John 4

John 4:1-4.

“When, therefore, the Lord knew that the Pharisees heard that Jesus maketh and baptizeth more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judaea and went away (again)43 into Galilee.”

Little did the disciples know the depth of the glory that was in Him or the consequent blessing for man, though they zealously baptized and thus exposed their Master to the spleen of those who could ill-brook His increase and honour. It will be noticed that not He, but His disciples, did baptize. He knew the end from the beginning; and this finds its appropriate statement here. They might baptize to Him as Messiah; but He, the Son of God, knew from the first that He must suffer and die as the Son of man: so, indeed, He had already declared to Nicodemus with its blessed results for the believer. The baptism He instituted was, therefore, after and to His death and Resurrection. The Son of God knew what was in man, even when he was disposed to pay Him homage because of the signs which He wrought. So did He know the effect of His disciples’ activity on the religious men of that day.81

It was the jealousy of the Pharisees, then, which in reality drove the Lord from Judæa. What was that land longer? What without Him, above all, when it rejected Him and He abandoned it? They might boast of the law, but they had not kept it; they might claim the promises, but He-the promised One and Accomplisher of all the promises-had been there, and they knew Him not, loved Him not, but were more and more proving their heart-estrangement from Him, their Messiah. What could the first covenant avail now? It must ensure their condemnation; it could work no deliverance. The Jew was to reap only ruin and death under its terms. We shall presently see more; yet here at the beginning of the chapter is the Son of God, through the ill-feeling of those who ought most to have appreciated His presence, forced out, we may say, from the people of God and the scene of His institutions, but in the power of life eternal, whatever the humiliation which the haughty religionists put on Him, who saw in Him a man only, little suspecting that He was the Word become flesh.

John 4:4-6.

“And He must pass through Samaria. He cometh, therefore, to a city of Samaria called Sychar,82 near the land which Jacob gave to Joseph his son. Now a fountain of Jacob was there. Jesus, therefore, being wearied with the journeying, sat thus83 at the fountain. It was about the sixth hour.”84 He is as truly man as God, but the Holy One always and only. Weary and rejected, He sits there in unwearied love. The false pretensions before Him can no more hinder now than the proud iniquity He had just left behind. Jerusalem and Samaria alike vanish. What could either do for a wretched heart, a guilty sinner? And such a one approaches.

John 4:7-10.

“There cometh a woman out of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith to her, Give Me to drink (for His disciples had gone away into the city to buy provisions).85 The Samaritan woman therefore saith to Him, How dost Thou, being a Jew, ask to drink of Me, being a Samaritan woman? for Jews86 have no intercourse with Samaritans.44 Jesus answered and said to her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.”

He that made the heart perfectly knows the avenue to its affections. And what grace can He not show Who came to give a new and Divine nature, as well as to reveal God in love, where there was nothing but sin, self, and unrest? God in the lowliness of man asks a favour, a drink of water, of the Samaritan woman; but it was to open her heart to her wants, and give her life eternal in the power of the Holy Ghost, communion with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

“Beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God cometh.” So said the Spirit of prophecy by Isaiah of old (52:7); and so it will be fulfilled in its fulness by and by, as even now it is in principle. But what a sight to God, and, indeed, to faith, the Son of God, when driven out by the jealous hatred and contempt of man, of His own people who received Him not, thus occupying Himself with an unhappy Samaritan who had exhausted her life in quest of happiness never thus found! Surprised, she inquires how a Jew could ask aught of one like her: what had she felt, had she then conceived Who He was, and that He knew to the full what she was? And how reassuring to her afterwards when she looked back on the path by which God had in gracious wisdom led her that day that she might know Himself for evermore!

