant that it is enough foreverlasting needs. The water that I give becomes a fountain, and the fountain swells into a river, and the river expands into and loses itself in the great ocean of eternity. The beauty of the image is lost if, with Luthardt and Moulton, we attach the εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον to πηγή rather than ἁλλομένου ( ἁλλέσθαι is not elsewhere applied to water, and this use of it gives the metaphor all the more force). The imagery is not without its difficulty. We are tempted to conclude from it that the Divine life, once given, becomes consciously a self-dependent force within the soul; but this would not be justified by all the analogy of the Divine working in humanity, which, though abundant, efficacious, and satisfying, never repudiates its Divine source, but continually proclaims it. If the desire for what God alone can supply is eager and quenchless, and if God meet the craving, then the desire is absolutely satisfied. There is a superfluous fulness in the girt of God which will transcend all the needs of this life, and be enough for eternity.
The woman has not yet emerged out of the region of her physical desires and her daily requirements, and needs a deeper apprehension of her real necessities. By reason of the subsequent narrative she ought not to be credited now with impertinence or irony (Lightfoot, Tholuck). She could not understand the miraculous water of which the Stranger spake, but had some dim notion that he might be able to deliver her from her toilsome and exhausting life. She replies to him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come all the way hither to draw. The Lord had spoken of eternal life, and she is content to have temporal satisfaction to the extent of thirsting no more. Some commentators, with Lange and Hengstenberg, suppose that the journey to Jacob's well was in her mind a quasi-religious act, the insufficiency of which to meet her case is at length becoming apparent. This view seems to us inconsistent with the sudden change of metaphor and alteration of his method of approach to this woman's consciousness and need. He resolved rather to search her heart and reveal her to herself—to bring forth from its hiding place the torpid conscience, and reveal to her the grievous need in which she stood of that Divine cleansing, healing, nutrition, refreshment, which he had been sent into the world to supply. This reflection renders the reply of Jesus less obscure than its abrupt transition seems to imply.
(c) The heart-searching issuing in perception of the prophetic rank of Jesus.
[Jesus]£ saith unto her, fie, call thy husband, and come hither. Our Lord, by that Divine penetration and thought reading which the evangelist attributes to him (John 2:1-25), knew exactly what manner of woman this was, and wished to bring her secret sins to the light of her own conscience. The demand touched her heart at its most tender place, and was indeed a partial answer to her prayer, "Give me this water." Conviction of sin is the beginning of the great work of the Paraclete; it will end in full assurance of faith (so Neander, Stier, Tholuck, Luthardt, Weiss, and Edersheim). Numerous have been the explanations of the Saviour's demand, but none of them so congruous as this: e.g.
John 4:17, John 4:18
The woman answered, and said to him, I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou said correctly, Husband have I none: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband. This true thing hast thou spoken. The woman resists the description which Jesus assumes that she bears to the man with whom she stands in illegal relations. Convinced, brought to bay, she cannot lie to Jesus. She says, in penitence and shame, "I have no husband." There is no concealment of the fact; she must need the cleansing of the life-giving stream. Jesus, not without a tone of solemn remonstrance, accuses her of a life of loose morals. It is implied that the first five husbands were conventionally allowable; but the suggestion is that, either by divorce or wanton rushing to further nuptials if the former had been ruptured by death, her character had been ever deteriorating until, under present circumstances, she was committing an overt act of illegality and impurity. "In saying thou hast no husband, thou hast spoken to the point, and for the reasons I recite thou hast made a true statement." As the woman in John 4:27 tells her friends "He told me all things that ever I did," we may easily believe that she felt, under his searching glance, that no folly, no weakness, no rebellious deed, no damning compromise, was hidden from him. How much more he said we can only conjecture. The revelation thus recorded is akin to other events in our Lord's life, which we cannot account for by the supposition that information concerning her had been conveyed by some rumour which thus he flashed upon her. This would suffer from the intolerable supposition that his claim to have prophetic light was a self-conscious fraud, and that by such a subterfuge the entire Samaritan mission had been characterized and controlled. Lunge thought that the definite traces of the five marriages were in some mysterious fashion hieroglyphed upon her face. This is a great extravagance of the working of natural law, to avoid the supernatural perception which our Lord exercised whenever he chose to draw upon the inexhaustible resources and powers at his disposal. Hengstenberg ('Contributions to Genuineness of the Pentateuch,' and in his 'Commentary'), while he recognizes the historical fact here mentioned and penetrated by our Lord, considered that there was a twofold meaning in our Lord's reply. Thou hast had five husbands; i.e. there were five gods—those of Cuthah, Babylon, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim (Josephus, 'Ant.,' John 9:14, John 9:3; 2 Kings 17:24), whose worship by spiritual adultery the Samaritan people (of which you are a representative) have tolerated, and HE, Jehovah, whom thou now hast by surreptitious claim, is not thy covenanted Lord. Unfortunately, this too ingenious interpretation fails, first of all in this, that to the five nations seven gods are reckoned (2 Kings 17:30, 2 Kings 17:31). Again, it is inconceivable that the worship of Jehovah should be represented as on a par with these idolatries, and that Jehovah himself should be set forth as the sixth and worst of the theocratic husbands of the Samaritan state. Nor can we suppose that Christ, who said such wondrous things about the spirituality and the love of God to man, and was in the same breath about to utter one of the grandest of them, should thus have poured contumely on the Samaritan worship of Jehovah. Thoma practically adopts Hengstenberg's speculative interpretation. Strauss (1st and 2nd edit. 'Leb. Jes.') made use of Hengstenberg's admission to find in the whole narrative a mythical fiction; and Keim has only made matters worse by ascribing the entire narrative to the unknown author of the Fourth Gospel. Christ's own Divine penetration revealed the woman to herself, and she knew how hateful her life must have been in his sight. She made no attempt at denial, or concealment, or self-justification. The events referred to had burnt themselves on her memory, and her only refuge is in a bold admission of the right of the unknown Stranger to teach. She concedes his claim to solve perplexities, and penetrate other mysteries as well as the depths of her own heart.
Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. This meant more from a Samaritaness than from a Jewess. The Samaritans accepted the books of Moses, and did not adopt the teaching of the historical or prophetical books, on which the Jews had built up their exaggerated and carnal views of the Messiah and his kingdom. They were not anticipating a King, but a "Prophet like unto Moses." They placed the great Prophet above the King, as a peer of their legislature, and as superior to their rabbis and priests. The sense of standing in the presence of One who looked down into human hearts, justified her in putting the great case of her people and her own sins before him. Let him speak further. Peradventure he will set the relative claims of Zion and Gerizim at rest, so far as approach to the Holy One is concerned. More than ordinary candour was required to make the admission that a Jew might decide the agelong controversy.
Our fathers. The "our" refers here to the Samaritans, just as the "ye" does to the Jews. She may be going back once more to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who worshipped and laboured at Shechem—but the mountain itself was not the site of a temple until the days of Nehemiah, and the temple in which the apostate Manasseh, son of Jaddua, offered sacrifices had been destroyed for nearly a hundred and fifty years. A chronological, if not more serious, difference is apparent between Nehemiah and Josephus (Josephus, 'Ant.,' Nehemiah 11:8. 2; Nehemiah 13:28). According to the former, the Samaritan schism which led to the erection of the temple was a hundred years before the period assigned by Josephus. For whereas Nehemiah says that the apostate priest whom he chased away was son-in-law of Sanballat, the Persian satrap in Samaria, Josephus makes Sanballat contemporary with Alexander, and represents the establishment of the Samaritan temple as originating with his approval. Josephus further ('Ant.,' Nehemiah 13:9, Nehemiah 13:1) says that the temple was destroyed by Hyrcanus, about B.C. 129, and adds that it had stood two hundred years. The temple was destroyed, but "the mountain of blessing" remained for the Samaritans as a place of prayer ('Ant.,' 18:4. 1; 'Bell. Jud.,' Nehemiah 1:2, Nehemiah 1:6). This was conserved, on the ground that Abraham and Jacob had here built altars (Deuteronomy 11:26; Deuteronomy 27:4-13). In Deuteronomy 27:4, however, Mount Ebal in mentioned as the place where an altar had been first built to Jehovah. In the Samaritan Pentateuch the word "Gerizim" had in this place been substituted for "Ebal;" and so it came to pass that Gerizim had been a place of prayer throughout the long interval When Jesus was at Jacob's well, he could see the ruins of the edifice where sacrifice and praises were being offered. Indeed, these have continued to the present day. The oldest shrine in the world for local worship still holds its own, hard by the very spot where the most complete overthrow of the principle of sacred places fell in divinest words from the lips of the Holy One. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain—Gerizim, where the ruins of the temple still abide—and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men must worship. Jerusalem is not mentioned in their sacred books—Jerusalem, whose unity of sanctuary was recognized at length as the τόπος where the Lord would put his Name, and where alone the sacrifices could possess their historic and symbolic validity. Whensoever the Pentateuch may have been finally edited, all critics will allow that, at the time of the Lord, and in the Samaritan version of the Pentateuch, the idea of such unity of sanctuary was a fixed principle. The Samaritans claimed Gerizim, and the Jews Moriah, as the place where Abraham offered his typical sacrifice, and both regarded the worship celebrated in their favourite shrine—the daily offering, the annual feasts (the Passover especially)—as giving worthiness to all the prayers and praises which they might be induced to offer in all places where they might sojourn. The woman does not submit to our Lord that he may settle this great question for her, but she makes it clear enough that she would like to know his verdict. The worship was the sacrificial worship where sin such as hers could alone be cleansed, and where her conscience could be set free for calm and continuous communion with God.
(d) The spiritual nature of God and his worship.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, £ believe me—a unique expression of Jesus, answering to the ἀμὴν ἀμὴν, of many other passages, where the acknowledgment of his Divine commission had been virtually ceded; this expression is peculiarly suitable to the occasion—that an hour is coming. He does not add, as in John 4:23, "and now is." The Divine order which links the events of God's providence together, has not made it possible as yet in its fulness, as it will do when the revelation is complete, but the hour is drawing near, when neither in this mountain,£ nor in Jerusalem, will ye worship the Father. Christ did not say that either Samaritans or Jews were exclusively right in their preference for one local shrine or place of sacrificial worship; but he declared the sublime truth that the worship of the Father would soon prove itself to be independent of both alike and of all the limitations of place and ceremony. Every place would be as sacred and as hallowed as these notable shrines, when the full character and real nature of the object of worship became fully known. The Father was a name for God not unknown to Jew or Gentile; but so overlaid, suspected, defamed, forgotten, that the emphasis which Jesus laid upon it came with the force of a new revelation of God's relation to man. Man is born in the image of God, and partakes of the nature and essence of the Supreme Being, and it is in God's true nature and veritable relations with men that he will be eventually adored. When Christ speaks of "my Father" he refers to the specialty of revelation of the fatherhood in his own incarnation. The Father was only partially known in and by all the dispensations of nature and grace, but he was especially revealed in the whole of the prolonged series of facts and symbols and prophetic teachings which constituted the religion of Israel; and Christ will not allow this great revelation of the Father to pass unaccredited or to be ignored by one whom he essays to teach.
Ye worship that which (not "him whom") ye know not. "That which" points to the essence and inner character of the object of their worship. They gave him a name, but they were comparatively ignorant of, and confessedly hostile as a people to, the revelation that the Father had made. They fell back on a past of rigid orthodoxy but of limited range. They rejected every portion of the Old Testament with the exception of the Pentateuch, i.e. the entire historical treatment of the primeval faith; even that very essence of it which involved the progressive and expanding conception of the character of God—the perpetuity and continuous renovation of relations, the prophetic insight into providence, the sublime liturgy of a ceaseless worship, the prediction of a Messianic glory which, in the fulness of the times, should complete and complement all that preceded. They were, by their prejudices and hostility, kept ignorant of and unacquainted with the Name that was above every name. In contradistinction from this, we Jews, to whom as a nation you rightly conclude I belong, and as a representative of whom I speak—We worship that which we know. Christ in this place, more distinctly perhaps than in any portion of the four Gospels, places himself as a worshipper side by side with his hearers. Here, moreover, he identifies himself with the Jews—becomes their interpreter and mouthpiece and representative. When a question arises, which of the two has the larger amount of truth, Jew or Gentile, Jew or Samaritan, he pronounced in stringent terms in favour of the Jew. The revelation advancing beyond the narrow limitations of Samaritan nationality as to place, and time, and historic fact, with its pregnant ritual, has revealed the Father to us Jews, in this respect and because the salvation of which Moses partly dreamed, but which has been the burden of every prophecy and psalm—the "salvation" which gives meaning to all our knowledge, is from ( ἐκ, not "belonging to," but "proceeding from," John 1:46; John 7:22, John 7:52) the Jews. The Jews have been the school where the highest lessons have been taught, the richest experiences felt, the noblest lives lived, the types and shadows of good things to come most conspicuous. We cannot avoid reading between the lines the sublime enthusiasm which Paul gathered from this class of teaching ("To whom pertaineth the adoption,…and covenant,…whose are the fathers, and to whom were committed the oracles of God,… and from whom as concerning the flesh Christ came"). The utterance is profoundly significant, as it is a powerful repudiation of the theory which makes the author of this Fourth Gospel a Gentile of the second century, with a Gnostic antipathy to Judaism and Jews. The contradiction to this theory indubitably involved in this verse has led to the wildest conjectures—even the suggestion of a Jewish gloss on some ancient manuscripts of the Gospel has been one desperate device to save the theory. Taut pis pour les fairs.
But the hour cometh, and now is—already the day has dawned, the new conception is breaking like "awful rose of dawn" upon the minds of some—when the veritable £ worshippers—those who answer to the idea of worshippers, those who actually draw near to the Father in living fellowship and affectionate appreciation of his eternal Name—shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. An old misreading of this text, accepted by some Fathers, and based upon the idea expressed in John 16:13, has found expression in the Sinaitic Codex, "in the spirit of the truth."£ But "spirit" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit, but to the spirit of man—that part of man's constitution through which he most especially bears the image of God, and with which the Divine Spirit deals, and in which he dwells (Romans 8:26). The worship in spirit is worship contrasted with all mere carnal concomitants, all mere shadows of the good things to come, all mere ritual, all specialties of place, or time, or sacrament, or order. It need not be in despite of a genuine reverence for days, or seasons, or postures, or washings, but in absolute independence of them, and they, without this, will be actually valueless. And in truth; i.e. as dealing with reality, the adequate and veracious expression of genuine desires and veritable emotions; καὶ γὰρ, nam et (John 16:9). For indeed also the Father seeketh such to be his worshippers. Luthardt and Meyer differ as to the emphasis. Meyer insists that the καὶ γάρ lays stress on the word which immediately follows, and he refers to 1 Corinthians 14:8 as not contradicting the rule. He would render, "For the Father also on his part seeketh," etc. Luthardt says that the new thought is to be found in ζητεῖ, and therefore upon this the emphasis is laid. Westcott, by many passages, such as Matthew 8:9; Matthew 26:73; Mark 10:45; Luke 6:32, etc., urges that καὶ γὰρ "alleges a reason which is assumed to be conclusive from the nature of the case." The whole sentence is therefore covered by the expression, "For the Father also on his part seeketh those as worshippers of him who worship him in spirit and in truth." A slight contrast is felt between the regimen of προσκυνεῖν with accusative, here again introduced, following upon that with dative in the first clause. Moulton would render the first clause, "offer worship to the Father," and the second by "worship him." The Father is now seeking, by the ministry of his Son, by the gift of his Spirit, for those who approach him with deeply felt need and true affection, in spirit, not in ceremony, in truth, not in hypocritical or heartless profession. This is another indication of the high truth taught in the prologue (John 1:4, John 1:9; John 3:21; John 18:38, see notes) that there are vast differences among men, even anterior to their reception of the perfect revelation of the Father's heart in Christ Jesus. "The life is the light of men." There are those who "do the truth" and are "of the truth," who "worship God in spirit and in truth." The whole gospel dispensation is a search for these.
