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§ 121. Impressions made upon the Samaritan Woman.

In the mean time the summer months, and part of autumn, had passed away. It was in seed time, which lasted from the middle of October to the middle of December, that Jesus arrived in the fertile plain of Sichem. Fatigued with travelling, he stopped to refresh him self about midday294294   That traveling could be continued until twelve o’clock shows that it must have been late in autumn. at the well of Jacob. He was alone, for he had sent his disciples into the city to buy provisions; not without the intention, probably, to elevate them above the Jewish prejudice which regarded the Samaritans as unclean. While he sits by the well-side, a poor woman from the neighbouring city comes295295   This, too, could not have been done at that hour in summer. to draw fresh water. He asked her for water to quench his thirst, and embraced the occasion (as he always embraced every moment and opportunity to fulfil his Divine calling) to plant in her soul the seeds of Divine truth.296296   Here is another refutation of the theory that assigned an Alexandrian origin to this Gospel. A man trained in that school would have been as little disposed as a Jewish theologian of Palestine to represent Jesus as conversing with a poor woman and displaying to her the prospect of a new future of religious developement! But it was perfectly in Keeping with the character of Him who thanked God that “what had been hidden from the wise had been revealed unto babes,” and who had come to break down all barriers that separated men, and to glorify human nature even in the form of woman! 181Adapting his mode of teaching to her condition and culture, he made use of a natural figure, offered by the occasion [“If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, ‘Give me to drink,’ thou wouldst have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water”].

The figure was admirably adapted to awaken in her as yet unspiritual mind a longing for the precious possession thus intimated, before she could apprehend the nature of the possession itself [“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst: it shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life”]. How joyfully must she have heard of water, ever fresh and flowing, which one could always carry with him, and never need thirst or be weary with constant travelling the dusty road to draw! And so, under this figure, Christ pictured forth for her the Divine life which he had come to impart, which alone can quench the thirst of the soul, and is, for all who receive it, an endless stream of life flowing onward into eternity!

After thus exciting in her mind a desire for the miraculous water, of which she could as yet form no just conception, he breaks off without giving her further explanations of what, at that time, she could not be made to understand. He turns the conversation, first, to make her look within, as self-knowledge alone can prepare us rightly to apprehend Divine things; and, secondly, to satisfy her that he was a prophet by showing an acquaintance with parts of her private history of which, as a stranger, he could have known nothing.297297   It has been made a question whether Christ, at the moment when he requested the woman to call “her husband” (John, iv., 16), had the full and supernatural knowledge of her real circumstances, and only spoke thus to her in order to test her disposition, and in duce her to speak of her course of life with candour; or whether he had not that knowledge at the moment, and really wished her husband to come, in order to open a communication with the Samaritans; so that the final turn of the conversation was different from what he had expected. We are not acquainted with the laws under which the beams of supernatural knowledge broke forth from the soul of Christ, nor with the relation between external occasions and the internal developement of his higher knowledge. And therefore we cannot say whether the woman’s explanation, that “she had no husband,” excited the streaming forth of the Divine light within him or not.


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