Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CHRIST AND THE
1-4. the Lord knew--not by report, but in the sense of
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 disciples.
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
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
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
the sixth hour--noonday, reckoning from six
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"
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"
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"
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
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
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
"Never thirsting," then, means simply that such souls have the supplies
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 arrive!" [BENGEL].
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 Stranger.
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
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
worship the Father--She had talked simply of "worship"; our Lord brings
up before her the great OBJECT of all acceptable
22. Ye worship ye know not what--without any revealed authority, and so very much in the dark. In this sense, the
knew what they were about. But the most glorious thing here is the
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,
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 Christ.
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
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
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 absence.
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 life.
30. Then they went out, &c.--How different from the Jews! and richly
was their openness to conviction rewarded.
31-38. meantime--that is, while the woman was away.
Master, eat--Fatigue and thirst we saw He felt; here is
revealed another of our common infirmities to which the Lord was
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
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;
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
ye bestowed no labour--meaning that much of their future success
would arise from the preparation already made for them. (See on
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
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"
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.
MIRACLE--HEALING OF THE
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
for He acted on the maxim which He oft repeated, that 'a
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,
for they also went--that is, it was their practice to go up to the
46, 47. nobleman--courtier, king's servant, or one connected with a
royal household; such as Chuza
heard that Jesus was come out of Judea--"where he had doubtless seen
or heard what things Jesus had done at Jerusalem"
come down--for Capernaum was down on the northwest shore of the Sea
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"
and no mean house this!
second miracle Jesus did--that is, in Cana; done "after He came out
of Judea," as the former before.