A still more explicit and comprehensive reason is given for the previous assertion, based on the essential nature of God himself in the fulness of his eternal Being. God is Spirit ( πνεῦμα ὁ θεός; cf. John 1:1, θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος,—the article indicates the subject, and the predicate is here generic, and not an indefinite; therefore we do not render it, "God is a Spirit"). The most comprehensive and far-reaching metaphor or method by which Jesus endeavoured to portray the fundamental essence of the Divine Being is "Spirit," not body, not ὕλη, not κόσμος, but that deep inner verity presented in self-conscious ego; the substantia of which mind may be predicated, and all its states and faculties. The Father is Spirit, the Son is Spirit, and Spirit is the unity of the Father and the Son. St. John has recorded elsewhere that "God is Light," and "God is Love." These three Divine utterances are the sublimest ever formed to express the metaphysical, intellectual, and moral essence of the Deity. They are unfathomably deep, and quite inexhaustible in their suggestions, and yet they are not too profound for even a little child or a poor Samaritaness to grasp for practical purposes. If God be Spirit, then they who worship him, the Spirit, must by the nature of the case, must by the force of a Divine arrangement, worship him, if they worship him at all, in spirit and in truth. The truth which our Lord uttered was not unknown in the Old Testament. From Genesis to Malachi, in the Psalms, in the historical books, in Judges, Samuel, and Kings, the Spirit and the spirituality of God are presupposed; but the Lord has generalized these teachings, cited them from darkness and neglect, combined them in one eternal oracle of Divine truth. The Galilaean Peasant has thus uttered the profoundest truth of ethic and religion—one which no sage in East or West had ever surpassed, and towards which the highest minds in all the ages of Christendom have been slowly making approach. Forms, postures, ceremonial, sacraments, liturgies, holy days, and places are not condemned, but they all are inefficacious if this prime condition be not present, and they can all be dispensed with if it be. Only the spirit of man can really touch or commune with the Spirit of spirits, and the history of the new dispensation is the history of a progress from forms to realities, from the sensuous to the spiritual, from the outward to the inward, from the earthly to the heavenly.
John 4:25, John 4:26
(e) The Christ as conceived by Samaria.
We probably do not possess here the whole of the conversation. It is clear, however, that strange presentiments of something more precious than any sanctuary, or any ritual, dawned upon the Samaritan woman. "A prophet" might tell her and her people where men ought to worship. The Prophet she discovered answered a desire for the "where" by revealing the "how" they are to worship. But there are many other lessons they need, and she gives expression to an idea of the Messiah, and of his coming, which startles us by its boldness. The woman saith unto him, I know ( οἶδα, I know as a matter of current opinion and with intuitive certainty) that Messias cometh (which is called Christ). [This parenthetical clause by the evangelist is the explanatory translation into Greek of the Aramaic word. This must be so, unless we could be certain, with Hug, Diodati, and Roberts, that Jesus and the woman were speaking Greek to each other.] The woman turns from a theme which she has partially understood. How should a woman have been able at a moment to discharge and dispense with the traditions of a life, and the prejudices hoary with age? We know that the Samaritans anticipated One who should be a "converter," or "restorer"; Hengstenberg, Tholuck, Meyer, by restitutor), and cherished a hope of his appearance, upon the faith of the great promise (Deuteronomy 18:15) that One would arise who would make known to them the Divine will. It is remarkable, but not unreasonable, that she should have adopted the Hebrew word in common use among all the Jewish people. In John 4:29 it is given in Greek without any reference to the original speech. Samaritans and Jews alike anticipated a Christ an Anointed One, a Plenipotentiary, a Guide. The more spiritual apprehension which follows becomes some explanation of the fact that our blessed Lord should have admitted to her what he afterwards, in Galilee, kept reticently in reserve. The Galilaeans would have come, on his slightest encouragement, and against his will have made him a king. This would have forced on him a position and dignity which, from their standpoint, would have wrecked his spiritual mission and frustrated his design. This woman, here and later on, made it obvious that her notion of the "Restitutor" or "Messiah" was One who, when he is come, will declare to us all things; in John 4:29 One who can read the secrets of the heart, and knows her and others altogether; while from John 4:42 we learn that she and her friends were anticipating there and then "the Saviour of the world." Luthardt here points back to Genesis 5:29 as part of the origin of the Samaritan idea.
Jesus saith unto her, I that am talking with thee am he. Jesus does utter to the Samaritan woman the truth about himself which he withholds from the sensuous Galilaeans and the carping scribes. Throughout she is susceptible, inquiring, anxious for her own sake to know. The idea she entertained about Messiah would put no obstacle in the way of our Lord's admission, whereas the opposite idea, the passionate longing for a political revolution, led him to silence others, and even among his disciples to reserve the sublime fact as their sacred secret. The truth communicated to this woman was of supreme importance and of universal interest. Our Lord admitted his Messiahship, but of the deeper truths of his incarnation, of the nature of the birth from above, of the Divine life and love, of the means of redemption, and the principles of judgment, he says nothing. Nicodemus learns of both "earthly and heavenly things;" the Samaritaness receives some practical principles. Yet the two conversations are complementary to each other, and throw upon each other reciprocally floods of light. Moreover, there is the same parabolic speech in both; the same habit of mind. It is the same Teacher who uses "the wind" and "the water of the well" to illustrate great spiritual ideas.
(3) Revelation and misunderstanding involved in the conduct of the disciples. The next paragraph records the effects of this conversation upon the disciples, upon the woman herself, and upon her friends.
Hereupon his disciples came; they returned, i.e. those of them who had gone to Sychar, bringing their provisions and their ἄντλημα with them, and they marvelled £ that he was talking with a woman. Such a proceeding was contrary to the etiquette of a rabbi, who contended that "a man should not salute a woman in a public place, not even his own wife" (cf. Lightfoot, Edersheim, Wettstein). One of the daily thanksgivings was, "Blessed art thou, O Lord … who hast not made me a woman" (Westcott). Yet (adds the eyewitness, one intimately acquainted with the innermost sentiments of the disciples) no one said, What seekest thou? Why talkest thou with her? They looked on with awe and reverence as well as wonder. They wondered whether he lacked aught which they could not supply. They marvelled at the unwonted scene, that One so great as their Rabbi and Master should condescend to teach or converse with a woman at all; but they held their peace, with the conviction that what he did must be gracious, holy, and wise. One of the miracles of the Lord's ministry was to break down the wretched rabbinical prejudice against the spiritual capacities of woman, and the Oriental folly which supposed that she contaminated their sanctity. He lifted woman to her true position by the side of man. Women were his most faithful disciples. They ministered unto him of their substance. They shared his miraculous healing, feeding, and teaching. They anointed his feet, they wept over his agony, they followed him to the cross, they were early at the sepulchre. They greeted him as the risen Lord. They received the baptism of the Spirit. In Christ there is neither male nor female. Both are one in him.
John 4:28, John 4:29
The woman then (i.e. in consequence of the arrival of the disciples) left her water pot ( ἀφῆκε); left it to itself, forgot the object of her visit to the well, so engrossed was she with the new teaching, so amazed with his revelations; or perhaps, with womanly tact, left it that the disciples might, if they would, make use of it for their Master. Most commentators suggest that she left it, intending by the very act to come back again shortly for water. But this is scarcely the idea conveyed by ἀφῆκε. Archdeacon Watkius truly says that this notice "is a mark of the presence of him who has related the incidents." And she went her way to the city—probably beyond her home (see note, John 4:7), constituting herself at once the messenger and missionary of the new Teacher and Prophet, who had declared himself to be the Messiah—and saith to the men whom she found in the marketplace or highway, Come, see a man who told me all things that ever I did.£ This exaggeration of the self-revelation was due to the deep conviction of her mind that the Prophet had read her whole life—its weakness and its follies, and it may have been its sins and crimes, not unknown, alas! to others as well. Chrysostom says, "She might have said, 'Come and see One that prophesieth;' but when the soul is aflame with holy fire it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame, but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it." There is a touch of naiveté, of loquacity, of impetuous womanhood, about this, that thrills with life. She was not afraid, in the first gush of her new-found joy, to brave the unflattering scorn of the men to whom such a confession was made; and then, in most natural and appropriate fashion, added, He is not however the Christ, is he? The question, by its form, suggests a negative answer; "but," Westcott says, "hope bursts through it (cf. Matthew 12:23)." She knows that he is the Christ, but she wishes the townspeople to guess it—to come to a like conclusion with herself.
They went out £ of the city, and were coming on their way towards him. The vividness of the picture is remarkable, and is made more so by observing the tense of ἤρχοντο. The men were already crossing the green fields that lay between Sychar and Jacob's well. This remarkable touch explains the conversation that immediately follows. We have the twofold scene depicted: on the one side, the disciples eager for their meal, and absorbed for the moment with thoughts of "terrene provender," unconscious of the vast yearnings of their Lord, and his passion for the regeneration and saving of men; and on the other side, the immediate effect, produced neither by signs nor wonders, but by his word only, on a few susceptible souls, who appeared to him living representatives and firstfruits of a redeemed humanity.
In the mean while ( χρόνῳ understood)—while the men of Sychar were coming across the green corn-fields in excited and eager longing for the bread of life and the water of life eternal—his disciples besought him; rather, were entreating him—the verb ἐρωτάω is used for question and interrogation, and is generally used of one who feels on terms of equality with the person addressed on the matter in hand (cf. John 14:16; John 15:7; John 16:19, John 16:23; John 17:15, for its distinctness from αὐτεω)—saying, Rabbi, eat. Have we not gone to Sychar to find provisions for thee? Do not despise our effort.
But he saith to them, I have food to eat that ye know not; of which you are ignorant, but which you may come to know by and by. βρῶσιν and βρῶμα are both used. The first denotes, strictly speaking, the act of eating; and the second the material for food; but they are, in Greek literature, generally used almost interchangeably. There were Divine desires and sacred satisfactions which discriminated the Lord's consciousness from that of his disciples. Thoma refers to the mighty fasts of the great lawgiver and prophet as the literary antecedent of this significant event; hut this superiority to food is true of every great soul. The men of the spirit are consumed with desires which dwarf the desires of the flesh, and they forget to eat their bread. Nor can we forget that the synoptic narrative places the forty dave' fast in this very epoch of Christ's life, chronologically speaking. (See note at end of this chapter.)
Therefore the disciples (almost as obtuse as was Nicodemus, or the Samaritaness, or as the Jews generally were, in penetrating the hidden meaning of the Lord's words) unintentionally illustrate the parabolic method, the tissue of symbolic and metaphoric phrase which Jesus adopted throughout his ministry; they did not venture to question him further, but said one to another, Hath any one brought him aught to eat? Did that Samaritan woman or any other? They could not, or did not, rise to the spiritual or unseen, nor for the moment did they get beyond the pressing needs of the flesh. Still, in the form of their question they leave room for doubt, whether he had not been able to satisfy the craving of the flesh, to make stones into bread, or water into wine. Surely not? (The μήτις suggests a negative answer.)
Jesus said to them, My food—that which satisfies my strongest desire, and quenches all other desire—is that I may do continuously £ the will of him that sent me on my mission to this people and to this world. "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God," was the motto and burden of his life. "Not my will, but thine," was the sacrificial cry which redeemed the world. To teach man to do the will of the Father is the motive which sustained him, and the prayer he put upon human lips was, "Thy will be done." Meyer here rightly says that ἵνα is not equal to ὅτι. Some expression is given by it as to the end and purpose of the mysterious life of which we have these sacred illustrations. The doing of the will of God is a perpetual and sublime activity, a continuing, ceaseless purpose; while the completion of the work will be one consummating act, towards which all the daily doing of the will is a preparation, and of which, in some sense, every day we discern a prelibation and forthshadowing. In John 17:4 he says, τελειώσας, "having completed the work thou," etc. This passage points on to that (cf. also John 5:30, John 6:38; John 7:18; John 8:50; John 9:4; John 12:49, John 12:50; John 14:31, etc.).
Say not ye—has not your talk with one another been, as you have passed through the springing corn, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? This cannot be a proverbial expression for the time which elapses between sowing and harvest, as some (Lucke and Tholuck) have supposed, because, firstly, there is no mention of sowing at all; and secondly, because six months was the customary period between seed time and ingathering; and also because the "say not ye?" would then be inappropriate. I cannot doubt that it was a chronological hint that the time at which Jesus spake was four months from either the barley or wheat harvest. These harvests generally occurred between the middle of March and the middle of April. The time must, therefore, have been either the middle of November or of December. Tristram (Westcott) says the (wheat?) harvest began about the middle of April and lasted till the end of May. This would bring the time forward another month. This makes our Lord to have spent some eight months since the Passover, either in Jerusalem or in the Judaean land, on his earliest mission, which as yet had brought no obvious results. Men had come to his baptism, but had not appreciated or accepted his claims. The faith already awakened had been of the evanescent character, based on "signs," outward not inward, a "milk faith," to which he did not entrust himself
and reapers who gather fruit unto life eternal may and will rejoice together.
For herein—in this harvest field, already whitening before your eyes—is the word veritably realized—it finds an ideal illustration of its meaning—One is the sower, and another is the reaper. It belongs to all common experience in such things; the first stone is laid by one, the topstone by another. The toil and tears of the sower with the precious seed are often the reason why another returns with joy, bringing his sheaves with him. It is an all-but universal law. Children inherit the toil of their fathers. We all stand where the shoulders of the mighty dead have lifted us. Still, though one be the sower and another is the reaper in this Samaritan field, yet, since "already" the reaper is busy with the sickle, the sower and reapers may rejoice together. The law will be established on a grander scale by and by, when the great Sower, who is the Lord of the harvest, shall send forth all his reapers to their great enterprise, and he and they will rejoice together.
If this be the meaning, then, in the following verse, the whole conception of their relation to the past and dependence upon it is singled out for additional comment. I have sent you, and am now sending you, to reap that whereon ye have not toiled to weariness. The idea of sowing ( σπείρειν) is now expanded to ( κοπιᾶν) exhausting toil; i.e. to all the laborious preparation of the soil for the seed, clearing of the forest, and ploughing on the rocky places, the cultivation of the jungle and fen. Much has been done by those who have gone before you. Others have toiled thus; their footmarks are red with blood, their tears have watered the earth, and ye have entered (and are now entering) into their toil. There is no limitation here to the cycles of work and suffering, of disappointment and apparent failure which have preceded you. The "others" is surely not a pleonasm for himself, he does verily associate with himself all his forerunners. This κόπος is far more than the mere sowing of seed or diffusion of truth, and they who have during many centuries contributed of their life to the creation of the state of mind which makes these people susceptible to the truth, have prepared the way of the disciples. In a fit place, and in the fulness of the times, he came. The disciples of Jesus, moreover, have always had a greater or less degree of pioneer work to do. The efforts of the missionary Church may be represented at all times as toiling as well as sowing. Each generation of labourers in the great field of love to man enters upon work and toil which its precursors have originated. The Tubingen critics here, true to their theory of the origin of the Fourth Gospel in the second century, suppose that, by the "others," Jesus is supposed to mean Philip the evangelist, and, by the "reapers," Peter and John, who entered into his labours, in Acts 8:15. Hilgenfeld thinks by the "others" was meant Paul, and by the "reapers" the twelve apostles, who sought to enter upon his work and appropriate its fruit. Thoma has followed vigorously along the same lines, and supposes that the Pauline thought 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, and the story of the conversion of the Samaritans and of the heathen world to the Church, are here forthshadowed by the fourth evangelist.