Alone He spoke to her alone, beginning in her soul His work for heaven, for eternity, for God. No miracle of an external sort is wrought before the eyes, no sign is needed without. The Son of God speaks in Divine love, though (as we shall see) intelligence is not till the conscience is reached and exercised. The law is good if one use it lawfully, knowing that its application is not to a righteous person, but to lawless and insubordinate, to impious and sinful, and, in short, to all that is opposed to sound teaching. But Christ is the best of all as the revelation of God in grace, giving all that is wanted, producing (not seeking) what should be, not to dispense with the absolutely needed lesson of what we are, but enabling us to bear it, now that we know how truly God Himself cares for us in perfect love, spite of all that we are.

This is grace, the true grace of God. No error is more complete or perilous than the notion that grace makes light of sin. Was it a slight dealing with our sins when Christ bore them in His own body on the tree? Did law ever strike such a blow at any sinner, as God when He, sending His own Son in likeness of flesh of sin and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, and thus brought “no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus”? (Rom. 8:1-3.) Nay, it was expressly what the law could not do. The law could condemn the sinner with his sins; but God has thus in Christ condemned not only the sins, but the root of evil-sin in the flesh-and this in a sacrifice for sin, so that those who otherwise had nothing but condemnation inwardly and outwardly, past and present, in nature as well as ways, have now by grace “no condemnation.” All that could be condemned has been condemned; and they are in Christ, and they walk not according to flesh, but according to the Spirit. This is now the law of liberty.

Here, doubtless, there was no such standing yet existing, or, consequently, possible to any. But the Son was here acting and speaking in the fulness of grace which was soon to accomplish all for the believer and give all to him. Yet He lets the Samaritan know that she knew nothing. For, whatever His goodness (and it has no limits), grace does not spare man’s assumption; and the revelation it brings from God and of God never really enters till self is judged. Samaria and Jerusalem are alike ignorant of grace; and only Christ by the Spirit can open the heart to bow and receive it. If thou knewest the gift of God”-such is the reality and the aspect of God in the Gospel. He is not an exacter, but a giver. He is not commanding man to love Him, but proclaiming His love to man-yea, to the most wretched of sinners. He is not requiring the creature’s righteousness, but revealing His own. But man is slow to believe, and religious man the slowest to understand, what makes nothing of himself and all of God. But such is the word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation; such the freegiving of God, which the Lord was then manifesting as well as declaring to the woman of Samaria.

But there was, and is, more. The knowledge of the gift of God, in contradistinction from the law on the one hand, or from blank ignorance of His active love on the other, is inseparable from faith in the personal dignity of the Son of God. Therefore does the Saviour, all-lowly as He was, add: “And Who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink.” For without this nothing is known aright. Jesus is the Truth, and abides ever the test for the soul, which owns with so much the more decision and adoring thankfulness the glory of Him Who, true God, became man in infinite love that we might have life eternal in Him. For otherwise, we may boldly say, it could not be. The truth is exclusive and immutable; it is not only the revelation of what is, but of what alone can and must be, consistently with the real nature of God and the state of man. Yet is God acting in His own liberty, for His love is always free and always holy; and the truth can only be what it is; for it is He Who has brought down that love in man to men in all their sin and death and darkness.

It is the revelation of God to man in Him Who, though the Son of God, stooped so low to bless the most needy and defiled and distant from God as to ask a drink of water, that He might in this find the occasion to give even to such a one living water. For this, too, He does not fail to say, as a consequence, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and Who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.” For grace, truly known in Christ, produces confidence in grace, and draws out the heart to ask the greatest boon of Him Who will never be below, but above, the highest position that can be conferred on Him. Never can it be that the faith of man equals, still less surpasses, the riches of the grace of God. If men, spite of their evil, know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more should the Father Who is of heaven give the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him? (Luke 11:13.) If a guilty Samaritan woman is assured by the Son of God that she, knowing the gift of God and Who He is that asked of her to drink when weary by the fountain, had but to ask of Him in order to receive living water, still none that so asked and received had anything like an adequate sense of that infinite blessing-the Holy Ghost given to be in the believer.

