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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
John 4:24

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Jacob;   Jesus, the Christ;   Law;   Man;   Prayer;   Samaria;   Shechem;   Truth;   Worship;   Scofield Reference Index - Bible Prayers;   Thompson Chain Reference - Necessities, Spiritual;   Requirements, Divine;   Samaritans;   Spirit;   Worship;   Worship, True and False;   The Topic Concordance - God;   Worship;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - God;   Prayer;   Sincerity;   Truth;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Image;   Shechem;   Wells and Springs;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - God;   Holy spirit;   John, gospel of;   Temple;   Women;   Worship;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Building;   Fatherhood of God;   God;   Jesus Christ;   Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of;   Messiah;   Old Testament in the New Testament, the;   Sexuality, Human;   Spirit;   Testimony;   Wealth;   Woman;   Worship;   Zechariah, Theology of;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Commentary;   Patience;   Worship of God;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Samaritans;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Gospels;   Jesus Christ;   Leviticus;   Malachi;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Body;   Divine Freedom;   False Worship;   Hour;   Image of God;   Immateriality;   Infinite;   Jesus, Life and Ministry of;   John, the Gospel of;   Marriage;   Obedience;   Temple of Jerusalem;   Woman;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Dualism;   John, Theology of;   Messiah;   Mss;   Spirit;   Woman;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Appreciation (of Christ);   Building ;   Communion (2);   Discourse;   Father's House ;   Gerizim;   God;   Heart;   Immanence ;   Incense;   Individuality;   John (the Apostle);   John, Gospel of (Ii. Contents);   Law (2);   Law of God;   Lord's Supper. (I.);   Man (2);   Merit;   Obedience (2);   Omnipresence;   Personality;   Poet;   Prayer (2);   Prophet;   Reality;   Religion (2);   Righteous, Righteousness;   Sanctification;   Sincerity;   Soul;   Spirit ;   Tithe;   Trinity (2);   Truth (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Abihu ;   Samaritans;   Worship;   36 Ought Must;   1910 New Catholic Dictionary - god, names of;   names of god;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Mount samaria;   Samaria;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ja'cob's Well,;   Jeho'vah;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Trinity;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Adoration;   Christ, Offices of;   Chronology of the New Testament;   Holiness;   Johannine Theology, the;   Lamb of God;   Love;   Person;   Semites;   Spirit;   Spiritual;   Stephen;   Ten Commandments, the;   Worship;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for November 22;   Every Day Light - Devotion for March 8;  
Unselected Authors

Clarke's Commentary

Verse 24. God is a Spirit — This is one of the first, the greatest, the most sublime, and necessary truths in the compass of nature! There is a God, the cause of all things - the fountain of all perfection - without parts or dimensions, for he is ETERNAL - filling the heavens and the earth - pervading, governing, and upholding all things: for he is an infinite SPIRIT! This God can be pleased only with that which resembles himself: therefore he must hate sin and sinfulness; and can delight in those only who are made partakers of his own Divine nature. As all creatures were made by him, so all owe him obedience and reverence; but, to be acceptable to this infinite Spirit, the worship must be of a spiritual nature - must spring from the heart, through the influence of the Holy Ghost: and it must be in TRUTH, not only in sincerity, but performed according to that Divine revelation which he has given men of himself. A man worships God in spirit, when, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, he brings all his affections, appetites, and desires to the throne of God; and he worships him in truth, when every purpose and passion of his heart, and when every act of his religious worship, is guided and regulated by the word of God. "The enlightened part of mankind," says Abu'l Fazel, "knows that true righteousness is an upright heart; and believe that God can only be worshipped in holiness of SPIRIT." Ayeen Akbery, vol. iii. p. 254.

"Of all worshippers," says Creeshna, "I respect him as the most devout, who hath faith in me, and who serveth me with a soul possessed of my spirit." Geeta, p. 68.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 4:24". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​acc/​john-4.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

23. Jesus in Samaria (John 4:1-42)

When the Pharisees saw the crowds following Jesus they took an increasing interest in him. No doubt they were becoming jealous and soon might become violent. Jesus therefore decided to leave Judea for Galilee (John 4:1-3).

As Jesus approached one of the villages of Samaria, he began a conversation with a Samaritan woman whom he met at a well (John 4:4-9). The woman had a similar problem to Nicodemus in that she interpreted Jesus’ words literally instead of figuratively. She did not understand that when Jesus offered her living water, he was not speaking of ordinary water but of eternal life. If she accepted what he offered, her deepest needs would be satisfied for ever (John 4:10-15).

Realizing that the woman would have to see her personal sin before she could see her spiritual need, Jesus began to speak of her marital affairs. At first she tried to hide her sins, but Jesus’ searching remarks soon made her realize that she was in the presence of one with divine knowledge (John 4:16-19). She therefore turned the conversation to religion by referring to the dispute between Jews and Samaritans about the location of the temple. (Concerning relations between Jews and Samaritans see earlier section, ‘The New Testament World’.) Jesus told her that the important matters were not those of race or locality, but those that concerned a right attitude of spirit and a right relation with God (John 4:20-24).

The woman saw that the conversation was leading to things she knew nothing about. She therefore tried to finish it quickly by saying that she would wait for the Messiah to come and explain it all to her. Jesus replied that the Messiah was already talking to her (John 4:25-26). In wonder and excitement the woman hurried back to tell the villagers of her discovery and urge them to come and see this remarkable person (John 4:27-30).

Next it was the disciples who interpreted Jesus’ words literally instead of figuratively. This time the subject was food. Jesus told them that his strength came from obedience to the will of God. That was his real food, and he intended to keep feeding on it till he finished the work he came to do (John 4:31-34).

After a farmer sows the seed, he may have to wait many months before he reaps the harvest. But in the case of the Samaritan woman, the seed sown in her heart was already bearing fruit, for the Samaritan villagers were already hurrying across the fields to learn about Jesus. Jesus had sown; the disciples would reap. It was a foretaste of the harvest they would reap from seed sown by messengers of God who had gone before them, from the prophets of Old Testament times to John the Baptist (John 4:35-38).

Though the woman had introduced the villagers to Jesus, they needed to exercise personal faith if they were to receive the eternal life he offered. Many responded in genuine faith, realizing that Jesus was a Saviour whose blessings were not limited to selected races or nations (John 4:39-42).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bbc/​john-4.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

God is a Spirit … The countless anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament probably caused Jesus to set such a statement as this over against them all. God may be spoken of in terms of the activities of men, such as walking, seeing, hearing, etc., but there is a sense in which God is not like man at all. God is a Spirit, eternal, immortal, invisible, omniscient, ubiquitous, omnipotent, and all-pervading. He is above all and through all and in all. Nothing can be hidden from God. He is the First Cause, himself uncaused, the Creator and Sustainer of everything that exists. He is nonetheless personal, hence the anthropomorphisms of Scripture.

They that worship him … Just what is worship? Is it the carrying out of any kind of ritual, the observance of any days or times, or the presentation of any kind of gifts and sacrifices? Despite the fact that worship, from the earliest times, has been associated with such things, actual worship is spiritual.


A good description of worship is that of Isaiah 6:1-8, an analysis of which shows that worship is: (1) an awareness of the presence of God, (2) a consciousness of sin and unworthiness on the part of the worshipper, (3) a sense of cleansing and forgiveness, and (4) a response of the soul with reference to doing God’s will: "Here am I, send me!"

In the New Testament, it is evident that the worship of God involved the doing of certain things: (1) meditating upon God’s word in sermon or Scripture reading, (2) singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, (3) praying to God through Christ, (4) observance of the Lord’s supper, and (5) the giving of money, goods, and services for the propagation of the faith and the relief of human needs. Very well, then, does the person who DOES these things worship God? Not necessarily, because an apostle spoke of certain persons who ate the Lord’s supper in a manner unworthy of it, not discerning the Lord’s body. Moreover, the singing and praying were commanded to be done "with the spirit and with the understanding also." From this: it is clear that the things done in the New Testament worship were the authorized channels through which the true worship flowed, and that worship has the same relationship to the channels that electricity has to the power line that carries it. This, of course, does not disparage the authorized channels, nor suggest that man may select channels of his own. See below under: "Two Ways to Worship." True worship is the soul’s adoration of the Creator functioning obediently to the divine will.

Must worship in spirit and in truth … This speaks thunderously of the fact that the worship of God must be done properly, the two requirements being that it must be engaged in with utmost sincerity and as directed by the word of God. God has revealed the manner in which he should be worshipped, and those who hope to have their worship accepted should heed the restrictions.


The verse before us is a powerful prohibition. Also, Jesus said, "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7). An apostle declared that "God … dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything" (Acts 17:24,25). The author of this gospel wrote, "Testify unto every man that heareth the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18). And also, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" (2 John 1:9). Jesus said of the Pharisees, "Ye have made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matthew 15:6). Paul warned the Corinthians, "Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure, transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written" (1 Corinthians 4:6). From these specific prohibitions, as well as from the spirit and tenor of the entire Bible, it is clearly impossible for man to approach his Creator in worship, except as God has directed. This was true in the days of Cain and Abel, of Nadab and Abihu, of David and Uzzah, and of the Lord Jesus Christ and ever afterward. It is true now and always.


Worship is as old as the human race, but in the long history of mortal events only two ways to worship God have ever been discovered. These are: God’s revealed way, and any other way that man might have devised himself. A glance at both is appropriate.

I.    God’s way to worship. People are commanded to worship God, and it is simply inconceivable that God has not instructed men how to obey this commandment (Revelation 14:7). Of the ancient tabernacle, only a type of the worship men offer today, God said to Moses, "See that thou make all things according to the pattern" (Hebrews 8:5), and there is no way to avoid the application of this to Christian worship. Why else should it have been in the book of Hebrews? And what is the New Testament pattern of Christian worship? "The things which are written" (1 Corinthians 4:6) reveal that the New Testament churches:

Offered prayers to God through Christ (Acts 2:46).

Observed the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7).

Gave of their means (1 Corinthians 16:2).

Taught the sacred Scriptures (Acts 2:46).

Sang certain kinds of songs (Colossians 3:16).

No student of the Bible will deny that both precept and example for the above pattern of worship are found in the New Testament. If this is not God’s pattern of worship, what is it?

II.    Man’s way of worshipping. This has varied in time, place, and circumstance; but a survey of the entire field of worship, as it has developed since the foundation of Christianity, reveals numerous activities, ceremonies, doctrines, commandments, and devices unknown to the Bible, as well as alterations, restrictions, additions, subtractions and substitutions with reference to the things that are revealed. There are even examples of incorporating elements of the old covenant, and of the acceptance of pagan elements into the sacred arena of Christian worship. It would be nearly impossible to list all the human changes, additives, and aberrations inflicted upon Christianity by the historical church, but a complete list is not necessary. The partial list below will show what is meant:

Auricular confession, baptizing of images, baptizing of bells, baptizing of infants, baptism of desire, baptism for the dead, burning of incense, canonization of saints, celibacy of the clergy, communion under one kind, elevation of the host, extreme unction, invocation of saints, lighting of blessed lamps and candles, Lenten fasts and ceremonies, monasticism, orders of monks and nuns, societies of Jesus, purgatory, prayers for souls in purgatory, paschal candles, priestly robes and vestments, holy paraphernalia, penance, redemption of penances, pouring for baptism, sprinkling for baptism, the rosary of the Virgin Mary, the sale of indulgences, the sacrifice of the mass, sacrifices for the dead, the sign of the cross, the separation of clergy and laity, tradition received on a level with the word of God, the doctrine of transubstantiation, and of consubstantiation, the sprinkling of holy water, the stored-up merit of dead saints, works of supererogation, the use of mechanical instruments of music, ceremonies of Ash Wednesday, the development of a hierarchical system of earthly church government, etc., etc.

Now this writer has never met a person, throughout a lifetime of discussing Christianity, who would deny that at least some of the above deviations from God’s pattern of worship are sinful. But, of course, the thing that makes any one of them sinful MAKES THEM ALL SO! They were not first spoken by the Lord (Hebrews 2:3). Their authority derives not from God but from men.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bcc/​john-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

God is A spirit - This is the second reason why men should worship him in spirit and in truth. By this is meant that God is without a body; that he is not material or composed of parts; that he is invisible, in every place, pure and holy. This is one of the first truths of religion, and one of the sublimest ever presented to the mind of man. Almost all nations have had some idea of God as gross or material, but the Bible declares that he is a pure spirit. As he is such a spirit, he dwells not in temples made with hands Acts 7:48, neither is worshipped with men’s hands as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things, Acts 17:25. A pure, a holy, a spiritual worship, therefore, is such as he seeks - the offering of the soul rather than the formal offering of the body - the homage of the heart rather than that of the lips.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​bnb/​john-4.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

24.God is a Spirit. This is a confirmation drawn from the very nature of God. Since men are flesh, we ought not to wonder, if they take delight in those things which correspond to their own disposition. Hence it arises, that they contrive many things in the worship of God which are full of display, but have no solidity. But they ought first of all to consider that they have to do with God, who can no more agree with the flesh than fire with water. This single consideration, when the inquiry relates to the worship of God, ought to be sufficient for restraining the wantonness of our mind, that God is so far from being like us, that those things which please us most are the objects of his loathing and abhorrence. And if hypocrites are so blinded by their own pride, that they are not afraid to subject God to their opinion, or rather to their unlawful desires, let us know that this modesty does not hold the lowest place in the true worship of God, to regard with suspicion whatever is gratifying according to the flesh. Besides, as we cannot ascend to the height of God, let us remember that we ought to seek from His word the rule by which we are governed. This passage is frequently quoted by the Fathers against the Arians, to prove the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, but it is improper to strain it for such a purpose; for Christ simply declares here that his Father is of a spiritual nature, and, therefore, is not moved by frivolous matters, as men, through the lightness and unsteadiness of their character, are wont to be.

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​cal/​john-4.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 4

Now when the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus himself baptized none, but his disciples,) ( John 4:1 )

Now this can mean one of two things. Jesus baptized not, but His disciples, or, He only baptized His disciples; or, He didn't baptize at all, it was only His disciples who were baptizing. So, you have a choice. But when Jesus heard that the Pharisees had heard these things,

He left Judea ( John 4:2 ),

The Pharisees had heard now that He was baptizing even more than John, so He left the area of Judea, the area near Jerusalem, where most of the Pharisees hung out.

and he departed and went again into the area of Galilee ( John 4:3 ).

From Judea, on into Galilee.

And he had to go through Samaria ( John 4:4 ).

For Samaria lies between Judea, Jerusalem and the Galilee. The area of Samaria lies between the two, through the middle part of the country. Now,

He came to a city of Samaria, which was called Sychar [or Shechem], near a parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat on the well: for it was about noon. And there came a woman of Samaria to draw water: and Jesus said unto her, Give me a drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then said the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that you, being a Jew, are asking me for a drink, for I am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that said unto you, Give me a drink; you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. And the woman said unto him, Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: where are you going to get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his children, and his cattle? And Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. And the woman said unto him, Sir, give me some of this water, so I will never thirst again, and I won't have to come out here and draw water everyday ( John 4:5-15 ).

Now, up to this point, this woman is being rather saucy with Jesus, sort of pert and cute. She's not a very upright woman. In fact, she's sort of a low-moral character. She's probably very well known in Shechem because of her not-so-illustrious past. She's got a bad reputation. She's probably known as a flirt and available. And probably that kind who is pretty worldly-wise and able to handle men pretty well, and that type which...every man is sort of a challenge. So, when she came to draw water and saw this person sitting there, and He said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" rather than just obliging and giving Him a drink without saying anything, she has to open up the door and ask him, "How come you're asking me for a drink? You're a Jew and I'm a Samaritan, and we're not supposed to have dealings with each other." And Jesus said, "If you knew the gift of God and who it was that was asking you for a drink, you would have been asking Him for a drink."

Now, I'm sure that her motives in talking to Jesus at this point are far different from His. But she continued on in saying, "Why would I ask you for a drink? That well is deep and you don't have anything to draw it with. " She said, "Where are you going to get this living water? Are you greater than Jacob who gave us this well?" Jesus said to her, "Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again."

When Jesus is talking to this woman about water, about living water, she did not understand what He was talking about, even, I'm sure, as Nicodemus did not fully understand what Jesus was talking about when He first said, "You've got to be born again." You know, he got this mental picture of his going back into his mother's womb. Jesus was talking again about spiritual things and she was thinking only of material things. But Jesus said to her, "If you drink of the spiritual water, the living water, you'll never thirst again." "Oh, I'd like some of this water so I don't have to come out here and drink again, so I don't get thirsty any more."

Now, the statement, "He who drinks of this water shall thirst again," there Jesus is referring to that physical water in the well. Carrying it one step further, Jesus, in talking about thirst, spoke not of physical thirst but of spiritual thirst. Man is a threefold being: he is body, mind and spirit. And there are physical thirsts, there are emotional thirsts, and is a spiritual thirst. Jesus said to the woman, "If you're going to drink of this water, you're going to thirst again." That can be said of every physical experience that you might possess or seek or find.

There are always those who feel, "If I could just..." and you fill in the blank. "...then I would be happy and satisfied." What's in your blank? "If I just had blank, I would be satisfied and happy!" It seems that man is always setting out a goal or a thing whereby he feels that, "If I could just achieve, if I could just attain, if I could just have, then I would be satisfied. I wouldn't be thirsty any more!" Jesus said, "Not so! You drink of this water and you will thirst again."

Now, you ought to be able to prove that in your own mind, because surely in times past, you have set those temporary goals that you felt, "If I could just have a new bicycle I wouldn't want anything again as long as I live." I know there was a time when I lusted after a bicycle. And I thought, "If I could just have that bicycle, oh, I would just be so happy. I would never want anything again as long as I lived." And, I got that bicycle. But it wasn't long before..."If I just had a speedometer on this bicycle, I wouldn't want anything again, you know." And then, "If I just had a headlight with a generator, oh, I would never want anything again." So, there have been those intermediate goals that I have achieved and attained, but you know what? I thirsted again. They didn't fully satisfy me. As Jesus said, "Drink of this water, you're going to thirst again." And it has been true in my life, as I have achieved those goals, those intermediate goals that I had established, and I thought, "Oh, if I could just have," and I then had, but it didn't satisfy. I thirsted again. But Jesus said, "If you drink of the water that I give, you'll never thirst again. It'll be like a well just springing up inside of you." The woman said, "Sir, I'll take some of that water."

And Jesus said, Well, first go call your husband. And she said, I don't have any husband ( John 4:16-17 ).

I'm available.

And the Jesus said to her, You have well said, I have no husband: for you have had five husbands; and you've finally just moved in with a man without marrying him ( John 4:17-18 ).

Now, notice the whole switch of her attitude. No longer is she a cute little flirt. Her mask has been ripped off. You know, a lot of people go around wearing masks. They have a cute, clever exterior. "I can handle myself, I know how to get around, I don't need any help, I've got it made." But when that mask has been removed, underneath there is a great thirst and a great need, and the thirst and the need that man has is for God, every man, no matter who they are. You may try to pretend that you don't need God. "That's for weak people! I don't need to commit my life to God, I don't need God, I can handle it, I'm able to make my way in life. The battle is for the strong and I'm strong. I don't need help." And you may put up a very tough, formidable front, a mask. But deep down inside every man's heart is crying out for God. No matter what kind of a front you may be putting up. And when Jesus took away her mask, when suddenly she realized she wasn't kidding this fellow, "He's looking right inside of me and He knows what is inside of me. He knows the truth about me. I'm not fooling Him at all." The mask was gone. Her spirit was open and naked and revealed; and she knew it. And so, suddenly, the whole attitude and tenor changes, and what is her question?

Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and you say, in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship ( John 4:20 ).

The question was, "Where do I find God? Our fathers said we find God in this mountain, you say we find God in Jerusalem. Where can I find God?" And down deep inside of every man there is that haunting question, "Where can I find God?" Because we all need God, no matter what kind of a front we may be putting up to others. Down deep inside all of us need God, and there is that cry of our hearts, "Where can I find God?" And so her whole attitude changed, "Sir, I perceive you're a prophet."

"Our fathers say we are to worship God in these mountains," that is in Mount Gerizim, which is there in Samaria, the mountains upon which the tribes of Israel stood on the top and pronounced God's blessings when they came into the land, opposite to Mount Ebal, where the curses were pronounced.

And so, the Samaritans, those people who inhabited the northern province after the Syrian captivity, those who were not accepted into Judaism when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, because they could not prove the purity of their lineage, who had intermarried with the people brought into the land by the Assyrians, sort of half-breeds, were called Samaritans. And because they were not allowed by the Jews in Jerusalem to help with the temple or to enter into the worship there, they began to establish their own worship center on Mount Gerizim, making their own sacrifices there and creating quite a breach between the Jews and the Samaritans, not dealing with each other. And they began to say that it was on Mount Gerizim that Abraham had offered Isaac. And they also affirm that on Mount Gerizim, Solomon had built the temple, that this is the place to worship God. And they would discourage the Samaritans from going to Jerusalem to worship God. God is found in this mountain, God is worshipped in this mountain.

Now even to the present day, the Samaritans, and, of course, they have dwindled, there are only about twelve hundred Samaritans left in the world. And they are fast passing off the scene, because of the inbreeding, most of them are sort of on the lunatic fringe, because they won't marry outside of that close knit group, and so the intermarriages are too close and there's not been the infusion of outside blood, so you've got idiocy going among them now. And they are fast passing away. But to the present day, they still offer a sacrificial lamb on Gerezim to the present day. They still affirm, those Samaritans that are left, that Gerizim is the place where men find God. But basically her question is, "Where can I find God?" and that's the question that burns in the heart of every man.

Jesus said, Woman, believe me, the hour is coming, when you will neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, worship the Father ( John 4:21 ).

And then He said something that is very revealing.

You do not know what you worship ( John 4:22 ):

How true that is of so many people today. They really don't know what they are worshipping. He said,

we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and even now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father is seeking such to worship him. For God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth ( John 4:22-24 ).