(4) The harvest of the Lord's sowing, and the Saviour of the world.
This harvest is described in John 4:39-42. As this sublime discourse was proceeding, the impression produced by the word of the woman was becoming deeper. The breath of God was moving them mightily. They were prepared by a thousand untraceable influences for faith in the great Deliverer and Teacher. Many of the Samaritans from that city, in the first instance, had been summarily convinced of the presence among them of the long looked-for Prophet, and believed on him by reason of the word (or, discourse) of the woman, who testified, He told me all things that I ever £ did. Not merely is this one saying referred to, but the whole report of the words of Jesus of which that saying was the crowning or most startling expression. They are the first specimens of men who believe by the testimony of those who know. "Blessed are they who have not seen, but yet believe."
They were already convinced; but they did more—they came to him. So when the Samaritans came to him; they continued asking him—they persistently prayed that he would abide with them. How unlike the treatment of Jews and Gadarenes, of scribes and Pharisees! There were some who besought him to depart from them, others who stoned him, Herodians and Pharisees who plotted to destroy him. But these hated Samaritans yearned for more of his fellowship, more of his words and searching glance, more of the Word of life. So called heresy and heterodoxy may sometimes show itself more susceptible to the mind and Spirit of Christ than a bigoted and self-satisfied orthodoxy. The Lord responded to the request, and he abode there two days. Why should a biographer of the second century have limited this visit to "two days," when it is obvious that he passes over months in silence? It would have been as easy to say "two months" as to say "two days," and, to ordinary human judgment, more natural. These "two days" left an ineffaceable memory on the heart of one at least of these disciples, and the mention of it has upon the face of it the mark of historicity.
John 4:41, John 4:42
And very many more believed, during that visit, by reason of his word—Christ's own word. We know not what the word was, but the specimens which John has recorded make us certain that torrents of living water flowed from his lips. He was moving in the full power of the Spirit. He was unveiling the nature of that "salvation" which was, as he said, "from the Jews;" but a salvation which affected and was adapted to the whole world. And they (repeatedly) said to the woman (the play of aorist and imperfect tenses throughout this passage is very noteworthy), No longer do we believe by reason of thy speaking. The word λαλιά does not generally connote so serious a meaning as λόγος. The first word is used for "utterance" pure and simple (Matthew 26:73), and for the inarticulate voices of lower creatures as well, while λόγος and λέγειν never have the latter meaning; but still λαλιά is used in classical Greek for "discourse," and in John 8:43 is used by Christ of his own "utterance." Meyer says the term is purposely chosen from the standpoint of the speaker, while in John 8:39 λόγος is used of the same λαλιά by St. John as narrator. The above are the only times the term is found in the New Testament. For we have ourselves heard, and we know—fully, by personal intuition (we might have expected ἐγνῶμεν here)—that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.£ This sublime description only occurs in one other place in the New Testament (viz. 1 John 4:14), and here it falls from the lips of a Samaritan. There is no improbability that it should have expressed the thought of Samaritans, for they entertained wider and less nationalized views than did the Jews. Baur's notion, that the author wished to contrast heathen or Gentile susceptibility with Jewish narrowness and reserve, is out of keeping with the facts. A genuine heathen would have been as easy to invent as a susceptible Samaritan. "The Saviour of the world" is one of the noblest and most accurate terms in all the Bible to denote the work of Christ. It is the outcome of a discourse and of teaching which led men to the idea of spiritual and sincere worship of the Father, which searched for moral conditions rather than orthodox ritual, which demanded purity of life more than outward observance, and treated doing the will and work of the Father as more indispensable than necessary food. We need not be surprised (Acts 8:1-40.) to find the outcome of this sojourn of the Divine Lord among the misunderstood and hated Samaritans. The effort of the Tubingen school to find in this narrative an idealization of the synoptic tradition of Christ's special beneficence towards the Samaritans is very unfortunate, because, in Matthew 10:5, the "twelve" were forbidden to enter into cities of the Samaritans, and advised to occupy all their energies in evangelizing the cities of Israel. The record of Acts 8:1-40. affords very slender basis for a corresponding enlargement. The narrative before us shows that, in answer to the receptivity of the Samaritans, the Lord made the richest and fullest and most explicit and immediate revelation of himself. The extension of the kingdom of grace to Samaritans, and their incorporation into the body of Christ, was arrested by the need of the visit of the apostles, by the magic and hypocrisy of Simon; of which there is not here the slightest trace.
8. The commencement of the Galilaean ministry. We read the details of the Galilaean ministry in the synoptists, who describe our Lord's public entrance, in the power of the Spirit, into Galilee. They are silent with reference to these earliest witnesses to his method and varied specimens of his work. Just as in the Revelation of St. John we have a proem, and a series of visions which rehearse the entire development of the kingdom and glory of the Lamb of God until the day of his triumph, his wrath, and his great glory; so in these earlier chapters of the Fourth Gospel we have an anticipation of the entire ministry of Messiah. Specimens and illustrations are given of his creative might, of his purifying energy, of his forecast of the cross, of his demand for inward and radical renewal of his promise and gift of life. We can read in these events his principles of judgment and his revelation of the Father, his mission to mankind as a whole, and his victory and drawing of souls to himself. We see, moreover, his relation to the theocracy and to the outlying world, to the learned rabbi and to the woman that was a sinner.. We see the Lord in his glory and in his humiliation. A very brief hint is given in the following verses of the character of his Galilaean ministry, Wherein mighty works and words alternate, and the first storm of direct opposition to him begins to make its appearance, upon which, while much light is cast by the narrative of John 5:1-47., we have no indistinct trace in the synoptic narrative.
Now after the two days—i.e. the two days of our Lord's sojourn in Sychar (John 4:40)—he went forth £ thence into Galilee. Here the author takes up the narrative of John 4:3. The delay in Samaria was parenthetical to the chief end of his journey, which was to leave Judaea and commence his ministry in Galilee. He now enters it a second time from Judaea. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country, When therefore he came into Galilee, the Galilaeans willingly received him, having seen all things whatsoever he did in Jerusalem, at the feast: for they themselves also went to the feast. These words bristle with difficulties, and hardly two commentators entirely agree in their interpretation of them. Christ's visit to Galilee is here accounted for by the principle embodied in the proverb, or a part at least of the proverb, which he used (according to the synoptic narrative) with reference to his visit to and reception in Nazareth, about this some period in his career. Apart from that reference, the most simple explanation of the quotation would be that our Lord regarded Jerusalem and Judge, as in one sense, and a very deep one, "his country," not simply his birthplace, and which he felt at twelve years of age was to contain his Father's house and kingdom and work; and of which he afterwards said, "O Jerusalem, that killest the prophets,... how oft would I… but ye would not!" The Fourth Gospel records our Lord's various Judaean ministries with such striking incidents and impressive discourse, that his claim upon the loyalty of the metropolis was repeatedly urged and as repeatedly rejected. True that in John 4:1-3 we are told that our Lord left Judaea because the Pharisees, the influential religious party, were in a hostile sense comparing his ministry with that of the Baptist. This may only be another way in which the comparative unfruitfulness of his early ministry in Judaea is stated. "The prophet hath no honour in his own country." If this was the meaning of Christ's recurrence to the proverb, then we can understand the οὖν of John 4:45, as well as the γάρ of John 4:44, The Galilaeans who had been up to Jerusalem, and been favourably impressed—perhaps more so than any Judaeans, having formed the bulk of those who received baptism at his hands—received him graciously on his entrance into Galilee. The whole passage thus would hang together; a subsequent and similar and more acute experience where he was best known by face, in Nazareth, drew from him an expanded form of the proverb, in sad and melancholy iteration, "A prophet is not without honour save in his own country, and amongst his kindred, and in his own house" (Mark 6:4; Matthew 13:57). [In Luke's enlarged account of the visit to Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), possibly an event which is perfectly distinct from the visit to his "own country" cited by Matthew and Mark, the proverb appears in its shorter form.] This interpretation is that preferred by Origen, Maldonatus, Wieseler, Baur, etc., formerly by Ebrard and Lucke, and now by Westcott, Moulton, and Plummer. In my opinion it is the most satisfactory and least encumbered interpretation. It does not seem satisfactory to Meyer and others, who urge that πατρίς can only mean what it obviously does in the synoptic narrative, viz. Galilee as represented by Nazareth. Meyer also interprets the γάρ as introducing a reason, not only for our Lord's present return to Galilee, but for his earlier departure from Galilee to Judaea; and Meyer supposes that he must have uttered the words then. On this supposition, the Galilaeans in the first instance must have failed to appreciate his prophetic claims. Christ had gone to Jerusalem and Judaea, and there acquired the fame of a prophet, and subsequently these Galilaeans were ready to recognize it second hand, on the occasion of his return. Godet adds to this the joyful emotion that was felt when the plan of Jesus had been successful as far as the Galilaeans were concerned. Moreover, he gives a pluperfect sense to ἐμαρτύρησε, "he had testified." Against this we observe that our Lord must have soon found that, in a narrower and closer sense, his nearest friends and neighbours had learned nothing by their journey to the feast; and that the author of the Fourth Gospel must have been ignorant of the kind of reception so soon accorded to our Lord at Nazareth. Bruckner and Luthardt suppose by the γάρ that Jesus either sought the struggle with his unbelieving compatriots or the solitude induced by the absence of sympathy. There is not the faintest trace of this in the narrative. Then, again, Cyril, Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Hengstenberg, suppose that by πατρίς is meant his own city, Nazareth, which is here contrasted with Galilee in general, including Capernaum, which became the missionary centre of his early ministry. These commentators suppose that, when we are told "he went to Galilee," it means (as we see from verse 46) he went to Cana, "for he testified," etc.; and therefore that in this forty-fourth verse comes the tragic scene described in Luke 4:16-30. Lange has supplemented this theory by another that removes part of the difficulty, viz. that by ἅτρίς was meant Lower Galilee, including Nazareth, and by the Galilee of Luke 4:44 was meant Upper Galilee and the neighbourhood of the lake, including Capernaum, to which we find that, after his cruel treatment at Nazareth, he retired. So Geikie. Now, there are difficulties in either of these views, which give great awkwardness to the expression, "So he came to Cana again," in verse 46. Tholuck, De Wette, Lucke, in various ways, urge that the γάρ of Luke 4:44 may mean namely, that is to say, etc., pointing onwards to the kindly reception which the Galilaeans gave him being due to the signs which they beheld, and not to the words of life which he had spoken. Every view seems to us far-fetched and inconsistent, with the exception of the first interpretation. The only objection that is at all urgent, arises from the fact that, in the synoptic narrative, Nazareth is spoken of as his country. But if this were so, we do but see in the reception accorded to him in Nazareth a further illustration of the very same spirit which was shown to him in the metropolis. In both places "he came to his own, and his own received him not." There is nothing improbable, if so, that in both places Jesus should have appealed to the homely proverb. On the second occasion he added to it, "his kindred and his home," as well as "his country."
He £ came therefore again unto Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. The οὖν of this verse is best explained by the simple supposition that Cana lay in his way. In Cana of Galilee, not Judaea, he had manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him. He came, then, to Galilee, to Cana, and for a while tarried there, long enough for the βασιλικός to have heard of his healing power and prophetic gifts. There have been numerous attempts to identify this narrative of the nobleman's son with the healing of the centurion's servant as recorded in Matthew 8:5 and Luke 7:2. Recently Weiss and Thoma have laid emphasis upon this identification. Strauss, Baur, and all the opponents of John's Gospel, are eager to press this subjective handling of the synoptic tradition. But, as Edersheim has observed, they are here in hopeless contradiction with their own theory; for we find that the Hebrew Gospel here confers the loftiest encomium upon a Gentile, and the Hellenic Fourth Gospel makes the hero of this scene to be a Jew. True, in both cases a man of higher rank than that of fishermen and taxgatherers approaches our Lord with a request on behalf of another. But it should be observed that in the one case we have a Roman centurion, a heathen man, coming with great faith, one who, though "not in Israel," recognizes the imperial claims of Jesus; in the present narrative we have an Herodian officer, some person of Jewish blood attendant on the tetrarch's court, who displays a weak faith, reproved though rewarded by the Master. The one asks for a dying slave afflicted with paralysis; the other for a dying son suffering from deadly fever. Jesus meets the centurion as he crones down from the mountain, after the delivery of the great sermon; the Lord, when he receives the request of the nobleman, was a resident in. Cana. Both cures are said to take place at Capernaum by the utterance of a word, but the centurion disclaims the right to a visit, and asks for a word only. The nobleman entreats that the Lord would travel from Cana to Capernaum to heal his son. Thus the two narratives, with certain resemblances, are still strongly contrasted. The βασιλικός is one in the service of a king. The title of a king was given to Herod in later times (Mark 6:14), and characterized other references to him. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
This man, when he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, went unto him. This statement implies that Jesus had been in Capernaum before, and left there the impression of his power to heal and save. The rumour of transactions of this kind wrought at Capernaum had been carried from Capernaum to Nazareth (see Luke 4:1-44.), and now the return of Jesus from Judaea was soon known in the cities along the shore of the lake. And he besought him (obs. ἠρώτα, indicating to some extent a kind of conscious right to seek the favour) that ( ἵνα, in John, often gives the purport of a prayer or a command) he would come down (from the highlands of Galilee to the borders of the lake, sunk as it is in a deep depression) to Capernaum, and heal his son: for he was on the point of death (vulgate, incipiebat mori; compare and contrast John 12:33).
Then said Jesus to him—as representing the whole class whose faith rested upon, and was nourished, by, the outward sign, with a certain amount of reproof if not of irony in the strength of his phrase—Except ye see (there is no special emphasis laid on the ἴδητε, as distinct from the mere report or testimony of such things) signs and wonders, ye will by no means believe. This is the only occasion in John's Gospel where these two terms are conjoined. They are frequently brought together in Acts (Acts 2:22, Acts 2:43; Acts 4:30; Acts 5:12, etc.), and used in conjunction in Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; Romans 15:19; 2 Corinthians 12:12. John ordinarily uses ( ἔργα) "works" to denote those objective tangible facts which were "signs" ( σημεῖα) of the Lord's higher nature and claims. Here τέρατα, a word meaning "portents," remarkable, inexplicable events out of the common order, accompanies "signs," to complete the notion. The craving for "signs and wonders" did absorb the higher life of Judaism. "The Jews require a sign" (1 Corinthians 1:22), and minds that are yet in the Jewish stage of partial discipline, for spiritual revelation, still do the same. There is still in many of us the weak faith which needs the stimulating diet of the "sign" before there is any full recognition of the Divine fulness of blessing. Christ does not condemn, though he mourns over, this spiritual babyhood; and while he says (John 10:38; John 14:11; John 15:24) that belief for the works' sake may lead up to true faith, yet the language addressed to Thomas, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed," reveals his deepest thought of their comparative worth. The demand for "signs and wonders" in Galilee contrasts with the ready reception which the Samaritans had given to his word. Many of the difficulties of these narratives arise from the obvious fact that they are so closely compressed. Weiss has a hard task to make what he calls this "harsh answer" tally with Matthew's account of the reception of the centurion, and of the "great faith" which in his case preceded the miracle. A single sentence in the urgent request of the nobleman, implying that at Capernaum they needed the same kind of proof that had been given at Jerusalem of the Lord's prophetic claims, would account for all the emphasis laid upon the inperfect faith of the Galilaeans. He who "knew what was in man" knew in what way to rouse in this suppliant an adequate recognition of the Divine in himself.
