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John 4:27-34

27. And, in the meantime, his disciples came, and wondered that he talked with the woman. But no man said, What seekest thou, or why talkest thou with her? 28. The woman, therefore, left her pitcher, and went away into the city, and said to the men, 29. Come, and see a man who hath told me all things that I ever did: is not this the Christ? 30. They went out of the city, therefore, and came to him. 31. In the meantime his disciples asked him, saying, Master, eat. 32. But he said to them, I have food to eat which you know not. 33. The disciples, therefore, said among themselves, Hath any man brought him any thing to eat? 34. Jesus saith to them, My food is, to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work.


27. His disciples came, and wondered. That the disciples wondered, as the Evangelist relates, might arise from one of two causes; either that they were offended at the mean condition of the woman, or that they reckoned the Jews to be polluted, if they entered into conversation with the Samaritans. Now though both of these feelings proceeded from a devout reverence for their Master, yet they are wrong in wondering at it as an improper thing, that he deigns to bestow so great honor on a woman who was utterly despised. For why do they not rather look at themselves? They would certainly have found no less reason to be astonished, that they who were men of no note, and almost the offscourings of the people, were raised to the highest rank of honor. And yet it is useful to observe what the Evangelist says — that they did not venture to put a question; for we are taught by their example that, if any thing in the works or words of God and of Christ be disagreeable to our feelings, we ought not to give ourselves a loose rein so as to have the boldness to murmur, but ought to preserve a modest silence, until what is hidden from us be revealed from heaven. The foundation of such modesty lies in the fear of God and in reverence for Christ.

28. Therefore the woman left her pitcher. This circumstance is related by the Evangelist to express the ardor of her zeal; for it is an indication of haste, that she leaves her pitcher, and returns to the city. And this is the nature of faith, that when we have become partakers of eternal life, we wish to bring others to share with us; nor is it possible that the knowledge of God shall lie buried and inactive in our hearts without being manifested before men, for that saying must be true:

I believed, and therefore I will speak, (Psalm 116:10.)

The earnestness and promptitude of the woman are so much the more worthy of attention, that it was only a small spark of faith that kindled them; for scarcely had she tasted Christ when she spreads his name throughout the whole city. In those who have already made moderate progress in his school, sluggishness will be highly disgraceful. But she may appear to deserve blame on this account, that while she is still ignorant and imperfectly taught, she goes beyond the limits of her faith. I reply, she would have acted inconsiderately, if she had assumed the office of a teacher, but when she desires nothing more than to excite her fellow-citizens to hear Christ speaking, we will not say that she forgot herself, or proceeded farther than she had a right to do. She merely does the office of a trumpet or a bell to invite others to come to Christ.

29. See a man. As she here speaks doubtfully, she might appear not to have been greatly moved by the authority of Christ. I reply, as she was not qualified to discourse about such high mysteries, she endeavors, according to her feeble capacity, to bring her fellow-citizens to permit themselves to be taught by Christ. It was a very powerful stimulant which she employed to excite them, when she knew, by a sign which was not obscure or doubtful, that he was a prophet; for, since they could not form a judgment from his doctrine, this lower preparation was useful and well adapted to them. Having, therefore, learned that Christ had revealed to the woman things which were hidden, they infer from it that he is a Prophet of God. This having been ascertained, they begin to attend to his doctrine. But the woman goes farther; for she bids them inquire if he be not the Messiah, being satisfied if she could only persuade them to seek, of their own accord, what she had already found in Christ; for she knew that they would find more than she promised.

Who told me all things that ever I did. Why does she tell a lie, by saying that Christ told her all things? I have already shown that Christ did not reprove her for a single instance of fornication, but that he placed before her, in a few words, many sins of her whole life. For the Evangelist has not minutely recorded every sentence, but states generally that Christ, in order to repress the woman’s talkativeness, brought forward her former and present life. Yet we see that the woman, kindled by a holy zeal, does not spare herself, or her reputation, to magnify the name of Christ: for she does not scruple to relate the disgraceful passages of her life.

32. I have food to eat which you know not. It is wonderful that, when he is fatigued and hungry, he refuses to eat; for if it be said that he does this for the purpose of instructing us, by his example, to endure hunger, why then did he not do so always? But he had another object than to say that we ought simply to refuse food; for we must attend to this circumstance, that his anxiety about the present business urges him so strongly, and absorbs his whole mind, so that it gives him no uneasiness to despise food. And yet he does not say that he is so eager to obey the commands of his Father, that he neither eats nor drinks. He only points out what he must do first, and what must be done afterwards; and thus he shows, by his example, that the kingdom of God ought to be preferred to all the comforts of the body. God allows us, indeed, to eat and drink, provided that we are not withdrawn from what is of the highest importance; that is, that every man attend to his own calling.

It will perhaps be said, that eating and drinking cannot but be avocations which withdraw some portion of our time that might be better employed. This I acknowledge to be true, but as the Lord kindly permits us to take care of our body, so far as necessity requires, he who endeavors to nourish his body with sobriety and moderation does not fail to give that preference which he ought to give to obedience to God. But we must also take care not to adhere so firmly to our fixed hours, as not to be prepared to deprive ourselves of food, when God holds out to us any opportunity, and, as it were, fixes the present hour. Christ, having now in his hands such an opportunity which might pass away, embraces it with open arms, and holds it fast. When the present duty enjoined on him by the Father presses him so hard that he finds it necessary to lay aside every thing else, he does not scruple to delay taking food; and, indeed, it would have been unreasonable that, when the woman left her pitcher and ran to call the people, Christ should display less zeal. In short, if we propose it as our object not to lose the causes of life on account of life itself, it; will not be difficult to preserve the proper medium; for he who shall place it before him as the end of life to serve the Lord, from which we are not at liberty to turn aside even for the immediate danger of death, will certainly reckon it to be of more value than eating and drinking. The metaphor of eating and drinking is so much the more graceful on this occasion, that it was drawn seasonably from the present discourse.

34. My food is to do the will of him who sent me. He means not only that he esteems it very highly, but that there is nothing in which he takes greater delight, or in which he is more cheerfully or more eagerly employed; as David, in order to magnify the Law of God, says not only that he values it highly, but that it is sweeter than honey, (Psalm 19:10.) If, therefore, we would follow Christ, it is proper not only that we devote ourselves diligently to the service of God, but that we be so cheerful in complying with its injunctions that the labor shall not be at all oppressive or disagreeable.

That I may finish his work. By adding these words, Christ fully explains what is that will of the Father to which he is devoted; namely, to fulfill the commission which had been given to him. Thus every man ought to consider his own calling, that he may not consider as done to God what he has rashly undertaken at his own suggestion. What was the office of Christ is well known. It was to advance the kingdom of God, to restore to life lost souls, to spread the light of the Gospel, and, in short, to bring salvation to the world. The excellence of these things caused him, when fatigued and hungry, to forget meat and drink. Yet we derive from this no ordinary consolation, when we learn that Christ was so anxious about the salvation of men, that it gave him the highest delight to procure it; for we cannot doubt that he is now actuated by similar feelings towards us.

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