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John 4:10-15

10. Jesus answered and said to her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11. The woman saith to him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; whence, therefore, hast thou living water? 7474     “Ceste eau vive;” — “this living water.” 12. Art thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and himself drank of it, and his children, and his cattle? 13. Jesus answered and said to her, Every one that drinketh of this water will thirst again; 14. But he who drinketh of the water which I shall give him will never thirst; but the water, which I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life. 15. The woman saith to him, Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, and may not come hither to draw.

 

10. Jesus answered. Christ now, availing himself of the opportunity, begins to preach about the grace and power of his Spirit, and that to a woman who did not at all deserve that he should speak a word to her. This is certainly an astonishing instance of his goodness. For what was there in this wretched woman, that, from being a prostitute, she suddenly became a disciple of the Son of God? Though in all of us he has displayed a similar instance of his compassion. All the women, indeed, are not prostitutes, nor are all the men stained by some heinous crime; but what excellence can any of us plead as a reason why he deigned to bestow on us the heavenly doctrine, and the honor of being admitted into his family? Nor was it by accident that the conversation with such a person occurred; for the Lord showed us, as in a model, that those to whom he imparts the doctrine of salvation are not selected on the ground of merit. And it appears at first sight a wonderful arrangement, that he passed by so many great men in Judea, and yet held familiar discourse with this woman. But it was necessary that, in his person, it should be explained how true is that saying of the Prophet,

I was found by them that sought me not; I was made manifest to them that asked not after me. I said to those who sought me not, Behold, here I am,
(Isaiah 65:1.)

If thou knewest the gift of God. These two clauses, If thou knewest the gift of God, and, who it is that talketh with thee, I read separately, viewing the latter as an interpretation of the former. For it was a wonderful kindness of God to have Christ present, who brought with him eternal life. The meaning will be more plain if, instead of and, we put namely, or some other word of that kind, 7575     “Si en lieu de Et, nous mettons A scavoir, ou quelque autre mot semblable.” thus: If thou knewest the gift of God, namely, who it is that talketh with thee By these words we are taught that then only do we know what Christ is, when we understand what the Father hath given to us in him, and what benefits he brings to us. Now that knowledge begins with a conviction of our poverty; for, before any one desires a remedy, he must be previously affected with the view of his distresses. Thus the Lord invites not those who have drunk enough, but the thirsty, not those who are satiated, but the hungry, to eat and drink. And why would Christ be sent with the fullness of the Spirit, if we were not empty?

Again, as he has made great progress, who, feeling his deficiency, already acknowledges how much he needs the aid of another; so it would not be enough for him to groan under his distresses, if he had not also hope of aid ready and prepared. In this way we might do no more than waste ourselves with grief, or at least we might, like the Papists, run about in every direction, and oppress ourselves with useless and unprofitable weariness. But when Christ appears, we no longer wander in vain, seeking a remedy where none can be obtained, but we go straight to him. The only true and profitable knowledge of the grace of God is, when we know that it is exhibited to us in Christ, and that it is held out to us by his hand. In like manner does Christ remind us how efficacious is a knowledge of his blessings, since it excites us to seek them and kindles our hearts. If thou knewest, says he, thou wouldst have asked. The design of these words is not difficult to be perceived; for he intended to whet the desire of this woman, that she might not despise and reject the life which was offered to her.

He would have given thee. By these words Christ testifies that, if our prayers be addressed to him, they will not be fruitless; and, indeed, without this confidence, the earnestness of prayer would be entirely cooled. But when Christ meets those who come to him, and is ready to satisfy their desires, there is no more room for sluggishness or delay. And there is no man who would not feel that this is said to all of us, if he were not prevented by his unbelief.

Living water. Though the name Water is borrowed from the present occurrence, and applied to the Spirit, yet this metaphor is very frequent in Scripture, and rests on the best grounds. For we are like a dry and barren soil; there is no sap and no rigour in us, until the Lord water us by his Spirit. In another passage, the Spirit is likewise called clean water, (Hebrews 10:22,) but in a different sense; namely, because he washes and cleanses us from the pollutions with which we are entirely covered. But in this and similar passages, the subject treated of is the secret energy by which he restores life in us, and maintains and brings it to perfection. There are some who explain this as referring to the doctrine of the Gospel, to which I own that this appellation is fully applicable; but I think that Christ includes here the whole grace of our renewal; for we know that he was sent for the purpose of bringing to us a new life. In my opinion, therefore, he intended to contrast water with that destitution of all blessings under which mankind groan and labor. Again, living water is not so called from its effect, as life-giving, but the allusion is to different kinds of waters. It is called living, because it flows from a living fountain.

11. Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with. As the Samaritans were despised by the Jews, so the Samaritans, on the other hand, held the Jews in contempt. Accordingly, this woman at first not only disdains Christ but even mocks at him. She understands quite well that Christ is speaking figuratively, but she throws out a jibe by a different figure, intending to say, that he promises more than he can accomplish.

12. Art thou greater than our father Jacob? She proceeds to charge him with arrogance in exalting himself above the holy patriarch Jacob.Jacob,” she says, “was satisfied with this well for his own use and that of his whole family: and hast thou a more excellent water?” How faulty this comparison is, appears plainly enough from this consideration, that she compares the servant to the master, and a dead man to the living God; and yet how many in the present day fall into this very error? The more cautious ought we to be not to extol the persons of men so as to obscure the glory of God. We ought, indeed, to acknowledge with reverence the gifts of God, wherever they appear. It is, therefore, proper that we should honor men who are eminent in piety, or endued with other uncommon gifts; but it ought to be in such a manner that God may always remain eminent above all — that Christ, with his Gospel, may shine illustriously, for to him all the splendor of the world must yield.

It ought also to be observed that the Samaritans falsely boasted of being descended from the holy Fathers. In like manner do the Papists, though they are a bastard seed, arrogantly boast of the Fathers, and despise the true children of God. Although the Samaritans had been descended from Jacob according to the flesh, yet, as they were altogether degenerated and estranged from true godliness, this boasting would have been ridiculous. But now that they are Cutheans by descent, (2 Kings 17:24,) or at least collected out of the profane Gentiles, they still do not fail to make false pretensions to the name of the holy Patriarch. But this is of no avail to them; and such must be the case with all who wickedly exult in the light of men, so as to deprive themselves of the light of God, and who have nothing in common with the holy Fathers, whose name they have abused.

13. Every one that drinketh of this water. Though Christ perceives that he is doing little good, and even that his instruction is treated with mockery, he proceeds to explain more clearly what he had said. He distinguishes between the use of the two kinds of water; that the one serves the body, and only for a time, while the power of the other gives perpetual vigor to the soul. For, as the body is liable to decay, so the aids by which it is supported must be frail and transitory. That which quickens the soul cannot but be eternal. Again, the words of Christ are not at variance with the fact, that believers, to the very end of life, burn with desire of more abundant grace. For he does not say that, from the very first day, we drink so as to be fully satisfied, but only means that the Holy Spirit is a continually flowing fountain; and that, therefore, there is no danger that they who have been renewed by spiritual grace shall be dried up. And, therefore, although we thirst throughout our whole life, yet it is certain that we have not received the Holy Spirit for a single day, or for any short period, but as a perennial fountain, which will never fail us. Thus believers thirst, and keenly thirst, throughout their whole life; and yet they have abundance of quickening moisture; for however small may have been the measure of grace which they have received, it gives them perpetual vigor, so that they are never entirely dry. When, therefore, he says that they shall be satisfied, he contrasts not with Desire but only with Drought

Shall be a fountain of water springing up into eternal life. These words express still more clearly the preceding statement; for they denote a continual watering, which maintains in them a heavenly eternity during this mortal and perishing life. The grace of Christ, therefore, does not flow to us for a short time, but overflows into a blessed immortality; for it does not cease to flow until the incorruptible life which it commences be brought to perfection.,

15. Give me this water. This woman undoubtedly is sufficiently aware that Christ is speaking of spiritual water; but because she despises him, she sets at naught all his promises; for so long as the authority of him who speaks is not acknowledged by us, his doctrine is not permitted to enter. Indirectly, therefore, the woman taunted Christ, saying, “Thou boastest much, but I see nothing: show it in reality, if thou canst.”


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