The nobleman saith unto him, Lord, come down before my little boy (my only son) die. This touching stroke shows how love triumphs over the desire for signs and wonders, and already helps to create the faith in the grace and power of the Divine Helper.
Jesus saith to him, Go on thy way; thy son liveth. The use of the diminutive παιδίον in the previous verse is not sustained by Codex A, which reads υἱόν, while א reads παίδα. Jesus adopts in his gracious response the more dignified word which had been already on the lips of the father. He did not "need the passionate appeal" (Moulton). The rationale of the miracle is impossible. The will of Jesus was in absolute coincidence with the Divine will, and he knew, by the inward conformity of his own will with the Father's will, that what he willed the Father willed, and that at the very moment the crisis of the fever had passed and the change was wrought. On this occasion he did not say, "I will come and heal him," but, "Go; thy son liveth;" he is no longer, as thou thoughtest, on the point of death. The man was fain to believe the word of Jesus, and for a while at least, to believe by that alone. The man believed the word which Jesus spake to him, and went on his way to Capernaum.
Now as he was going down to Capernaum (if we take any of the more recent determinations of the site of Cana (see John 2:1, John 2:2), this means that he had traversed a distance of between twenty and twenty-five miles, so that there is no reason to treat with ridicule or regard as inexplicable the time taken for the return journey, or that a night should have been spent in the transit from Cana), his servants met £ him, saying, £ that his boy lived. The oblique form is certainly far more reasonable, less mechanical, and more likely to have been altered into the direct form by an incautious copyist from the previous verse, than to have constituted the original text. Note that Jesus used the most dignified title, "son" ( υἱός); the father employs the tender diminutive ( παιδίον); while the servants use the domestic term ( παῖς).
The father is full of joy at the blessed intelligence, but naturally seeks at once to link the event with the word and will of Jesus. He therefore inquired from them the hour in which he began to amend ( κομψότερον ἔσχε). (This peculiar phrase is suitable on the lips of a man of rank; literally, "he did bravely, exceedingly well;" and κόμψως ἔχειν is occasionally used in contradistinction with κάκως ἔχειν in a similar sense. Epictetus, 'Diss.,' John 3:10-13.) They say to him, therefore, Yesterday during the seventh hour the fever left him. The advocates of John's adoption of the Roman computation of time suppose that this was seven p.m., and, therefore, that a night had intervened on the return journey (so Westcott, Edersheim, and Moulton). This is not necessary, because, even on the Jewish computation, from sunrise to sunset, though the seventh hour must then mean between noon and one p.m., it could not have happened that much before midnight he should have broken into the streets of Capernaum. At that hour the noon might be spoken of as "yesterday." This, however, is not imperative; for, if the distance between Capernaum and Cana was from twenty to twenty-five miles, and if the nobleman had travelled to Cana on the day that he presented his request, it is clear that a night's halt might easily have been required. Baur and Hilgenfeld make the note of time an attempt on the part of the writer to exaggerate the marvel, as if the distance through which the will of Christ asserted itself could augment the wonder, or that the real supernatural could be measured by milestones. And Thoma thinks so poorly of the originality of the Johannist, that he imagines him to have worked into his narrative some of the small details of the Cornelius and Peter interviews in Acts 10:1-48.
The father then knew (came to know, by putting the facts together) that his son began to amend in the same hour in which Jesus said to him, Try son liveth. The word was mighty, none other than that very voice of the Lord "which healeth all our diseases," and "redeemeth our lives from destruction." No mere coincidence, no common accident. And himself believed and his whole household; believed in the Divine claims of Jesus. This is the earliest mention of "household faith" (cf. Acts 10:44; Acts 16:15, Acts 16:34). In this case a whole picture rises before our eye. The mother, the sisters, the servants, the entire family, had shared in the anxiety, had sympathized in the journey to Cana, and now accepted the exalted claims of Jesus. Faith is graciously contagious. The nearness of the unseen world often reveals the features of the God-Man. The suggestion has frequently been hazarded that this βασιλικός was Chuza, the house steward of Herod, whose wife, Joanna, ministered to Jesus (Luke 8:3 and Luke 24:10).
This is again a second sign which Jesus did, when he had come out of Judaea into Galilee. The point is that each return from Judaea to Galilee had been charged with special emphasis by the occurrence of a "sign." We are told (John 2:23; John 3:2) of slams wrought in Jerusalem, and, consequently, it could not be meant to be the second sign wrought by him. The πάλιν refers to the ἐλθὼν clause, i.e. to the repetition of his entrance on work in Galilee. The first sign was the transformation of the water; the second, under similar conditions, was the healing a dying child by his word (so Godet, Lunge, and Westcott).
This passage of St. John's Gospel which we have now reviewed is a distinct period of our Lord's life and ministry, concerning which the synoptists were silent; and it is marvellously complete in itself. It is an epitome of the whole life of the blessed Lord, and presents an outline and specimen of his method and his work. The disciple unnamed seems always at the side of the Lord. A mighty spell had fallen on him; and he was beginning already to discern in him the characteristics which ultimately directed him to compose the prologue. The penetration of the hidden secrets of all hearts—first his own, then those of Cephas and Nathanael, and the motives of Mary, and the spirit of Nicodemus, the intentions of the Pharisees, the secret life of the Samaritaness, and the inchoate and imperfect faith of the nobleman. Jesus is presented to us in marvellously different, yet mutually complementary, relations.
One remarkable aspect of this preliminary ministry is the light it throws upon the profoundly difficult passage in the synoptics, descriptive of the temptation of Jesus—a subject on which this evangelist says nothing. Later on, indeed, he tells us that Jesus said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me;" and, "Now is the crisis of this world: now is the prince of this world cast out. And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to me" (John 12:31; John 14:30). In these chapters the evangelist records certain events which correspond in a remarkable way with the threefold temptation of the devil, which we know to have preceded the public ministry in Galilee. Thus,
Yet, notwithstanding all this, it were a great mistake to suppose that he had exhausted his resources or his teaching; he has simply uttered the alphabet of the whole gospel which he is about to disclose. The teaching of the valedictory discourse is prodigiously in advance of this introduction to his ministry. The truths absolutely revealed are the need of a complete purification of man and temple, the imperative necessity of heavenly birth, of spiritual worship, of implicit faith in the Father's love, and of patient waiting for God. We have two incidents of the Lord's ministry in Galilee, but also impressive hints of the adaptation of his gospel to that world of strangers and outcasts that he has come to seek and save. Our great difficulty is in the silence which the Fourth Gospel preserves concerning the continuous ministry of our Lord in Galilee after this preparation for it.
In John 6:4 we learn that the Jews' Passover was at hand, and we find ourselves in the midst of a group of facts in which some chronological hints may be gained. The multiplication of the loaves, the walking upon the sea, are events which are recorded by the synoptists, and which appear there to have followed the execution of John the Baptist, and the conclusion of the trial mission of the twelve disciples. We must, therefore, conclude that, between the Passover of John 2:13 and John 6:4, one year must have, at least, elapsed. (It is true that Browne, in his 'Ordo Saeculorum,' has endeavoured to obliterate this reference to the Passover as a gloss, but without any authority from codices, or versions, or other diplomatic evidence.) This period, moreover, includes a vast amount of incident in the synoptic narrative; all that, e.g., which is recorded in Mark between John 1:14 and John 6:56. Now, it is obvious that, after a period of general response to his claims, our Lord encountered (according to the synoptists) an organized opposition from the Pharisees, in particular a bitter and deadly persecution on the ground of his heterodoxy of word and conduct with reference to the rabbinic interpretation of the sabbatic law. There are also other indications of a rising storm of indignation, even in Galilee, to modify the popular enthusiasm. Concerning this John says nothing, but he does record the origin of the storm in the metropolis in his account of a journey to Jerusalem taken in the course of this period. It was his obvious purpose to detail the history of the conflict with the hierarchical party at Jerusalem.
The metropolis was the great focus of the antagonism to Christ, and John describes those scenes which appeared in Jerusalem to have stimulated the assault, and thereby, elicited the self-revelation of Jesus.
The journey of our Lord through Sumatra.
We are now to see the firstfruits of Gentile conversion.
I. CONSIDER THE CAUSE OF CHRIST'S DEPARTURE FROM JUDEA TO GALILEE. "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, he left Judaea and departed again into Galilee."
1. The anger of the Pharisees was roused by the greater success of Jesus. "All men were coming to him" (John 3:26), to be his disciples and to receive his baptism. John was now in prison. Nothing more was to he apprehended from the rousing ministry of the Baptist. But a more formidable Teacher had appeared in the land, who commanded a still wider acceptance. The fact that the Baptist had borne testimony to Jesus, and that our Lord was more independent of Pharisaic traditions in the spirit of his work, made him vastly more dangerous to the dominance of the leading religious party.
2. It argued no cowardice on the part of Christ to leave Judaea in circumstances of danger. He himself counselled his apostles to follow his example: "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another" (Matthew 10:23).
II. THE NECESSITY THAT DIRECTED HIS ROAD THROUGH SAMARIA. "And he must needs go through Samaria." This was necessarily the direct route to Galilee, but was usually avoided through the particularistic spirit of the Jews, if not from an apprehension of Samaritan hostility.
1. We remark how the hostility of the Pharisees in Judaea was overruled for the conversion of the Samaritans.
2. This visit of mercy to Samaria is not inconsistent with the original commission given to the apostles. "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5, Matthew 10:6).
III. THE SCENE OF HIS SAMARITAN LABOURS. "Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph."
1. The city is the modern Nablous, where the Samaritans still live.
2. The people were a mixture of five nations, transported from the East to occupy Samaria after the exile of its native inhabitants. They were more hated by the Jews than the Gentiles themselves, and were never received as proselytes. Hate begat hate. The moral separation was complete.
3. Jacob's well was the spot where the first word of grace was spoken to the Samaritans. "Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus upon the well."
(a) It was a mark of his poverty that he travelled on foot.
(b) It was a mark of his true humanity that he had full experience of its infirmities.
The conversation with the Samaritan woman.
I. THE FIRST APPROACH IS MADE ON OUR LORD'S SIDE. "Give me to drink."
1. Consider the person addressed. "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water."
2. Consider how he seeks to elicit her thought and to gain her soul. He asks a favour. "Give me to drink." This was to recognize her momentary superiority.
II. THE QUICK RECOLLECTION ON HER SIDE OF THE WALL OF SEPARATION BETWEEN JEW AND SAMARITAN. "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?"
1. She identified Jesus as a Jew by his dress or his accent or by both.
2. Consider the embittering alienations wrought by religious differences.
"For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." Yet the Galilaeans, like our Lord and his disciples, may have been less influenced by the policy of isolation than the people of Judaea, for while Jesus asked a drink from a Samaritan, his disciples went to a Samaritan city to buy meat.
3. Mark the perpetuity of religious hatred. It dated from the age of the Captivity. It still exists to separate Samaritans both from Jews and from Christians.
III. OUR LORD'S OFFER OF THE BEST GIFT TO THE SAMARITAN WOMAN. "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."
1. The gift of God is the living water, as he who speaks to her is the Agent of imparting it to the soul of man.
2. Mark how it is to be obtained. "Thou wouldest have asked of him." It is by prayer—the prayer of faith. Some say that we are not to pray for salvation, but simply to believe in order to salvation.
3. Mark the cause of the sinner not receiving the gift of God. "If thou knewest the gift of God." Ignorance of the worth of Christ is the great cause of the gift not being appropriated. The Samaritan woman has so little idea of the import of our Lord's words that she thinks only of the water of Jacob's well, and therefore our Lord has to set the truth in a new and striking light before her.
IV. THE TRUE NATURE OF THE LIVING WATER THAT IS IN CHRIST'S DISPOSAL.
1. It satisfies more than mere momentary wants. The water of Jacob's well would satisfy a thirst that would recur again. This living water would fully satisfy the thirst of the immortal spirit, and finally end the inward unrest. "Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." Earthly satisfactions leave an emptiness in the soul which needs an ever fresh supply from external sources.
2. The living water is
A serious turn to the conversation.
I. THE ARRESTED ATTITUDE OF THE SAMARITAN WOMAN. "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither pass this way to draw." She is still ignorant of the meaning of his words, but she begins to have a dim apprehension of something behind them profoundly touching her life. We cannot otherwise understand the next phase of the conversation.
II. OUR LORD LIFTS THE VEIL FROM HER PAST LIFE, AND THUS REVEALS HIMSELF AS A PROPHET, AND MORE THAN A PROPHET. "Go, call thy husband."
1. He desires to link with her in the coming blessing the man whose life was then unworthily linked with her own.
2. Mark the sincerity of her answer. "I have no husband." It signifies that she was not wholly depraved, or that her heart had already begun to respond to the searching ordeal of Christ. There is sadness in the confession.
3. The answer of Jesus lays bare the secrets of her past life. "Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband."
(a) private sins are to be rebuked privately;
(b) without passion or severity;
(c) and with a particular application of the Word to the conscience of the transgressor.
III. THE SINGULAR TURN WHICH THE WOMAN GIVES TO THE CONVERSATION. "Sir, I perceive that thou art a Prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
1. The words may have been spoken to parry the stroke at her conscience, though she implicitly confesses her sin, and does not attempt to deny or excuse it.
2. Yet her discovery of a prophet, who knows the depths of her soul, suggests the religious question that seems to have already occupied her mind (verse 25), and especially the question respecting the true worship of the Lord.
3. She submits to our Lord the antagonism between Samaritan tradition and Jewish practice.
The spirit of the true worship.
Our Lord acts a prophet's part in answer to her inquiries.
1. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THE NEW WORSHIP. "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father."
1. All localized worship was soon to end.
2. The fatherhood of God emancipates worship from every limitation of time and space. Men will worship God as a Father. The title is characteristic of this Gospel.
II. THE OBJECT OF THE NEW WORSHIP. "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews."
1. The Samaritans were ignorant of God's character, though they worshipped God.
2. The Jews understood the character of the God whom they worshipped.
(a) The promises of salvation come to us through the Jews.
(b) The means of salvation were revealed to them.
(c) The Author of the salvation was a Jew, a descendant of Abraham and Son of David.
(d) Hitherto the bulk of the saved were Jews.
III. THE SPIRIT OF THE TRUE WORSHIP. "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth."
1. The characteristics of true worship.
(a) as opposed to all carnal, Gentile ideas of God;
(b) as opposed to the idea of a God worshipped in temples made with hands, or worshipped with carnal ordinances.
(c) It signifies a worship in which the human soul holds intimate communion with the Divine Spirit.
Thus the Apostle Paul speaks of "the God whom I serve in my spirit" (Romans 1:9), and of "praying in spirit" (Ephesians 6:18). Thus Christians are temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19).
(a) as opposed to the false worship of the Samaritans or the Gentiles generally;
(b) as opposed to Jewish ordinances, which were but shadows without substance;
(c) as distinguished from sincerity, for a false worship may be perfectly sincere.
(d) It is a worship regulated
( α) by the true ideas of the gospel;
( β) by the manifestation which Christ has made of his Father's character.
2. The ground or reason of this true worship. "God is a Spirit." The worship must correspond to the nature of God.
Our Lord's revelation of himself, and its remarkable effects.
