Christ and the Woman of
Samaria—The Samaritans of
1-4. the Lord knew—not by report, but in
the sense of Joh 2:25, for
which reason He is here styled "the Lord."
2. Jesus baptized not—John being a
servant baptized with his own hand; Christ as the Master, "baptizing
with the Holy Ghost," administered the outward symbol only through His
3. left Judea—to avoid persecution,
which at that early stage would have marred His work.
departed into Galilee—by which time
John had been cast into prison (Mr 1:14).
4. must needs go through Samaria—for a
geographical reason, no doubt, as it lay straight in his way, but
certainly not without a higher design.
5. cometh … to—that is, as far as:
for He remained at some distance from it.
Sychar—the "Shechem" of the Old
Testament, about thirty-four miles from Jerusalem, afterwards called
"Neapolis," and now "Nablous."
6-8. wearied … sat thus—that is,
"as you might fancy a weary man would"; an instance of the graphic
style of St. John [Webster and Wilkinson]. In fact, this is perhaps the most
human of all the scenes of our Lord's earthly history. We seem
to be beside Him, overhearing all that is here recorded, nor could any
painting of the scene on canvas, however perfect, do other than lower
the conception which this exquisite narrative conveys to the devout and
intelligent reader. But with all that is human, how much also of
the divine have we here, both blended in one glorious
manifestation of the majesty, grace, pity, patience with which "the
Lord" imparts light and life to this unlikeliest of strangers, standing
midway between Jews and heathens.
the sixth hour—noonday,
reckoning from six A.M. From So 1:7 we know, as from other sources, that the
very flocks "rested at noon." But Jesus, whose maxim was, "I must work
the works of Him that sent Me while it is day" (Joh 9:4), seems to have denied Himself that
repose, at least on this occasion, probably that He might reach this
well when He knew the woman would be there. Once there, however, He
accepts … the grateful ease of a seat on the patriarchal stone.
But what music is that which I hear from His lips, "Come unto Me, all
ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28).
7. Give me to drink—for the heat of a
noonday sun had parched His lips. But "in the last, that great day of
the feast," Jesus stood and cried, saying, "If any man thirst let him
come unto Me and drink" (Joh 7:37).
9-12. How is it that thou—not altogether
refusing, yet wondering at so unusual a request from a Jew, as His
dress and dialect would at once discover Him to be, to a Samaritan.
for, &c.—It is this national
antipathy that gives point to the parable of the good Samaritan (Lu
10:30-37), and the
thankfulness of the Samaritan leper (Lu 17:16, 18).
10. If thou knewest, &c.—that is,
"In Me thou seest only a petitioner to thee but if thou knewest who
that Petitioner is, and the Gift that God is giving to men, thou
wouldst have changed places with Him, gladly suing of Him living
water—nor shouldst thou have sued in vain" (gently reflecting on
her for not immediately meeting His request).
12. Art thou greater, &c.—already
perceiving in this Stranger a claim to some mysterious greatness.
our father Jacob—for when it went well
with the Jews, they claimed kindred with them, as being descended from
Joseph; but when misfortunes befell the Jews, they disowned all
connection with them [Josephus,
13, 14. thirst again … never thirst,
&c.—The contrast here is fundamental and all comprehensive.
"This water" plainly means "this natural water and all satisfactions
of a like earthly and perishable nature." Coming to us from
without, and reaching only the superficial parts of our
nature, they are soon spent, and need to be anew supplied as much as if
we had never experienced them before, while the deeper wants of our
being are not reached by them at all; whereas the "water" that Christ
gives—spiritual life—is struck out of the very
depths of our being, making the soul not a cistern, for holding
water poured into it from without, but a fountain
(the word had been better so rendered, to distinguish it from the word
rendered "well" in Joh 4:11),
springing, gushing, bubbling up and flowing forth within us,
ever fresh, ever living. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost as the
Spirit of Christ is the secret of this life with all its enduring
energies and satisfactions, as is expressly said (Joh 7:37-39). "Never thirsting," then, means
simply that such souls have the supplies at home.
into everlasting life—carrying the
thoughts up from the eternal freshness and vitality of these waters to
the great ocean in which they have their confluence. "Thither may I
15-18. give me this water, &c.—This
is not obtuseness—that is giving way—it expresses a
wondering desire after she scarce knew what from this mysterious
16. call thy husband—now proceeding to
arouse her slumbering conscience by laying bare the guilty life she was
leading, and by the minute details which that life furnished, not only
bringing her sin vividly up before her, but preparing her to receive in
His true character that wonderful Stranger to whom her whole life, in
its minutest particulars, evidently lay open.