Where's God found? He's found wherever you are. He surrounds us. God is not localized, nor can you localize God. So often in our minds we make that mistake of localizing God. How glorious it is to gather tonight in the presence of God here in the sanctuary. Well, that's true in a sense, but yet, in another sense, God doesn't just dwell here in the sanctuary. God dwells in your car as you're driving to the sanctuary. God dwells in your house as you're yelling at your kids getting ready to go to the sanctuary, because they're not getting dressed fast enough. We need to become more conscious of the all-prevailing presence of God wherever I am. God is a spirit; I am surrounded by Him. For in Him we live and we move and we have our being. And you cannot localize God...in Gerizim, or Jerusalem, or in any other locality. He doesn't dwell there any more than any other place. God dwells in the hearts and in the lives of every child of God, and He surrounds us all. In Him we live, we move, we have our being. God is a spirit, and if you want to worship Him, you've got to worship Him in spirit. That's spiritual worship of God and in truth.

So the woman said unto him, I know that when the Messiah comes, which is called Christ ( John 4:25 ):

The word Christ is a Greek word. It is the translation into Greek of the Hebrew word Messiah. And so, you have the Greek word Christ, but it is a word that is the translation of the word Messiah. So John points that out here. "I know that when the Messiah comes," which in Greek is called Christ, Christos.

when he is come, he will tell us all things. And Jesus said unto her, I who speak unto you am he ( John 4:25-26 ).

Can you imagine what she must have felt at that moment? "I was flirting with Him?" "I who speak unto you am He."

And upon this the disciples returned, and they marveled that he was talking with the woman: yet none of them said, What are you seeking? or, Why are you talking with her? And the woman then left her waterpot, and went her way unto the city, and said to the men ( John 4:27-28 ),

The women probably wouldn't talk to her.

Come, and see a man, which told me everything I ever did: is not this the Messiah? And they went out of the city, and come unto him. And in the meantime his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat that you don't know about. Therefore said his disciples one to another, Has someone brought him something to eat? And Jesus said unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work ( John 4:29-34 ).

And interesting, the phrase "to finish His work." The work of redemption was not yet finished. Later, on the cross Jesus will cry, "It is finished." But God's work of redemption was not yet complete. And so, "I came not to do my own will, I came to do the will of Him who sent Me." Jesus was a man on a mission, sent by the Father to finish the Father's work, the work of redemption of mankind.

And then He said,

Don't say, There are four months, and then the harvest will come? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields ( John 4:35 );

Now at this point, the men of Shechem were coming out through the fields to the well where Jesus was. And most of them wore these white turbans, and so, as you looked on the fields you saw these white turbans, all of them, descending from the city towards the well. And Jesus said to His disciples, "Don't say four months and the harvest will come. Look unto the fields right now."

behold they are white unto harvest ( John 4:35 ).

Hungry souls searching for God. Where can you find God?

He that reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit unto life eternal: and both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One sows, another reaps ( John 4:36-37 ).

Paul said, "One plants, one waters. God gives the increase."

I sent you to reap whereon you bestowed no labor: other men labored, and you are entered into their labors. And many of the Samaritans believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me everything I ever did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they begged him that he would stay with them: and so he remained there for two days. And many more believed because of his own word; then they said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of what you said: for we have heard him ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Now after two days he departed from there, and went into Galilee. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet has no honor in his own country. And when he was come into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all of the things which he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast. So, he came again to Cana of Galilee ( John 4:38-46 ),

Now Cana was a little village there in the valley as you're coming from Nazareth, up over the top of the hill, you drop into this little valley and Cana sits there in the valley, and it's on the road from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee. So, as He came to Cana, it's probably twenty miles from the Sea of Galilee to Cana. And so, He came unto Cana of Galilee,

where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum ( John 4:46 ).

Now Capernaum was at least twenty miles from Cana.

And when he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea back to Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: because he was at the point of death ( John 4:47 ).

He's asking Jesus to go from Cana down to Capernaum, twenty miles, to heal his son. Of course, if you've got a son that's dying and you're the dad, you're going to be desperate. You're going to do your best if you feel that, "Here's a man that can help my dying son."

And Jesus said unto him, Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe. And the nobleman said unto him, Sir, come or my child is going to die. And Jesus said unto him, Go your way; your son lives. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken to him, and he went his way ( John 4:48-50 ).

He believed the word so much he didn't even go home. He just believed it. Because, the next day

As he was going down, his servants met him, and said, Your son is alright. And he inquired and he said, At what hour did the change take place? And they said, At about one o'clock in the afternoon. And he knew that that was exactly the time that Jesus said, Your son lives ( John 4:51-53 ):

Now you see, if it were one o'clock in the afternoon and he was really concerned for his son, he would have taken off for Capernaum and probably could've made it there by evening on a fast jog. But he wasn't worried any more. He believed the word of Jesus. And so the father knew it was the same hour in which Jesus said unto him, "Your son lives."

and himself believed ( John 4:53 ),

That moment Jesus said it, and he believed it and it was.

and his whole house believed. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did [that is in Cana], when he was come out of Judea into Galilee ( John 4:53-54 ).

Now, in chapter 5, we leave Galilee and we go back to Jerusalem and to the pool of Bethesda and the events that were there. And John concentrates the most of his gospel with the ministry of Jesus around Jerusalem. It tells little about the ministry in Galilee, where the other gospels concentrate most on the Galilean ministry. So, John doesn't leave us long in Galilee before we go back to Jerusalem to the feast of the Jews there in Jerusalem. And so, we'll get into that next week, as we continue chapters 5 and 6 next week of the gospel according to John.

May the Lord be with you and bless and keep you in His love, and may your life be enriched daily this week as you study the Word and as you worship God in spirit and in truth. For God is seeking such to worship Him. May your life in Christ grow, be enriched and developed more and more, day-by-day, that you might come to that fullness that God would have you to experience, the fullness of His grace and love towards you through Jesus our Lord. So, may the Lord bless and keep, strengthen and guide, and give you just a totally beautiful week, walking in the Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​csc/​john-4.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. The interview with the Samaritan woman 4:1-26

There are several connections between this section and the preceding ones that provide continuity. One is the continuation of water as a symbol (cf. John 2:6; John 3:5; John 4:10-15). Another is the continuation of conversation in which Jesus reveals Himself as the fulfillment of what the Old Testament anticipated.

"Nicodemus was an eminent representative of orthodox Judaism. Now John records an interview Jesus had with one who stood for a class that was wholeheartedly despised by orthodox Judaism. From the point of view of the orthodox Jew there were three strikes against her: she was a Samaritan, a woman, and a sexual sinner." [Note: Ibid., p. 225.]

The present section begins with another reference to something that resulted from Jesus’ rising popularity (cf. John 3:22-26; John 4:1-3). This section as a whole is also a model of evangelistic ministry.

"The Samaritan woman is a timeless figure-not only a typical Samaritan but a typical human being." [Note: Tasker, p. 75.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-4.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

D. Jesus’ ministry in Samaria 4:1-42

The writer now showed Jesus moving north from Judea into Samaria where He had another important conversation with another person who was completely different from Nicodemus. As in the previous chapter, theological explanation follows personal encounter in this one.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-4.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The AV has Jesus saying, "God is a spirit." One could infer that He is one spirit among many. The NASB and NIV have, "God is spirit." The Greek text has no indefinite article ("a"), but it is legitimate to supply one, as is often true in similar anarthrous (without the article) constructions. However the absence of the article often deliberately stresses the character to the noun (cf. 1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:8). That seems to have been Jesus’ intention here.

The sense of the passage is that God is spirit as opposed to flesh. He is invisible, divine, and essentially unknowable. Nevertheless He has chosen to reveal Himself (John 1:1-18). Since He is a spiritual rather than a corporeal being, those who worship Him must do so in a spiritual rather than a material way. A spiritual birth (John 3:5) is prerequisite for spiritual worship.

The essential reason worship of God must be spiritual is that God is a spiritual being, not a physical idol. Worship of a spiritual God requires spiritual worship, not just going through certain acts of worship at special places of worship. Furthermore, people cannot worship God in any manner that may seem attractive to them. They must worship Him as He by the Spirit has revealed we should.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dcc/​john-4.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 4


4:1-9 So when the Lord learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although it was not Jesus himself who was in the habit of baptizing but his disciples), he quilted Judaea and went away again to Galilee. Now he had to pass through Samaria. He came to a town of Samaria, called Sychar, which is near the piece of ground which Jacob gave to Joseph, his son, and Jacob's well was there. So Jesus, tired from the journey, was sitting by the well just as he was. It was about midday. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her: "Give me to drink." For his disciples had gone away into the town to buy provisions. So the Samaritan woman said to him: "How is it that you who are a Jew ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" (For there is no familiarity between Jews and Samaritans.)

First of all, let us set the scene of this incident. Palestine is only 120 miles long from north to south. But within that 120 miles there were in the time of Jesus three definite divisions of territory. In the extreme north lay Galilee; in the extreme south lay Judaea; and in between lay Samaria. Jesus did not wish at this stage in his ministry to be involved in a controversy about baptism; so he decided to quit Judaea for the time being and transfer his operations to Galilee. There was a centuries-old feud between the Jews and the Samaritans, the cause of which we will shortly see. But the quickest way from Judaea to Galilee lay through Samaria. Using that route, the journey could be done in three days. The alternative route was to cross the Jordan, go up the eastern side of the river to avoid Samaria, recross the Jordan north of Samaria and then enter Galilee. This was a route which took twice as long. So then Jesus had to pass through Samaria if he wished to take the shortest route to Galilee.

On the way they came to the town of Sychar. Just short of Sychar the road to Samaria forks. The one branch goes north-east to Scythopolis; the other goes west to Nablus and then north to Engannim. At the fork of the road there stands to this day the well known as Jacob's well.

This was an area which had many Jewish memories attached to it. There was a piece of ground there which had been bought by Jacob ( Genesis 33:18-19). Jacob, on his deathbed, had bequeathed that ground to Joseph ( Genesis 48:22). And, on Joseph's death in Egypt, his body had been taken back to Palestine and buried there ( Joshua 24:32). So around this area there gathered many Jewish memories.

The well itself was more than 100 feet deep. It is not a springing well of water; it is a wet into which the water percolates and gathers. But clearly it was a well so deep that no one could gain water from it unless he had something with which to draw the water.

When Jesus and his little band came to the fork in the road Jesus sat down to rest, for he was tired with the journey. It was midday. The Jewish day runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the sixth hour is twelve o'clock midday. So the heat was at its greatest, and Jesus was weary and thirsty from travelling. His disciples went on ahead to buy some food in the Samaritan town. Something must have been beginning to happen to them. Before they had met Jesus it is entirely unlikely that they would have even thought of buying food in any Samaritan town. Little by little, perhaps even unconsciously, the barriers were going down.

As Jesus sat there, there came to the well a Samaritan woman. Why she should come to that well is something of a mystery, for it was more than half-a-mile from Sychar where she must have stayed and there was water there. May it be that she was so much of a moral outcast that the women even drove her away from the village well and she had to come here to draw water? Jesus asked her to give him a drink. She turned in astonishment. "I am a Samaritan," she said. "You are a Jew. How is it that you ask a drink from me?" And then John explains to the Greeks for whom he is writing that there was no kind of come and go at all between the Jews and the Samaritans.

Now it is certain that all we have here is the briefest possible report of what must have been a long conversation. Clearly there was much more to this meeting than is recorded here. If we may use an analogy, this is like the minutes of a committee meeting where we have only the salient points of the discussion recorded. I think that the Samaritan woman must have unburdened her soul to this stranger. How else could Jesus have known of her tangled domestic affairs? For one of the very few times in her life she had found one with kindness in his eyes instead of critical superiority; and she opened her heart.

Few stories in the Gospel record show us so much about the character of Jesus.

(i) It shows us the reality of his humanity. Jesus was weary with the journey, and he sat by the side of the well exhausted. It is very significant that John who stresses the sheer deity of Jesus Christ more than any other of the gospel writers also stresses his humanity to the full. John does not show us a figure freed from the tiredness and the struggle of our humanity. He shows us one for whom life was an effort as it is for us; he shows us one who also was tired and had to go on.

(ii) It shows us the warmth of his sympathy. From an ordinary religious leader, from one of the orthodox church leaders of the day the Samaritan woman would have fled in embarrassment. She would have avoided such a one. If by any unlikely chance he had spoken to her she would have met him with an ashamed and even a hostile silence. But it seemed the most natural thing in the world to talk to Jesus. She had at last met someone who was not a critic but a friend, one who did not condemn but who understood.

(iii) It shows us Jesus as the breaker down of barriers. The quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans was an old, old story. Away back about 720 B.C. the Assyrians had invaded the northern kingdom of Samaria and had captured and subjugated it. They did what conquerors often did in those days--they transported practically the whole population to Media ( 2 Kings 17:6). Into the district the Assyrians brought other people--from Babylon, from Cuthah, from Ava, from Hamath and from Sepharvaim ( 2 Kings 17:24). Now it is not possible to transport a whole people. Some of the people of the northern kingdom were left. Almost inevitably they began to inter-marry with the incoming foreigners; and thereby they committed what to the Jew was an unforgivable crime. They lost their racial purity. In a strict Jewish household even to this day if a son or a daughter marries a Gentile, his or her funeral service is carried out. Such a person is dead in the eyes of orthodox Judaism. So then the great majority of the inhabitants of Samaria were carried away to Media. They never came back but were assimilated into the country into which they were taken. They are the lost ten tribes. Those who remained in the country inter-married with the incoming strangers and lost their right to be called Jews at all.

In course of time a like invasion and a like defeat happened to the southern kingdom, whose capital was Jerusalem. Its inhabitants also were carried off to Babylon; but they did not lose their identity; they remained stubbornly and unalterably Jewish. In time there came the days of Ezra and Nehemiah and the exiles returned to Jerusalem by the grace of the Persian king. Their immediate task was to repair and rebuild the shattered Temple. The Samaritans came and offered their help in this sacred task. They were contemptuously told that their help was not wanted. They had lost their Jewish heritage and they had no right to share in the rebuilding of the house of God. Smarting under this repulse, they turned bitterly against the Jews of Jerusalem. It was about 450 B.C. when that quarrel took place, and it was as bitter as ever in the days of Jesus.

It had further been embittered when the renegade Jew, Manasseh, married a daughter of the Samaritan Sanballat ( Nehemiah 13:28) and proceeded to found a rival temple on Mount Gerizim which was in the centre of the Samaritan territory. Still later in the Maccabean days, in 129 B.C., John Hyrcanus, the Jewish general and leader, led an attack against Samaria and sacked and destroyed the temple on Mount Gerizim. Between Jews and Samaritans there was an embittered hatred. The Jews contemptuously called them Chuthites or Cuthaeans after one of the peoples whom the Assyrians had settled there. The Jewish Rabbis said: "Let no man eat of the bread of the Cuthaeans, for he who eats their bread is as he who eats swine's flesh." Ecclesiasticus depicts God as saying: "With two nations is my soul vexed, and the third is no nation; they that sit upon the mountain of Samaria, and the Philistines, and that foolish people that dwell in Sichem" (Ecc 50:25-26). Sichem or Shechem was one of the most famous of Samaritan cities. The hatred was returned with interest. It is told that Rabbi Jochanan was passing through Samaria on his way to Jerusalem to pray. He passed by Mount Gerizim. A Samaritan saw him, and asked him: "Where are you going?" "I am going to Jerusalem," he said, "to pray." The Samaritan answered: "Would it not be better for you to pray in this holy mountain (Mount Gerizim) than in that accursed house?" Pilgrims from Galilee to Jerusalem had to pass through Samaria, if, as we have seen, they travelled by the quickest way; and the Samaritans delighted to hinder them.

The Jewish-Samaritan quarrel was more than 400 years old. But it smouldered as resentfully and as bitterly as ever. It was small wonder that the Samaritan woman was astonished that Jesus, a Jew, should speak to her, a Samaritan.

(iv) But there was still another way in which Jesus was taking down the barriers. The Samaritan was a woman. The strict Rabbis forbade a Rabbi to greet a woman in public. A Rabbi might not even speak to his own wife or daughter or sister in public. There were even Pharisees who were called "the bruised and bleeding Pharisees" because they shut their eyes when they saw a woman on the street and so walked into walls and houses! For a Rabbi to be seen speaking to a woman in public was the end of his reputation--and yet Jesus spoke to this woman. Not only was she a woman; she was also a woman of notorious character. No decent man, let alone a Rabbi, would have been seen in her company, or even exchanging a word with her--and yet Jesus spoke to her.

To a Jew this was an amazing story. Here was the Son of God, tired and weary and thirsty. Here was the holiest of men, listening with understanding to a sorry story. Here was Jesus breaking through the barriers of nationality and orthodox Jewish custom. Here is the beginning of the universality of the gospel; here is God so loving the world, not in theory, but in action.

THE LIVING WATER ( John 4:10-15 )

4:10-15 Jesus answered her: "If you knew the free gift that God is offering you, and if you knew who is speaking to you, and if you knew who was saying to you: 'Give me to drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him: "Sir, you have no bucket to draw with and the well is deep. Where does this living water that you have come from? Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us the well, and who himself drank from it with his children and his cattle?" Jesus answered her: "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again for ever. But the water that I will give him will become a well of water within him, springing up to give him life eternal." The woman said to him: "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not thirst, and so that I will not have to come here to draw water."

We have to note that this conversation with the Samaritan woman follows exactly the same pattern as the conversation with Nicodemus. Jesus makes a statement. The statement is taken in the wrong sense. Jesus remakes the statement in an even more vivid way. It is still misunderstood; and then Jesus compels the person with whom he is speaking to discover and to face the truth for herself. That was Jesus' usual way of teaching; and it was a most effective way, for, as someone has said: "There are certain truths which a man cannot accept; he must discover them for himself."

Just as Nicodemus did, the woman took the words of Jesus quite literally when she was meant to understand them spiritually. It was living water of which Jesus spoke. In ordinary language to the Jew living water was running water. It was the water of the running stream in contradistinction to the water of the stagnant cistern or pool. This well, as we have seen, was not a springing well, but a well into which the water percolated from the subsoil. To the Jew, running, living water from the stream was always better. So the woman is saying: "You are offering me pure stream water. Where are you going to get it?"

She goes on to speak of "our father Jacob." The Jews would, of course, have strenuously denied that Jacob was the father of the Samaritans, but it was part of the Samaritan claim that they were descended from Joseph, the son of Jacob, by way of Ephraim and Manasseh. The woman is in effect saying to Jesus: "This is blasphemous talk. Jacob, our great ancestor, when he came here, had to dig this well to gain water for his family and his cattle. Are you claiming to be able to get fresh, running stream water? If you are, you are claiming to be wiser and more powerful than Jacob. That is a claim that no one has any right to make."

When people were on a journey they usually carried with them a bucket made from the skin of some beast so that they could draw water from any well at which they halted. No doubt Jesus' band had such a bucket; and no doubt the disciples had taken it into the town with them. The woman saw that Jesus did not possess such a traveller's leather bucket, and so again she says in effect: "You need not talk about drawing water and giving it to me. I can see for myself that you have not a bucket with which to draw water." H. B. Tristram begins his book entitled Eastern Customs in Bible Lands with this personal experience. He was sitting beside a well in Palestine beside the scene of the inn which figures in the story of the Good Samaritan. "An Arab woman came down from the hills above to draw water; she unfolded and opened her goatskin bottle, and then untwined a cord, and attached it to a very small leather bucket which she carried, by means of which she slowly filled her skin, fastened its mouth, placed it on her shoulder, and bucket in hand, climbed the mountain. I thought of the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well, when an Arab footman, toiling up the steep path from Jericho, heated and wearied with his journey, turned aside to the well, knelt and peered wistfully down. But he had 'nothing to draw with and the well was deep.' He lapped a little moisture from the water spilt by the woman who had preceded him, and, disappointed, passed on." It was just that that the woman was thinking of when she said that Jesus had nothing wherewith to draw water from the depths of the well.

But the Jews had another way of using the word water. They often spoke of the thirst of the soul for God; and they often spoke of quenching that thirst with living water. Jesus was not using terms that were bound to be misunderstood; he was using terms that anyone with spiritual insight should have understood. In the Revelation that promise is: "To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life" ( Revelation 21:6). The Lamb is to lead them to springs of living waters ( Revelation 7:17). The promise was that the chosen people would draw water with joy from the wells of salvation ( Isaiah 12:3). The Psalmist spoke of his soul being thirsty for the living God ( Psalms 42:1). God's promise was: "I will pour water on the thirsty land" ( Isaiah 44:3). The summons was that every one who was thirsty should come to the waters and freely drink ( Isaiah 55:1). Jeremiah's complaint was that the people had forsaken God who was the fountain of living waters and had hewed themselves out broken cisterns which could hold no water ( Jeremiah 2:13). Ezekiel had had his vision of the river of life ( Ezekiel 47:1-12). In the new world there would be a cleansing fountain opened ( Zechariah 13:1). The waters would go forth from Jerusalem ( Zechariah 14:8).

Sometimes the Rabbis identified this living water with the wisdom of the Law; sometimes they identified it with nothing less than the Holy Spirit of God. All Jewish pictorial religious language was full of this idea of the thirst of the soul which could be quenched only with the living water which was the gift of God. But the woman chose to understand this with an almost crude literalism. She was blind because she would not see.

Jesus went on to make a still more startling statement that he could give her living water which would banish her thirst for ever. The point is that again the woman took this literally; but in point of fact it was nothing less than a Messianic claim. In the prophetic vision of the age to come, the age of God, the promise was: "They shall not hunger or thirst" ( Isaiah 49:10). It was with God and none other that the living fountain of the all-quenching water existed. "With thee is the fountain of life," the Psalmist had cried ( Psalms 36:9). It is from the very throne of God that the river of life is to flow ( Revelation 22:1). It is the Lord who is the fountain of living water ( Jeremiah 17:13). It is in the Messianic age that the parched ground is to become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water ( Isaiah 35:7). When Jesus spoke about bringing to men the water which quenches thirst for ever, he was doing no less than stating that he was the Anointed One of God who was to bring in the new age.

Again the woman did not see it. And I think that this time she spoke with a jest, as if humouring one who was a little mad. "Give me this water," she said, "so that I will never be thirsty again and will not have to walk to the well day after day." She was jesting with a kind of humouring contempt about eternal things.