The woman longs for fuller information.
I. HER PRESENT IDEA OF THE MESSIAH "I know that Messias cometh."
1. She expected, like all the Samaritans, the advent of a Messiah, according to the ancient prophecy, "God will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee" (Deuteronomy 18:18).
2. Her conception of his character and office entirely differed from that of the Jews. "When he comes, he will tell us all things." She recognized him as a Prophet, not as a King.
(a) an authoritative Expounder of truth, as the Greek word signifies;
(b) and assigns no limits to the extent of his revelations.
II. OUR LORD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF ANSWERS TO THE RECEPTIVITY OF HER FAITH. "I that speak unto thee am he."
1. He reveals himself to her as he never revealed himself to the Jews till the last moment (John 17:3; Matthew 26:64), because he saw that she was not subject to the dangerous illusions of the Jews. She did not ask, like the Jews, "If thou be the Messias, tell us plainly" (John 10:24).
2. It is the Lord's delight to reveal himself fully to those with an honest simplicity of heart, who desire to know him.
III. THE WOMAN'S SILENT BUT EXPRESSIVE RESPONSE TO THE REVELATION.
1. She made no answer to Jesus, but her soul was immediately filled with a new hope, and her life took on a new interest.
2. She communicated at once to her neighbours the substance of her own remarkable discovery. "She left her water pot," as a sort of pledge of her speedy return, "and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man who told me all things that ever I did. This cannot be the Christ, can he?"
Jesus and his disciples.
The surprise of the disciples at our Lord's talking with the woman at the well did not break forth into question; they rather resolved to bide their time for an explanation.
I. THE SPIRITUAL MEAT OF THE SON OF GOD. "My meat is to do the will of my Father, and to finish his work."
1. The disciples were naturally anxious to supply his bodily wants; for they knew that he was both hungry and thirsty.
2. The interview with the woman had for the time put his physical wants in abeyance; for he was filled with an extraordinary elation of spiritual joy.
3. The delight of success had brought a new strength to his spirit. "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." The disciples did not then understand the true virtue or efficacy of this meat.
4. As meat is pleasant to the appetite and refreshing to the body of man, so was it to Jesus to do the will of his Father. The deeply suggestive phrase marks how natural and how easy was the obedience that Jesus rendered to the Divine will.
(a) exactly, with all faithfulness;
(b) with supreme wisdom and prudence;
(c) with constancy.
(a) in preaching the gospel;
(b) in working miracles of healing;
(c) in giving his life at last for his sheep.
II. THE RAPID RIPENING OF THE SPIRITUAL HARVEST. "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 to harvest."
1. These words fix the time of this conversation. As harvest occurred in the end of April, it must then have been about the middle of December. Jesus must, therefore, have remained eight months in Judaea.
2. The spiritual harvest, which was in our Lord's mind, was obvious in the large body of Samaritans, who were at that moment crossing the fields from Sychar to profess their faith in him. The thought of Jesus was the ripeness of the people to be gathered into the kingdom.
3. This harvest is very rapid; and the seed germinates and matures in an instant.
III. THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE SOWER AND THE REWARD OF THE REAPER. "And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together."
1. The sowers are in this case John the Baptist and our Lord himself; the reapers are the apostles, who are to receive these Samaritan disciples into the kingdom of God.
2. The worker in this field has the prospect of reward; for, besides being "a labourer worthy of his hire," he
3. The sower does not always live to see the fruit of his labour. "And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth."
Jesus and the Samaritans.
The woman was the instrument of bringing her townspeople to the Saviour.
I. THE FIRST DEGREE OF SAMARITAN FAITH WAS DEPENDENT ON TESTIMONY. "Now many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him because of the saying of the woman, who testified, He told me all that ever I did."
1. Faith is essentially the belief of testimony. It thus depends upon evidence. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
2. The Samaritans were entitled to the higher blessing. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." We must receive the facts of the gospel history upon testimony, or we cannot receive them at all.
3. Faith rests firmly upon testimony that is thoroughly verified by experience. This Samaritan woman's experience ended all doubt.
II. THE FAITH OF THE SAMARITANS SOUGHT A CLOSER CONTACT WITH JESUS. "They besought him that he would tarry with them."
1. Though faith rests on knowledge, it longs for fuller knowledge.
2. Though Jesus was a Jew, they sought immediate fellowship with him.
3. Their conduct is very different from that of the Jews, who asked no suck interview during his eight months' stay in their midst.
4. Jesus complied with their request, though he knew that it might involve him in the imputation of being a Samaritan (John 8:48).
III. THE FAITH OF THE SAMARITANS WAS STRENGTHENED, AND MORE DISCIPLES WERE MADE, BY THE TWO DAYS' SOJOURN AT SYCHAR. "And many more believed because of his own word."
1. They did not ask for signs, like the Jews (John 4:48), neither were miracles wrought for their benefit.
2. His word was effectual to confirm their faith: it came to them, not in word only, but in power; for it was the power of God unto salvation. "For we have heard him ourselves."
(a) Mark the absence of all narrow particularism. They knew from their Scriptures that in "Abraham and his seed all nations of the earth shall be blessed." Jesus might have brought this ancient promise under their notice.
(b) They recognize Jesus no longer as a mere prophet, but as Redeemer. "Salvation may be of the Jews," but the Samaritans are the first to accept it in the mass.
(c) The faith of the Samaritans is the condemnation of the Jews' unbelief.
Our Lord's return into Galilee.
He was now about to enter on the scene of his longest ministry.
I. THE REASON OF HIS RETURN TO GALILEE. "For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country."
1. This might appear to be a reason for his avoiding Galilee, which was undoubtedly his own country.
2. He meant that, though he might have no reputation in Galilee, he could carry into it the reputation he acquired in Judaea and Jerusalem. These places might be regarded as setting the fashion to Galilee by the high estimate they put upon his achievements.
3. The proverb implies that a prophet, or any one who speaks in the name of the Lord, is entitled to special honour by virtue of his office. He ought to receive
II. THE WELCOME OF THE GALILAEANS. "The Galileeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast."
1. The Galilaeans were not religious aliens in Palestine. "For they also went unto the feast."
2. The reason of the Galilaean welcome to Christ was the impression made upon them by the miracles at Jerusalem. This fact marks their spiritual inferiority to the Samaritans, who believed on him for his word.
The second miracle of Cana.
Our Lord is led to open his Galilaean ministry at the scene of his first miracle, at the spot where he had attached his first band of disciples more closely to himself.
I. A FATHER'S PRAYER FOR HIS DYING CHILD. "He besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death."
1. The petitioner was a royal officer of the household of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee, probably Chuza, "Herod's steward," whose wife afterwards, in gratitude for her child's recovery, ministered to our Lord of her substance (Luke 8:3).
2. It was affliction that brought him to Jesus. Many persons never think of Christ till they are driven to him by sickness or sorrow.
3. He had faith enough to believe in our Lord's Tower to save his child's life. This faith was based upon testimony; for the Cana miracle, as well as the signs done at Jerusalem, must have been noised all over Galilee.
II. OUR LORD'S TESTING ANSWER TO HIS APPLICATION. "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will in no wise believe."
1. The words, through addressed to the royal officer, are really designed for the Jews, who wish to see him as a Worker of miracles. They desire to see miracles, not as the mere manifestation of facts of the invisible world, as "signs," but as "wonders" calculated by their strangeness to arrest attention.
2. The Jews represent a lower type of faith than the Samaritans, who asked for no miracle, but merely believed in Christ's word.
3. Yet the Lord condescends to the demands of a faith which is more sight than faith.
III. THE INCREASING URGENCY OF A FATHER'S SORROW. "Sir, come down ere my child die."
1. He did not regard our Lord's words as any refection of his prayer.
2. His powerlessness leads him to a more unreserved dependence upon, the Lord's power.
IV. OUR LORD'S ANSWER TO HIS PRAYER. "Go thy way; thy son liveth."
1. A word is enough. Divine power acts through a word.
2. The Lord gives us often more than we ask for.
3. Jesus strengthens the faith of the royal officer by shifting his faith from the testimony of others to faith in himself. It rests now on a better foundation, even in Jesus Christ himself.
V. THE TRIUMPH OF FAITH. "And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way."
1. He believed in Christ's power to heal his son a distance of twenty-five miles from Capernaum. This fact marks the rapid growth of his faith.
2. His faith received a speedy confirmation. "And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, Thy son liveth." His faith has now reached its highest point, that of personal experience.
VI. THE FAITH OF THE ROYAL OFFICER EXTENDS TO HIS HOUSEHOLD. "And himself believed, and his whole house."
1. A weak faith has in it the elements of growth.
2. The faith of father often leads, through the Divine blessing, to the conversion of his household.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Patriotism and Christianity.
In human affairs the scale upon which things are done gives them, not only their interest and importance, but much also of their very character. The same spirit which in petty communities is local jealousy may in nations claim the dignified appellation of patriotism. The differences and disputes between Jews and Samaritans may possess for us but little real interest; whilst the sentiments not very dissimilar, which are cherished by great nations, claim dignity and grandeur. This passage in the gospel narrative is suggestive with regard to the relations between Christianity and the love of country.
I. THERE IS A GOOD SIDE TO PATRIOTISM WHICH, AS COMPARED WITH SELFISHNESS, IS A VIRTUE. The love of country is both greater and more difficult than the love of family or the love of self. It is morally elevating for a man to lose regard for his own interests in an absorbing desire for the welfare of his tribe or nation. Great deeds have]seen wrought, and great characters have been shaped, by love of fatherland.
II. THERE IS A BAD SIDE TO PATRIOTISM WHICH, AS CONTRASTED WITH PHILANTHROPY, IS A FAULT. The love of country may be magnified selfishness. When it renders a man insensible to the merits of those of alien blood or of different education, it warps the nature, and is often the occasion of injustice. Crimes have been done, and that sincerely, in the name of patriotism. Envy and jealousy, hatred, malice, and revenge, have sprung from spurious patriotism—that is, from a too exclusive regard to the interests or the honour of a nation.
III. CHRISTIANITY, WHILST NOT INIMICAL TO TRUE PATRIOTISM, INTRODUCES A GREAT DIVINE UNITING POWER INTO HUMAN SOCIETY.
1. The religion of Christ teaches the unity of the human race. It represents humanity as united by common origin and participation in a common nature.
2. The religion of Christ bases human unity upon the fatherhood of God. The family is one, because acknowledging one Head.
3. The Incarnation reveals and establishes this unity. Christ is the Son of man, the Friend of man, the Brother of man, the Saviour of man, the Lord of man. In him provision is made for the restoration of that unity which sin has broken.
IV. CHRISTIANITY THUS ENCOURAGES SUCH PATRIOTISM AS IS GOOD, AND CHECKS THE EVILS OFTEN CLOAKED UNDER THE NAME.
1. On the one hand, the religion of Christ fosters the feeling of duty which has its scope in political relationships. The duty nearest us is first, and, as we must not neglect our own household for the sake of strangers, so neither must we prefer foreigners and their interest to the welfare of our "kindred according to the flesh." A spurious philanthropy is a poor substitute for a genuine patriotism.
2. On the other hand, our religion forbids us to limit our regard to our immediate neighbours; and requires us to sweep with our spiritual vision the vast horizon of humanity. There is a homely proverb, "Charity begins at home;" to which a homely addition has been made, "but does not end there." The patriotism that takes us out of self is good; yet alone it is insufficient. It should broaden until our regard and our interest and our love reach far as the virtue of Christ's sacrifice, far as the range of Christ's gospel. Suspicions and contentions are alien from the Spirit of Christ. There is no limit to the comprehensiveness of the Saviour's pity; there should be no limit to the comprehensiveness of his people's love.—T.
"If thou knewest!"
How easily and how skilfully in these words did Jesus turn the conversation with the Samaritan woman from the water of the well to those blessings which that water symbolized! What more fitted to provoke curiosity and further inquiry? What more fitted to suggest refection upon spiritual wants, and spiritual satisfaction, than thin reply of our Lord to the woman's strange and almost unfriendly remark upon his application? As a matter of fact, the language of Jesus did serve to raise and to sustain a conversation to which we owe some of the most precious and the most sublime utterances which fell from our Saviour's lips. What was said to this woman was really spoken by him for the benefit of all who fail to gain from him the blessings which are at his command and disposal, and are within their reach.
I. WHAT MEN FAIL TO SEE AND TO HEAR.
1. The unenlightened and unspiritual do not recognize in Christ the Gift of God. They do not look beneath the surface, and consequently do not recognize the true glory, the Divine power, which are the rent attributes of the Son of man.
2. They do not discern in the tones of the Saviour's voice the Divine authority with which he ever speaks. In every word of his may be perceived, by the spiritually cultured, "grace and truth," the utterance of superhuman wisdom and superhuman love. But to multitudes his speech has, alas! no Divine significance.
II. WHAT MEN CONSEQUENTLY FAIL TO ASK. Had the woman of Samaria known more of Jesus, she would have asked of him, and thus have received the "living water." And it is reasonable to believe that ignorance, more or less culpable, is the reason why many remain unblest when blessing is within their reach. They do not ask, either
III. WHAT MEN, THEREFORE, FAIL TO ENJOY. It is observable that Jesus gave the woman to understand that asking would have secured the supply of her deepest needs. As the conversation proceeded, the Saviour unfolded the nature of the blessings he came to bring, and which men withhold from themselves only by restraining faith and prayer. These blessings are within the reach of all whose hearts are athirst for the water of life, and are obtainable upon the simple condition of compliance with the terms appointed by Divine wisdom. Free as the streams which flow from mountain springs are the blessings of the gospel of God. Yet to multitudes these blessings are inaccessible, simply from their want of knowledge, their want of spiritual appreciation, and their want of believing prayer.—T.
A remark or inquiry sometimes suggests more than was intended by the speaker. Words often unconsciously imply far more than appears upon the surface. We have an instance of this in the question put to the Lord Jesus by the Samaritan woman. She only half understood what the Divine Prophet meant when he spoke of living water. And the inquiry, "From whence then hast thou that living water?" is suggestive of considerations most interesting and most serious.
I. IT IS A FACT THAT THE WORLD OBTAINS MANY AND GREAT BLESSINGS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. The living water is the emblem of personal, social, and general benefits which have been experienced through long centuries in virtue of the advent, the ministry, and sacrifice of the Son of man.
II. IT IS UNREASONABLE TO ATTRIBUTE THESE BLESSINGS TO ORDINARY, EARTHLY, AND HUMAN SOURCES. An examination of their quality proves them to be different from any, superior to any, which other teachers, other religions, provide. Every attempt to refer the blessings of Christianity to human origin has failed; either by depreciating the value of the streams or by exaggerating the virtue of the sources.
III. THE QUESTION IS THUS FORCED UPON REFLECTING MINDS, "FROM WHENCE?" There is a general desire to know the causes of great effects. And men have a special interest in a case which so nearly concerns themselves. There is no fear lest men should resign themselves to contented ignorance upon matters of so high moment. Agnosticism is self-condemned.
IV. THE ONLY SATISFACTORY ANSWER TO THIS INQUIRY IS, "FROM ABOVE!" The Divine origin of the sacred blessings procured by Christ for man is apparent from their nature. They are fraught with spiritual life and spiritual refreshment, such as this world cannot yield. It is apparent also from the abundance and perpetuity of these blessings. They come leaping up as from an exhaustless spring. They come falling down as in an unceasing shower. All other explanations fail. The world yields nought but an echo to the heart's eager cry, "From whence?" The true answer is that which revelation affords. The source of the spiritual blessings which Christianity confers upon mankind is heavenly and Divine. This reply is completely and forever sufficient.—T.
