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Joh 4:1-42. CHRIST AND THE WOMAN OF SAMARIA--THE SAMARITANS OF SYCHAR.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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 speaking to.
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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).