Such is the living water that Christ here speaks of-not power in gift, nor yet simply eternal life, but the Spirit given88 of the Son to be in the believer as the spring of communion with Himself and the Father.

It is not, then, quite correct, as some have said, that Christ is here alluded to as meant by “the gift of God,” the next clause being viewed as explanatory. Undoubtedly, He was the means of displaying it; but the first of the clauses in this rich word of our Lord sets forth the thought, so strange to man, of the free-giving of God. Nature, as such, never understands it; law alone makes it still less intelligible. Faith only solves the difficulty in the Person, mission, and work of Christ, Who is the witness, proof, and substance of it; but it is the gratuitous grace of God that is meant. Hence, the second clause, instead of being merely exegetic of the first, directs attention to Him Who was there in the utmost humiliation (weary with His journeying, and asking a drink of water from one whom He knew to be the most worthless of Samaritans), yet the Son of the Father in unshorn fulness of Divine glory and of grace to the most wretched. And this was so true that she who was as yet blind to all this had but to ask Him, and have the best and greatest gift the believer can receive-living water, not life only, but the Holy Ghost. Thus, while Christ is the way of it, the Trinity was really involved in making good these words of our Lord to the Samaritan woman, all the Godhead engaged in the proffered blessing.

John 4:11 F.

“The woman saith to Him, Sir, Thou hast no bucket, and the well is deep: whence, then, hast Thou the living water? Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” She comprehends none of the gracious words she had heard; they were not mixed with faith in her heart. She, therefore, reasons against them. If the water was to be drawn from Jacob’s well, where was the bucket to let down, for the well was deep? Did He pretend to be greater than Jacob, or was His a better well than that which of old supplied him and his house-a well which was now theirs? Thus the mind argues against the Lord, according to the senses or tradition, so fatal is ignorance of His Person and of the truth. Circumstances are the trial of faith and the swamp of unbelief, which gladly avails itself (with or with out any just title) of a great name and its gifts, alas! to slight a greater-yea, the greatest.

John 4:13f.

Mark now the Saviour’s grace. He develops with the utmost fulness to this dark soul the unspeakable gift of God, in contrast with her own thoughts, and with those of man generally. “Jesus answered and said to her, Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give him shall in no way thirst for ever,45 but the water which I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life eternal.”

Water of whatever spring nature boasts may refresh, but thirst will come again; and God has ordered for the creature that so it should and must be. But it is not so when one is given to drink into the Spirit. Christ gives the Holy Ghost to the believer to be in him a fresh fountain of Divine enjoyment, not only life eternal from the Father in the Person of the Son, but the communion of the Holy Ghost, and hence the power of worship, as we shall see later in this very conversation. Thus it is not only deliverance from hankering after pleasure, vanity, sin, but a living spring of exhaustless and Divine joy, joying in God through our Lord Jesus, and this in the power of the Spirit. It supposes the possession of life eternal in the Son, but also the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit Who was given to us.

John 4:15-19.

Even then the Samaritan remains as insensible as ever. “The woman saith to Him, Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here46 to draw. He saith to her, Go, call thy husband, and come here. The woman answered and said, I have not a husband. Jesus saith to her, Thou saidst well, I have not a husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: this thou hast spoken truly. The woman saith to Him, Sir, I see that Thou art a Prophet.” She would gladly learn how she might be relieved of her wants and of her labour for this world. As yet not a ray of heavenly light had entered her. Not to thirst nor to come here to draw formed the boundary of her desires from the Saviour not yet known to be a Saviour, still less the Only-begotten Son.

This closes the first part of our Lord’s dealings with her. It was useless to say more as before. Jesus had already set before her the principle on which God is acting, and His own gracious competence to give her, on her asking, living water; He had also shown the incomparable superiority of His gift as being Divine over any or every boon left by Jacob. But her heart did not rise above the sphere of her daily wants and earthly wishes. She was deaf to His words, albeit spirit and life, which disclosed what is eternal.