The Suppliant supplicated.
Our Lord Jesus was so truly Divine that he had only to be in the society of human beings who had any spiritual susceptibility and power of appreciation, in order to awaken their reverence and to call forth their confidence. Such proved to be the case in this memorable incident.
I. A CHANGE OF SPIRITUAL ATTITUDE IS HERE EXHIBITED. At first Jesus had asked water from the Samaritan woman, who seemed almost reluctant to grant so small a favour, and who laid stress upon nationality rather than upon humanity. But a short conversation wrought a marvellous change. And soon the woman came to beg for living water from him who had just before asked from her a draught from Jacob's well. How many have listened to the gospel, have turned their gaze towards Christ, with indifference, and even with a kind of ignorant condescension, who, upon knowing more of him, have exchanged indifference and contempt for reverence and faith! There are those who consider that a favour is asked from them by the ministers of religion when they are urged to accept the Lord Jesus; who seem to suppose that their adhesion would be a boon, if not to the Saviour, yet to his people. Let such persons really come into spiritual contact with Christ, and the case will be altogether changed. They will then see that they have nothing to give, and all to gain, and the Divine Benefactor of humanity will be approached with humble entreaty.
II. THE ATTRACTION EXERCISED BY THE DIVINE WATER OF LIFE IS HERE ILLUSTRATED.
1. We discern, on the part of the Samaritan woman, the desire for personal satisfaction. "That I thirst not" is a plea that personal cravings may be stilled and personal wants supplied. Let Christ's gift be understood, and the approach of it will excite the longing of the needy spirit.
2. We perceive also the desire to take to others, by a ministry of help, a Divine satisfaction. "Neither come hither to draw" is language which reminds us that the woman came to the well, not only to supply her own need, but to fetch water for her household. Could Jesus help her to minister to the wants of others in some way more satisfactory and less tedious than that to which she was accustomed? Experience shows that to realize, not only our own wants, but the wants of those connected with and dependent upon us, is increasingly to appreciate that spiritual provision which is symbolized by the living water.
III. APPLICATION TO THE TRUE SOURCE FOR THE WATER OF LIFE IS HERE EXEMPLIFIED. With all her faults, there were in this woman a clearness of thinking, a directness of language, and a candour of disposition which we cannot but admire. Once convinced that the mysterious Stranger before her had great gifts to confer, she promptly sought the promised good. The directness of her appeal, in which was no qualification, is an example to all who approach Christ. Those whom the gospel reaches, and who are convinced that the Lord Jesus is the Spring of life eternal to mankind, are reminded that they should apply without delay to the Personal and Divine Source of the highest blessing, with the assurance, which his character inspires, that they cannot ask of him in vain.—T.
Worship and holy places.
The superstition of the Samaritan woman gave occasion to the utterances by Christ of his sublime revelation regarding the spirituality of worship. There was competition between the Samaritans, who performed their devotions upon the summit of Gerizim, and the Jews, to whom Jerusalem was the holy city and the temple the house of God. Jesus put aside this controversy and rivalry, and passed from it to the enunciation of specially Christian truth.
I. THERE IS A NATURAL TENDENCY IN MEN AND IN NATIONS TO REGARD CERTAIN PLACES AS SACRED. Where is the country in which there have not been consecrated mountains, valleys, and groves? Where the religion which has not boasted its sacred oracles, its solemn temples, its spots hallowed by memorable, by awful associations? Devotion, at all events of a kind, is stimulated by local assistance. The buildings where one has experienced unusual emotions acquire sanctity and elicit reverence.
II. THE SATISFACTION OF THIS TENDENCY OFTEN OBSCURES THE SPIRITUALITY OF TRUE WORSHIP. The means are mistaken for the end; the place for the purposes it is intended to promote. Hence it has often come to pass that those who are most employed about sacred places, and who become most familiar with them, have less than others of the sentiment of true devotion. There is a proverb, "The nearer to Rome, the further from God."
III. DURING THE PREPARATORY DISPENSATION, IT PLEASED GOD IN HIS WISDOM TO MAKE USE OF THIS TENDENCY TO PROMOTE EDUCATIONAL ENDS. The temple at Jerusalem actually was the house of God; in it was the holiest place; its beauty was the beauty of holiness. Such a provision was adapted to the religious childhood of humanity. Thus reverence was inculcated, the consciousness of a Divine presence was elicited, and the minds of men were drawn on to more elevated and spiritual conceptions.
IV. THE INCARNATION SUPERSEDED ALL LOCAL SANCTITY. Our Lord Jesus became the true Tabernacle, the true Temple. In him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The temple of his body was taken down, but in three days was reared again. On the other hand, the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed, never to be replaced.
V. THE TENDENCY OF TRUE RELIGION IS NOT SO MUCH TO DECONSECRATE ANY PLACE AS TO CONSECRATE ALL PLACES. Doubtless, as our Lord declared, spiritual worship is independent of localities. Yet all places where Christians meet, and where the Master is spiritually present, become "holiness unto the Lord."
"Jesus, where'er thy people meet,
There they behold thy mercy seat;
Where'er they seek thee thou art found,
And every spot is hallowed ground!"
John 4:23, John 4:24
Worship and worshippers.
In some form worship is all but universal. Wherever on earth man is found, there he presents to the Power above the offerings of his devotion. Doubtless there are cases without number in which worship has degenerated into mere superstition. Yet, where worship is at its best, it is one of the very highest manifestations and exercises of human nature. Much has been said by philosophers, by poets, by theologians, concerning the nature and the virtue of worship. But more light has been cast upon this subject by Jesus, in the few words recorded to have been spoken by him to the poor Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, than has been yielded from every other source. Few portions of our Lord's discourses have been more quoted or more admired than this. But the world has still much to learn from these memorable sayings.
I. CHRIST TELLS US WHOM WE ARE TO WORSHIP. Idolaters offer their adoration, in some cases to the great and imposing objects of nature, as the sun, the moon, etc.; in other cases to the works of their own hands, as to images of silver, of gold, of wood, etc. The perplexed in mind have worshipped "the Unknown God," and agnostics profess to venerate "the Unknowable." But it is the happy privilege of Christians to worship the God who is revealed by the Lord Jesus.
1. As the Spirit, apprehended, not by the senses, but by the soul. The Divine Being, spiritual in nature, everywhere present, everywhere conscious, everywhere acting, is the proper Object of human worship.
2. As the Father, who is not distant and unapproachable, but very near, to whom we owe our being, who supplies our wants, exercises over us a constant care, and trains us for the future by a moral discipline. Such is the affectionate relation which is sustained to us by the great Object of our adoration.
II. CHRIST TELLS US HOW WE ARE TO WORSHIP. There have been devised by men's ingenuity and superstition many methods by which it has been thought worship might be acceptably offered. Bodily posture, ascetic rites, unholy ceremonial, painful pilgrimages, and cruel sacrifices have been deemed acceptable, and have accordingly been practised. In contradistinction from such modes of service, Christ bids his disciples worship:
1. In spirit. Man's spirit, because created in the likeness of the heavenly Father, possesses the power of honouring, praising, thanking, and loving the living God. The heart is the seat of loyalty, of gratitude, of love. Not that worship is to be locked up in the secrecy of the breast; it may and will find expression in solemn speech and joyful song. But all utterances and forms of worship derive their value and their power from their being the manifestation of spiritual life and spiritual aspirations.
2. In truth; i.e. with a just conception of the Being worshipped, and in sincerity and reality. Such worship will be personal, and not merely formal or vicarious. The priest must not arrogate the functions of the worshipper. And true worship will be of the life, as well as of the lips; for both alike will be accepted as the revelation of deep and spiritual feeling.
III. CHRIST TELLS US WHEN AND WHERE WE ARE TO WORSHIP. Upon these points his lessons differ from the maxims and the practices of those who follow the narrow ordinances of superstition. For whereas men have usually set apart special places and special seasons as peculiarly suitable for worship, as peculiarly acceptable to God, the Lord Christ speaks on these subjects with a breadth and freedom quite superhuman.
1. At all times, irrespective of human ordinances and customs. There are special seasons when it is well, when it is in accordance with the practice of the Church, and even with the authority of the primitive Christians, to offer stated, solemn, and spiritual sacrifices. But both the precepts and the example of Jesus assure us that we are not confined to such times, but that there is no season when sincere worship is not acceptable to God.
2. In every place worship may be presented to the omnipresent Creator. No longer on the heights of Gerizim or in the temple of Jerusalem, i.e. exclusively and specially, is the Eternal Father worshipped. Wherever God's people meet together in a devout and lowly attitude of mind, and under the guidance of the Spirit of God, there is a consecrated place. Nay, the scene of retired and solitary worship is holy; for a worshipping nature and a worshipped Deity are together there.
IV. CHRIST TELLS US WHY WE ARE TO WORSHIP.
1. One reason is to be sought in ourselves—in our own nature; we have been made capable of this lofty exercise. This is a prerogative denied to the inferior creatures of God. We live beneath the high possibilities of our being, if we restrain worship and draw not near unto the Father of our spirits.
2. Another reason is to be found in God himself; his nature and character are such as to command and to invite our worship. Our heavenly Father cannot be known by any who are capable of right judgment and right feeling without appearing to such deserving of the lowliest and most fervent adoration.
3. God seeks believing worshippers. An amazing proof both of condescension and compassion! How can we withhold from God that which he, the Almighty Lord, deigns to seek from us?—T.
The Divine search.
That we should seek God seems most natural and proper. Poor, ignorant, sinful, helpless creatures that we are, we should be insensible and infatuated if we did not seek him who alone can supply our wants, pardon our errors, and secure our happiness. But that God should seek us seems passing strange. This is like the king seeking the rebel, the philosopher seeking the boor. Yet we have here an instance of the truth that "God's ways are not our ways."
I. WHOM GOD SEEKS.
1. Spiritual natures are the object of his quest. To him nothing is more precious than the souls of men.
2. They whom he seeks are his children. When once we realize the fatherhood of God, the difficulty disappears in the way of believing that the Eternal can concern himself with such a quest as this.
II. WHAT GOD SEEKS. It is the true worship of his people, his children, that the Father desires. He seeks:
1. Sincere worship; that which is not of the lip merely, but of the heart.
2. Intelligent worship; that which is not superstitious or formal, or traditional, but such as proceeds from a nature convinced of the Divine existence, and appreciative of the Divine attributes.
3. Sympathetic worship; rejoicing in the faithfulness, the righteousness, the love, of that adorable Being who is justly praised and honoured.
4. Consistent worship; i.e. such as is supported by a life and conduct truly harmonious with the language and the sentiments of devotion.
III. HOW GOD SEEKS. The Omnipotent can be at no loss to devise means by which his purposes may be brought to pass. Men, indeed, often seek what is dear to them in a manner which defeats their own aims; but it cannot be so with the All-wise and Almighty.
1. God seeks true worshippers by manifesting himself. If he be not known, or he not known aright, those ignorant of him cannot render suitable and acceptable worship. One great purpose of revelation, and especially of the Incarnation, is this—that God may so be seen and known that he may be duly glorified and served.
2. By removing the obstacles which prevent sinful men from worshipping aright their holy Creator and Lord. The great work of redemption must be regarded as the chief and most admirable method by which the King of glory seeks to secure the homage and loyalty of his sinful subjects.
3. By the actual invitations of his Word. Inasmuch as he is infinitely the Superior, any advances must come from him. And the commands such as, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve," are intended to press upon us what is his good pleasure; whilst the invitations such as, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker," are designed to encourage us to lay aside our fears, and to worship him "in the beauty of holiness."
IV. WHY GOD SEEKS. It is sometimes objected to Christian worship that it assumes a Being delighting in his own praises, and so partaking of the infirmity of human vanity. It is said that if even wise men are above this weakness, it is dishonouring to the Eternal to ascribe to him any desire to delight himself in the adoration of his creatures, whose praises, after all, may be very little worthy of his acceptance. But it is a misapprehension to attribute such littleness to Jehovah. He "inhabiteth the praises of Israel;" but he simply claims what it is right for him to have, and profitable for men to offer. To withhold worship from the All-worshipful would evince the grossest insensibility and ingratitude. And experience shows that there is no attitude, no exercise, of the human spirit so fitted as is worship to exalt and. refine the affections, and to purify and dignity the whole nature.—T.
The power of a personal revelation.
The narrative makes it evident that this Samaritan woman was a person of very decided character. The sympathetic spirit in which she received Christ's teaching her adroitness in changing the inconvenient course of the conversation, her vigorous action in directing the attention of the people of the city to the Divine visitor, all indicate the woman's intelligence and independence. It is most of all remarkable that what weighed chiefly with her, in arriving at a just conviction regarding the claim of Jesus, was his insight into her own life and character—his ability to reveal her to himself. A great spiritual principle is here exemplified.
I. PERSONAL REVELATION THE CHIEF AGENCY IN PRODUCING CONVICTION.
1. It is noticeable that our Lord chose to utter to this woman of Samaria some of his sublimest revelations of religious truth. To her he declared himself to be the "living water" which alone can assuage the thirst of humanity. To her he communicated the glorious and ever-memorable truth, "God is a Spirit." To her he revealed the necessity of spiritual worship. All these revelations made, it is clear, an impression on the woman's mind. She was an interested and thoughtful listener. Declarations such as these could not but fill her mind with amazement, could not but raise her thoughts heavenwards.
2. Yet the text makes it plain that what chiefly produced conviction of Jesus' Messiahship was his penetration into her heart, his perusal of her history, his revelation to her of her own character, her own conduct, in the light of the Divine Law, and doubtless also in the light of his own pity and loving kindness. It is not to be imagined that the power of this revelation lay simply in its correspondence with the actual facts of the woman's life. Christ detected the moral significance of all she had done, and made all apparent to her in the light of a very tender, but a very faithful criticism. This made her feel towards him as she had felt towards none other. That he should enter into, and interest himself in, what she had been, what sort of life she had led and was leading,—this was wonderful. But that he should deal with her conscience and heart as he did—though we are left to conjecture how—that he should open up to her sinful nature the glory and the grace of the Eternal Father,—this was convincing, this was effective in bringing about her bold acknowledgment, for such virtually was the inquiry, "Is not this the Christ?" The same principle holds good today. The witness that chiefly issues in the enlightenment and conversion of sinful men is the witness which the Saviour bears to their sinfulness and need, and to his own Divine sufficiency to meet their case and bring them back to God.
II. PERSONAL REVELATION THE CHIEF AGENCY PROMPTING TO EVANGELIZATION. We should have expected that when the woman returned to the city, and conversed with the townspeople, her chief endeavour would have been to give them some idea of the transcendent wisdom of the Lord Jesus—some evidence of his Messiahship. But such does not seem to have been the case. She acted upon the principle, "We believe, therefore we speak." Like the apostles, she testified of what she had seen and heard and handled, etc. Enlightened and impressed, benefited and purified, this woman became a missionary to her countrymen. The same principle is applicable to our own time. We need not expect men to become bearers of glad tidings to their fellow men merely because impressed with the grandeur of Divine truth. The impulse that leads to such testimony must come from a personal experience of the power of the gospel, and from a personal faith and affection towards the Divine Redeemer.—T.
Spiritual work and spiritual food.