19, 20. Sir, I perceive, &c.—Seeing
herself all revealed, does she now break down and ask what hopes there
might be for one so guilty? Nay, her convictions have not reached that
point yet. She ingeniously shifts the subject from a personal to a
public question. It is not, "Alas, what a wicked life am I leading!"
but "Lo, what a wonderful prophet I got into conversation with! He will
be able to settle that interminable dispute between us and the Jews.
Sir, you must know all about such matters—our fathers hold to
this mountain here," pointing to Gerizim in Samaria, "as the
divinely consecrated place of worship, but ye Jews say that
Jerusalem is the proper place—which of us is right?" How
slowly does the human heart submit to thorough humiliation!
(Compare the prodigal; see on Lu 15:15).
Doubtless our Lord saw through the fetch; but does He say, "That
question is not the point just now, but have you been living in the way
described, yea or nay? Till this is disposed of I cannot be drawn into
theological controversies." The Prince of preachers takes another
method: He humors the poor woman, letting her take her own way,
allowing her to lead while He follows—but thus only the more
effectually gaining His object. He answers her question, pours light
into her mind on the spirituality of all true worship, as of its
glorious Object, and so brings her insensibly to the point at which He
could disclose to her wondering mind whom she was all the while
21-24. Woman, &c.—Here are three
weighty pieces of information: (1) The point raised will very soon
cease to be of any moment, for a total change of dispensation is about
to come over the Church. (2) The Samaritans are wrong, not only as to
the place, but the whole grounds and nature of
their worship, while in all these respects the truth lies with the
Jews. (3) As God is a Spirit, so He both invites and
demands a spiritual worship, and already all is in
preparation for a spiritual economy, more in harmony with the
true nature of acceptable service than the ceremonial worship by
consecrated persons, place, and times, which God for a
time has seen meet to keep up till fulness of the time should come.
neither in this mountain nor yet at
Jerusalem—that is, exclusively (Mal 1:11; 1Ti
worship the Father—She had talked
simply of "worship"; our Lord brings up before her the great Object of all acceptable worship—"THE Father."
22. Ye worship ye know not what—without
any revealed authority, and so very much in the dark. In this
sense, the Jews knew what they were about. But the most glorious
thing here is the reason assigned,
for salvation is of the
Jews—intimating to her that Salvation was not a thing
left to be reached by any one who might vaguely desire it of a God of
mercy, but something that had been revealed, prepared, deposited
with a particular people, and must be sought in connection with,
and as issuing from them; and that people, "the Jews."
23. hour cometh, and now is—evidently
meaning her to understand that this new economy was in some sense being
set up while He was talking to her, a sense which would in a few
minutes so far appear, when He told her plainly He was the
25, 26. I know Messias cometh … when He is
come, &c.—If we take our Lord's immediate disclosure of
Himself, in answer to this, as the proper key to its meaning to His
ear, we can hardly doubt that the woman was already all but
prepared for even this startling announcement, which indeed she
seems (from Joh 4:29) to
have already begun to suspect by His revealing her to herself. Thus
quickly, under so matchless a Teacher, was she brought up from her
sunken condition to a frame of mind and heart capable of the noblest
tell us all things—an expectation
founded probably on De 18:15.
26. I that speak … am he—He scarce
ever said anything like this to His own people, the Jews. He had
magnified them to the woman, and yet to themselves He is to the last
far more reserved than to her—proving rather than plainly
telling them He was the Christ. But what would not have been
safe among them was safe enough with her, whose
simplicity at this stage of the conversation appears from the
sequel to have become perfect. What now will the woman say? We listen,
the scene has changed, a new party arrives, the disciples have been to
Sychar, at some distance, to buy bread, and on their return are
astonished at the company their Lord has been holding in their
27. marvelled that he talked with the
woman—It never probably occurred to them to marvel that He
talked with themselves; yet in His eye, as the sequel shows, He
was quite as nobly employed. How poor, if not false, are many of our
most plausible estimates!
no man said … What? …
Why?—awed by the spectacle, and thinking there must be
something under it.