Had it been in vain, then, to have so spoken to her as He did in the fulness of God’s love? Far from it. It was all-important, when a door was once opened within, to reflect and find that such riches of grace had been brought to her absolutely unsought. But it was useless to add more till then. Hence the Lord’s abrupt and seemingly unconnected appeal, “Go, call thy husband, and come here.” But was the digression apart from the question of her salvation? Not so. It was the second and necessary way with a soul, if it is to be blessed Divinely. It is through an awakened conscience that grace and truth enter, and it was because her conscience hitherto was unreached that the grace and truth were not at all understood.

On the one hand, it was of all consequence that she and we and all should have the clearest proof that the testimony of the Saviour’s grace goes out before there is any fitness to receive it; for this, as it magnifies God and His free-giving, so it abases and exposes the wholly evil and frightfully dangerous state of man.

On the other hand, it was equally momentous that she should be brought to feel her need of that free and wondrous grace of which the Saviour had assured her, in all its depths and amplitude and everlasting continuance, before she had judged herself as a sinner before God. To this point He now conducts her; for if it is impossible to please God without faith, without repentance faith is intellectual and worthless. It is man discerning evidence and accepting what he in his wisdom judges best; not a sinner who, met by sovereign grace, is judged, owning himself in his sins, but too glad to find the Saviour, the only Saviour, in Jesus Christ the Lord.

Yet the Lord still holds to grace. He does not say, “Go, call thy husband,” without adding, “and come here.” He does not repent of His goodness because she was dull; on the contrary, He was using the fresh and necessary means to have the need of such goodness felt. How painstaking is grace, working in the soul that it may enter and abide, now that it had been testified of in all its fulness, and without any preparation for it any more than desert in man!

The woman answering, “I have not a husband,” is astounded to hear the withering reply, “Thou saidst well, I have not a husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: this thou hast spoken truly.” She was convicted. It was in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Yet were the words few and simple, not one of them harsh or strong. It was the truth of her state and of her life brought home most unexpectedly, as God knows how to do, and does in one form or another in every converted soul. It was the truth which spared her not and laid her sins bare before God and her own conscience. She did not doubt for a moment what it was that made everything manifest. She recognised it to be the light of God. She owns His words to be not man’s wisdom, but God’s power. She falls under the conviction, and at once confesses, “Sir, I see that Thou art a Prophet.” It was not the fact only, but the truth from God.

It is plain hence that “prophet” does not mean one only who predicted the future, for this was not in question, but one who told out the mind of God-one who spoke by the evident guidance of the Spirit what could not be known naturally, yet what therefore so much the more put the soul before God and His light. So Abraham is a prophet (Gen. 20:7), and the fathers generally (Ps. 105:15), and the O.T. prophets in all their ministry and writing, not merely in what was prediction. The same thing is emphatically true of New Testament prophesying, as we may see in 1 Cor. 14:24, 25. That is communicated from God, which judges the life, yea, the secrets of the heart before Him.

Recognising the Divine power of His words, the Samaritan seizes the opportunity to have light from God on that which had not been without perplexity. and interest even to her- the religious difference between her race and the chosen nation, and this not merely in homage to God, but in formal or express public worship. She wants to have the question, old as it was, settled for her now. The Samaritan, like many another in grievous error, could talk of great antiquity. Happy the soul that has recourse for it to Jesus! He alone is the Truth. Others may deceive, themselves deceived.

To this end was Jesus born, and for this cause came He into the world that He should bear witness to the truth. What is more: “Every one that is of the truth heareth His voice.” Alas! how different has it been with Christendom, corrupted first, then rent hopelessly, most haughty when it has most reason to be ashamed. Be it ours in such a state of ruin to keep His word and not deny His name.