The incident in our Saviour's ministry recorded in this narrative pictures him as possessed and engrossed by the very purest devotion to the great ends of his ministry. He had been thirsty; but he had lost all thought of bodily thirst in his absorbing interest in the living water and in the satisfaction of spiritual aspirations. He was in need of food; yet when his disciples brought him food from the city he was indifferent to it, for he had meat to eat which they knew not of. The work of his Father was the food of his soul. Christ's language here exhibits—
I. THE HIGHEST VIEW OF SPIRITUAL AND BENEVOLENT EFFORT. This is all the more striking and wonderful when we remember the dignity, the Divinity of the Speaker.
1. All he did had reference to his Father. The "will" of the Father was for him supreme; the Father had "sent" him into the world for a definite purpose.
2. His mission was one of active service. Jesus, no doubt, came to live; to be himself, to suffer for our sins. But although his mere living among men was an incomparable lesson, though his death was of incomparable value, we must not lose sight of his activity, his ministry of energetic service.
3. His aim was to bring the undertaking committed to him to a conclusion honourable to himself and to the Father. In accomplishing, in finishing, his work, he found a Divine satisfaction. Allowing for the difference between Master and servants, we may recognize in Christ's view of his life work the model for our own. To think thus of our human vocation will add a dignity to our life, an effectiveness to our ministry.
II. THE PLACE WHICH A LIFE OF SPIRITUAL AND BENEVOLENT EFFORT HOLDS IN THE AFFECTIONS.
1. Work for God is the necessity of the Master and of the servants alike. As the body cannot live without food, so the higher nature cannot be maintained in health, in life, without work for God. It was so with Christ, who could forget water and bread, though thirsty and hungry, but who could not exist without labouring for the cause of human well being.
2. Work for God affords the servant of God the purest satisfaction and delight. The thirsty and famishing traveller is revived and gladdened when he comes where he can quench his thirst and satisfy his hunger. Greater joy did our Lord find when there opened up before him some opportunity of doing the will of God in securing the enlightenment, the conversion, the consolation, of some poor human soul.
3. Work for God, like food, strengthens for new and larger efforts. Work is its own wages. They who toil eat, and they who eat are the fitter for renewed and happy work. If it was thus with the Master and Lord, shall it not be thus with the disciple, the follower, the servant, the friend? We are encouraged, not only to take a high view of Christian service, but to seek in it our purest satisfaction, and the means of unceasing devotedness and usefulness.—T.
"The Saviour of the world."
This witness was a glorious close to our Lord's brief ministry among the Samaritans.
I. THE MARVEL OF THIS WITNESS TO CHRIST. Nothing in the gospel narrative can be to the thoughtful reader more surprising than that this view of our Lord's office should have been taken and expressed by persons in the position of these Samaritans in the village of Sychar, and especially at this early stage of our Lord's ministry. This is the more marvellous when we remember that neither the Jews generally, nor even Christ's own disciples, had attained to such a conception of Jesus, and when we remember also that the Samaritans occupied a position of inferior privilege, for "salvation was from the Jews."
II. THE MEANS WHICH LED TO THIS WITNESS TO CHRIST.
1. The testimony of the woman who had been favoured with a long and intimate conversation with the Divine Prophet, and whose conscience had testified to his acquaintance with her character and moral life.
2. Their own acquaintance with his religious doctrines, gained during the two days' residence among them.
3. The impression which his presence and demeanour had made upon their minds; for they could not but perceive his superiority to all others whom they had known.
III. THE FULNESS OF THIS WITNESS TO CHRIST. It is remarkable that none, however advanced in religious knowledge, can go beyond this testimony. That Jesus was a Saviour, and not a mere Teacher,—this was a truth which it was creditable to the Samaritans' discernment to attain. But that he was the Saviour of the world,—this was a truth which only the truest insight, the fullest sympathy, of a spiritual kind could reveal. There was in this profession an anticipation of our Lord's own words, "I will draw all men unto myself," and a justification for the most admiring reverence of Christ, and for the most extensive and glorious prospect for mankind.—T.
The growth of faith.
In this, as in so many of our Lord's miracles, the external circumstances and incidents, interesting though they are, are less so than the spiritual lessons they teach, the spiritual processes they unfold. What manner of Saviour Christ is; how he deals with the souls of men for their good; what blessings he brings to those whom be prepares to receive them;—these great lessons are brought before us in this narrative, so simple and so natural in itself, yet so deep in its significance.
I. HOW FAITH IS CHRIST ARISES IN THE SOUL.
1. Look at this nobleman's circumstances: his son was sick and at the point of death. Sickness and death are evils, but not unmixed evils. They may, when they come into men's homes, be the means of saving them from selfishness and the pursuit of pleasure, and from indifference to spiritual and eternal realities. This man felt his need of a Helper, but none appeared, and he was brought to a sense of his helplessness and utter distress. In all this was a preparation for faith in a Divine Physician.
2. Look now at the timely appearance upon the scene of the very Friend whom the nobleman needed. Jesus, at this very crisis, had returned from Judaea to Galilee, and had taken up his abode for a time at Cana, within easy reach of Capernaum, the afflicted nobleman's home. The effect was like the preaching of the gospel to a person overwhelmed with the sorrows of life or stricken with a sense of sin.
3. Look at the effect of these tidings in these circumstances. Fatherly affection and anxiety render the nobleman alert and alive to any prospect of help. The rumour of Christ's mighty works suggests to him the possibility that the power of the Prophet may be used for the healing of his son. Thus relative solicitude becomes a means of grace.
II. THE FIRST STEP TO WHICH FAITH PROMPTS.
1. Remark the approach and the appeal. The nobleman goes to the Prophet, and begs him to come down and heal his son. There was faith here; for perhaps to no one else in the land could this entreaty have been addressed. Though the applicant did not fully understand what Jesus could do, he yet had confidence both in his power and willingness, so far as he could understand them.
2. Observe, too, the repetition and urgency displayed in the renewed entreaty used. by the nobleman, even after a somewhat discouraging reception on the part of Jesus. This spirit of persistency and importunity, disagreeable to many, seems always to have been welcomed by Jesus, who saw in it an earnestness allied to faith.
III. THE REBUKE OF WEAK FAITH.
1. The feebleness of the nobleman's faith seems. to have been detected in his request that the great Physician should go down to Capernaum to visit the patient. The faith of the centurion was no doubt far stronger than that of the courtier; yet we cannot wonder that it should not have occurred to this applicant that Jesus should "speak the word only."
2. But this feebleness of faith was made still more apparent by the censure implied in Christ's reply, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will in no wise believe." Our Lord, and his Apostle Paul afterwards, were evidently and most painfully affected by the demand of the Jews for signs and wonders. Instead of believing On Christ, and then looking for miracles as the natural exercise of his Divine power, these prodigy-loving Hebrews asked for marvels and portents, as the things of chief concern, withholding faith until these should he granted them.
IV. THE REWARD OF SINCERE FAITH. It is clear, from this and other passages, that Jesus distinguished between no faith and little faith, He saw that the applicant's faith was growing, for this was evinced by the repetition of the urgent entreaty. The rebuke of Jesus rather stimulated than repressed what measure of confidence the nobleman possessed. The brevity of the reply was the brevity of authority and command, "Go thy way; thy son liveth."
V. FAITH IS FURTHER STRENGTHENED BY PERSONAL CONTACT WITH JESUS. There was a virtue in the Lord's presence, language, and tones—a virtue which was felt by this applicant. He believed the word, and acted in accordance with his belief; and immediately went his way. There are some who have enough faith to bring them to Christ with their petitions, but not enough to rest in Christ's words in which their application is answered. There is, however, every reason why the suppliant should unhesitatingly confide in the assurance of the Saviour, which his very anxiety and eagerness may possibly lead to his doubting.
VI. EXPERIENCE MAKES FAITH PERFECT. The nobleman appears not to have hasted on his return. "He that believeth shall not make haste." He hurried to Christ with his request. It was well that he should not hurry from Christ, now that the boon was granted. Yet, when he met his servants, there may have been some eagerness to know how it was with the boy. And when he learned that the hour of Christ's utterance was the hour of his son's cure, there remained no cloud to shade the brightness of his faith. He believed now, not simply, as at first, the report of Christ; not even, as afterwards, the word of Christ, but Christ himself. This was the faith of a full surrender and devotion. Henceforth the Lord was all to him. His life became a brighter, purer, nobler, stronger thing, because Christ was his, and he was Christ's. The memory of his Lord's mercy could never fade from his mind. What the Lord Jesus does for us and for ours should and must strengthen our confidence in him for all purposes, for all the circumstances, duties, and trials of life.
VII. FAITH SPREADS FROM ONE MEMBER OF THE FAMILY TO THE REST. The whole household believed; for all had the same evidence, and all partook of the same joy. The presence of the restored and healthy boy would be a perpetual reminder of the obligation under which Jesus laid the whole family. A believing household is a microcosm of the household of faith.
1. Christ's discernment of human character.
2. His compassion for human suffering and sorrow.
3. His appreciation of human faith.—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
The physical and spiritual food of man.
I. THE FOOD OF THE BODY. "Master, eat."
1. The body must have food. It is true that "man doth not live by bread alone," but it is quite as true that he cannot live without bread. Man's physical nature requires suitable physical support. If we wish to live, we must eat—eat to live, but. not live to eat.
2. The body must have food at stated times. "In due season." There is physical waste, there is a continual demand, and there must be a continual supply. There is a law of health and life, and should be observed. The prayer of the disciples, "Master, eat," was quite timely and natural. The meal time had passed, and he was hungry and fatigued, and their request was the natural language of propriety, want, and kindness.
3. The claims of the body are recognized by Christ:
II. THE FOOD OF THE SOUL.
1. Doing the Divine will. "My meat is to do the will," etc.
2. As soul food, many are ignorant of it. Even the disciples were so now. "I have meat to eat that ye know not of."
3. As soul food, it is essential and perfectly adapted.
4. As soul food, it is delightful. "My meat." To do the will of God is not a burden, but a delight; not sacrifice, but pleasure. It is like food to the hungry or water to the thirsty. It is not a mere duty, but a natural instinct and craving, a passion and the highest gratification of being. "My meat." Never a man enjoyed the daintiest dish as well as the believing soul enjoys doing the will of God. It is his meat.
5. As soul food, it is absorbingly satisfying. The claims of God and the spiritual interest of humanity are stronger than any other. They are supreme.
1. The claims of the body, although important, are nothing to those of the soul. The former are represented by the disciples on this occasion, the latter by Christ. "Master, eat," they said. "Disciples, eat," he said; but pointed them to their higher nature and its true nourishment.
2. We should cultivate the spiritual appetite to feed on the will of God. For this is the proper food of the soul, adapted here and hereafter. From the altitude of spiritual satisfaction and joy earthly things appear gross, and material food becomes too distasteful for even thought, much inure for participation. This points to a state where material food will not be required, nor can it be procured. Let the soul free itself from all gross influences and from the dominion of bodily appetites and passions, and this will discipline it for the enjoyment of the purely spiritual.
3. We should feel thankful to Christ for introducing to us the true food of the soul. He made our physical nature and provided for it; he made our spiritual nature and supplied it with proper nurture—the will of God.
4. If we wish to become Christlike, we must feed on the same meat as Christ. If we wish to be God-like, we must do his will. Food has great influence on the growth of the soul. Inferior and adulterated food dwarfs it, causes it to grow downwards. Doing the will of God causes it to grow heavenwards. Holy activity whets the spiritual appetite and supplies it with nourishment. The soul feeds by doing, by activity, by the sweat of its brow. If we want to be benevolent, like Christ, we must not feed on ourselves, but the will of God—on the love of Christ and the welfare of our fellow men.—B.T.
The Christian harvest.
I. ITS NATURE. It is spiritual. "Lift up your eyes," etc. To see the temporal harvest you look down and around, but to see this you must look up; it is in the spiritual region, and concerns the spiritual nature and interest of man. It is the harvest of souls—the harvest of Jesus' soul. It is spiritual in its processes, its sphere, its aim, and its results. It means the spiritual quickening, the germination, the growth, the cultivation and ripening of human souls. Think not that this world is only for material and physical purposes. Its chief end is the production of holy and perfect souls. And as the system of nature is adapted to produce different grains in perfection, so there is a spiritual system of Divine grace adapted to produce perfect souls.
II. THE OPERATIONS OF THE HARVEST.
1. There are preparatory operations. As in the material, so in the spiritual harvest, the soil of the soul is ploughed, cultivated, by warnings, by judgment and mercy, by Divine threatenings and promises; and the seed. of the Divine Word is sown with much prayerfulness and tears, and then left in hope and anxiety.
2. There are the secret, Divine operations. Once the seed is deposited carefully in the soil, the husbandman can do nothing more but hope, watch, and trust. It is now in the custody of God; he alone can make it grow. The Christian husbandman can only commit the Divine seed to the soil; he must there leave it to the secret and quickening operations of the Holy Spirit.
3. There are the subsequent Divine and human operations. As soon as the seed begins to bud, it is partially given back to human care. As soon as the Divine Word begins to bud in repentance and faith, and grow in grace, it is at grace, to some extent, under human discipline and supervision. The Divine and human operations join in its development and progress.
4. These operations are very great and various. There is infinite thought, sacrifice, and life, and there is much toil and labour, and there are various agencies. "One soweth, and another reapeth."
III. THE VASTNESS OF THE HARVEST.
1. Vast in relation to space. The space of the harvest is the whole earth. The field is the world. But there are fields. Human geography is recognized. "Look on the fields." Judaea, Galilee, and especially Samaria, were in the eye of Jesus now. Human geography fits in well with the Divine purposes. The whole earth is the Lord's farm, and the harvest covers it all; but it is well for the purpose of spiritual cultivation that it is divided into fields. Thus labour and vastness are distributed so as to suit finite comprehension and energy. Through the parts the whole will be reached. Field after field will be cultivated till the whole earth he covered with waving corn fit for harvest.
2. Vast in relation to time. It reaches from the first moment of the "day of grace" to the last, and in results stretch forward to the endless eternity. Men have a series of harvests, but Jesus has only one great harvest, embracing all time and all ages.
3. Vast in relation to the labour and agencies employed. These embrace all Divine, human, and angelic agencies from the first sower to the last reaper. Abel, Paul, and Luther worked in the same harvest. All the spiritual energy brought to bear upon this world belongs to the same. The spiritual harvest is infinitely vast, its labour infinitely great, and agencies infinitely various.
IV. THE RIPENESS OF THE HARVEST. "Look on the fields; for they are white," etc.
1. Whiteness is the colour of ripeness, the colour of the ripe corn. It is the colour of heaven. All is white there, for all is ripe and perfect. Ripeness, when applied to souls here, is used relatively. Its full meaning must be realized hereafter.
2. Souls are ripe to harvest when they begin to manifest a genuine concern for their spiritual welfare. Then they begin to blush with the first colour of ripeness, and naturally call for harvesting.
3. As in the natural harvest, so in the spiritual, some fields ripen more quickly than others. As in soils, so in souls, some bring forth fruit sooner than others. This was the case now in Samaria as compared with Judaea and even Gahlee, and it is ever so.
4. There is a difference between the natural harvest and the spiritual indicated here.
V. THE REWARD OF THE HARVEST. "Receiveth wages," etc.
1. The reward is partly present. Especially with regard to the reaper—in the fruit gathered, which is very precious; in the holy pleasure of doing the will of God, and saving souls.
2. The reward will be chiefly in the future. At the great harvest home. For the fruit is gathered unto life eternal. Every effort can only be fully rewarded at its final issues. The final issue of spiritual harvesting is "eternal life," which can only be fully enjoyed in the future.
3. The reward of the future will consist of the highest and greatest happiness. Like the joy of the harvest.
4. All will be rewarded. "He that soweth and he that reapeth." Every one that bestowed any labour on the harvest will be remembered. Even the most insignificant labourer will not be overlooked.