At the heart of all this there is the fundamental truth that in the human heart there is a thirst for something that only Jesus Christ can satisfy. Sinclair Lewis in one of his books draws a picture of a respectable little business man who kicked over the traces. He is talking to the girl he loves. She says to him: "On the surface we seem quite different; but deep down we are fundamentally the same. We are both desperately unhappy about something--and we don't know what it is." In every man there is this nameless unsatisfied longing; this vague discontent; this something lacking; this frustration.

In Sorrell and Son Warwick Deeping tens of a conversation between Sorrell and his son. The boy is talking about life. He says that it is like groping in an enchanted fog. The fog breaks for a moment; you see the moon or a girl's face; you think you want the moon or the face; and then the fog comes down again; and leaves you groping for something, you don't quite know what. Wordsworth, in the Ode on the Intimations of Immortality, speaks of,

"Those obstinate questionings

Of sense and outward things,

Fallings from us, vanishings;

Blank misgivings of a creature

Moving about in worlds not realized."

Augustine talks about "our hearts being restless till they find rest in thee."

Part of the human situation is that we cannot find happiness out of the things that the human situation has to offer. As Browning had it:

"Just when we're safest, there's a sunset touch,

A fancy from a flower-bell, someone's death,

A chorus ending from Euripides--

And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears

As old and new at once as Nature's self.

To rap and knock and enter in our soul."

We are never safe from the longing for eternity which God has put in man's soul. There is a thirst which only Jesus Christ can satisfy.

FACING THE TRUTH ( John 4:15-21 )

4:15-21 The woman said to him: "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not thirst, and so that I will not have to come here to draw water." Jesus said to her: "Go, call your husband, and come back here." The woman answered: "I have not got a husband." Jesus said to her: "You spoke well when you said, 'I have not got a husband.' For you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. This is the truth that you have told." The woman said to him: "Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain and you say Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship." Jesus said: "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem."

We have seen how the woman jestingly asked Jesus to give her the living water in order that she should not thirst again and might be spared the tiring journey to the well. Suddenly and stabbingly Jesus brought her to her senses. The time for verbal by-play was past; the time for jesting was over. "Go," said Jesus, "and fetch your husband and come back with him." The woman stiffened as if a sudden pain had caught her; she recoiled as if hit by a sudden shock; she grew white as one who had seen a sudden apparition; and so indeed she had, for she had suddenly caught sight of herself.

She was suddenly compelled to face herself and the looseness and immorality and total inadequacy of her life. There are two revelations in Christianity: the revelation of God and the revelation of ourselves. No man ever really sees himself until he sees himself in the presence of Christ; and then he is appalled at the sight. There is another way of putting it--Christianity begins with a sense of sin. It begins with the sudden realization that life as we are living it will not do. We awake to ourselves and we awake to our need of God.

Some people have held, because of this mention of the five husbands, that this story is not an actual incident but an allegory. We have seen that, when the original people of Samaria were exiled and transported to Media, people from five other places were brought in. These five different people brought in their own gods ( 2 Kings 17:29); and it has been held that the woman stands for Samaria and the five husbands for the five false gods to whom the Samaritans, as it were, married themselves. The sixth husband stands for the true God, but, they worship him, not truly, but in ignorance; and therefore they are not married to him at all. It may be that there is a reminder of this Samaritan infidelity to God in the story; but it is far too vivid to be a manufactured allegory. It reads too much like life.

Someone has said that prophecy is criticism based on hope. A prophet points out to a man or a nation what is wrong; but he does so not to push them into despair but to point the way to cure and to amendment and to rightness of life. So Jesus began by revealing to this woman her own sinful state; but goes on to tell her of the true worship in which our souls can meet God.

The woman's question comes strangely to us. She says, and she is obviously troubled when she says it: "Our fathers say--that we ought to worship here on Mount Gerizim; you say that we ought to worship in Jerusalem; what am I to do?" The Samaritans adjusted history to suit themselves. They taught that it was on Mount Gerizim that Abraham had been willing to sacrifice Isaac; they taught that it was there that Melchizedek had appeared to Abraham; they declared that it was on Mount Gerizim that Moses had first entered an altar and sacrificed to God when the people entered the promised land, although in fact it was on Mount Ebal that was done ( Deuteronomy 27:4). They tampered with the text of scripture and with history to glorify Mount Gerizim. The woman had been brought up to regard Mount Gerizim as the most sacred spot in the world and to despise Jerusalem. What was in her mind was this. She was saying to herself: "I am a sinner before God; I must offer to God an offering for my sin; I must take that offering to the house of God to put myself right with him; where am I going to take it?" To her, as to all her contemporaries, the only cure for sin was sacrifice. Her great problem was, where was that sacrifice to be made? By this time she is not arguing about the respective merits of the Temple on Mount Gerizim and the Temple on Mount Zion. All she wants to know is: Where can I find God?

Jesus' answer was that the day of the old man-made rivalries was coming to an end; and the time was on the way when men would find God everywhere. It had been Zephaniah's vision that men shall worship God "each in his place" ( Zephaniah 2:11). It was Malachi's dream that in every place incense would be offered as a pure offering to the name of God ( Malachi 1:11). Jesus' answer to the woman was that she did not need to go anywhere special to find God, neither to Mount Gerizim nor to Mount Zion. She did not need to offer sacrifice in some special place; true worship finds God in every place.

THE TRUE WORSHIP ( John 4:22-26 )

4:22-26 "You do not know what you are worshipping. We do know what we worship, because the world's salvation has its origin among the Jews. But the hour is coming--the hour is now here--when the real worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for it is worshippers like that that the Father is looking for. God is Spirit; and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." The woman said to him: "I know that the Messiah, he who is called Christ, is coming. When he has come he will announce all things to us." Jesus said to her: "I who am speaking to you am he."

Jesus had told the Samaritan woman that the old rivalries were on the way out, that the day was coming when controversy about the respective merits of Mount Gerizim and Mount Zion would be an irrelevancy, that he who truly sought God would find him anywhere. For all that Jesus still stressed the fact that the Jewish nation had a unique place in God's plan and revelation.

The Samaritans worshipped in ignorance, he said. There was one sense in which that was factually true. The Samaritans accepted only the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. They rejected all the rest of the Old Testament. They had therefore rejected all the great messages of the prophets and all the supreme devotion of the Psalms. They had in fact a truncated religion because they had a truncated Bible; they had rejected the knowledge that was open to them and that they might have had. Further, the Jewish Rabbis had always charged the Samaritans with a merely superstitious worship of the true God. They always said that the Samaritan worship was founded not on love and knowledge, but on ignorance and fear. As we have seen, when the foreign peoples were brought in to dwell in Samaria, they brought their own gods with them ( 2 Kings 17:29). We are told that a priest from Bethel came and told them how they should fear the Lord.( 2 Kings 17:28). But all the probability is that they merely added Jehovah to their list of gods because they were superstitiously afraid to leave him out. After all he was the God of the land in which they were living and it might be dangerous not to include him in their worship.

In a false worship we may detect three faults.

(i) A false worship is a selective worship. It chooses what it wishes to know about God and omits the rest. The Samaritans took as much of scripture as they wished and paid no attention to the rest. One of the most dangerous things in the world is a one-sided religion. It is very easy for a man to accept and hold such parts of God's truth as suit him and to disregard the remainder. We have seen, for instance, how certain thinkers and churchmen and politicians justify apartheid and racial segregation by appeal to certain parts of scripture, while they conveniently forget the far greater parts which forbid it.

A minister in a great city organized a petition to help a man who had been condemned for a certain crime. It seemed to him that this was a case where Christian mercy ought to operate. His telephone bell rang, and a woman's voice said to him: "I am astonished that you, a minister, should be lending your weight to this petition for mercy." "Why should you be surprised?" he asked. The voice said: "I suppose you know your Bible ... .. I hope so," he said. "Then," said the voice, "are you not aware that the Bible says, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'?" Here was a woman who took the part of the Bible which suited her argument and forgot the great merciful teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

We would do well to remember that, although no man will ever grasp the whole orb of truth, it is total truth that we should aim at, not the snatching at fragments which happen to suit ourselves and our own position.

(ii) A false worship is an ignorant worship. Worship ought to be the approach to God of the whole man. A man has a mind and he has a duty to exercise it. Religion may begin with an emotional response; but the time comes when that emotional response has to be thought out. E. F. Scott said that religion is far more than merely the strenuous exercise of the intellect, but that nonetheless a very great part of religious failure is due to nothing other than intellectual sloth. To fail to think things out is in itself a sin. In the last analysis, religion is never safe until a man can tell, not only what he believes, but why he believes it. Religion is hope, but it is hope with reason behind it ( 1 Peter 3:15).

(iii) A false worship is a superstitious worship. It is a worship given, not out of a sense of need nor out of any real desire, but basically because a man feels that it might be dangerous not to give it. Many a person will refuse to walk beneath a ladder; many a person will have a pleased feeling when a black cat crosses his path; many a person will pick up a pin with the idea that good luck will follow; many a person will have an uncomfortable feeling when he is one of thirteen sitting at a table. He does not believe in these superstitions, but he has the feeling that there might be something in them and he had better play safe. There are many people whose religion is founded on a kind of vague fear of what might happen if they leave God out of the reckoning. But real religion is founded not on fear but on the love of God and gratitude for what God has done. Too much religion is a kind of superstitious ritual to avert the possible wrath of the unpredictable gods.

Jesus pointed to the true worship. God, he said, is spirit. Immediately a man grasps that, a new flood-light breaks over him. If God is spirit, God is not confined to things; and therefore idol worship is not only an irrelevancy, it is an insult to the very nature of God. If God is spirit, God is not confined to places; and therefore to limit the worship of God to Jerusalem or to any other spot is to set a limit to that which by its nature overpasses all limits. If God is spirit, a man's gifts to God must be gifts of the spirit. Animal sacrifices and all man-made things become inadequate. The only gifts that befit the nature of God are the gifts of the spirit--love, loyalty, obedience, devotion.

A man's spirit is the highest part of him. That is the part which lasts when the physical part has vanished. That is the part which dreams the dreams and sees the visions which, because of the weakness and faultiness of the body, may never be carried out. It is the spirit of a man which is the source of his highest dreams and thoughts and ideals and desires. The true worship is when man, through his spirit, attains to friendship and intimacy with God. Genuine worship does not consist in coming to a certain place nor in going through a certain ritual or liturgy nor even in bringing certain gifts. True worship is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of man, speaks to and meets with God, himself immortal and invisible.

This passage closes with a great declaration. There had opened before this Samaritan woman a vista which bewildered and staggered her. Here were things beyond her understanding, things full of wonder. All that she could say was: "When the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God comes, then we will know all about it." Jesus said to her: "I who am speaking to you am he." It is as if Jesus said this is not a dream of the truth; this is the truth itself.

SHARING THE WONDER ( John 4:27-30 )

4:27-30 Upon this his disciples came up; and they were in a state of amazement that he was talking to a woman; but no one said: "What are you looking for?" or, "Why are you talking to her?" So the woman left her water-pot, and went away to the town and said to the people: "Come and see a man who told me all things that I have done! Can this be the Anointed One of God?" They came out of the town and were coming to him.

There is little wonder that the disciples were in a state of bewildered amazement when they returned from their errand to the town of Sychar and found Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman. We have already seen the Jewish idea of women. The Rabbinic precept ran: "Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife." The Rabbis so despised women and so thought them incapable of receiving any real teaching that they said: "Better that the words of the law should be burned than deliver to women." They had a saying: "Each time that a man prolongs converse with a woman he causes evil to himself, and desists from the law, and in the end inherits Gehinnom." By Rabbinic standards Jesus could hardly have done a more shatteringly unconventional thing than to talk to this woman. Here is Jesus taking the barriers down.

There follows a curiously revealing touch. It is the kind which could hardly have come from anyone except from one who had actually shared in this scene. However staggered the disciples might be, it did not occur to them to ask the woman what she was looking for or to ask Jesus why he was talking to her. They were beginning to know him; and they had already arrived at the conclusion that, however surprising his actions were, they were not to be questioned. A man has taken a great step to real discipleship when he learns to say: "It is not for me to question the actions and the demands of Jesus. My prejudices and my conventions must go down before them."

By this time the woman was on her way back to the village without her water-pot. The fact that she left her water-pot showed two things. It showed that she was in a hurry to share this extraordinary experience, and it showed that she never dreamed of doing anything else but come back. Her whole action has much to tell us of real Christian experience.

(i) Her experience began with being compelled to face herself and to see herself as she was. The same thing happened to Peter. After the draft of fishes, when Peter suddenly discovered something of the majesty of Jesus, all he could say was: "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord" ( Luke 5:8). Our Christian experience will often begin with a humiliating wave of self-disgust. It usually happens that the last thing a man sees is himself. And it often happens that the first thing Christ does for a man is to compel him to do what he has spent his life refusing to do--look at himself.

(ii) The Samaritan woman was staggered by Christ's ability to see into her inmost being. She was amazed at his intimate knowledge of the human heart, and of her heart in particular. The Psalmist was awed by that same thought. "Thou discernest my thoughts from afar.... Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether" ( Psalms 139:1-4). It is told that once a small girl heard a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon, and whispered to her mother at the end of it: "Mother, how does he know what goes on in our house?" There are no wrappings and disguises which are proof against the gaze of Christ. It is his power to see into the depths of the human heart. It is not that he sees only the evil there; he sees also the sleeping hero in the soul of every man. He is like the surgeon who sees the diseased thing, but who also sees the health which will follow when the evil thing is taken away.

(iii) The first instinct of the Samaritan woman was to share her discovery. Having found this amazing person, she was compelled to share her find with others. The Christian life is based on the twin pillars of discovery and communication. No discovery is complete until the desire to share it fills our hearts; and we cannot communicate Christ to others until we have discovered him for ourselves. First to find, then to tell, are the two great steps of the Christian life.

(iv) This very desire to tell others of her discovery killed in this woman the feeling of shame. She was no doubt an outcast; she was no doubt a byword; the very fact that she was drawing water from this distant well shows how she avoided her neighbours and how they avoided her. But now she ran to tell them of her discovery. A person may have some trouble which he is embarrassed to mention and which he tries to keep secret, but once he is cured he is often so filled with wonder and gratitude that he tells everyone about it. A man may hide his sin; but once he discovers Jesus Christ as Saviour, his first instinct is to say to men: "Look at what I was and look at what I am; this is what Christ has done for me."


4:31-34 Meanwhile his disciples asked him: "Rabbi! Eat something! have food," he said to them, "of which you do not know." "Surely," his disciples kept saying to each other, "someone can't have given him something to eat?" "My food," said Jesus to them, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work."

This passage follows the normal pattern of the conversations of the Fourth Gospel. Jesus says something which is misunderstood. He says something which has a spiritual meaning. It is at first taken with an uncomprehending literalism and then slowly he unfolds the meaning until it is grasped and realized. It is exactly the same as Jesus did when he talked to Nicodemus about being born again, and when he talked to the woman about the water which quenched the thirst of the heart for ever.

By this time the disciples had come back with food, and they asked Jesus to eat. They had left him so tired and exhausted that they were worried that he did not seem to want to eat any of the provisions which they had brought back. It is strange how a great task can lift a man above and beyond bodily needs. All his life Wilberforce, who freed the slaves, was a little, insignificant, ailing creature. When he rose to address the House of Commons, the members at first used to smile at this queer little figure; but as the fire and the power came from the man, they used to crowd the benches whenever he rose to speak. As it was put: "The little minnow became a whale." His message, his task, the flame of truth and the dynamic of power conquered his physical weakness. There is a picture of John Knox preaching in his old age. He was a done old man; he was so weak that he had to be half lifted up the pulpit steps and left supporting himself on the book-board; but before he had long begun his sermon the voice had regained its old trumpet-call and he was like "to ding the pulpit into blads (to knock the pulpit into splinters) and leap out of it." The message filled the man with a kind of supernatural strength.

Jesus' answer to his disciples was that he had food of which they knew nothing. In their simplicity they wondered if someone had brought him food to eat. Then he told them: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me."

The great keynote of Jesus' life is submission to the will of God. His uniqueness lies in the very fact that he was the only person who ever was or who ever will be perfectly obedient to God's will. It can be truly said that Jesus is the only person in all the world who never did what he liked but always what God liked.

He was God-sent. Again and again the Fourth Gospel speaks of Jesus being sent by God. There are two Greek words used in the Fourth Gospel for this sending. There is apostellein ( G649) which is used seventeen times and pempein ( G3992) which is used twenty-seven times. That is to say, no fewer than forty-four times the Fourth Gospel speaks, or shows us Jesus speaking, about his being sent by God. Jesus was one who was under orders. He was God's man.

Then once Jesus had come, again and again he spoke of the work that was given him to do. In John 5:36 he speaks of the works which his Father has given him to do. In John 17:4 his only claim is that he has finished the work his Father gave him to do. When he speaks of taking up and laying down his life, of living and of dying, he says: "This commandment have I received of my Father" ( John 10:18). He speaks continually, as he speaks here, of the will of God. "I have come down from heaven," he says, "not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" ( John 6:38). "I always do," he says, "what is pleasing to him" ( John 8:29). In John 14:23 he lays it down, out of his personal experience and on his personal example, that the only proof of love lies in the keeping of the commandments of the one a man claims to love. This obedience of Jesus was not as it is with us, a spasmodic thing. It was the very essence and being, the mainspring and the core, the dynamic and the moving power of his life.

It is his great desire that we should be as he was.

(i) To do the will of God is the only way to peace. There can be no peace when we are at variance with the king of the universe.

(ii) To do the will of God is the only way to happiness. There can be no happiness when we set our human ignorance against the divine wisdom of God.

(iii) To do the will of God is the only way to power. When we go our own way, we have nothing to call on but our own power, and therefore collapse is inevitable. When we go God's way, we go in his power, and therefore victory is secure.


4:35-38 "Are you not in the habit of saying: 'Four months, and the harvest will come'? Look you! I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, because they are already white for the harvesting. The harvester receives his reward and stores up fruit which makes for eternal life, so that he who sows and he who harvests may rejoice together. In this the saying is true--one sows and another harvests. I have sent you to harvest a crop which your labour did not produce. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours."

All this that was happening in Samaria had given Jesus a vision of a world to be harvested for God. When he said: "Four months, and the harvest will come," we are not to think that he was speaking of the actual time of year that it was in Samaria at that time. If that were so, it would have been somewhere round about January. There would have been no exhausting heat; and there would have been no scarcity of water. One would not have needed a well to find water; it would have been the rainy season, and there would have been plenty of water.

What Jesus is doing is quoting a proverb. The Jews had a sixfold division of the agricultural year. Each division was held to last two months--seedtime, winter, spring, harvest, summer and the season of extreme heat. Jesus is saying: "You have got a proverb; if you sow the seed, you must wait for at least four months before you can hope to begin to reap the harvest." Then Jesus looked up. Sychar is in the midst of a region that is still famous for its corn. Agricultural land was very limited in stony, rocky Palestine; practically nowhere else in the country could a man look up and see the waving fields of golden corn. Jesus swept his gaze and his hand round. "Look," he said, "the fields are white and ready for the harvest. They took four months to grow; but in Samaria there is a harvest for the reaping now."

For once, it is the contrast between nature and grace of which Jesus is thinking. in the ordinary harvest men sowed and waited; in Samaria things had happened with such divine suddenness that the word was sown and on the spot the harvest waited. H. V. Morton has a specially interesting suggestion about the fields white for the harvest. He himself was sitting at this very spot where Jacob's well is. As he sat, he saw the people come out from the village and start to climb the hill. They came in little batches; and they were all wearing white robes and the white robes stood out against the ground and the sky. It may well be that just at this moment the people started to flock out to Jesus in response to the woman's story. As they streamed out in their white robes across the fields, perhaps Jesus said: "Look at the fields! See them now! They are white to the harvest!" The white-robed crowd was the harvest which he was eager to reap for God.

Jesus went on to show that the incredible had happened. The sower and the harvester could rejoice at the same time. Here was something no man might expect. To the Jew sowing was a sad and a laborious time; it was harvest which was the time of joy. "May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy! He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him" ( Psalms 136:5-6).

There is something else hidden below the surface here. The Jews had their dreams of the golden age, the age to come, the age of God, when the world would be God's world, when sin and sorrow would be done away with and God would reign supreme. Amos paints his picture of it: "Behold the days are coming, saith the Lord, when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed" ( Amos 9:13). "Your threshing shall last the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last the time for sowing" ( Leviticus 26:5). It was the dream of that golden age that sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting, would follow hard upon the heels of each other. There would be such fertility that the old days of waiting would be at an end. We can see what Jesus is gently doing here. His words are nothing less than a claim that with him the golden age has dawned; God's time is here; the time when the word is spoken and the seed is sown and the harvest waits.

There was another side to that--and Jesus knew it. "There is another proverb," he said, "and it too is true--one sows and another harvests." Then he went on to make two applications of that.

(a) He told his disciples that they would reap a crop which had been produced not by their labour. He meant that he was sowing the seed, that in his Cross, above all, the seed of the love and the power of God would be sown, and that the day would come when the disciples would go out into the world and reap the harvest that his life and death had sown.

(b) He told his disciples that the day would come when they would sow and others would reap. There would be a time when the Christian Church sent out its evangelists; they would never see the harvest; some of them would die as martyrs, but the blood of the martyrs would be the seed of the church. It is as if he said: "Some day you will labour and you will see nothing for it. Some day you will sow and you will pass from the scene before the harvest is reaped. Never fear! Never be discouraged! The sowing is not in vain; the seed is not wasted! Others will see the harvest which it was not given to you to see."

So in this passage there are two things.

(i) There is the reminder of an opportunity. The harvest waits to be reaped for God. There come times in history when men are curiously and strangely sensitive to God. What a tragedy it is if Christ's Church at such a time fails to reap Christ's harvest!

(ii) There is the reminder of a challenge. It is given to many a man to sow but not to reap. Many a ministry succeeds, not by its own force and merits, but because of some saintly man who lived and preached and died and left an influence which was greater in his absence than in his presence. Many a man has to work and never sees the results of his labours. I was once taken round an estate which was famous for its rhododendrons. Its owner loved their acres and knew them all by name. He showed me certain seedlings which would take twenty-five years to flower. He was nearly seventy-five and would never see their beauty--but someone would. No work for Christ and no great undertaking ever fail. If we do not see the result of our labours, others will. There is no room for despair in the Christian life.