A time of declension beyond all things tests the soul, for it seems proud to differ from the excellent of the earth, especially if they are many, and those who cleave to God’s Word are few, and have nothing to boast. For this very reason it is precious in God’s eyes, and no small testimony to the absent Master. Still, it becomes all who differ from the mass to be sure of their ground, as this woman sought when she appealed to Jesus, and the Christian need seek no other-yea, is guilty and infatuated if, where men’s uncertainty is so great and grave, he heed aught other-than Jesus speaking by His Word and Spirit.

John 4:20-26.

“Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship. Jesus saith to her, Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father. Ye worship what ye know not: we worship what we know, for salvation89 is of the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for also the Father seeketh such as His worshippers. God is a Spirit, and His worshippers must worship90 (Him) in spirit and truth. The woman saith to Him, I know that Messiah is coming, that is called Christ:91 when He shall come, He will tell us all things. Jesus saith to her, I that speak to thee am (He).”

The Lord more than meets every desire of the Samaritan’s heart. For here we have, not merely the vindication of Israelitish worship as compared with its Samaritan rival but the first unfolding of Christian worship ever given by God to man, and this as superseding not Samaritanism only but Judaism also-a change withal then at hand. Yet is all conveyed in language that was plain enough even to the soul thus addressed, while there is depth of truth which no saint has ever fathomed, however deeply he may have drawn on it and enjoyed it.

“The Father” was to be worshipped henceforth: of itself, what a revelation! It is no longer a question of the Jehovah God of Israel, nor even of the Almighty as was the name by which He was made known to the fathers. There is a richer display of God, and far more intimate. It is not as the Eternal Who put Himself in covenant and government, Who will surely yet make good His ways with Israel, as He has chastised them for theirs. Nor is it the God Who shielded His poor pilgrims that hung on His promises in their wanderings among hostile strangers before their children formed a nation and received His law. It was God as the Son knew Him, and was making Him known in the fulness of love and fellowship, Who would accordingly bring His own that were in the world into the conscious relationship of children as born of Him. (Compare John 1:12, 13, 18; John 14:4-10, 20; John 16:23-27; John 20:17-23.)

No wonder that, in presence of such nearness and the worship that befits it, the mountain of Gerizim melts, and the sanctuary of Jerusalem fades away. For the one was but the effort of self-will, the other but the test and proof of the first man’s inability to meet God and live. Christian worship is found on the possession of life eternal in the Son, and on the gift of the Spirit as the power of worship.

In verse 22 the Lord leaves it impossible for the Samaritan to draw the inference that, if Christian worship was about to be alone acceptable to God, independently of place or race, Samaritan had been just as good as Jewish. Not so. The Samaritans worshipped what they did not know, the Jews knew what they worshipped; “for salvation,” as He added, “is of the Jews.” They had “the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, the law-giving, and the service, and the promises, whose were the fathers, and of whom as pertaining to flesh was the Christ Who is over all God blessed for ever. Amen.” (Rom. 9:5.) The Samaritans were mere imitators, Gentiles jealous of Israel and hostile to them, without fear of God, else had they submitted to His ways and Word.

Thus God’s privileges to Israel are vindicated; but none the less was the Lord at that time driven out by Pharisaic jealousy, and none the less had He set aside all pretension to traditional and successional blessing. He was there to communicate from God, not to accredit man, and, He being rejected, Jerusalem and Samaria alike vanish away. Old things are judged; all things must become new. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, now that those who had the institutions of God are rejecting His counsel against themselves. And if that unbelief went to the uttermost in hatred of the Father and the Son, it would only bring out the fulness of Divine grace and righteousness, leaving His love absolutely free to act supremely above all evil for His own glory, as we know is the fact in a crucified but risen Christ.