5. All will be rewarded simultaneously. "He that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together"—together in time, in place, in mutual benefit and reciprocity. There will be no partiality, no disadvantage, but as in the labour so in the joy of the harvest, every one shall help himself to the full The lonely sower who ages ago sowed in tears without reaping scarcely any will suffer no disadvantage, but will be fully compensated—his joy will be all the more. Every one will be happy in himself and in others. All will be happy in the Lord of the harvest, the chief Sower and Reaper, and all will be happy in him. The joy of the redeemed throng will be really personal, but intensely mutual, so as to make one anthem of leaping joy.
6. The reward will be everlasting. The fruit is gathered unto life eternal; and. the happiness will be as eternal as the life, as lasting as the fruit. The fear of its coming to an end, even at the remotest period, shall never pass as a cloud over its bright disc, nor cause a discord in its ever-harmonious and thrilling music.
1. Let us realize our relationship to all past and future agencies, that we may feel our indebtedness to the former, and our responsibilities to the latter. We reap much which others have sown. Let us not be elated with pride, but with gratitude remember the tearful sowers. Let us sow faithfully, even if we reap not; and remember the reward and joy of the harvest. Let us leave the same legacy of fruitful labour to our successors as our predecessors left to us.
2. Let us be very diligent in spiritual service. It is harvest. And in relation to us is very short—it will be soon over.
3. Let us be punctual and prompt. "The fields are white." It will be too late soon. There is danger that some corn will spoil for want of timely harvesting. Procrastination is a besetting sin. We cannot say, "There are yet four months," etc. No; "the fields are white already." They call us now to work.
4. Let us be very earnest and watchful "Lift up your eyes, and look," etc. Spiritual cultivation demands earnest and continual watchfulness. The spiritual eye should be keen, and ever on the look out on the old fields and new ones. Let us watch lest we lose an opportunity, lest the fields be riper than the husbandman—he green and they white. The harvest of souls—the harvest of Jesus—is infinitely great, important, valuable, and promising.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The fountain of living water.
I. AN EVIDENT PHYSICAL NEED. This chapter connects spiritual truth with one great physical need of men, even as John 6:1-71. connects spiritual truth with another great need. Both Jesus and the woman were exactly in the position to appreciate the value of water, and the opportunity of getting it easily and freely. Jesus is a thirsty Traveller; the woman is one who has frequent journeys from her home to get the indispensable supply forevery day's needs. We cannot all get the same amount of good out of the conversation between Jesus and the woman. Those whose toil often makes them thirsty, and those who get their supplies of water with difficulty, they will be the people to relish the figure by which spiritual benefits are here set forth. Our very difficulty in profiting by this conversation should be a matter for thankfulness. If we are thirsty we very soon get a drink; and if others in their thirst ask from us, we very soon get them the requisite supply.
II. AN UNFELT SPIRITUAL NEED. This woman is an excellent specimen of a very large class. They feel the physical need so much that the spiritual need is altogether overlooked. It is little wonder that the woman talked as she did in this conversation. How was she to know, without a good deal of instruction and experience, whence Jesus came and what he meant? By this conversation, as well as other recorded ones of his, Jesus would evidently stir us up to consider whether there be not other wants just as necessary to be met in their way as the wants that are met by a supply of water. When we are hungry we all know the use of bread; when we are thirsty we all know the use of water; why is it, then, that we know not the use of Jesus? it is either that we have not yet felt the deeper thirst of the heart, or, having felt it, we do not yet understand how in Jesus alone that thirst can be effectually quenched. This woman was wholly and solely occupied with the idea of getting natural water more easily. Her journeys to the well must have been very frequent ones, and, though they might not be long ones, yet they might be quite enough to add very considerably to the toil and burden of the day. What a warning there is for us in this woman's gross spiritual ignorance, her inability to comprehend, even in the very least degree, what Jesus was talking about! She had come out to get as much water as she herself could carry back. There she stood before Jesus, and so ignorant was she of his mission and his power, that at the moment she could think of nothing better to ask him than the opening up of some natural fountain of waters such as would render needless any more toilsome journeys to Jacob's well.
III. THE CONTINUAL READINESS OF JESUS TO SUPPLY ALL SPIRITUAL NEED. He is weary with travel and heat, and needs rest. But the need of this ignorant, degraded woman is far greater than his, and, more than that, in speaking the words that may go far in instructing her as to her need, he speaks the words that may instruct many others also. The physical want of Jesus is soon supplied; a draught from Jacob's well will do that. But the want of the woman is not so easy to supply. It would be easy enough if she were only in the right state of mind; but, first of all, what ignorance, misconception, and wrong desires have to be removed! A deal has to be done for us before we care to appropriate our share in that fountain which, because of its unfailing, fulness, can do nothing else but leap forth to everlasting life. But what an encouragement to know that Jesus is so ready to do all when we are willing to have it done! If we are unsaved, unblessed, unbelieving, unhoping, unloving, if no fresh, deep spiritual stream runs through our nature, it is because we keep away from the fountain that Jesus has opened up. It is not he who has to discover the need and make the preparation. Jesus has everything in perfect readiness so soon as the heart begins to feel its thirst.—Y.
The fallacy of holy places.
I. THE FALLACY EMPHATICALLY STATED. Up to this point in the conversation the woman has not the slightest idea that religious matters are in question; but immediately on concluding that Jesus is a Prophet, she proceeds to show that she can talk about religion as well as other people. Jesus seeks to fasten her up in a corner where she may be dealt with according to her individual sin and individual need, and so she tries to escape away into a general discussion on an old point of difference that was altogether beside the question that should have had most interest for her. The fallacy of holy places is emphatically illustrated in the experience Jesus had of them. We see that he had experience of two places reckoned specially holy, Gerizim and Jerusalem. Truly the holiness of Gerizim had done little for this Samaritan woman; and the holiness of Jerusalem did little for those priests and Law expounders who, in their fanaticism, put Jesus to death. Here is the paradox of a woman apparently unconcerned about her own misdoing, but very much concerned about the rightful localization of Deity.
II.. IT IS A FALLACY WHICH PREVAILS WIDELY AND DEEPLY STILL. Jerusalem and. Gerizim are still reckoned holy places, and to them, in the name of Jesus, how many more have been added! Special places, special forms, special symbols, special words, have been slowly exalted unto an honour and an influence they were never meant to obtain. Many who on no account would bow before an image, yet act as if Deity had a special dwelling and special surroundings. We do not make a sufficient distinction between what is necessary to us and what is acceptable to God. Holy buildings, holy forms, may have in them much value; but the value is for us, and not for God. If one can think of God esteeming some spots of earth holler than others, surely they are those where most has been done for the renewal and sanctification of men. We may learn a lesson from the obscurity into which the ark of the covenant fell. How it vanishes away with the departure of Jehovah's people into the Babylonian captivity!
III. A FALLACY WHICH IS ONLY TO BE REMOVED BY A CONTINUAL REMEMBRANCE OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD AND MEN. God is pure Spirit. A thousand things which in themselves serve and gratify human beings because of their correspondence with human nature cannot serve and gratify God. The whole position is placed before us in the question, "Can I eat the flesh of bulls, and drink the blood of goats?" Incense from Sheba, and sweet cane from a far country, became abominable to Jehovah because the people who offered them did not hearken to his words, and rejected his Law (Jeremiah 6:20). We who have bodies must to some extent be served even as the beasts are served; but if we got nothing more we should soon be miserable. The higher and peculiar part of our nature has also to be amply served. That which is invisible in us is the most important thing; and that which we value most from others comes from what is invisible in them. How much more, then, when we are dealing with that Being who has in him no mixture of the bodily! We do give human berets something when we give to their bodies; but unless we give God the spiritual we give him nothing at all.—Y.
The astonishment of ignorance.
These disciples marvelled that Jesus talked with a woman at all. Thus we have proof positive that this conversation occurred at an early stage of the ministry of Jesus. The disciples would soon cease to marvel at Jesus talking with women. What. a difference the ministry of Jesus has made in the position of women! What an illumination and example are given by his treatment of them!
I. THE DEGRADED CONDITION OF THIS WOMAN. A condition, not because of something peculiar to her as an individual, but simply because she was a woman. Think of the work to which she was put, travelling away out of the city at the noontide hour to get water at the well. Hard as her lot was, it was not peculiarly hard; she would not be worse off than most women of her acquaintance. Think, too, of the light thrown upon the life of woman in that place by the startling announcement of Jesus, "Thou hast had five husbands." Some of these, perhaps, had died, but some, possibly all even, had got tired of the wife, and made an excuse to send her away. Considering the need of the woman, the real marvel would have been if Jesus had remained silent with such a golden opportunity.
II. THE HELP JESUS GAVE HER. Take this woman as representative of the toiling, burdened woman everywhere. She has her own share in this world's work and, weariness, and more than her own share in the world's monotony. Many women there must be who want refreshment and brightness, something to make life less mechanical, something to bring at least a bit of blue into the sky, a bit of sunshine into the room. Jesus, speaking to the woman of Samaria, speaks to such. It was irksome work for her coming "hither" daily to draw. So Jesus hints mysteriously at a new fountain of waters, gushing out with a fulness and force which indicated the exhaustless stores within; and so the poor woman, thinking but of her daily toil, begs for this water that she may thirst not, neither come to draw. Yet this was the request Jesus did not comply with. She still would have to take her daily journey to Jacob's well. Jesus helped her otherwise; even spiritually, one hopes that, after getting so much instruction and so many explanations, this wearied woman did have opened up in her heart the well of water springing up to everlasting life. If so, then forever she would have to bless the journey to the well. Her load of daily duties was not diminished in itself, but practically it was diminished, because her strength was increased. Thus Jesus would help all women. He is far above the limitations of sex. The marvel now is that women will not come and talk with Jesus, seeing he is a Helper still wherever the faith and obedience are found that make his help available.—Y.
The purpose of Jesus in eating.
I. THE RESOURCES OF JESUS. The disciples had left their Master by the well, wearied, hungry, and thirsty, while they went to the city near by to get some food; certainly they would stay no longer than they could help, seeing Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. Returning to Jesus, they are astonished to find a change in his appearance. He looks fresh and satisfied. Jesus had ways for recruiting bodily strength and receiving bodily nourishment, such as lie beyond us. He was not hedged in by our limitations, though, as a general rule, he kept within them. Whatever nourishment there be in the customary channel of bread, God can send through some secret and special channel, if there be sufficient reason. And such a reason there was here. A weary, exhausted man could not talk to the woman of Samaria as she needed to be talked to. Jesus would always put himself in the best possible state physically for doing the Father's will and finishing his work.
II. THE PURPOSE IN EATING. Every human being, because he is a reflecting and, responsible being, is bound to consider the why and wherefore of every voluntary act. Jesus eats that he may satisfy hunger, but, when the hunger is satisfied, he seeks in the strength thus gained to go on fulfilling the great purpose of his life. Jesus tells us the purpose underlying every meal that he took. He was no ascetic, no imitator of John as to his food; doubtless he sat down at times in the company of gluttons and wine bibbers, but all the while he would make it plain that he did not eat and drink just to gratify appetite. We are not to eat as the brute beasts, conscious of a recurrent need and a recurrent pleasure, but with no purpose beyond serving the present bodily need, receiving the present bodily pleasure. When good digestion waits on appetite, and health on both, be sure that adds to the responsibilities of life. Having the health that comes from a sound and vigorous stomach, it will be required from us according to our health. It is a shame to see some in health and strength, using it all in selfish pleasure, while others, whose life is one constant struggle against disease and pain, yet manage to work on for God and Christ, their hearts unwearied, however wearied their bodies may be.
III. THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS IN THIS MATTER. He used what health and strength he had to do the will of him that sent him. One feels that he must have been a thoroughly healthy man in body. We read of him being wearied; we never read of him being ill. That there should he in him great fulness of physical life is just what we might expect. He who requires us to use health and strength in doing the will of God, first of all so used health and strength himself. And how we benefit by the result of all this! There was much work to be done; Jesus was capable of much work, and so he did it. There was no wasted effort and energy; all his conversations and dealings with men were directed to a certain aim. Where should we have been, if he had not bent every energy and thought of life to the finishing of his Father's work? All things had to be made subordinate to the mission. Jesus was speaking fresh from the gladness and encouragement he had got, because of his talk with the Samaritan woman. He who pointed his disciples to the fields white to harvest had done some reaping by that very talk; and he wants his disciples to aim at reaping also. We must have the bread that perisheth, and it will not come like the sunshine and the rain—we must work to get it. But always beyond the bread and the pleasure of eating, and the strength to which the eating nfinisters, there must be the service of God. Even in a matter of routine and habit, like eating and drinking, let us aim to do the will of him who made us and. saved us, and get strength for doing such work as may be useful in his kingdom.—Y.
The two harvests.
I. A SEARCHING LOOK INTO THE PAST. There can be little doubt that, when Jesus said the fields were white already to harvest, he meant his disciples to consider the company of Samaritans eagerly coming out of the city towards them. Why were they coming? Jesus knew that the coming was not sufficiently explained by saying that the woman's report had stirred up the curiosity of the people in the city. Jesus rejoiced in the fresh proof he had got of how people everywhere were waiting for the Messiah. Even the Samaritan was waiting, and, if the Samaritan, how much more the Jew! People were ready to run in any direction where they might find one to answer their expectations. And Jesus looked upon this expectant state of mind as the harvest of what had been sown long ago. He did not forget his Father's faithful messengers in ages past, with their testimonies, messages, and predictions. And so we may be sure Jesus would ever have us consider how the present is the result of the past. The valuable and gladdening things we have today did not spring up all in a night. This faith in a coming Messiah had been growing for generations. At first the faith of only a few, it had come to be the faith of more, and then the faith of all.
II. THE PECULIAR WORK OF THE DISCIPLES. They had to he in readiness for a people who, more or less, were ready for them. When harvest time comes, how the reapers are on the look out! Reaping is not like some sorts of work, it cannot be spread over a long term. And these disciples were to be just as reapers, coreapers with Jesus himself. If the farmer has a large extent of ground under corn, he cannot reap it all with his own hands; he must have helpers proportioned to the ground that has to be covered. While Jesus was in the body of his humiliation, he worked with bodily restrictions upon him. Hence the need of colleagues who could do what he was not able to do himself, going forth each one of them, specially authorized and endowed to communicate the blessings of the Christ to needy and eager Israel. We must ever he on the look out for harvest work.
III. A PATHETIC ELEMENT IN AGRICULTURE. Of all who go out to sow in the sowing time, not all survive to the harvest time. This must happen every year, and so no proverb is more likely to start into utterance than that which speaks of the sower being one, and the reaper another. But when Jesus comes to dilate on the higher harvest, he speaks of a state of things where nearly always the sower is one, and the reaper another. The necessity of the case makes it so. Superstitions and traditions have to be overthrown. But when the sower for God well understands that he cannot also reap, then all is right. He does his work with his own joy in the doing of it; he does the work into which God has put him; he is sure of the equity, nay more, of the love, of his Master; and thus he is sure also that the due reward will duly come. The sower and the reaper will rejoice together; and what a new, unimaginable experience that will be! Here sowers have a measure of rejoicing together, and reapers a measure of rejoicing together; but the sowers and reapers must be all together, looking upon the work before they can see it in all its wisdom and fulness. The earliest prophet of the old covenant must clasp hands with the latest servant of the new.—Y.
Wednesday, March 29th, 2017
the Fourth Week of Lent
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