4:39-42 Many of the Samaritans from that city believed on him, because of the woman's story, for she testified: "He told me all things that I have done." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay amongst them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed when they heard his word, and they said to the woman: "No longer do we believe because of your talk. We ourselves have listened to him, and we know that this is really the Saviour of the World."

In the events which happened at Samaria we have the pattern by which the gospel so often spreads. In the rise of belief among the Samaritans there were three stages.

(i) There was introduction. The Samaritans were introduced to Christ by the woman. Here we see full-displayed God's need of us. Paul said:. "How are they to hear without a preacher?" ( Romans 10:14). The word of God must be transmitted by man to man. God cannot deliver his message to those who have never heard it unless there is someone to deliver it.

"He has no hands but our hands

To do his work today:

He has no feet but our feet

To lead men in his way:

He has no voice but our voice

To tell men how he died:

He has no help but our help

To lead them to his side."

It is at once our precious privilege and our terrible responsibility to bring men to Christ. The introduction cannot be made unless there is a man to make it.

Further, that introduction is made on the strength of personal witness. The cry of the Samaritan woman was: "Look what he has done for me and to me." It was not to a theory that she called her neighbours; it was to a dynamic and changing power. The church can expand until the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord only when men and women themselves experience the power of Christ, and then transmit that experience to others.

(ii) There was nearer intimacy and growing knowledge. Once the Samaritans had been introduced to Christ, they sought his company. They asked him to stay with them that they might learn of him and come to know him better. It is true that a man must be introduced to Christ, but it is equally true that once he has been introduced he must himself go on to live in the presence of Christ. No man can go through an experience for another man. Others may lead us to the friendship of Christ, but we must claim and enjoy that friendship ourselves.

(iii) There came discovery and surrender. The Samaritans discovered in Christ the Saviour of the world. It is not likely that they themselves put it exactly that way. John was writing years afterwards, and was putting the discovery of the Samaritans into his own words, words which enshrine a life-time's living with and thinking about Jesus Christ. It is only in John that we find this tremendous title. We find it here and in 1 John 4:14. To him it was the title par excellence for Christ.

John did not invent the title. In the Old Testament God had often been called the God of salvation, the Saviour, the saving God. Many of the Greek gods had acquired this title. At the time John was writing the Roman Emperor was invested with the title Saviour of the World. It is as if John said: "All that you have dreamed of has at last in Jesus come true."

We do well to remember this title. Jesus was not simply a prophet, who came with a message in words from God. He was not simply an expert psychologist with an uncanny faculty for seeing into the human mind. True, he showed that very skill in the case of the Samaritan woman, but he showed more than that. He was not simply an example. He did not come simply to show men the way in which life ought to be lived. A great example can be merely heart-breaking and frustrating when we find ourselves powerless to follow it.

Jesus was Saviour. He rescued men from the evil and hopeless situation in which they found themselves; he broke the chains that bound them to the past and gave them a power which enabled them to meet the future. The Samaritan woman is in fact the great example of his saving power. The town where she stayed would no doubt have labelled her a character beyond reformation; and she herself would no doubt have agreed that a respectable life was beyond her. But Jesus came and doubly rescued her; he enabled her to break away from the past and he opened a new future to her. There is no title adequate to describe Jesus except Saviour of the World.


4:43-45 Two days after Jesus left there and went to Galilee. Jesus himself declared that a prophet has no honour in his own country. But when he came into Galilee, the Galilaeans welcomed him, because they had seen all that he had done at Jerusalem at the Feast, for they too had gone to the Feast.

All three synoptic gospels tell of the saying of Jesus that a prophet has no honour in his own country ( Mark 6:4; Matthew 13:57; Luke 4:24). It was an ancient proverb with much the same meaning as our own "familiarity breeds contempt." But John introduces it in a very strange place. The other gospels introduce it on occasions when Jesus was rejected by his own countrymen; John introduces it on an occasion when he was accepted.

It may be that John is reading the mind of Jesus. We have already seen that Jesus had left Judaea and set out for Galilee to avoid the controversy that an increasing publicity was bringing to him. The hour of conflict had not yet come ( John 4:1-4). It may be that his astonishing success in Samaria had actually surprised him; his words about the astonishing harvest have the ring of glad surprise about them. It may well be that Jesus set out for Galilee hoping to find rest and retirement there, because he did not expect those of his native country to respond to him. And it may be that exactly the same happened in Galilee as happened in Samaria, that against all expectations there was a surge of response to his teaching. We must either explain the saying in this way or assume that somehow it has crept into the wrong place.

However that may be, this passage and the one before give us the unanswerable argument for Christ. The Samaritans believed in Jesus, not because of someone else's story but because they themselves had heard him speak things whose like they had never heard. The Galilaeans believed in him, not because someone had told them about him but because they had seen him do in Jerusalem things whose like they had never seen. The words he spoke and the deeds he did were arguments to which there was no answer.

Here we have one of the great truths of the Christian life. The only real argument for Christianity is a Christian experience. It may be that sometimes we have to argue with people until the intellectual barriers which they have erected are battered down and the citadel of their mind capitulates. But in the great majority of cases the only persuasion we can use is to say: "I know what Jesus is like and I know what Jesus can do. All that I can ask you to do is to try him yourself and to see what happens." Effective Christian evangelism really begins when we can say: "I know what Christ has done for me," and go on to say: "Try him, and see what he can do for you."

Here again tremendous personal responsibility is laid upon us. No one is likely to attempt the experience unless our own lives show its value. There is little use in telling people that Christ will bring them joy and peace and power, if our own lives are gloomy, worried and defeated. Men will be persuaded to try the experiment only when they see that for us it has ended in an experience which is much to be desired.

A COURTIER'S FAITH ( John 4:46-54 )

4:46-54 So again he came to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water into wine. Now there was a certain courtier whose son was ill in Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judaea into Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was going to die. Jesus said to him: "Unless you see signs and wonders you will never believe." The courtier said to him: "Sir, come down before my little lad dies." Jesus said to him: "Go your way! Your son lives!" The man believed the word which Jesus spoke to him, and started on his way home. While he was still on the way down, his slaves met him and said: "Your son lives!" So he asked them at what hour his condition had improved. They told him: "Yesterday, at one o'clock in the afternoon, the fever left him." The father knew that that was the hour at which Jesus said to him: "Your son lives!" And he and his whole household believed.

This is the second sign which Jesus did after he had come from Judaea into Galilee.

Most of the commentators think this is another version of the story of the healing of the centurion's servant told in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10; but there are differences which justify us in treating it as quite independent. Certain things about the conduct of this courtier are an example to all men.

(i) Here is a courtier who came to a carpenter. The Greek is basilikos ( G937) which could even mean that he was a petty king; but it is used for a royal official and he was a man of high standing at the court of Herod. Jesus on the other hand had no greater status than that of the village carpenter of Nazareth. Further, Jesus was in Cana and this man lived in Capernaum, almost twenty miles away. That is why he took so long to get back home.

There could be no more improbable scene in the world than an important court official hastening twenty miles to beg a favour from a village carpenter. First and foremost, this courtier swallowed his pride. He was in need, and neither convention nor custom stopped him bringing his need to Christ. His action would cause a sensation but he did not care what people said so long as he obtained the help he so much wanted. If we want the help which Christ can give we must be humble enough to swallow our pride and not care what any man may say.

(ii) Here is a courtier who refused to be discouraged. Jesus met him with the at first sight bleak statement that people would not believe unless they were supplied with signs and wonders. It may well be that Jesus aimed that saying, not so much at the courtier himself, as at the crowd that must have gathered to see the outcome of this sensational happening. They would be there all agape to see what would happen.

But Jesus had a way of making sure that a person was in earnest. He did that to the Syro-Phoenician woman ( Matthew 15:21-28). If the man had turned irritably and petulantly away; if he had been too proud to accept a rebuke; if he had given up despairingly on the spot--Jesus would have known that his faith was not real. A man must be in earnest before the help of Christ can come to him.

(iii) Here was a courtier who had faith. It must have been hard for him to turn away and go home with Jesus' assurance that his little lad would live. Nowadays men are beginning to realize the power of thought and of telepathy in such a way that no one would reject this miracle simply because it was wrought at a distance; but it must have been difficult for the courtier. Yet he had faith enough to turn and walk back that twenty mile road with nothing but Jesus' assurance to comfort his heart.

It is of the very essence of faith that we should believe that what Jesus says is true. So often we have a kind of vague, wistful longing that the promises of Jesus should be true. The only way really to enter into them is to believe in them with the clutching intensity of a drowning man. If Jesus says a thing, it is not a case of "It may be true"; it is a case of "It must be true."

(iv) Here was a courtier who surrendered. He was not a man who got out of Christ what he wanted and then went away to forget. He and all his household believed. That would not be easy for him, for the idea of Jesus as the Anointed One of God must have cut across all his preconceived notions. Nor would it be easy at the court of Herod to profess faith in Jesus. He would have mockery and laughter to endure; and no doubt there would be those who thought that he had gone slightly mad.

But this courtier was a man who faced and accepted the facts. He had seen what Jesus could do; he had experienced it; and there was nothing left for it but surrender. He had begun with a sense of desperate need; that need had been supplied; and his sense of need had turned into an overmastering love. That must always be the story of the Christian life.

Most New Testament scholars think that at this point in the Fourth Gospel the chapters have somehow become misplaced. They hold that John 6:1-71 should come before John 5:1-47. The reason is this. John 4:1-54 finishes with Jesus in Galilee ( John 4:54). John 5:1-47 begins with Jesus in Jerusalem. John 6:1-71 again shows us Jesus in Galilee. John 7:1-53 begins with the implication that Jesus had just come into Galilee because of the opposition which he met in Jerusalem. The changes between Jerusalem and Galilee become very difficult to follow. On the other hand John 4:1-54 ( John 4:54) ends: "This the second sign that Jesus did, when he had come from Judaea to Galilee." John 6:1-71 begins ( John 6:1): "After this thing Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee," which would be a natural sequence. John 5:1-47 then shows us Jesus going to Jerusalem for a Feast and meeting with very serious trouble with the Jewish authorities. We are in fact told that from that time they began to persecute him ( John 5:10). Then John 7:1-53 begins by saying that Jesus went about in Galilee and "would not go about in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him" ( John 7:1).

Here we have not altered the order; but we must note that to take John 6:1-71 before John 5:1-47 does give an easier and more natural order of events.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 4:24". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​dsb/​john-4.html. 1956-1959.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

God is a spirit,.... Or "the Spirit is God"; a divine person, possessed of all divine perfections, as appears from his names, works, and worship ascribed unto him; :-; though the Arabic and Persic versions, and others, read as we do, "God is a spirit"; that is, God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: for taking the words in this light, not one of the persons is to be understood exclusive of the other; for this description, or definition, agrees with each of them, and they are all the object of worship, and to be worshipped in a true and spiritual manner. God is a spirit, and not a body, or a corporeal substance: the nature and essence of God is like a spirit, simple and uncompounded, not made up of parts; nor is it divisible; nor does it admit of any change and alteration. God, as a spirit, is immaterial, immortal, invisible, and an intelligent, willing, and active being; but differs from other spirits, in that he is not created, but an immense and infinite spirit, and an eternal one, which has neither beginning nor end: he is therefore a spirit by way of eminency, as well as effectively, he being the author and former of all spirits: whatever excellence is in them, must be ascribed to God in the highest manner; and whatever is imperfect in them, must be removed from him:

and they that worship him; worship is due to him on account of his nature and perfections, both internal and external; with both the bodies and souls of men; and both private and public; in the closet, in the family, and in the church of God; as prayer, praise, attendance on the word and ordinances:

must worship him in spirit and in truth; in the true and spiritual manner before described, which is suitable to his nature, and agreeably to his will.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 4:24". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​geb/​john-4.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Christ at the Well of Samaria.

      4 And he must needs go through Samaria.   5 Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.   6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.   7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.   8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)   9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.   10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.   11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?   12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?   13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:   14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.   15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.   16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither.   17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:   18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.   19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.   20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.   21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.   22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.   23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.   24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.   25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things.   26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.

      We have here an account of the good Christ did in Samaria, when he passed through that country in his way to Galilee. The Samaritans, both in blood and religion, were mongrel Jews, the posterity of those colonies which the king of Assyria planted there after the captivity of the ten tribes, with whom the poor of the land that were left behind, and many other Jews afterwards, incorporated themselves. They worshipped the God of Israel only, to whom they erected a temple on mount Gerizim, in competition with that at Jerusalem. There was great enmity between them and the Jews; the Samaritans would not admit Christ, when they saw he was going to Jerusalem (Luke 9:53); the Jews thought they could not give him a worse name than to say, He is a Samaritan. When the Jews were in prosperity, the Samaritans claimed kindred to them (Ezra 4:2), but, when the Jews were in distress, they were Medes and Persians; see Joseph. Antiq. 11. 340-341; 12. 257. Now observe,

      I. Christ's coming into Samaria. He charged his disciples not to enter into any city of the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5), that is, not to preach the gospel, or work miracles; nor did he here preach publicly, or work any miracle, his eye being to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. What kindness he here did them was accidental; it was only a crumb of the children's bread that casually fell from the master's table.

      1. His road from Judea to Galilee lay through the country of Samaria (John 4:4; John 4:4): He must needs go through Samaria. There was no other way, unless he would have fetched a compass on the other side Jordan, a great way about. The wicked and profane are at present so intermixed with God's Israel that, unless we will go out of the world, we cannot avoid going through the company of such, 1 Corinthians 5:10. We have therefore need of the armour or righteousness on the right hand and on the left, that we may neither give provocation to them nor contract pollution by them. We should not go into places of temptation but when we needs must; and then we should not reside in them, but hasten through them. Some think that Christ must needs go through Samaria because of the good work he had to do there; a poor woman to be converted, a lost sheep to be sought and saved. This was work his heart was upon, the therefore he must needs go this way. It was happy for Samaria that it lay in Christ's way, which gave him an opportunity of calling on them. When I passed by thee, I said unto thee, Live,Ezekiel 16:6.

      2. His baiting place happened to be at a city of Samaria. Now observe,

      (1.) The place described. It was called Sychar; probably the same with Sichem, or Shechem, a place which we read much of in the Old Testament. Thus are the names of places commonly corrupted by tract of time. Shechem yielded the first proselyte that ever came into the church of Israel (Genesis 34:24), and now it is the first place where the gospel is preached out of the commonwealth of Israel; so Dr. Lightfoot observes; as also that the valley of Achor, which was given for a door of hope, hope to the poor Gentiles, ran along by this city, Hosea 2:15. Abimelech was made king here; it was Jeroboam's royal seat; but the evangelist, when he would give us the antiquities of the place, takes notice of Jacob's interest there, which was more its honour than its crowned heads. [1.] Here lay Jacob's ground, the parcel of ground which Jacob gave to his son Joseph, whose bones were buried in it, Genesis 48:22; Joshua 24:32. Probably this is mentioned to intimate that Christ, when he reposed himself hard by here, took occasion from the ground which Jacob gave Joseph to meditate on the good report which the elders by faith obtained. Jerome chose to live in the land of Canaan, that the sight of the places might affect him the more with scripture stories. [2.] Here was Jacob's well which he digged, or at least used, for himself and his family. We find no mention of this well in the Old Testament; but the tradition was that it was Jacob's well.

      (2.) The posture of our Lord Jesus at this place: Being wearied with his journey, he sat thus on the well. We have here our Lord Jesus,

      [1.] Labouring under the common fatigue of travellers. He was wearied with his journey. Though it was yet but the sixth hour, and he had performed but half his day's journey, yet he was weary; or, because it was the sixth hour, the time of the heat of the day, therefore he was weary. Here we see, First, That he was a true man, and subject to the common infirmities of the human nature. Toil came in with sin (Genesis 3:19), and therefore Christ, having made himself a curse for us, submitted to it. Secondly, That he was a poor man, else he might have travelled on horseback or in a chariot. To this instance of meanness and mortification he humbled himself for us, that he went all his journeys on foot. When servants were on horses, princes walked as servants on the earth,Ecclesiastes 10:7. When we are carried easily, let us think on the weariness of our Master. Thirdly, It should seem that he was but a tender man, and not of a robust constitution; it should seem, his disciples were not tired, for they went into the town without any difficulty, when their Master sat down, and could not go a step further. Bodies of the finest mould are most sensible of fatigue, and can worst bear it.

      [2.] We have him here betaking himself to the common relief of travellers; Being wearied, he sat thus on the well. First, He sat on the well, an uneasy place, cold and hard; he had no couch, no easy chair to repose himself in, but took to that which was next hand, to teach us not to be nice and curious in the conveniences of this life, but content with mean things. Secondly, He sat thus, in an uneasy posture; sat carelessly--incuriose et neglectim; or he sat so as people that are wearied with travelling are accustomed to sit.

      II. His discourse with a Samaritan woman, which is here recorded at large, while Christ's dispute with the doctors, and his discourse with Moses and Elias on the mount, are buried in silence. This discourse is reducible to four heads:--

      1. They discourse concerning the water,John 4:7-15; John 4:7-15.

      (1.) Notice is taken of the circumstances that gave occasion to this discourse.

      [1.] There comes a woman of Samaria to draw water. This intimates her poverty, she had no servant to be a drawer of water; and her industry, she would do it herself. See here, First, How God owns and approves of honest humble diligence in our places. Christ was made known to the shepherds when they were keeping their flock. Secondly, How the divine Providence brings about glorious purposes by events which seem to us fortuitous and accidental. This woman's meeting with Christ at the well may remind us of the stories of Rebekah, Rachel, and Jethro's daughter, who all met with husbands, good husbands, no worse than Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, when they came to the wells for water. Thirdly, How the preventing grace of God sometimes brings people unexpectedly under the means of conversion and salvation. He is found of them that sought him not.

      [2.] His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat. Hence learn a lesson, First, Of justice and honesty. The meat Christ ate, he bought and paid for, as Paul, 2 Thessalonians 3:8. Secondly, Of daily dependence upon Providence: Take no thought for the morrow. Christ did not go into the city to eat, but sent his disciples to fetch his meat thither; not because he scrupled eating in a Samaritan city, but, 1. Because he had a good work to do at that well, which might be done while they were catering. It is wisdom to fill up our vacant minutes with that which is good, that the fragments of time may not be lost. Peter, while his dinner was getting ready, fell into a trance, Acts 10:10. 2. Because it was more private and retired, more cheap and homely, to have his dinner brought him hither, than to go into the town for it. Perhaps his purse was low, and he would teach us good husbandry, to spend according to what we have and not go beyond it. At least, he would teach us not to affect great things. Christ could eat his dinner as well upon a draw well as in the best inn in the town. Let us comport with our circumstances. Now this gave Christ an opportunity of discoursing with this woman about spiritual concerns, and he improved it; he often preached to multitudes that crowded after him for instruction, yet here he condescends to teach a single person, a woman, a poor woman, a stranger, a Samaritan, to teach his ministers to do likewise, as those that know what a glorious achievement it is to help to save, though but one soul, from death.

      (2.) Let us observe the particulars of this discourse.

      [1.] Jesus begins with a modest request for a draught of water: Give me to drink. He that for our sakes became poor here becomes a beggar, that those who are in want, and cannot dig, may not be ashamed to beg. Christ asked for it, not only because he needed it, and needed her help to come at it, but because he would draw on further discourse with her, and teach us to be willing to be beholden to the meanest when there is occasion. Christ is still begging in his poor members, and a cup of cold water, like this here, given to them in his name, shall not lose its reward.

      [2.] The woman, though she does not deny his request, yet quarrels with him because he did not carry on the humour of his own nation (John 4:9; John 4:9): How is it? Observe, First, What a mortal feud there was between the Jews and the Samaritans: The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. The Samaritans were the adversaries of Judah (Ezra 4:1), were upon all occasions mischievous to them. The Jews were extremely malicious against the Samaritans, "looked upon them as having no part in the resurrection, excommunicated and cursed them by the sacred name of God, by the glorious writing of the tables, and by the curse of the upper and lower house of judgment, with this law, That no Israelite eat of any thing that is a Samaritan's, for it is as if he should eat swine's flesh." So Dr. Lightfoot, out of Rabbi Tanchum. Note, Quarrels about religion are usually the most implacable of all quarrels. Men were made to have dealing one with another; but if men, because one worships at one temple and another at another, will deny the offices of humanity, and charity, and common civility, will be morose and unnatural, scornful and censorious, and this under colour of zeal for religion, they plainly show that however their religion may be true they are not truly religious; but, pretending to stickle for religion, subvert the design of it. Secondly, How ready the woman was to upbraid Christ with the haughtiness and ill nature of the Jewish nation: How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me? By his dress or dialect, or both, she knew him to be a Jew, and thinks it strange that he runs not to the same excess of riot against the Samaritans with other Jews. Note, Moderate men of all sides are, like Joshua and his fellows (Zechariah 3:8), men wondered at. Two things this woman wonders at, 1. That he should ask this kindness; for it was the pride of the Jews that they would endure any hardship rather than be beholden to a Samaritan. It was part of Christ's humiliation that he was born of the Jewish nation, which was now not only in an ill state, subject to the Romans, but in an ill name among the nations. With what disdain did Pilate ask, Am I a Jew? Thus he made himself not only of no reputation, but of ill reputation; but herein he has set us an example of swimming against the stream of common corruptions. We must, like our master, put on goodness and kindness, though it should be ever so much the genius of our country, or the humour of our party, to be morose and ill-natured. This woman expected that Christ should be as other Jews were; but it is unjust to charge upon every individual person even the common faults of the community: no rule but has some exceptions. 2. She wonders that he should expect to receive this kindness from her that was a Samaritan: "You Jews could deny it to one of our nation, and why should we grant it to one of yours?" Thus quarrels are propagated endlessly by revenge and retaliation.

      [3.] Christ takes this occasion to instruct her in divine things: If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldst have asked,John 4:10; John 4:10. Observe,

      First, He waives her objection of the feud between the Jews and Samaritans, and takes no notice of it. Some differences are best healed by being slighted, and by avoiding all occasions of entering into dispute about them. Christ will convert this woman, not by showing her that the Samaritan worship was schismatical (though really it was so), but by showing her her own ignorance and immoralities, and her need of a Saviour.