It is remarkable accordingly that the Lord does not say “Who,” but “What.” For in Judaism God dwelt in thick darkness, and the testimony rendered by the whole Levitical system (with its sacrifices and priests, door, veil, incense, everything in short), was that the way into the holiest had not yet been made manifest. When Christ died it was: the veil was rent from top to bottom, and eternal redemption found; the worshippers once purged have no more conscience of sins, and are invited to draw near. Such is Christianity, God having revealed Himself as the Father in the Son through the Spirit. To know Him, the only true God, and Him Whom He had sent to reveal Him, even Jesus, is life eternal. And the mighty work which was done on the cross has dealt with all our evil, so that we are free to enjoy Himself. We know therefore Whom we worship, and not merely “what.” When God was hidden in the thick darkness, and only the unity of His nature proclaimed, the Godhead remained vague. When the Father is revealed as now in the Son by the Spirit, what a difference!

Hence this exceeding blessedness is opened in its positive character in verses 24, 25. For it is an hour when form is repudiated, as it could not be in Judaism. Reality alone is endorsed. National worship therefore is now an evident delusion, being but an effort to resuscitate what has vanished away as far as regards any recognition on God’s part. It was owned in Israel under law for its own purpose; it will be so on the largest scale in the millennium; but it is not, if we believe the Saviour, during the hour which, then coming, now is. It is an hour now when the true worshippers worship the Father. Who and what are they? The doctrinal utterances of the Apostles answer with one voice that they are God’s children, born of Him through the faith of Christ, and sealed by the Spirit consequently as resting on His redemption. So the Apostle says (Phil. 3:3) that we (in contrast with mere Jews or Judaizers) are the true circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and boast in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in flesh. But we must cite the New Testament as a whole to give the full proof, if one asks more evidence than the Lord affords in this context, though I feel assured that he who bows not to such a witness would not be won by ten thousand. A single word from God is more to the believer than every other evidence: how many would convince the unbeliever?

Further, what is said of the worship excludes all but true believers. For they are to worship in spirit and truth. How can any who have not the Spirit and know not the truth? Granted that the article is wanting. But this in such a case as the one before us adds to the strength of the statement, for it predicates a spiritual and truthful character of the worship. That is to say, the Lord’s words express more than the necessity of having the Holy Ghost or of acquaintance with the truth, though this would suppose the Christian with his distinguishing privileges. But He says that they worship in that character, not merely that they have the Spirit and the truth in order to worship. Now, plainly, a real Christian might act unspiritually and not according to the truth. Even Peter and Barnabas failed at a grave crisis to walk according to the truth of the Gospel. However true the worshipper then, if he were grieving the Spirit or dishonouring the Lord, this would not be to worship in spirit and truth. But it remains still more manifest that none but “the true worshippers” could so worship, though on a given occasion or in a given state they might not, in fact, as they ought.

Moreover, “also the Father seeketh such as his worshippers.” Let us weigh it. Time was when every Jew went up to Jerusalem to seek Jehovah; time will be when all nations shall flow to the same centre when the Son of man comes in power and reigns in glory. But the characteristic working of grace is that the Father seeks the true worshippers. Undoubtedly when sought they gather unto the name of the Lord, and enjoy His presence by the Spirit. It is not enough that they are washed, and not by water only but by water and blood, and thus are every whit clean; it is not only that they have the Spirit as the witness of the one efficacious sacrifice, and the spring of praise and power of continual thanksgiving; “also the Father seeketh such as His worshippers.” What confidence for them! What grace in Him! Yet is His seeking such true of every Christian. May they answer His grace by eschewing all that is unworthy of it in this evil day!

But there are other words of profound import. “God is a Spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.” It is the nature of God which is here in question, not the relationship of grace which He now reveals in and by Christ. And this is not without the greatest importance for us. For He must be worshipped correspondingly, and He most fully provided for this, seeing that the new life we enjoy is by the Spirit and is spirit, not flesh (John 3:6), as, indeed, He begot us of His own will by the word of truth (James 1), and we are thus born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by God’s living and abiding word (1 Peter 1:23). Assuredly we should walk and worship in the Spirit, if we live in the Spirit. He is given to us that we should judge and reject the first Adam, glorifying only the Second man, our Lord Jesus. Nay, more, as God is a Spirit, spiritual worship is all He accepts. His worshippers “must worship in spirit and truth.” It is a moral necessity flowing from His nature-a nature fully revealed in Him Who is the image of the invisible God, and we should not be ignorant of it and its character who are born of Him as believers in Christ.