28-30. left her water-pot—How
exquisitely natural! The presence of strangers made her feel that it
was time for her to withdraw, and He who knew what was in her heart,
and what she was going to the city to do, let her go without exchanging
a word with her in the hearing of others. Their interview was too
sacred, and the effect on the woman too overpowering (not to speak of
His own deep emotion) to allow of its being continued. But this one
artless touch—that she "left her water-pot"—speaks volumes.
The living water was already beginning to spring up within her; she
found that man doth not live by bread nor by water only, and that there
was a water of wondrous virtue that raised people above meat and drink,
and the vessels that held them, and all human things. In short, she was
transported, forgot everything but One, and her heart running over with
the tale she had to tell, she hastens home and pours it out.
29. is not this the Christ—The
form of the question (in the Greek) is a distant, modest
way of only half insinuating what it seemed hardly fitting for
her to affirm; nor does she refer to what He said of Himself,
but solely to His disclosure to her of the particulars of her own
30. Then they went out, &c.—How
different from the Jews! and richly was their openness to conviction
31-38. meantime—that is, while the woman
Master, eat—Fatigue and
thirst we saw He felt; here is revealed another of our common
infirmities to which the Lord was subject—hunger.
32. meat ye know not of—What
spirituality of mind! "I have been eating all the while, and
such food as ye dream not of." What can that be? they ask each other;
have any supplies been brought Him in our absence? He knows what they
are saying though He hears it not.
34. My meat is, &c.—"A Servant here
to fulfil a prescribed work, to do and to finish, that is
'meat' to Me; and of this, while you were away, I have had My fill."
And of what does He speak thus? Of the condescension, pity, patience,
wisdom He had been laying out upon one soul—a very humble
woman, and in some respects repulsive too! But He had gained her, and
through her was going to gain more, and lay perhaps the foundations of
a great work in the country of Samaria; and this filled His whole soul
and raised Him above the sense of natural hunger (Mt 4:4).
35. yet four months, and then
harvest—that is, "In current speech, ye say thus at this
season; but lift up your eyes and look upon those fields in the light
of another husbandry, for lo! in that sense, they are
even now white to harvest, ready for the sickle." The simple beauty of
this language is only surpassed by the glow of holy emotion in the
Redeemer's own soul which it expresses. It refers to the
ripeness of these Sycharites for accession to Him, and the joy
of this great Lord of the reapers over the anticipated ingathering. Oh,
could we but so, "lift up our eyes and look" upon many fields
abroad and at home, which to dull sense appear unpromising, as
He beheld those of Samaria, what movements, as yet scarce in
embryo, and accessions to Christ, as yet seemingly far distant, might
we not discern as quite near at hand, and thus, amidst difficulties and
discouragements too much for nature to sustain, be cheered—as
our Lord Himself was in circumstances far more
overwhelming—with "songs in the night!"
36. he that reapeth, &c.—As our Lord
could not mean that the reaper only, and not the sower, received
"wages," in the sense of personal reward for his work, the
"wages" here can be no other than the joy of having such a harvest to
gather in—the joy of "gathering fruit unto life eternal."
rejoice together—The blessed issue of
the whole ingathering is the interest alike of the sower as of the
reaper; it is no more the fruit of the last operation than of the
first; and just as there can be no reaping without previous sowing, so
have those servants of Christ, to whom is assigned the pleasant task of
merely reaping the spiritual harvest, no work to do, and no joy to
taste, that has not been prepared to their hand by the toilsome and
often thankless work of their predecessors in the field. The
joy, therefore, of the great harvest festivity will be the
common joy of all who have taken any part in the work from the first
operation to the last. (See De 16:11, 14; Ps
126:6; Isa 9:3). What
encouragement is here for those "fishers of men" who "have toiled all
the night" of their official life, and, to human appearance, "have
38. I sent you, &c.—The I is
emphatic—I, the Lord of the whole harvest: "sent you," points to
their past appointment to the apostleship, though it has
reference only to their future discharge of it, for they had
nothing to do with the present ingathering of the Sycharites.
ye bestowed no labour—meaning that
much of their future success would arise from the preparation
already made for them. (See on Joh
others laboured—Referring to the Old
Testament laborers, the Baptist, and by implication Himself,
though He studiously keeps this in the background, that the line of
distinction between Himself and all His servants might not be lost
sight of. "Christ represents Himself as the Husbandman [rather the
Lord of the laborers], who has the direction both of the sowing and of
the harvest, who commissions all the agents—those of the
Old Testament as well as of the New—and therefore does not stand
on a level with either the sowers or the reapers" [Olshausen].