      Secondly, He fills her with an apprehension that she had now an opportunity (a fairer opportunity than she was aware of) of gaining that which would be of unspeakable advantage to her. She had not the helps that the Jews had to discern the signs of the times, and therefore Christ tells her expressly that she had now a season of grace; this was the day of her visitation.

      a. He hints to her what she should know, but was ignorant of: If thou knewest the gift of God, that is, as the next words explain it, who it is that saith, Give me to drink. If thou knewest who I am. She saw him to be a Jew, a poor weary traveller; but he would have her know something more concerning him that did yet appear. Note, (a.) Jesus Christ is the gift of God, the richest token of God's love to us, and the richest treasure of all good for us; a gift, not a debt which we could demand from God; not a loan, which he will demand from us again, but a gift, a free gift, John 3:16; John 3:16. (b.) It is an unspeakable privilege to have this gift of God proposed and offered to us; to have an opportunity of embracing it: "He who is the gift of God is now set before thee, and addresses himself to thee; it is he that saith, Give me to drink; this gift comes a begging to thee." (c.) Though Christ is set before us, and sues to us in and by his gospel, yet there are multitudes that know him not. They know not who it is that speaks to them in the gospel, that saith, Give me to drink; they perceive not that it is the Lord that calls them.

      b. He hopes concerning her, what she would have done if she had known him; to be sure she would not have given him such a rude and uncivil answer; nay, she would have been so far from affronting him that she would have made her addresses to him: Thou wouldest have asked. Note, (a.) Those that would have any benefit by Christ must ask for it, must be earnest in prayer to God for it. (b.) Those that have a right knowledge of Christ will seek to him, and if we do not seek unto him it is a sign that we do not know him, Psalms 9:10. (c.) Christ knows what they that want the means of knowledge would have done if they had had them, Matthew 11:21.

      c. He assures her what he would have done for her if she had applied to him: "He would have given thee (and not have upbraided thee as thou doest me) living water." By this living water is meant the Spirit, who is not like the water in the bottom of the well, for some of which he asked, but like living or running water, which was much more valuable. Note, (a.) The Spirit of grace is as living water; see John 7:38; John 7:38. Under this similitude the blessings of the Messiah had been promised in the Old Testament, Isaiah 12:3; Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 44:4; Isaiah 55:1; Zechariah 14:8. The graces of the Spirit, and his comforts, satisfy the thirsting soul, that knows its own nature and necessity. (b.) Jesus Christ can and will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him; for he received that he might give.

      [4.] The woman objects against and cavils at the gracious intimation which Christ gave her (John 4:11; John 4:12): Thou hast nothing to draw with; and besides, Art thou greater than our father Jacob? What he spoke figuratively, she took literally; Nicodemus did so too. See what confused notions they have of spiritual things who are wholly taken up with the things that are sensible. Some respect she pays to this person, in calling him Sir, or Lord; but little respect to what he said, which she does but banter.

      First, She does not think him capable of furnishing her with any water, no, not this in the well that is just at hand: Thou has nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. This she said, not knowing the power of Christ, for he who causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth needs nothing to draw. But there are those who will trust Christ no further than they can see him, and will not believe his promise, unless the means of the performance of it be visible; as if he were tied to our methods, and could not draw water without our buckets. She asks scornfully, "Whence hast thou this living water? I see not whence thou canst have it." Note, The springs of that living water which Christ has for those that come to him are secret and undiscovered. The fountain of life is hid with Christ. Christ has enough for us, though we see not whence he has it.

      Secondly, She does not think it possible that he should furnish her with any better water than this which she could come at, but he could not: Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well?

      a. We will suppose the tradition true, that Jacob himself, and his children, and cattle, did drink of this well. And we may observe from it, (a.) The power and providence of God, in the continuance of the fountains of water from generation to generation, by the constant circulation of the rivers, like the blood in the body (Ecclesiastes 1:7), to which circulation perhaps the flux and reflux of the sea, like the pulses of the heart, contribute. (b.) The plainness of the patriarch Jacob; his drink was water, and he and his children drank of the same well with his cattle.

      b. Yet, allowing that to be true, she was out in several things; as, (a.) In calling Jacob father. What authority had the Samaritans to reckon themselves of the seed of Jacob? They were descended from that mixed multitude which the king of Assyria had placed in the cities of Samaria; what have they to do then with Jacob? Because they were the invaders of Israel's rights, and the unjust possessors of Israel's lands, were they therefore the inheritors of Israel's blood and honour? How absurd were those pretensions! (b.) She is out in claiming this well as Jacob's gift, whereas he did no more give it than Moses gave the manna,John 6:32; John 6:32. But thus we are apt to call the messengers of God's gifts the donors of them, and to look so much at the hands they pass through as to forget the hand they come from. Jacob gave it to his sons, not to them. Yet thus the church's enemies not only usurp, but monopolize, the church's privileges. (c.) She was out in speaking of Christ as not worthy to be compared with our father Jacob. An over-fond veneration for antiquity makes God's graces, in the good people of our own day, to be slighted.

      [5.] Christ answers this cavil, and makes it out that the living water he had to give was far better than that of Jacob's well, John 4:13; John 4:14. Though she spoke perversely, Christ did not cast her off, but instructed and encouraged her. He shows her,

      First, That the water of Jacob's well yielded but a transient satisfaction and supply: "Whoso drinketh of this water shall thirst again. It is no better than other water; it will quench the present thirst, but the thirst will return, and in a few hours a man will have as much need, and as much desire, of water as ever he had." This intimates, 1. The infirmities of our bodies in this present state; they are still necessitous, and ever craving. Life is a fire, a lamp, which will soon go out, without continual supplies of fuel and oil. The natural heat preys upon itself. 2. The imperfections of all our comforts in this world; they are not lasting, nor our satisfaction in them remaining. Whatever waters of comfort we drink of, we shall thirst again. Yesterday's meat and drink will not do to-day's work.

      Secondly, That the living waters he would give should yield a lasting satisfaction and bliss, John 4:14; John 4:14. Christ's gifts appear most valuable when they come to be compared with the things of this world; for there will appear no comparison between them. Whoever partakes of the Spirit of grace, and the comforts of the everlasting gospel,

      a. He shall never thirst, he shall never want that which will abundantly satisfy his soul's desires; they are longing, but not languishing. A desiring thirst he has, nothing more than God, still more and more of God; but not a despairing thirst.

      b. Therefore he shall never thirst, because this water that Christ gives shall be in him a well of water. He can never be reduced to extremity that has in himself a fountain of supply and satisfaction. (a.) Ever ready, for it shall be in him. The principle of grace planted in him is the spring of his comfort; see John 7:38; John 7:38. A good man is satisfied from himself, for Christ dwells in his heart. The anointing abides in him; he needs not sneak to the world for comfort; the work and the witness of the Spirit in the heart furnish him with a firm foundation of hope and an overflowing fountain of joy. (b.) Never failing, for it shall be in him a well of water. He that has at hand only a bucket of water needs not thirst as long as this lasts, but it will soon be exhausted; but believers have in them a well of water, overflowing, ever flowing. The principles and affections which Christ's holy religion forms in the souls of those that are brought under the power of it are this well of water. [a.] It is springing up, ever in motion, which bespeaks the actings of grace strong and vigorous. If good truths stagnate in our souls, like standing water, they do not answer the end of our receiving them. If there be a good treasure in the heart, we must thence bring forth good things. [b.] It is springing up unto everlasting life; which intimates, First, The aims of gracious actings. A sanctified soul has its eye upon heaven, means this, designs this, does all for this, will take up with nothing short of this. Spiritual life springs up towards its own perfection in eternal life. Secondly, The constancy of those actings; it will continue springing up till it come to perfection. Thirdly, The crown of them, eternal life at last. The living water rises from heaven, and therefore rises towards heaven; see Ecclesiastes 1:7. And now is not this water better than that of Jacob's well?

      [6.] The woman (whether in jest or earnest is hard to say) begs of him to give her some of this water (John 4:15; John 4:15): Give me this water, that I thirst not. First, Some think that she speaks tauntingly, and ridicules what Christ had said as mere stuff; and, in derision of it, not desires, but challenges him to give her some of this water: "A rare invention; it will save me a great deal of pains if I never come hither to draw." But, Secondly, Others think that it was a well-meant but weak and ignorant desire. She apprehended that he meant something very good and useful, and therefore saith Amen, at a venture. Whatever it be, let me have it; who will show me any good? Ease, or saving of labour, is a valuable good to poor labouring people. Note, 1. Even those that are weak and ignorant may yet have some faint and fluctuating desires towards Christ and his gifts, and some good wishes of grace and glory. 2. Carnal hearts, in their best wishes, look no higher than carnal ends. "Give it to me," saith she, "not that I may have everlasting life" (which Christ proposed), "but that I come not hither to draw."

      2. The next subject of discourse with this woman in concerning her husband,John 4:16-18; John 4:16-18. It was not to let fall the discourse of the water of life that Christ started this, as many who will bring in any impertinence in conversation that they may drop a serious subject; but it was with a gracious design that Christ mentioned it. What he had said concerning his grace and eternal life he found had made little impression upon her, because she had not been convinced of sin: therefore, waiving the discourse about the living water, he sets himself to awaken her conscience, to open the wound of guilt, and then she would more easily apprehend the remedy by grace. And this is the method of dealing with souls; they must first be made weary and heavy-laden under the burden of sin, and then brought to Christ for rest; first pricked to the heart, and then healed. This is the course of spiritual physic; and if we proceed not in this order we begin at the wrong end.

      Observe, (1.) How discreetly and decently Christ introduces this discourse (John 4:16; John 4:16): Go, call thy husband, and come hither. Now, [1.] The order Christ gave her had a very good colour: "Call thy husband, that he may teach thee, and help thee to understand these things, which thou art so ignorant of" The wives that will learn must ask their husbands (1 Corinthians 14:35), who must dwell with them as men of knowledge,1 Peter 3:7. "Call thy husband, that he may learn with thee; that then you may be heirs together of the grace of life. Call thy husband, that he may be witness to what passes between us." Christ would thus teach us to provide things honest in the sight of all men, and to study that which is of good report. [2.] As it had a good colour, so it had a good design; for hence he would take occasion to call her sin to remembrance. There is need of art and prudence in giving reproofs; to fetch a compass, as the woman of Tekoa, 2 Samuel 14:20.

      (2.) How industriously the woman seeks to evade the conviction, and yet insensibly convicts herself, and, ere she is aware, owns her fault; she said, I have no husband. Her saying this intimated no more than that she did not care to have her husband spoken of, nor that matter mentioned any more. She would not have her husband come thither, lest, in further discourse, the truth of the matter should come out, to her shame; and therefore, "Pray go on to talk of something else, I have no husband;" she would be thought a maid or a widow, whereas, though she had no husband, she was neither. The carnal mind is very ingenious to shift off convictions, and to keep them from fastening, careful to cover the sin.

      (3.) How closely our Lord Jesus brings home the conviction to her conscience. It is probable that he said more than is here recorded, for she thought that he told her all that ever she did (John 4:29; John 4:29), but that which is here recorded is concerning her husbands. Here is, [1.] A surprising narrative of her past conversation: Thou has had five husbands. Doubtless, it was not her affliction (the burying of so many husbands), but her sin, that Christ intended to upbraid her with; either she had eloped (as the law speaks), had run away from her husbands, and married others, or by her undutiful, unclean, disloyal conduct, had provoked them to divorce her, or by indirect means had, contrary to law, divorced them. Those who make light of such scandalous practices as these, as no more than nine days' wonder, and as if the guilt were over as soon as the talk is over, should remember that Christ keeps account of all. [2.] A severe reproof of her present state of life: He whom thou now hast is not thy husband. Either she was never married to him at all, or he had some other wife, or, which is most probable, her former husband or husbands were living: so that, in short, she lived in adultery. Yet observe how mildly Christ tells her of it; he doth not call her strumpet, but tells her, He with whom thou livest is not thy husband: and then leaves it to her own conscience to say the rest. Note, Reproofs are ordinarily most profitable when they are least provoking. [3.] Yet in this he puts a better construction than it would well bear upon what she said by way of shuffle and evasion: Thou has well said I have no husband; and again, In that saidst thou truly. What she intended as a denial of the fact (that she had none with whom she lived as a husband) he favourably interpreted, or at least turned upon her, as a confession of the fault. Note, Those who would win souls should make the best of them, whereby they may hope to work upon their good-nature; for, if they make the worst of them, they certainly exasperate their ill-nature.

      3. The next subject of discourse with this woman is concerning the place of worship,John 4:19-24; John 4:19-24. Observe,

      (1.) A case of conscience proposed to Christ by the woman, concerning the place of worship, John 4:19; John 4:20.

      [1.] The inducement she had to put this case: Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. She does not deny the truth of what he had charged her with, but by her silence owns the justice of the reproof; nor is she put into a passion by it, as many are when they are touched in a sore place, does not impute his censure to the general disgust the Jews had to the Samaritans, but (which is a rare thing) can bear to be told of a fault. But this is not all; she goes further: First, She speaks respectfully to him, calls him Sir. Thus should we honour those that deal faithfully with us. This was the effect of Christ's meekness in reproving her; he gave her no ill language, and then she gave him none. Secondly, She acknowledges him to be a prophet, one that had a correspondence with Heaven. Note, The power of the word of Christ in searching the heart, and convincing the conscience of secret sins, is a great proof of its divine authority, 1 Corinthians 14:24; 1 Corinthians 14:25. Thirdly, She desires some further instruction from him. Many that are not angry at their reprovers, nor fly in their faces, yet are afraid of them and keep out of their way; but this woman was willing to have some more discourse with him that told her of her faults.

      [2.] The case itself that she propounded concerning the place of religious worship in public. Some think that she started this to shift off further discourse concerning her sin. Controversies in religion often prove great prejudices to serious godliness; but, it should seem, she proposed it with a good design; she knew she must worship God, and desired to do it aright; and therefore, meeting with a prophet, begs his direction. Note, It is our wisdom to improve all opportunities of getting knowledge in the things of God. When we are in company with those that are fit to teach, let us be forward to learn, and have a good question ready to put to those who are able to give a good answer. It was agreed between the Jews and the Samaritans that God is to be worshipped (even those who were such fools as to worship false gods were not such brutes as to worship none), and that religious worship is an affair of great importance: men would not contend about it if they were not concerned about it. But the matter in variance was where they should worship God. Observe how she states the case:--

      First, As for the Samaritans: Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, near to this city and this well; there the Samaritan temple was built by Sanballat, in favour of which she insinuates, 1. That whatever the temple was the place was holy; it was mount Gerizim, the mount in which the blessings were pronounced; and some think the same on which Abraham built his altar (Genesis 12:6; Genesis 12:7), and Jacob his, Genesis 33:18-20. 2. That it might plead prescription: Our fathers worshipped here. She thinks they have antiquity, tradition, and succession, on their side. A vain conversation often supports itself with this, that it was received by tradition from our fathers. But she had little reason to boast of their fathers; for, when Antiochus persecuted the Jews, the Samaritans, for fear of sharing with them in their sufferings, not only renounced all relation to the Jews, but surrendered their temple to Antiochus, with a request that it might be dedicated to Jupiter Olympius, and called by his name. Joseph. Antiq. 12. 257-264.

      Secondly, As to the Jews: You say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. The Samaritans governed themselves by the five books of Moses, and (some think) received only them as canonical. Now, though they found frequent mention there of the place God would choose, yet they did not find it named there; and they saw the temple at Jerusalem stripped of many of its ancient glories, and therefore thought themselves at liberty to set up another place, altar against altar.

      (2.) Christ's answer to this case of conscience, John 4:21; John 4:21, c. Those that apply themselves to Christ for instruction shall find him meek, to teach the meek his way. Now here,

      [1.] He puts a slight upon the question, as she had proposed it, concerning the place of worship (John 4:21; John 4:21): "Woman, believe me as a prophet, and mark what I say. Thou art expecting the hour to come when either by some divine revelation, or some signal providence, this matter shall be decided in favour either of Jerusalem or of Mount Gerizim; but I tell thee the hour is at hand when it shall be no more a question; that which thou has been taught to lay so much weight on shall be set aside as a thing indifferent." Note, It should cool us in our contests to think that those things which now fill us, and which we make such a noise about, shall shortly vanish, and be no more: the very things we are striving about are passing away: The hour comes when you shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. First, The object of worship is supposed to continue still the same--God, as a Father; under this notion the very heathen worshipped God, the Jews did so, and probably the Samaritans. Secondly, But a period shall be put to all niceness and all differences about the place of worship. The approaching dissolution of the Jewish economy, and the erecting of the evangelical state, shall set this matter at large, and lay all in common, so that it shall be a thing perfectly indifferent whether in either of these places or any other men worship God, for they shall not be tied to any place; neither here nor there, but both, and any where, and every where. Note, The worship of God is not now, under the gospel, appropriated to any place, as it was under the law, but it is God's will that men pray every where. 1 Timothy 2:8; Malachi 1:11. Our reason teaches us to consult decency and convenience in the places of our worship: but our religion gives no preference to one place above another, in respect to holiness and acceptableness to God. Those who prefer any worship merely for the sake of the house or building in which it is performed (though it were as magnificent and as solemnly consecrated as ever Solomon's temple was) forget that the hour is come when there shall be no difference put in God's account: no, not between Jerusalem, which had been so famous for sanctity, and the mountain of Samaria, which had been so infamous for impiety.

      [2.] He lays a stress upon other things, in the matter of religious worship. When he made so light of the place of worship he did not intend to lessen our concern about the thing itself, of which therefore he takes occasion to discourse more fully.

      First, As to the present state of the controversy, he determines against the Samaritan worship, and in favour of the Jews, John 4:22; John 4:22. He tells here, 1. That the Samaritans were certainly in the wrong; not merely because they worshipped in this mountain, though, while Jerusalem's choice was in force, that was sinful, but because they were out in the object of their worship. If the worship itself had been as it should have been, its separation from Jerusalem might have been connived at, as the high places were in the best reigns: But you worship you know not what, or that which you do not know. They worshipped the God of Israel, the true God (Ezra 4:2; 2 Kings 17:32); but they were sunk into gross ignorance; they worshipped him as the God of that land (2 Kings 17:27; 2 Kings 17:33), as a local deity, like the gods of the nations, whereas God must be served as God, as the universal cause and Lord. Note, Ignorance is so far from being the mother of devotion that it is the murderer of it. Those that worship God ignorantly offer the blind for sacrifice, and it is the sacrifice of fools. 2. That the Jews were certainly in the right. For, (1.) "We know what we worship. We go upon sure grounds in our worship, for our people are catechised and trained up in the knowledge of God, as he has revealed himself in the scripture." Note, Those who by the scriptures have obtained some knowledge of God (a certain though not a perfect knowledge) may worship him comfortably to themselves, and acceptably to him, for they know what they worship. Christ elsewhere condemns the corruptions of the Jews' worship (Matthew 15:9), and yet here defends the worship itself; the worship may be true where yet it is not pure and entire. Observe, Our Lord Jesus was pleased to reckon himself among the worshippers of God: We worship. Though he was a Son (and then are the children free), yet learned he this obedience, in the days of his humiliation. Let not the greatest of men think the worship of God below them, when the Son of God himself did not. (2.) Salvation is of the Jews; and therefore they know what they worship, and what grounds they go upon in their worship. Not that all the Jews were saved, nor that it was not possible but that many of the Gentiles and Samaritans might be saved, for in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of him; but, [1.] The author of eternal salvation comes of the Jews, appears among them (Romans 9:5), and is sent first to bless them. [2.] The means of eternal salvation are afforded to them. The word of salvation (Acts 13:26) was of the Jews. It was delivered to them, and other nations derived it through them. This was a sure guide to them in their devotions, and they followed it, and therefore knew what they worshipped. To them were committed the oracles of God (Romans 3:2), and the service of God, (Romans 9:4). The Jews therefore being thus privileged and advanced, it was presumption for the Samaritans to vie with them.

      Secondly, He describes the evangelical worship which alone God would accept and be well pleased with. Having shown that the place is indifferent, he comes to show what is necessary and essential--that we worship God in spirit and in truth,John 4:23; John 4:24. The stress is not to be laid upon the place where we worship God, but upon the state of mind in which we worship him. Note, The most effectual way to take up differences in the minor matters of religion is to be more zealous in the greater. Those who daily make it the matter of their care to worship in the spirit, one would think, should not make it the matter of their strife whether he should be worshipped here or there. Christ had justly preferred the Jewish worship before the Samaritan, yet here he intimates the imperfection of that. The worship was ceremonial,Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:10. The worshippers were generally carnal, and strangers to the inward part of divine worship. Note, It is possible that we may be better than our neighbours, and yet not so good as we should be. It concerns us to be right, not only in the object of our worship, but in the manner of it; and it is this which Christ here instructs us in. Observe,

      a. The great and glorious revolution which should introduce this change: The hour cometh, and now is--the fixed stated time, concerning which it was of old determined when it should come, and how long it should last. The time of its appearance if fixed to an hour, so punctual and exact are the divine counsels; the time of its continuance is limited to an hour, so close and pressing is the opportunity of divine grace, 2 Corinthians 6:2. This hour cometh, it is coming in its full strength, lustre, and perfection, it now is in the embryo and infancy. The perfect day is coming, and now it dawns.

      b. The blessed change itself. In gospel times the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. As creatures, we worship the Father of all: as Christians, we worship the Father of our Lord Jesus. Now the change shall be, (a.) In the nature of the worship. Christians shall worship God, not in the ceremonial observances of the Mosaic institution, but in spiritual ordinances, consisting less in bodily exercise, and animated and invigorated more with divine power and energy. The way of worship which Christ has instituted is rational and intellectual, and refined from those external rites and ceremonies with which the Old-Testament worship was both clouded and clogged. This is called true worship, in opposition to that which was typical. The legal services were figures of the true,Hebrews 9:3; Hebrews 9:24. Those that revolted from Christianity to Judaism are said to begin in the spirit, and end in the flesh,Galatians 3:3. Such was the difference between Old-Testament and New-Testament institutions. (b.) In the temper and disposition of the worshippers; and so the true worshippers are good Christians, distinguished from hypocrites; all should, and they will, worship God in spirit and in truth. It is spoken of (John 4:23; John 4:23) as their character, and (John 4:24; John 4:24) as their duty. Note, It is required of all that worship God that they worship him in spirit and in truth. We must worship God, [a.] In spirit,Philippians 3:3. We must depend upon God's Spirit for strength and assistance, laying our souls under his influences and operations; we must devote our own spirits to, and employ them in, the service of God (Romans 1:9), must worship him with fixedness of thought and a flame of affection, with all that is within us. Spirit is sometimes put for the new nature, in opposition to the flesh, which is the corrupt nature; and so to worship God with our spirits is to worship him with our graces,Hebrews 12:28. [b.] In truth, that is, in sincerity. God requires not only the inward part in our worship, but truth in the inward part,Psalms 51:6. We must mind the power more than the form, must aim at God's glory, and not to be seen of men; draw near with a true heart,Hebrews 10:22.