The woman, struck by words plain, indeed, but no doubt far beyond her (for they reach up to God as surely as they come down to man), at once thinks of the Messiah, owns her confidence in His coming, and is sure that when He is come He will tell us all things (verse 25). Would that all who believe on Him believed this of Him! Would that, when He has spoken peace to them, they turned not again to folly! And what folly greater than to turn from His words on this very theme, and in this very chapter, for instance, to follow the traditions of men and the ways of the world in the worship of God?

And now break on her ear and heart the last words needed to clinch all the rest and ensure her blessing evermore: “Jesus saith to her, I that speak to thee am (He)” (verse 26). It might be the lowest form of presenting the only One Who can avail the sinner, yet it remains ever true from first to last that every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God. And this the Samaritan did. Her heart was touched, her conscience searched, and now the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ was all to her. All the blessing was hers in His person Who was then present and received by her in faith.

What a moment, a present Messiah,92 and He speaking to a Samaritan woman, yea, on Christian worship!

John 4:27.

“And upon this came His disciples, and wondered47 that he was speaking with a woman: none, however, said, What seekest Thou? or why speakest Thou with her?” Their wonder was that He spoke48 with a woman:92a what was hers who knew that every secret of her heart was naked and open before Him with Whom she had to do? His grace, however, had fully prepared the way. He Who searched all the recesses of her soul had already encouraged her by revealing the richest grace of God the Father, Himself the only true Revealer of it, about to give the Holy Spirit that even she might receive and enjoy it truly. It was no question of seeking on her part at any rate: the Father was seeking such; nor was it of talking with her, but of revealing to her. The disciples had much to learn. Had they known the subject-matter of converse they might well have wondered incomparably more.

John 4:28-30.

“The woman then left her waterpot, and went away into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a Man who told me all things that49 ever I did: is not this the Christ?93 They went out of the city, and were coming unto Him.” The moral change was immense. A new world opened to her which eclipsed the present with new affections, new duties, the power of which asserted itself in lifting her entirely above the things that are seen, whatever might be the effect ordinarily, in strengthening to a better fulfilment of present earthly toil. But the revelation of Christ to her soul was both all-absorbing and the most powerful stimulus to make Him known to others. Where the eye is single, the body is full of light. She felt who needed Him most, and she acted on it forthwith. She left her waterpot, went off to the town, and told the men of Jesus. How well she understood Him! He had not formally sent her, yet she went boldly with the invitation. Nor was it merely that she bade them go: “Come, see a Man.” She would go along with them. Her heart was in the current of His grace, and counted upon the same welcome for others, unwarranted though it might appear, as for herself. Such is the power of Divine love even from the very first.

Yet there was no enfeebling of the truth because of His grace. They, too, must prepare for what had searched her. “Come, see a Man that told me all things that ever I did. Is not He the Christ?” Well they knew what she had been; and if He had so dealt with her, might not they also see and hear Him? Such a personal experience has great power, and it is safe, too, where it is not merely an appeal to the affections, but conscience is searched along with it.

John 4:31-34.

50“Meanwhile the disciples were asking Him, saying, Rabbi, eat. But He said to them, I have food to eat which ye do not know. Then the disciples said to one another, Hath any one brought Him to eat? Jesus saith to them, It is My food that I should do51 the will of Him that sent Me, and finish His work.” How humbling to find His disciples at such a time occupied with the body and its wants. And this the Lord makes them feel by His answer. They knew not as yet such food, disciples though they were.94 It is not as men often quote it, “His meat and His drink,” for there was an inner spring of loving and delighting in His Father beyond doing His will and completing His work. But this was His food. He came to do His will. In this He was never wearied, nor should we be even now, whatever might be the fatigue of the body. For “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.” Without Him even the “youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fail. But they that wait upon Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” Jesus knew this Himself in perfection, and here is a sample of it.