39-42. many … believed,
&c.—The truth of Joh 4:35
begins to appear. These Samaritans were the foundation of the Church
afterwards built up there. No miracle appears to have been wrought
there (but unparalleled supernatural knowledge displayed): "we have
heard Him ourselves" (Joh 4:42)
sufficed to raise their faith to a point never attained by the Jews,
and hardly as yet by the disciples—that He was "the Saviour of
the world" [Alford]. "This
incident is further remarkable as a rare instance of the Lord's
ministry producing an awakening on a large scale" [Olshausen].
40. abode two days—Two precious days,
surely, to the Redeemer Himself! Unsought, He had come to His own, yet
His own received Him not: now those who were not His own had come to
Him, been won by Him, and invited Him to their town that others might
share with them in the benefit of His wonderful ministry. Here, then,
would He solace His already wounded spirit and have in this outfield
village triumph of His grace, a sublime foretaste of the inbringing of
the whole Gentile world into the Church.
Joh 4:43-54. Second Galilean
Miracle—Healing of the Courtier's
43, 44. after two days—literally, the
two days of His stay at Sychar.
44. For Jesus testified, &c.—This
verse had occasioned much discussion. For it seems strange, if "His own
country" here means Nazareth, which was in Galilee, that it
should be said He came to Galilee because in one of its towns He
expected no good reception. But all will be simple and natural if we
fill up the statement thus: "He went into the region of Galilee, but
not, as might have been expected, to that part of it called 'His own
country,' Nazareth (see Mr 6:4; Lu 4:24), for He acted on the maxim which
He oft repeated, that 'a prophet,'" &c.
45. received—welcomed Him.
having seen … at the
feast—proud, perhaps, of their Countryman's wonderful works
at Jerusalem, and possibly won by this circumstance to regard His
claims as at least worthy of respectful investigation. Even this our
Lord did not despise, for saving conversion often begins in less than
this (so Zaccheus, Lu 19:3-10).
for they also went—that is, it was
their practice to go up to the feast.
46, 47. nobleman—courtier, king's
servant, or one connected with a royal household; such as Chuza (Lu 8:3), or Manaen (Ac 13:1).
heard that Jesus was come out of
Judea—"where he had doubtless seen or heard what things Jesus
had done at Jerusalem" (Joh 4:45),
come down—for Capernaum was down on
the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.
48-54. Except ye see signs, &c.—He
did believe, both as his coming and his urgent entreaty show;
but how imperfectly we shall see; and our Lord would deepen his faith
by such a blunt and seemingly rough answer as He made to Nicodemus.
49. come down ere my child die—"While we
talk, the case is at its crisis, and if Thou come not instantly, all is
over." This was faith, but partial, and our Lord would perfect it. The
man cannot believe the cure could be wrought without the Physician
coming to the patient—the thought of such a thing evidently never
occurred to him. But Jesus will in a moment bring him up to this.
50. Go thy way; thy son liveth—Both
effects instantaneously followed:—"The man believed the word,"
and the cure, shooting quicker than lightning from Cana to Capernaum,
was felt by the dying youth. In token of faith, the father takes his
leave of Christ—in the circumstances this evidenced full faith.
The servants hasten to convey the joyful tidings to the anxious
parents, whose faith now only wants one confirmation. "When
began he to amend? … Yesterday, at the seventh hour, the fever
left him"—the very hour in which was uttered that great word,
"Thy son liveth!" So "himself believed and his whole house." He
had believed before this, first very imperfectly; then with
assured confidence of Christ's word; but now with a faith crowned by
"sight." And the wave rolled from the head to the members of his
household. "To-day is salvation come to this house" (Lu 19:9); and no mean house this!
second miracle Jesus did—that is, in
Cana; done "after He came out of Judea," as the former before.