      Thirdly, He intimates the reasons why God must be thus worshipped.

      a. Because in gospel times they, and they only, are accounted the true worshippers. The gospel erects a spiritual way of worship, so that the professors of the gospel are not true in their profession, do not live up to gospel light and laws, if they do not worship God in spirit and in truth.

      b. Because the Father seeketh such worshippers of him. This intimates, (a.) That such worshippers are very rare, and seldom met with, Jeremiah 30:21. The gate of spiritual worshipping is strait. (b.) That such worship is necessary, and what the God of heaven insists upon. When God comes to enquire for worshippers, the question will not be, "Who worshipped at Jerusalem?" but, "Who worshipped in spirit?" That will be the touchstone. (c.) That God is greatly well pleased with and graciously accepts such worship and such worshippers. I have desired it,Psalms 132:13; Psalms 132:14; Song of Solomon 2:14. (d.) That there has been, and will be to the end, a remnant of such worshippers; his seeking such worshippers implies his making them such. God is in all ages gathering in to himself a generation of spiritual worshippers.

      c. Because God is a spirit. Christ came to declare God to us (John 1:18; John 1:18), and this he has declared concerning him; he declared it to this poor Samaritan woman, for the meanest are concerned to know God; and with this design, to rectify her mistakes concerning religious worship, to which nothing would contribute more than the right knowledge of God. Note, (a.) God is a spirit, for he is an infinite and eternal mind, an intelligent being, incorporeal, immaterial, invisible, and incorruptible. It is easier to say what God is not than what he is; a spirit has not flesh and bones, but who knows the way of a spirit? If God were not a spirit, he could not be perfect, nor infinite, nor eternal, nor independent, nor the Father of spirits. (b.) The spirituality of the divine nature is a very good reason for the spirituality of divine worship. If we do not worship God, who is a spirit, in the spirit, we neither give him the glory due to his name, and so do not perform the act of worship, nor can we hope to obtain his favour and acceptance, and so we miss of the end of worship, Matthew 15:8; Matthew 15:9.

      4. The last subject of discourse with this woman is concerning the Messiah, John 4:25; John 4:26. Observe here,

      (1.) The faith of the woman, by which she expected the Messiah: I know that Messias cometh--and he will tell us all things. She had nothing to object against what Christ had said; his discourse was, for aught she knew, what might become the Messiah then expected; but from him she would receive it, and in the mean time she thinks it best to suspend her belief. Thus many have no heart to the price in their hand (Proverbs 17:16), because they think they have a better in their eye, and deceive themselves with a promise that they will learn that hereafter which they neglect now. Observe here,

      [1.] Whom she expects: I know that Messias cometh. The Jews and Samaritans, though so much at variance, agreed in the expectation of the messiah and his kingdom. The Samaritans received the writings of Moses, and were no strangers to the prophets, nor to the hopes of the Jewish nation; those who knew least knew this, that Messias was to come; so general and uncontested was the expectation of him, and at this time more raised than ever (for the sceptre was departed from Judah, Daniel's weeks were near expiring), so that she concludes not only, He will come, but erchetai--"He comes, he is just at hand:" Messias, who is called Christ. The evangelist, though he retains the Hebrew word Messias (which the woman used) in honour to the holy language, and to the Jewish church, that used it familiarly, yet, writing for the use of the Gentiles, he takes care to render it by a Greek word of the same signification, who is called Christ-Anointed, giving an example to the apostle's rule, that whatever is spoken in an unknown or less vulgar tongue should be interpreted,1 Corinthians 14:27; 1 Corinthians 14:28.

      [2.] What she expects from him: "He will tell us all things relating to the service of God which it is needful for us to know, will tell us that which will supply our defects, rectify our mistakes, and put an end to all our disputes. He will tell us the mind of God fully and clearly, and keep back nothing." Now this implies an acknowledgement, First, Of the deficiency and imperfection of the discovery they now had of the divine will, and the rule they had of the divine worship; it could not make the comers thereunto perfect, and therefore they expected some great advance and improvement in matters of religion, a time of reformation. Secondly, Of the sufficiency of the Messiah to make this change: "He will tell us all things which we want to know, and about which we wrangle in the dark. He will introduce peace, by leading us into all truth, and dispelling the mists of error." It seems, this was the comfort of good people in those dark times that light would arise; if they found themselves at a loss, and run aground, it was a satisfaction to them to say, When Messias comes, he will tell us all things; as it may be to us now with reference to his second coming: now we see through a glass, but then face to face.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on John 4:24". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​mhm/​john-4.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The opening verses (John 1:1-18) introduce the most glorious subject which God Himself ever gave in employing the pen of man; not only the most glorious in point of theme, but in the profoundest point of view; for what the Holy Ghost here brings before us is the Word, the everlasting, Word, when He was with God, traced down from before all time, when there was no creature. It is not exactly the Word with the Father; for such a phrase would not be according to the exactness of the truth; but the Word with God. The term God comprehends not only the Father, but the Holy Ghost also. He who was the Son of the Father then, as I need not say always, is regarded here as the revealer of God; for God, as such, does not reveal Himself. He makes His, nature known by the Word. The Word, nevertheless, is here spoken of before there was any one for God to reveal Himself to. He is, therefore, and in the strictest sense, eternal. "In the beginning was the Word," when there was no reckoning of time; for the beginning of what we call time comes before us in the third verse. "All things," it is said, "were made by Him." This is clearly the origination of all creaturehood, wherever and whatever it be. Heavenly beings there were before the earthly; but whether no matter of whom you speak, or of, what angels or men, whether heaven or earth, all things were made by Him.

Thus He, whom we know to be the Son of the Father, is here presented as the Word who subsisted personally in the beginning ( ἐν ἀρχῆ ) who was with God, and was Himself God of the same nature, yet a distinct personal being. To clench this matter specially against all reveries of Gnostics or others, it is added, that He was in the beginning with God.* Observe another thing: "The Word was with God" not the Father. As the Word and God, so the Son and the Father are correlative. We are here in the exactest phrase, and at the same time in the briefest terms, brought into the presence of the deepest conceivable truths which God,. alone knowing, alone could communicate to man. Indeed, it is He alone who gives the truth; for this is not the bare knowledge of such or such facts, whatever the accuracy of the information. Were all things conveyed with the most admirable correctness, it would not amount to divine revelation. Such a communication would still differ, not in degree only, but in kind. A revelation from God not only supposes true statements, but God's mind made known so as to act morally on man, forming his thoughts and affections according to His own character. God makes Himself known in what He communicates by, of, and in Christ.

* I cannot but regard John 1:2 as a striking and complete setting aside of the Alexandrian and Patristic distinction of λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and λόγος προφορικός . Some of the earlier Greek fathers, who were infected with Platonism, held that the λόγος was conceived in God's mind from eternity, and only uttered, as it were, in time. This has given a handle to Arians, who, like other unbelievers, greedily seek the traditions of men. The apostle here asserts, in the Holy Ghost, the eternal personality of the Word with God.

In the case before us, nothing can be more obvious than that the Holy Ghost, for the glory of God, is undertaking to make known that which touches the Godhead in the closest way, and is meant for infinite blessing to all in the person of the Lord Jesus. These verses accordingly begin with Christ our Lord; not from, but in the beginning, when nothing was yet created. It is the eternity of His being, in no point of which could it be said He was not, but, contrariwise, that He was. Yet was He not alone. God was there not the Father only, but the Holy Ghost, beside the Word Himself, who was God, and had divine nature as they.

Again, it is not said that in the beginning He was, in the sense of then coming into being ( ἐγένετο ), but He existed ( ἦν ). Thus before all time the Word was. When the great truth of the incarnation is noted in verse 14, it is said not that the Word came into existence, but that He was made ( ἐγένετο ) flesh began so to be. This, therefore, so much the more contrasts with verses 1 and 2.

In the beginning, then, before there was any creature, was the Word, and the Word was with God. There was distinct personality in the Godhead, therefore, and the Word was a distinct person Himself (not, as men dreamt, an emanation in time, though eternal and divine in nature, proceeding from God as its source). The Word had a proper personality, and at the same time was God "the Word was God." Yea, as the next verse binds and sums up all together, He, the Word, was in the beginning with God. The personality was as eternal as the existence, not in (after some mystic sort) but with God. I can conceive no statement more admirably complete and luminous in the fewest and simplest words.

Next comes the attributing of creation to the Word. This must be the work of God, if anything was; and here again the words are precision itself "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made." Other words far less nervous are used elsewhere: unbelief might cavil and construe them into forming or fashioning. Here the Holy Ghost employs the most explicit language, that all things began to be, or received being, through the Word, to the exclusion of one single thing that ever did receive being apart from Him language which leaves the fullest room for Uncreate Beings, as we have already seen, subsisting eternally and distinctly, yet equally God. Thus the statement is positive that the Word is the source of all things which have received being ( γενόμενα ); that there is no creature which did not thus derive its being from Him. There cannot, therefore, be a more rigid, absolute shutting out of any creature from origination, save by the Word.

It is true that in other parts of Scripture we hear God, as such, spoken of as Creator. We hear of His making the worlds by the Son. But there is and can be no contradiction in Scripture. The truth is, that whatever was made was made according to the Father's sovereign will; but the Son, the Word of God, was the person who put forth the power, and never without the energy of the Holy Ghost, I may add, as the Bible carefully teaches us. Now this is of immense importance for that which the Holy Ghost has in view in the gospel of John, because the object is to attest the nature and light of God in the person of the Christ; and therefore we have here not merely what the Lord Jesus was as born of a woman, born under the law, which has its appropriate place in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but what He was and is as God. On the other hand, the gospel of Mark omits every thing of the kind. A genealogy such as Matthew's and Luke's, we have seen, would be totally out of place there; and the reason is manifest. The subject of Mark is the testimony of Jesus as having taken, though a Son, the place of a servant in the earth. Now, in a servant, no matter from what noble lineage he comes, there is no genealogy requisite. What is wanted in a servant is, that the work should be done well, no matter about the genealogy. Thus, even if it were the Son of God Himself, so perfectly did He condescend to the condition of a servant, and so mindful was the Spirit of it, that, accordingly, the genealogy which was demanded in Matthew, which is of such signal beauty and value in Luke, is necessarily excluded from the gospel of Mark. For higher reasons it could have no place in John. In Mark it is because of the lowly place of subjection which the Lord was pleased to take; it is excluded from John, on the contrary, because there He is presented as being above all genealogy . He is the source of other people's genealogy yea, of the genesis of all things. We may say therefore boldly, that in the gospel of John such a descent could not be inserted in consistency with its character. If it admit any genealogy, it must be what is set forth in the preface of John the very verses which are occupying us which exhibit the divine nature and eternal personality of His being. He was the Word, and He was God; and, if we may anticipate, let us add, the Son, the only begotten Son of the Father. This, if any thing, is His genealogy here. The ground is evident; because everywhere in John He is God. No doubt the Word became flesh, as we may see more of presently, even in this inspired introduction; and we have the reality of His becoming man insisted on. Still, manhood was a place that He entered. Godhead was the glory that He possessed from everlasting His own eternal nature of being. It was not conferred upon Him. There is not, nor can be, any such thing as a derived subordinate Godhead; though men may be said to be gods, as commissioned of God, and representing Him in government. He was God before creation began, before all time. He was God independently of any circumstances. Thus, as we have seen, for the Word the apostle John claims eternal existence, distinct personality, and divine nature; and withal asserts the eternal distinctness of that person. (Verses John 1:1-2)

Such is the Word Godward ( πρὸς τὸν Θεόν ). We are next told of Him in relation to the creature. (Verses John 1:3-5) In the earlier verses it was exclusively His being. In verse 3 He acts, He creates, He causes all things to come into existence; and apart from Him not one thing came into existence which is existent ( γέγονεν ). Nothing more comprehensive, nothing more exclusive.

The next verse (John 1:4) predicts of Him that which is yet more momentous: not creative power, as in verse 3, but life. "In him was life." Blessed truth for those who know the spread of death over this lower scene of creation! and the rather as the Spirit adds, that "the life was the light of men." Angels were not its sphere, nor was it restricted to a chosen nation: "the life was the light of men." Life was not in man, even unfallen; at best, the first man, Adam, became a living soul when instinct with the breath of God. Nor is it ever said, even of a saint, that in him is or was life, though life he has; but he has it only in the Son. In Him, the Word, was life, and the life was the light of men. Such was its relationship.

No doubt, whatever was revealed of old was of Him; whatever word came out from God was from Him, the Word, and light of men. But then God was not revealed; for He was not manifested. On the contrary, He dwelt in the thick darkness, behind the veil in the most holy place, or visiting men but angelically otherwise. But here, we are told, "the light shines in the darkness." (Ver. John 1:5) Mark the abstractedness of the language it "shines" (not shone). How solemn, that darkness is all the light finds! and what darkness! how impenetrable and hopeless! All other darkness yields and fades away before light; but here "the darkness comprehended it not" (as the fact is stated, and not the abstract principle only). It was suited to man, even as it was the light expressly of men, so that man is without excuse.

But was there adequate care that the light should be presented to men? What was the way taken to secure this? Unable God could not be: was He indifferent? God gave testimony; first, John the Baptist; then the Light itself. "There was ( ἐγένετο ) a man sent from God, whose name was John." (v. John 1:6) He passes by all the prophets, the various preliminary dealings of the Lord, the shadows of the law: not even the promises are noticed here. We shall find some of these introduced or alluded to for a far different purpose later on. John, then, came to bear witness about the Light, that all through him might believe. (Verse John 1:7) But the Holy Ghost is most careful to guard against all mistake. Could any run too close a parallel between the light of men in the Word, and him who is called the burning and shining lamp in a subsequent chapter? Let them learn their error. He, John, "was not that light;" there is but one such: none was similar or second. God cannot be compared with man. John came "that he might bear witness about the light," not to take its place or set himself up. The true Light was that which, coming into the world, lighteth every man.* Not only does He necessarily, as being God, deal with every man (for His glory could not be restricted to a part of mankind), but the weighty truth here announced is the connection with His incarnation of this universal light, or revelation of God in Him, to man as such. The law, as we know from elsewhere, had dealt with the Jewish people temporarily, and for partial purposes. This was but a limited sphere. Now that the Word comes into the world, in one way or another light shines for every one: it may be, leaving some under condemnation, as we know it does for the great mass who believe not; it may be light not only on but in man, where there is faith through the action of divine grace. It is certain that, whatever light in relation to God there may be, and wherever it is given in Him, there is not, there never was, spiritual light apart from Christ all else is darkness. It could not be otherwise. This light in its own character must go out to all from God. So it is said elsewhere, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared." It is not that all men receive the blessing; but, in its proper scope and nature, it addresses itself to all. God sends it for all. Law may govern one nation; grace refuses to be limited in its appeal, however it may be in fact through man's unbelief.

*I cannot but think that this is the true version, and exhibits the intended aim of the clause. Most of the early writers took it as the authorized version, save Theodore of Mopsuestia, who understood it as here given: Εἰπὼν τὸ · ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κοσμον , περὶ τοῦ δεσπότου Χριστοῦ καλως ἐπήγαγεν τὸ · ἐν τῳ κοσμῳ ἦν , ὥστε δεῖξαι , ὅτι τὸ ἐρχόμενον πρὸς την διὰ σαρκὸς εἶπεν φανέρωσιν . (Ed. Fritzsche, p. 21)

"He was in the world, and the world was made by him." (Verse John 1:9) The world therefore surely ought to have known its Maker. Nay, "the world knew him not." From the very first, man, being a sinner, was wholly lost. Here the unlimited scene is in view; not Israel, but the world. Nevertheless, Christ did come to His own things, His proper, peculiar possession; for there were special relationships. They should have understood more about Him those that were specially favoured. It was not so.

"He came unto his own [things], and his own [people] received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power [rather, authority, right, or title] to become children of God." (Ver. John 1:11-12; John 1:11-12) It was not a question now of Jehovah and His servants. Neither does the Spirit say exactly as the English Bible says "sons," but children. His glorious person would have none now in relation to God but members of the family. Such was the grace that God was displaying in Him, the true and full expresser of His mind. He gave them title to take the place of children of God, even to those that believe on His name. Sons they might have been in bare title; but these had the right of children.

All disciplinary action, every probationary process, disappears. The ignorance of the world has been proved, the rejection of Israel is complete: then only is it that we hear of this new place of children. It is now eternal reality, and the name of Jesus Christ is that which puts all things to a final test. There is difference of manner for the world and His own ignorance and rejection. Do any believe on His name? Be they who they may now, as many as receive Him become children of God. It is no question here of every man, but of such as believe. Do they receive Him not? For them, Israel, or the world, all is over. Flesh and world are judged morally. God the Father forms a new family in, by, and for Christ. All others prove not only that they are bad, but that they hate perfect goodness, and more than that, life and light the true light in the Word. How can such have relationship with God?

Thus, manifestly, the whole question is terminated at the very starting-point of our gospel; and this is characteristic of John all through: manifestly all is decided. It is not merely a Messiah, who comes and offers Himself, as we find in other gospels, with most painstaking diligence, and presented to their responsibility; but here from the outset the question is viewed as closed. The Light, on coming into the world, lightens every man with the fulness of evidence which was in Him, and at once discovers the true state as truly as it will be revealed in the last day when He judges all, as we find it intimated in the gospel afterwards. (John 12:48)

Before the manner of His manifestation comes before us in verse 14, we have the secret explained why some, and not all, received Christ. It was not that they were better than their neighbours. Natural birth had nothing to do with this new thing; it was a new nature altogether in those who received Him: "Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." It was an extraordinary birth; of God, not man in any sort, or measure, but a new and divine nature (2 Peter 1:1-21) imparted to the believer wholly of grace. All this, however, was abstract, whether as to the nature of the Word or as to the place of the Christian.

But it is important we should know how He entered the world. We have seen already that thus light was shed on men. How was this? The Word, in order to accomplish these infinite things, "was made. ( ἐγένετο ) flesh, and dwelt among us." It is here we learn in what condition of His person God was to be revealed and the work done; not what He was in nature, but what He became. The great fact of the incarnation is brought before us "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father"). His aspect as thus tabernacling among the disciples was "full of grace and truth." Observe, that blessed as the light is, being God's moral nature, truth is more than this, and is introduced by grace. It is the revelation of God yea, of the Father and the Son, and not merely the detecter of man. The Son had not come to execute the judgments of the law they knew, nor even to promulgate a new and higher law. His was an errand incomparably deeper, more worthy of God, and suitable to One "full of grace and truth." He wanted nothing; He came to give yea, the very best, so to speak, that God has.

What is there in God more truly divine than grace and truth? The incarnate Word was here full of grace and truth. Glory would be displayed in its day. Meanwhile there was a manifestation of goodness, active in love in the midst of evil, and toward such; active in the making known God and man, and every moral relation, and what He is toward man, through and in the Word made flesh. This is grace and truth. And such was Jesus. "John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This is he of whom I spake: He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for he was before me." Coming after John as to date, He is necessarily preferred before him in dignity; for He was ( ἦν ) [not come into being ( ἐγένετο )] before Him. He was God. This statement (verse John 1:15) is a parenthesis, though confirmatory of verse John 1:14, and connects John's testimony with this new section of Christ's manifestation in flesh; as we saw John introduced in the earlier verses, which treated abstractly of Christ's nature as the Word.

Then, resuming the strain of verse John 1:14, we are told, in verseJohn 1:16; John 1:16, that "of his fulness have all we received." So rich and transparently divine was the grace: not some souls, more meritorious than the rest, rewarded according to a graduated scale of honour, but "of his fulness have all we received." What can be conceived more notably standing out in contrast with the governmental system God had set up, and man had known in times past? Here there could not be more, and He would not give less: even "grace upon grace." Spite of the most express signs, and the manifest finger of God that wrote the ten words on tables of stone, the law sinks into comparative insignificance. "The law was given by Moses." God does not here condescend to call it His, though, of course, it was His and holy, just, and good, both in itself and in its use, if used lawfully. But if the Spirit speaks of the Son of God, the law dwindles at once into the smallest possible proportions: everything yields to the honour the Father puts oil the Son. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came ( ἐγένετο ) by Jesus Christ." (ver. John 1:17; John 1:17) The law, thus given, was in itself no giver, but an exacter; Jesus, full of grace and truth, gave, instead of requiring or receiving; and He Himself has said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Truth and grace were not sought nor found in man, but began to subsist here below by Jesus Christ.

We have now the Word made flesh, called Jesus Christ this person, this complex person, that was manifest in the world; and it is He that brought it all in. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Lastly, closing this part, we have another most remarkable contrast. "No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son," etc. Now, it is no longer a question of nature, but of relationship; and hence it is not said simply the Word, but the Son, and the Son in the highest possible character, the only-begotten Son, distinguishing Him thus from any other who might, in a subordinate sense, be son of God "the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father." Observe: not which was, but "which is." He is viewed as retaining the same perfect intimacy with the Father, entirely unimpaired by local or any other circumstances He had entered. Nothing in the slightest degree detracted from His own personal glory, and from the infinitely near relationship which He had had with the Father from all eternity. He entered this world, became flesh, as born of woman; but there was no diminution of His own glory, when He, born of the virgin, walked on earth, or when rejected of man, cut off as Messiah, He was forsaken of God for sin our sin on the cross. Under all changes, outwardly, He abode as from eternity the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. Mark what, as such, He does declare Him. No man hath seen God at any time. He could be declared only by One who was a divine person in the intimacy of the Godhead, yea, was the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. Hence the Son, being in this ineffable nearness of love, has declared not God only, but the Father. Thus we all not only receive of His fulness, (and what fulness illimitable was there not in Him!) but He, who is the Word made flesh, is the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, and so competent to declare, as in fact He has. It is not only the nature, but the model and fulness of the blessing in the Son, who declared the Father.

The distinctiveness of such a testimony to the Saviour's glory need hardly be pointed out. One needs no more than to read, as believers, these wonderful expressions of the Holy Ghost, where we cannot but feel that we are on ground wholly different from that of the other gospels. Of course they are just as truly inspired as John's; but for that very reason they were not inspired to give the same testimony. Each had his own; all are harmonious, all perfect, all divine; but not all so many repetitions of the same thing. He who inspired them to communicate His thoughts of Jesus in the particular line assigned to each, raised up John to impart the highest revelation, and thus complete the circle by the deepest views of the Son of God.

After this we have, suitably to this gospel, John's connection with the Lord Jesus. (ver. John 1:19-37; John 1:19-37) It is here presented historically. We have had his name introduced into each part of the preface of our evangelist. Here there is no John proclaiming Jesus as the One who was about to introduce the kingdom of heaven. Of this we learn nothing, here. Nothing is said about the fan in His hand; nothing of His burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. This is all perfectly true, of course; and we have it elsewhere. His earthly rights are just where they should be; but not here, where the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father has His appropriate place. It is not John's business here to call attention to His Messiahship, not even when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask, Who art thou? Nor was it from any indistinctness in the record, or in him who gave it. For "he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? (ver. John 1:20-25) John does not even speak of Him as one who, on His rejection as Messiah, would step into a larger glory. To the Pharisees, indeed, his words as to the Lord are curt: nor does he tell them of the divine ground of His glory, as he had before and does after.* He says, One was among them of whom they had no conscious knowledge, "that cometh after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose." (Ver. John 1:26-27; John 1:26-27) For himself he was not the Christ, but for Jesus he says no more. How striking the omission! for he knew He was the Christ. But here it was not God's purpose to record it.

* The best text omits other expressions, evidently derived from verses John 1:15; John 1:30John 1:30.

Verse John 1:29 opens John's testimony to his disciples. (Ver. John 1:29-34) How rich it is, and how marvellously in keeping with our gospel! Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, but withal, as he had said, the eternal One, yet in view of His manifestation to Israel (and, therefore, John was come baptizing with water a reason here given, but not to the Pharisees in verses 25-27). Further, John attests that he saw the Spirit descending like a dove, and abiding on Him the appointed token that He it is who baptizes with the Holy Ghost even the Son of God. None else could do either work: for here we see His great work on earth, and His heavenly power. In these two points of view, more particularly, John gives testimony to Christ; He is the lamb as the taker away of the world's sin; the same is He who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Both of them were in relation to man on the earth; the one while He was here, the other from above. His death on the cross included much more, clearly answering to the first; His baptizing with the Holy Ghost followed His going to heaven. Nevertheless, the heavenly part is little dwelt on, as John's gospel displays our Lord more as the expression of God revealed on earth, than as Man ascended to heaven, which fell far more to the province of the apostle of the Gentiles. In John He is One who could be described as Son of man who is in heaven; but He belonged to heaven, because He was divine. His exaltation there is not without notice in the gospel, but exceptionally.

Remark, too, the extent of the work involved in verse 29. As the Lamb of God (of the Father it is not said), He has to do with the world. Nor will the full force of this expression be witnessed till the glorious result of His blood shedding sweep away the last trace of sin in the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. It finds, of course, a present application, and links itself with that activity of grace in which God is now sending out the gospel to any sinner and every sinner. Still the eternal day alone will show out the full virtue of that which belongs to Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the world's sin. Observe, it is not (as is often very erroneously said or sung) a question of sins, but of the "sin" of the world. The sacrificial death of Him who is God goes far beyond the thought of Israel. How, indeed, could it be stayed within narrow limits? It passes over all question of dispensations, until it accomplishes, in all its extent, that purpose for which He thus died. No doubt there are intervening applications; but such is the ultimate result of His work as the Lamb of God. Even now faith knows, that instead of sin being the great object before God, ever since the cross He has had before His eyes that sacrifice which put away sin. Notably He is now applying it to the reconciliation of a people, who are also baptized by the Holy Ghost into one body. By and by He will apply it to "that nation," the Jews, as to others also, and finally (always excepting the unbelieving and evil) to the entire system, the world. I do not mean by this all individuals, but creation; for nothing can be more certain, than that those who do not receive the Son of God are so much the worse for having heard the gospel. The rejection of Christ is the contempt of God Himself, in that of which He is most jealous, the honour of the Saviour, His Son. The refusal of His precious blood will, on the contrary, make their case incomparably worse than that of the heathen who never heard the good news.

What a witness all this to His person! None but a divine being could thus deal with the world. No doubt He must become a man, in order, amongst other reasons, to be a sufferer, and to die. None the less did the result of His death proclaim His Deity. So in the baptism with the Holy Ghost, who would pretend to such a power? No mere man, nor angel, not the highest, the archangel, but the Son.

So we see in the attractive power, afterwards dealing with individual souls. For were it not God Himself in the person of Jesus, it had been no glory to God, but a wrong and a rival. For nothing can be more observable than the way in which He becomes the centre round whom those that belong to God are gathered. This is the marked effect on the third day (ver. John 1:29; John 1:29John 1:34; John 1:34) of John Baptist's testimony here named; the first day (ver. 29) on which, as it were, Jesus speaks and acts in His grace as here shown on the earth. It is evident, that were He not God, it would be an interference with His glory, a place taken inconsistent with His sole authority, no less than it must be also, and for that reason, altogether ruinous to man. But He, being God, was manifesting and, on the contrary, maintaining the divine glory here below. John, therefore, who had been the honoured witness before of God's call, "the voice," etc., does now by the outpouring of his heart's delight, as well as testimony, turn over, so to say, his disciples to Jesus. Beholding Him as He walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of God! and the two disciples leave John for Jesus. (ver. John 1:35-40) Our Lord acts as One fully conscious of His glory, as indeed He ever was.

Bear in mind that one of the points of instruction in this first part of our gospel is the action of the Son of God before His regular Galilean ministry. The first four chapters of John precede in point of time the notices of His ministry in the other gospels. John was not yet cast into prison. Matthew, Mark, and Luke start, as far as regards the public labours of the Lord, with John cast into prison. But all that is historically related of the Lord Jesus inJohn 1:1-51; John 1:1-51; John 2:1-25; John 3:1-36; John 4:1-54. was before the imprisonment of the Baptist. Here, then, we have a remarkable display of that which preceded His Galilean ministry, or public manifestation. Yet before a miracle, as well as in the working of those which set forth His glory, it is evident that so far from its being a gradual growth, as it were, in His mind, He had, all simple and lowly though He were, the deep, calm, constant consciousness that He was God. He acts as such. If He put forth His power, it was not only beyond man's measure, but unequivocally divine, however also the humblest and most dependent of men. Here we see Him accepting, not as fellow-servant, but as Lord, those souls who had been under the training of the predicted messenger of Jehovah that was to prepare His way before, His face. Also one of the two thus drawn to Him first finds his own brother Simon (with the words, We have found the Messiah), and led him to Jesus, who forthwith gave him his new name in terms which surveyed, with equal ease and certainty, past, present, and future. Here again, apart from this divine insight, the change or gift of the name marks His glory. (Verses John 1:41-44)

On the morrow Jesus begins, directly and indirectly, to call others to follow Himself. He tells Philip to follow Him. This leads Philip to Nathanael, in whose case, when he comes to Jesus, we see not divine power alone in sounding the souls of men, but over creation. Here was One on earth who knew all secrets. He saw him under the fig tree. He was God. Nathanael's call is just as clearly typical of Israel in the latter day. The allusion to the fig-tree confirms this. So does his confession: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God: thou art the King of Israel. (SeePsalms 2:1-12; Psalms 2:1-12) But the Lord tells him of greater things he, should see, and says to him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, henceforth (not "hereafter," but henceforth) ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man. It is the wider, universal glory of the Son of man (according toPsalms 8:1-9; Psalms 8:1-9); but the most striking part of it verified from that actual moment because of the glory of His person, which needed not the day of glory to command the attendance of the angels of God this mark, as Son of man. (Verses John 1:44-51)

On the third day is the marriage in Cana of Galilee, where was His mother, Jesus also, and His disciples. (John 2:1-25) The change of water into wine manifested His glory as the beginning of signs; and He gave another in this early purging of the temple of Jerusalem. Thus we have traced, first, hearts not only attracted to Him, but fresh souls called to follow Him; then, in type, the call of Israel by-and-by; finally, the disappearance of the sign of moral purifying for the joy of the new covenant, when Messiah's time comes to bless the needy earth; but along with this the execution of judgment in Jerusalem, and its long defiled temple. All this clearly goes down to millennial days.

As a present fact, the Lord justifies the judicial act before their eyes by His relationship with God as His Father, and gives the Jews a sign in the temple of His body, as the witness of His resurrection power. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." He is ever God; He is the Son; He quickens and raises from the dead. Later He was determined to be Son of God with power by resurrection of the dead. They had eyes, but they saw not; ears had they, but they heard not, nor did they understand His glory. Alas! not the Jews only; for, as far as intelligence went, it was little better with the disciples till He rose from the dead. The resurrection of the Lord is not more truly a demonstration of His power and glory, than the only deliverance for disciples from the thraldom of Jewish influence. Without it there is no divine understanding of Christ, or of His word, or of Scripture. Further, it is connected intimately with the evidence of man's ruin by sin. Thus it is a kind of transitional fact for a most important part of our gospel, though still introductory. Christ was the true sanctuary, not that on which man had laboured so long in Jerusalem. Man might pull Him down destroy Him, as far as man could, and surely to be the basis in God's hand of better blessing; but He was God, and in three days He would raise up this temple. Man was judged: another Man was there, the Lord from heaven, soon to stand in resurrection.

It is not now the revelation of God meeting man either in essential nature, or as manifested in flesh; nor is it the course of dispensational dealing presented in a parenthetic as well as mysterious form, beginning with John the Baptist's testimony, and going down to the millennium in the Son, full of grace and truth. It becomes a question of man's own condition, and how he stands in relation to the kingdom of God. This question is raised, or rather settled, by the Lord in Jerusalem, at the passover feast, where many believed on His name, beholding the signs He wrought. The dreadful truth comes out: the Lord did not trust Himself to them, because He knew all men. How withering the words! He had no need that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. It is not denunciation, but the most solemn sentence in the calmest manner. It was no longer a moot-point whether God could trust man; for, indeed, He could not. The question really is, whether man would trust God. Alas! he would not.

John 3:1-36 follows this up. God orders matters so that a favoured teacher of men, favoured as none others were in Israel, should come to Jesus by night. The Lord meets him at once with the strongest assertion of the absolute necessity that a man should be born anew in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus, not understanding in the least such a want for himself, expresses his wonder, and hears our Lord increasing in the strength of the requirement. Except one were born of water and of the Spirit, he could not enter the kingdom of God. This was necessary for the kingdom of God; not for some special place of glory, but for any and every part of God's kingdom. Thus we have here the other side of the truth: not merely what God is in life and light, in grace and truth, as revealed in Christ coming down to man; but man is now judged in the very root of his nature, and proved to be entirely incapable, in his best state, of seeing or entering the kingdom of God. There is the need of another nature, and the only way in which this nature is communicated is by being born of water and the Spirit the employment of the word of God in the quickening energy of the Holy Ghost. So only is man born of God. The Spirit of God uses that word; it is thus invariably in conversion. There is no other way in which the new nature is made good in a soul. Of course it is the revelation of Christ; but here He was simply revealing the sources of this indispensable new birth. There is no changing or bettering the old man; and, thanks be to God, the new does not degenerate or pass away. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (Verses John 3:1-6)

But the Lord goes farther, and bids Nicodemus not wonder at His insisting on this need. As there is an absolute necessity on God's part that man should be thus born anew, so He lets him know there is an active grace of the Spirit, as the wind blows where it will, unknown and uncontrolled by man, for every one that is born of the Spirit, who is sovereign in operation. First, a new nature is insisted on the Holy Ghost's quickening of each soul who is vitally related to God's kingdom; next, the Spirit of God takes an active part not as source or character only, but acting sovereignly, which opens the way not only for a Jew, but for "every one." (VersesJohn 3:7-8; John 3:7-8)

It is hardly necessary to furnish detailed disproof of the crude, ill-considered notion (originated by the fathers), that baptism is in question. In truth, Christian baptism did not yet exist, but only such as the disciples used, like John the Baptist; it was not instituted of Christ till after His resurrection, as it sets forth His death. Had it been meant, it was no wonder that Nicodemus did not know how these things could be. But the Lord reproaches him, the master of Israel, with not knowing these things: that is, as a teacher, with Israel for his scholar, he ought to have known them objectively, at least, if not consciously. Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 44:3, Isaiah 59:21, Ezekiel 36:25-27 ought to have made the Lord's meaning plain to an intelligent Jew. (Verse John 3:10)

The Lord, it is true, could and did go farther than the prophets: even if He taught on the same theme, He could speak with conscious divine dignity and knowledge (not merely what was assigned to an instrument or messenger). "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (Verses John 3:11-13) He (and He was not alone here) knew God, and the things of God, consciously in Himself, as surely as He knew all men, and what was in man objectively. He could, therefore, tell them of heavenly things as readily as of earthly things; but the incredulity about the latter, shown in the wondering ignorance of the new birth as a requisite for God's kingdom, proved it was useless to tell of the former. For He who spoke was divine. Nobody had gone up to heaven: God had taken more than one; but no one had gone there as of right. Jesus not only could go up, as He did later, but He had come down thence, and, even though man, He was the Son of man that is in heaven. He is a divine person; His manhood brought no attainder to His rights as God. Heavenly things, therefore, could not but be natural to Him, if one may so say.

Here the Lord introduces the cross. (Ver. John 3:14-15; John 3:14-15) It is not a question simply of the Son of God, nor is He spoken of here as the Word made flesh. But "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must ( δεῖ ) the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." As the new birth for the kingdom of God, so the cross is absolutely necessary for eternal life. In the Word was life, and the life was the light of men. It was not intended for other beings it was God's free gift to man, to the believer, of course. Man, dead in sins, was the object of His grace; but then man's state was such, that it would have been derogatory to God had that life been communicated without the cross of Christ: the Son of man lifted up on it was the One in whom God dealt judicially with the evil estate of man, for the, full consequences of which He made Himself responsible. It would not suit God, if it would suit man, that He, seeing all, should just pronounce on man's corruption, and then forthwith let him off with a bare pardon. One must be born again. But even this sufficed not: the Son of man must be lifted up. It was impossible that there should not be righteous dealing with human evil against God, in its sources and its streams. Accordingly, if the law raised the question of righteousness in man, the cross of the Lord Jesus, typifying Him made sin, is the answer; and there has all been settled to the glory of God, the Lord Jesus having suffered all the inevitable consequences. Hence, then, we have the Lord Jesus alluding to this fresh necessity, if man was to be blessed according to God. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." But this, however worthy of God, and indispensable for man, could not of itself give an adequate expression of what God is; because in this alone, neither His own love nor the glory of His Son finds due display.

Hence, after having first unmistakably laid down the necessity of the cross, He next shows the grace that was manifested in the gift of Jesus. Here He is not portrayed as the Son of man who must be lifted up, but as the Son of God who was given. "For God," He says, "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." The one, like the other, contributes to this great end, whether the Son of man necessarily lifted up, or the only begotten Son of God given in His love. (Verse John 3:16)

Let it not be passed by, that while the new birth or regeneration is declared to be essential to a part in the kingdom of God, the Lord in urging this intimates that He had not gone beyond the earthly things of that kingdom. Heavenly things are set in evident contradistinction, and link themselves immediately here, as everywhere, with the cross as their correlative. (See Hebrews 12:2, Hebrews 13:11-13) Again, let me just remark in passing, that although, no doubt, we may in a general way speak of those who partake of the new nature as having that life, yet the Holy Ghost refrains from predicating of any saints the full character of eternal life as a present thing until we have the cross of Christ laid (at least doctrinally) as the ground of it. But when the Lord speaks of His cross, and not God's judicial requirements only, but the gift of Himself in His true personal glory as the occasion for the grace of God to display itself to the utmost, then, and not till then, do we hear of eternal life, and this connected with both these points of view. The chapter pursues this subject, showing that it is not only God who thus deals first, with the necessity of man before His own immutable nature; next, blessing according to the riches of His grace but, further, that man's state morally is detected yet more awfully in presence of such grace as well as holiness in Christ. "For God sent not his Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (Ver. John 3:17; John 3:17) This decides all before the execution of judgment, Every man's lot is made manifest by his attitude toward God's testimony concerning His Son. "He that believeth on him is not judged: but he that believeth not is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (Ver. John 3:19; John 3:19) Other things, the merest trifles, may serve to indicate a man's condition; but a new responsibility is created by this infinite display of divine goodness in Christ, and the evidence is decisive and final, that the unbeliever is already judged before God. "And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." (VersesJohn 3:20-21; John 3:20-21)

The Lord and the disciples are next seen in the country district, not far, it would seem, from John, who was baptizing as they were. The disciples of John dispute with a Jew about purification; but John himself renders a bright witness to the glory of the Lord Jesus. In vain did any come to the Baptist to report the widening circle around Christ. He bows to, as he explains, the sovereign will of God. He reminds them of his previous disclaimer of any place beyond one sent before Jesus. His joy was that of a friend of the Bridegroom (to whom, not to him, the bride belonged), and now fulfilled as he heard the Bridegroom's voice. "He must, increase, but I decrease." Blessed servant he of an infinitely blessed and blessing Master! Then (ver. John 3:31-36) he speaks of His person in contrast with himself and all; of His testimony and of the result, both as to His own glory, and consequently also for the believer on, and the rejecter of, the Son. He that comes from above from heaven is above all. Such was Jesus in person, contrasted with all who belong to the earth. Just as distinct and beyond comparison is His testimony who, coming from heaven and above all, testifies what He saw and heard, however it might be rejected. But see the blessed fruit of receiving it. "He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." I apprehend the words the Authorised Version gives in italics should disappear. The addition of "unto him" detracts, to my mind, from the exceeding preciousness of what seems to be, at least, left open. For the astonishing thought is, not merely that Jesus receives the Holy Ghost without measure, but that God gives the Spirit also, and not by measure, through Him to others. In the beginning of the chapter it was rather an essential indispensable action of the Holy Ghost required; here it is the privilege of the Holy Ghost given. No doubt Jesus Himself had the Holy Ghost given to Him, as it was meet that He in all things should have the pre-eminence; but it shows yet more both the personal glory of Christ and the efficacy of His work, that He now gives the same Spirit to those who receive His testimony, and set to their seal that God is true. How singularly is the glory of the Lord Jesus thus viewed, as invested with the testimony of God and its crown! What more glorious proof than that the Holy Ghost is given not a certain defined power or gift, but the Holy Ghost Himself; for God gives not the Spirit by measure!

All is fitly closed by the declaration, that "the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." It is not merely or most of all a great prophet or witness: He is the Son; and the Father has given all things to be in His hand. There is the nicest care to maintain His personal glory, no matter what the subject may be. The results for the believer or unbeliever are eternal in good or in evil. He that believes on the Son has everlasting life; and he that disobeys the Son, in the sense of not being subject to His person, "shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" Such is the issue of the Son of God present in this world an everlasting one for every man, flowing from the glory of His person, the character of His testimony, and the Father's counsels respecting Him. The effect is thus final, even as His person, witness, and glory are divine.

The chapters we have had before us (John 1:1-51; John 2:1-25; John 3:1-36) are thus evidently an introduction: God revealed not in the Word alone, but in the Word made flesh, in the Son who declared the Father; His work, as God's Lamb, for the world, and His power by the Holy Ghost in man; then viewed as the centre of gathering, as the path to follow, and as the object even for the attendance of God's angels, the heaven being opened, and Jesus not the Son of God and King of Israel only, but the Son of man object of God's counsels. This will be displayed in the millennium, when the marriage will be celebrated, as well as the judgment executed (Jerusalem and its temple being the central point then). This, of course, supposes the setting aside of Jerusalem, its people and house, as they now are, and is justified by the great fact of Christ's death and resurrection, which is the key to all, though not yet intelligible even to the disciples. This brings in the great counterpart truth, that even God present on earth and made flesh is not enough. Man is morally judged. One must be born again for God's kingdom a Jew for what was promised him, like another. But the Spirit would not confine His operations to such bounds, but go out freely like the wind. Nor would the rejected Christ, the Son of man; for if lifted up on the cross, instead of having the throne of David, the result would be not merely earthly blessing for His people according to prophecy, but eternal life for the believer, whoever. he might be; and this, too, as the expression of the true and full grace of God in His only-begotten Son given. John then declared his own waning before Christ, as we have seen, the issues of whose testimony, believed or not, are eternal; and this founded on the revelation of His glorious person as man and to man here below.

John 4:1-54 presents the Lord Jesus outside Jerusalem outside the people of promise among Samaritans, with whom Jews had no intercourse. Pharisaic jealousy had wrought; and Jesus, wearied, sat thus at the fountain of Jacob's well in Sychar. (Ver. John 4:1-6; John 4:1-6) What a picture of rejection and humiliation! Nor was it yet complete. For if, on the one side, God has taken care to let us see already the glory of the Son, and the grace of which He was full, on the other side, all shines out the more marvellously when we know how He dealt with a woman of Samaria, sinful and degraded. Here was a meeting, indeed, between such an one and Him, the Son, true God and eternal life. Grace begins, glory descends; "Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." (VerseJohn 4:1; John 4:1) It was strange to her that a Jew should thus humble himself: what would it have been, had she seen in Him Jesus the Son of God? "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." (VerseJohn 4:10; John 4:10) Infinite grace! infinite truth! and the more manifest from His lips to one who was a real impersonation of sin, misery, blindness, degradation. But this is not the question of grace: not what she was, but what He is who was there to win and bless her, manifesting God and the Father withal, practically and in detail. Surely He was there, a weary man outside Judaism; but God, the God of all grace, who humbled Himself to ask a drink of water of her, that He might give the richest and most enduring gift, even water which, once drank, leaves no thirst for ever and ever yea, is in him who drinks a fountain of water springing up unto everlasting life. Thus the Holy Ghost, given by the Son in humiliation (according to God, not acting on law, but according to the gift of grace in the gospel), was fully set forth; but the woman, though interested, and asking, only apprehended a boon for this life to save herself trouble here below. This gives occasion to Jesus to teach us the lesson that conscience must be reached, and sense of sin produced, before grace is understood and brings forth fruit. This He does in verses 16-19. Her life is laid before her by His voice, and she confesses to Him that God Himself spoke to her in His words: "Sir [said she], I perceive that thou art a prophet." If she turned aside to questions of religion, with a mixture of desire to learn what had concerned and perplexed her, and of willingness to escape such a searching of her ways and heart, He did not refrain graciously to vouchsafe the revelation of God, that earthly worship was doomed, that the Father was to be worshipped, not an Unknown. And while He does not hide the privilege of the Jews, He nevertheless proclaims that "the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." This brings all to a point; for the woman says, "I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things." And Jesus answers, "I that speak unto thee am he." The disciples come; the woman goes into the city, leaving her waterpot, but carrying with her the unspeakable gift of God. Her testimony bore the impress of what had penetrated her soul, and would make way for all the rest in due time. "Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." It was much, yet was it little of the glory that was His; but at least it was real; and to the one that has shall be given. (Verses John 4:20-30)

The disciples marvelled that He spoke with the woman. How little they conceived of what was then said and done! "Master, eat," said they. "But He said to them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of." They entered not into His words more than His grace, but thought and spoke, like the Samaritan woman, about things of this life. Jesus explains: "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that true saying, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours." (Verses John 4:31-38)

Thus a despised Christ is not merely a crucified Son of man, and given Son of God, as in John 3:1-36, but Himself a divine giver in communion with the Father, and in the power of the Holy Ghost who is given to the believer, the source of worship, as their God and Father is its object for the worshippers in spirit and truth (though surely not to the exclusion of the Son, Hebrews 1:1-14). So it must be now; for God is revealed; and the Father in grace seeks true worshippers (be they Samaritans or Jews) to worship Him. Here, accordingly, it is not so much the means by which life is communicated, as the revelation of the full blessing of grace and communion with the Father and His Son by the Holy Ghost, in whom we are blessed. Hence it is that here the Son, according to the grace of God the Father, gives the Holy Ghost eternal life in the power of the Spirit. It is not simply the new birth such as a saint might, and always must, have had, in order to vital relations with God at any time. Here, in suited circumstances to render the thought and way of God unmistakable, pure and boundless grace takes its own sovereign course, suitable to the love and personal glory of Christ. For if the Son (cast out, we may say, in principle from Judaism) visited Samaria, and deigned to talk with one of the most worthless of that worthless race, it could not be a mere rehearsal of what others did. Not Jacob was there, but the Son of God in nothing but grace; and thus to the Samaritan woman, not to the teachers of Israel, are made those wonderful communications which unfold to us with incomparable depth and beauty the real source, power, and character of that worship which supersedes, not merely schismatic and rebellious Samaria, but Judaism at its best. For evidently it is the theme of worship in its Christian fulness, the fruit of the manifestation of God, and of the Father known in grace. And worship is viewed both in moral nature and in the joy of communion doubly. First, we must worship, if at all, in spirit and in truth. This is indispensable; for God is a Spirit, and so it cannot but be. Besides this, goodness overflows, in that the Father is gathering children, and making worshippers. The Father seeks worshippers. What love! In short, the riches of God's grace are here according to the glory of the Son, and in the power of the Holy Ghost. Hence the Lord, while fully owning the labours of all preceding labourers, has before His eyes the whole boundless expanse of grace, the mighty harvest which His apostles were to reap in due time. It is thus strikingly an anticipation of the result in glory. Meanwhile, for Christian worship, the hour was coming and in principle come, because He was there; and He who vindicated salvation as of the Jews, proves that it is now for Samaritans, or any who believed on account of His word. Without sign, prodigy, or miracle, in this village of Samaria Jesus was heard, known, confessed as truly the Saviour of the world ("the Christ" being absent in the best authorities, ver. 42). The Jews, with all their privileges, were strangers here. They knew what they worshipped, but not the Father, nor were they "true." No such sounds, no such realities were ever heard or known in Israel. How were they not enjoyed in despised Samaria those two days with the Son of God among them! It was meet that so it should be; for, as a question of right, none could claim; and grace surpasses all expectation or thought of man, most of all of men accustomed to a round of religious ceremonial. Christ did not wait till the time was fully come for the old things to pass away, and all to be made new. His own love and person were warrant enough for the simple to lift the veil for a season, and fill the hearts which had received Himself into the conscious enjoyment of divine grace, and of Him who revealed it to them. It was but preliminary, of course; still it was a deep reality, the then present grace in the person of the Son, the Saviour of the world, who filled their once dark hearts with light and joy.

The close of the chapter shows us the Lord in Galilee. But there was this difference from the former occasion, that, at the marriage in Cana (John 2:1-25), the change of the water into wine was clearly millennial in its typical aspect. The healing of the courtier's son, sick and ready to die, is witness of what the Lord was actually doing among the despised of Israel. It is there that we found the Lord, in the other synoptic gospels, fulfilling His ordinary ministry. John gives us this point of contact with them, though in an incident peculiar to himself. It is our evangelist's way of indicating His Galilean sojourn; and this miracle is the particular subject that John was led by the Holy Ghost to take up. Thus, as in the former case the Lord's dealing in Galilee was a type of the future, this appears to be significant of His then present path of grace in that despised quarter of the land. The looking for signs and wonders is rebuked; but mortality is arrested. His corporeal presence was not necessary; His word was enough. The contrasts are as strong, at least, as the resemblance with the healing of the centurion's servant in Matthew 13:1-58 and Luke 7:1-50, which some ancients and moderns have confounded with this, as they did Mary's anointing of Jesus with the sinful woman's in Luke 7:1-50.

One of the peculiarities of our gospel is, that we see the Lord from time to time (and, indeed, chiefly) in or near Jerusalem. This is the more striking, because, as we have seen, the world and Israel, rejecting Him, are also themselves, as such, rejected from the first. The truth is, the design of manifesting His glory governs all; place or people was a matter of no consequence.

Here (John 5:1-47) the first view given of Christ is His person in contrast with the law. Man, under law, proved powerless; and the greater the need, the less the ability to avail himself of such merciful intervention as God still, from time to time, kept up throughout the legal system. The same God who did not leave Himself without witness among the heathen, doing good, and giving from heaven rain and fruitful seasons, did not fail, in the low estate of the Jews, to work by providential power at intervals; and, by the troubled waters of Bethesda, invited the sick, and healed the first who stepped in of whatever disease he had. In the five porches, then, of this pool lay a great multitude of sick, blind, lame, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. But there was a man who had been infirm for thirty and eight years. Jesus saw the man, and knowing that he was long thus, prompts the desire of healing, but brings out the despondency of unbelief. How truly it is man under law! Not only is there no healing to be extracted from the law by a sinner, but the law makes more evident the disease, if it does not also aggravate the symptoms. The law works no deliverance; it puts a man in chains, prison, darkness, and under condemnation; it renders him a patient, or a criminal incompetent to avail himself of the displays of God's goodness. God never left Himself without witness; He did not even among the Gentiles, surely yet less in Israel. Still, such is the effect on man under law, that he could not take advantage of an adequate remedy. (Verses John 5:1-7)

On the other hand, the Lord speaks but the word: "Rise, take up thy couch and walk." The result immediately follows. It was sabbath-day. The Jews, then, who could not help, and pitied not their fellow in his long infirmity and disappointment, are scandalized to see him, safe and sound, carrying his couch on that day. But they learn that it was his divine Physician who had not only healed, but so directed him. At once their malice drops the beneficent power of God in the case, provoked at the fancied wrong done to the seventh day. (VersesJohn 5:8-12; John 5:8-12)

But were the Jews mistaken after all in thinking that the seal of the first covenant was virtually broken in that deliberate word and warranty of Jesus? He could have healed the man without the smallest outward act to shock their zeal for the law. Expressly had He told the man to take up his couch and walk, as well as to rise. There was purpose in it. There was sentence of death pronounced on their system, and they felt accordingly. The man could not tell the Jews the name of his benefactor. But Jesus finds him in the temple, and said, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." The man went off, and told the Jews that it was Jesus: and for this they persecuted Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath. (Verses John 5:13-16)

A graver issue, however, was to be tried; for Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. For this, therefore, the Jews sought the more to kill Him; because He added the greater offence of making Himself equal with God, by saying that God was His own Father. (Verses John 5:17-18)

Thus, in His person, as well as in His work, they joined issue. Nor could any question be more momentous. If He spoke the truth, they were blasphemers. But how precious the grace, in presence of their hatred and proud self-complacency! "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." They had no common thoughts, feelings, or ways with the Father and the Son. Were the Jews zealously keeping the sabbath? The Father and the Son were at work. How could either light or love rest in a scene of sin, darkness, and misery?

Did they charge Jesus with self-exaltation? No charge could be remoter from the truth. Though He could not, would not deny Himself (and He was the Son, and Word, and God), yet had He taken the place of a man, of a servant. Jesus, therefore, answered, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." (Ver. John 5:19-29)

It is evident, then, that the Lord presents life in Himself as the true want of man, who was not merely infirm but dead. Law, means, ordinances, could not meet the need no pool, nor angel nothing but the Son working in grace, the Son quickening. Governmental healing even from Him might only end in "some worse thing" coming. through "sin." Life out of death was wanted by man, such as he is; and this the Father is giving in the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son hath not the Father; he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. This is the truth; but the Jews had the law, and hated the truth. Could they, then, reject the Son, and merely miss this infinite blessing of life in Him? Nay, the Father has given all judgment to the Son. He will have all honour the Son, even as Himself

And as life is in the person of the Son, so God in sending Him meant not that the smallest uncertainty should exist for aught so momentous. He would have every soul to know assuredly how he stands for eternity as well as now. There is but one unfailing test the Son of God God's testimony to Him. Therefore, it seems to me, He adds verse 24. It is not a question of the law, but of hearing Christ's word, and believing Him who sent Christ: he that does so has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life. The Word, God (and only begotten Son in the Father's bosom), He was eternally Son of God, too, as born into the world. Was this false and blasphemous in their eyes? They could not deny Him to be man Son of man. Nay, therefore it was they, reasoning, denied Him to be God. Let them learn, then, that as Son of man (for which nature they despised Him, and denied His essential personal glory) He will judge; and this judgment will be no passing visitation, such as God has accomplished by angels or men in times past. The judgment, all of it, whether for quick or dead, is consigned to Him, because He is Son of man. Such is God's vindication of His outraged rights; and the judgment will be proportionate to the glory that has been set at nought.

Thus solemnly does the meek Lord Jesus unfold these two truths. In Him was life for this scene of death; and it is of faith that it might be by grace. This only secures His honour in those that believe God's testimony to Him, the Son of God; and to these He gives life, everlasting life now, and exemption from judgment, in this acting in communion with the Father. And in this He is sovereign. The Son gives life, as the Father does; and not merely to whom the Father will, but to whom He will. Nevertheless the Son had taken the place of being the sent One, the place of subordination in the earth, in which He would say, "My Father is greater than I." And He did accept that place thoroughly, and in all its consequences. But let them beware how they perverted it. Granted He was the Son of man; but as such, He had all judgment given Him, and would judge. Thus in one way or the other all must honour the Son. The Father did not judge, but committed all judgment into the hands of the Son, because He is the Son of man. It was not the time now to demonstrate in public power these coming, yea, then present truths. The hour was one for faith, or unbelief. Did the dead (for so men are treated, not as alive under law) did they hear the voice of the Son of God? Such shall live. For though the Son (that eternal life who was with the Father) was a man, in that very position had the Father given Him to have life in Himself, and to execute judgment also, because He is Son of man. Judgment is the alternative for man: for God it is the resource to make good the glory of the Son, and in that nature, in and for which man blind to his own highest dignity dares to despise Him. Two resurrections, one of life, and another of judgment, would be the manifestation of faith and unbelief, or rather, of those who believe, and of those who reject the Son. They were not to wonder then at what He says and does now; for an hour was coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those that have done good to resurrection of life, and those that have done evil to resurrection of judgment. This would make all manifest. Now it is that the great question is decided; now it is that a man receives or refuses Christ. If he receives Him, it is everlasting life, and Christ is thus honoured by him; if not, judgment remains which will compel the honour of Christ, but to his own ruin for ever. Resurrection will be the proof; the two-fold rising of the dead, not one, but two resurrections. Life resurrection will display how little they had to be ashamed of, who believed the record given of His Son; the resurrection of judgment will make but too plain, to those who despised the Lord, both His honour and their sin and shame.

As this chapter sets forth the Lord Jesus with singular fulness of glory, on the side both of His Godhead and of His manhood, so it closes with the most varied and remarkable testimonies God has given to us, that there may be no excuse. So bright was His glory, so concerned was the Father in maintaining it, so immense the blessing if received, so tremendous the stake involved in its loss, that God vouchsafed the amplest and clearest witnesses. If He judges, it is not without full warning. Accordingly there is a four-fold testimony to Jesus: the testimony of John the Baptist; the Lord's own works; the voice of the Father from heaven; and finally, the written word which the Jews had in their own hands. To this last the Lord attaches the deepest importance. This testimony differs from the rest in having a more permanent character. Scripture is, or may be, before man always. It is not a message or a sign, however significant at the moment, which passes away as soon as heard or seen. As a weapon of conviction, most justly had it in the mind of the Lord Jesus the weightiest place, little as man thinks now-a-days of it. The issue of all is, that the will of man is the real cause and spring of enmity. "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life." it was no lack of testimony; their will was for present honour, and hostile to the glory of the only God. They would fall a prey to Antichrist, and meanwhile are accused of Moses, in whom they trusted, without believing him; else they would have believed Christ, of whom he wrote.

In John 6:1-71 our Lord sets aside Israel in another point of view. Not only man under law has no health, but he has no strength to avail himself of the blessing that God holds out. Nothing less than everlasting life in Christ can deliver: otherwise there remains judgment. Here the Lord was really owned by the multitudes as the great Prophet that should come; and this in consequence of His works, especially that one which Scripture itself had connected with the Son of David. (Psalms 132:1-18) Then they wanted to make Him a king. It seemed natural: He had fed the poor with bread, and why should not He take His place on the throne? This the Lord refuses, and goes up the mountain to pray, His disciples being meanwhile exposed to a storm on the lake, and straining after the desired haven till He rejoins them, when immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. (VersesJohn 6:1-21; John 6:1-21)

The Lord, in the latter part of the chapter (verses John 6:27-58), contrasts the presentation of the truth of God in His person and work with all that pertained to the promises of Messiah. It is not that He denies the truth of what they were thus desiring and attached to. Indeed, He was the great Prophet, as He was the great King, and as He is now the great Priest on high. Still the Lord refused the crown then: it was not the time or state for His reign. Deeper questions demanded solution. A greater work was in hand; and this, as the rest of the chapter shows us, not a Messiah lifted up, but the true bread given He who comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world; a dying, not a reigning, Son of man. It is His person as incarnate first, then in redemption giving His flesh to be eaten and His blood to be drank. Thus former things pass away; the old man is judged, dead, and clean gone. A second and wholly new man appears the bread of God, not of man, but for men. The character is wholly different from the position and glory of Messiah in Israel, according to promise and prophecy. Indeed, it is the total eclipse, not merely of law and remedial mercies, but even of promised Messianic glory, by everlasting life and resurrection at the last day. Christ here, it will be noticed, is not so much the quickening agent as Son of God (John 5:1-47), but the object of faith as Son of man first incarnate, to be eaten; then dying and giving His flesh to be eaten, and His blood to be drank. Thus we feed on Him and drink into Him, as man, unto life everlasting life in Him.

This last is the figure of a truth deeper than incarnation, and clearly means communion with His death. They had stumbled before, and the Lord brought in not alone His person, as the Word made flesh, presented for man now to receive and enjoy; but unless they ate the flesh, and drank the blood of the Son of man, they had no life in them. There He supposes His full rejection and death. He speaks of Himself as the Son of man in death; for there could be no eating of His flesh, no drinking of His blood, as a living man. Thus it is not only the person of our Lord viewed as divine, and coming down into the world. He who, living, was received for eternal life, is our meat and drink in dying, and gives us communion with His death. Thus, in fact, we have the Lord setting aside what was merely Messianic by the grand truths of the incarnation, and, above all, of the atonement, with which man must have vital association: he must eat yea, eat and drink. This language is said of both, but most strongly of the latter. And so, in fact, it was and is. He who owns the reality of Christ's incarnation, receives most thankfully and adoringly from God the truth of redemption; he, on the contrary, who stumbles at redemption, has not really taken in the incarnation according to God's mind. If a man looks at the Lord Jesus as One who entered the world in a general way, and calls this the incarnation, he will surely stumble over the cross. If, on the contrary, a soul has been taught of God the glory of the person of Him who was made flesh, he receives in all simplicity, and rejoices in, the glorious truth, that He who was made flesh was not made flesh only to this end, but rather as a step toward another and deeper work the glorifying God, and becoming our food, in death. Such are the grand emphatic points to which the Lord leads.

But the chapter does not close without a further contrast. (Verses John 6:59-71) What and if they should see Him, who came down and died in this world, ascend up where He was before? All is in the character of the Son of man. The Lord Jesus did, without question, take humanity in His person into that glory which He so well knew as the Son of the Father.

On this basisJohn 7:1-53; John 7:1-53 proceeds. The brethren of the Lord Jesus, who could see the astonishing power that was in Him, but whose hearts were carnal, at once discerned that it might be an uncommon good thing for them, as well as for Him, in this world. It was worldliness in its worst shape, even to the point of turning the glory of Christ to a present account. Why should He not show Himself to the world? (Verses John 7:3-5) The Lord intimates the impossibility of anticipating the time of God; but then He does it as connected with His own personal glory. Then He rebukes the carnality of His brethren. If His time was not yet come, their time was always ready. (Ver. John 7:6-8) They belonged to the world. They spoke of the world; the world might hear them. As to Himself, He does not go at that time to the feast of tabernacles; but later on He goes up "not openly, but as it were in secret" (verseJohn 7:10; John 7:10), and taught. They wonder, as they had murmured before (John 7:12-15); but Jesus shows that the desire to do God's will is the condition of spiritual understanding. (Verses John 7:16-18) , The Jews kept not the law) and wished to kill Him who healed man in divine love. (Verses John 7:19-23) What judgment could be less righteous? (Ver. John 7:24) They reason and are in utter uncertainty. (Ver. John 7:25-31) He is going where they cannot come, and never guessed (for unbelief thinks of the dispersed among the Greeks of anything rather than of God). (VersesJohn 7:33-36; John 7:33-36) Jesus was returning to Him that sent Him, and the Holy Ghost would be given. So on the last day, that great day of the feast (the eighth day, which witnessed of a resurrection glory outside this creation, now to be made good in the power of the Spirit before anything appears to sight), the Lord stands and cries, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." (Ver. John 7:37) It is not a question of eating the bread of God, or, when Christ died, of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Here, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." Just as in John 4:1-54, so here it is a question of power in the Holy Ghost, and not simply of Christ's person. "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (Ver. John 7:38; John 7:38) And then we have the comment of the Holy Ghost: "(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)" There is, first, the thirsty soul coming to Jesus and drinking; then there is the power of the Spirit flowing forth from the inner man of the believer in refreshment to others. (Verse John 7:39)

Nothing can be simpler than this. Details are not called for now, but just the outline of the truth. But what we learn is, that our Lord (viewed as having entered into heaven as man on the ground of redemption, i.e., ascended, after having passed through death, into glory) from that glory confers meanwhile the Holy Ghost on him that believes, instead of bringing in at once the final feast of gladness for the Jews and the world, as He will do by-and-by when the anti-typical harvest and vintage has been fulfilled. Thus it is not the Spirit of God simply giving a new nature; neither is it the Holy Ghost given as the power of worship and communion with His God and Father. This we have had fully before. Now, it is the Holy Ghost in the power that gives rivers of living water flowing out, and this bound up with, and consequent on, His being man in glory. Till then the Holy Ghost could not be so given only when Jesus was glorified, after redemption was a fact. What can be more evident, or more instructive? It is the final setting aside of Judaism then, whose characteristic hope was the display of power and rest in the world. But here these streams of the Spirit are substituted for the feast of tabernacles, which cannot be accomplished till Christ come from heaven and show Himself to the world; for this time was not yet come. Rest is not the question now at all; but the flow of the Spirit's power while Jesus is on high. In a certain sense, the principle of John 4:1-54 was made true in the woman of Samaria, and in others who received Christ then. The person of the Son was there the object of divine and overflowing joy even then, although, of course, in the full sense of the word, the Holy Ghost might not be given to be the power of it for some time later; but still the object of worship was there revealing the Father; butJohn 7:1-53; John 7:1-53 supposes Him to be gone up to heaven, before He from heaven communicates the Holy Ghost, who should be (not here, as Israel had a rock with water to drink of in the wilderness outside themselves, nor even as a fountain springing up within the believer, but) as rivers flowing out. How blessed the contrast with the people's state depicted in this chapter, tossed about by every wind of doctrine, looking to "letters," rulers, and Pharisees, perplexed about the Christ, but without righteous judgment, assurance, or enjoyment! Nicodemus remonstrates but is spurned; all retire to their home Jesus, who had none, to the mount of Olives. (Verses John 7:40-53)

This closes the various aspects of the Lord Jesus, completely blotting out Judaism, viewed as resting in a system of law and ordinances, as looking to a Messiah with present ease, and as hoping for the display of Messianic glory then in the world. The Lord Jesus presents Himself as putting an end to all this now for the Christian, though, of course, every word God has promised, as well as threatened, remains to be accomplished in Israel by-and-by; for Scripture cannot be broken; and what the mouth of the Lord has said awaits its fulfilment in its due sphere and season.

Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on John 4:24". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​commentaries/​wkc/​john-4.html. 1860-1890.
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