John 4:35-38.

“Do not ye say that there are yet four months and the harvest cometh? Lo, I say to you, Lift up your eyes, and behold the fields, for they are white unto harvest already.52 He53 that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that both54 he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. For in this is the saying true,55 It is one that soweth and another that reapeth. I sent you to reap that on which ye have not toiled: others have toiled, and ye have entered into their toil.” Whatever might be the times and seasons of the natural harvest, the fields spiritually were ripe for the reaper. Man, the world, undoubtedly deserved judgment; but the very same state of sin which calls for judgment God uses for His call of grace. The Gospel comes expressly on the ground of man’s total ruin, and therefore levels all distinctions. Jew, Samaritan, Gentile-what are any now but sinners? The Jew had been under probation, but he was now rejecting the Messiah, the Son of God. All was lost; but the rejected Christ is the Saviour, and now there is salvation for any, and grace carries it among such as these Samaritans.

Not that grace had failed to work during the past times of probation. Man had broken down utterly; but God was preparing the way when it should be no longer experimental dealings and man’s righteousness sought, but God’s righteousness revealed in virtue of the work of Christ. His witnesses had not wrought in vain, however little seen the effects meanwhile.95 But the true light was now shining, and things appeared as they are to the eye of grace. What a sight to Christ the Samaritans coming to Him-coming to hear One Who tells us whatever we did! The fields were white indeed.

It is remarkable that the Lord speaks about reaping now rather than sowing, though sowing, of course, goes on, and has its place elsewhere, as in Matthew 13. Of old it was rather sowing than reaping; now in this day of grace there is a characteristic reaping-fruit not only of God’s past dealings, but of His coming and mighty work Who thus speaks to the disciples: “The reaper receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal, that both the sower and the reaper may rejoice together.” So shall it be in the day of glory, as the spirit of it is even now true in the Church and the Christian heart. “For in this is the saying true, The sower is one, and the reaper another.” But while there are these differences still, it remains that the apostles are characterised by reaping rather than by sowing, and so, of course, are other labourers also. “I sent (or, have sent) you to reap that on which ye have not toiled: others have toiled, and ye have entered into their toil.” How emphatically this was verified at Pentecost and afterwards all know.

John 4:39-42.

“But out of that city many of the Samaritans believed on Him because of the word of the woman as she bore witness, He told me all things that (ever) I did. When, therefore, the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to abide with them. And He abode there two days; and many more believed because of His word. And they said to the woman, No longer on account of thy saying do we believe, for we have ourselves heard and know that this is indeed the56 Saviour of the world.” It is cheering to see how God honoured the simple testimony of the woman. Many out of that town believed on Him because of her word. Here again she bears witness to the searching of her conscience by His word: “He told me all that ever I did.” It is a good guarantee that the work is Divine when there is no shrinking from such a scrutiny, otherwise grace is apt to be misused as a cover for sin or a slight dealing with a sinner, instead of judging all in God’s light. But faith, whenever it is real, rises from the instrument to Him Who deigns to use it, and God loves to put honour upon the word of Jesus Himself. Hence we are told that, when He graciously acceded to the desire of the Samaritans and abode there two days, “more by a great deal believed because of His word.” How sweet to the woman when they said to her, “No longer because of thy saying do we believe, for we have ourselves heard and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.” God led them, too, in dropping His Messiahship, and the copyists have inserted it without due reason. Ancient authority seems conclusive that the words “the Christ” should disappear. Their confession is much more simple and emphatic when so put. They now knew and confessed the truth-the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ. (Compare 1 John 4:14.)

Thus without a miracle the Lord has been owned, as we see, in Samaria, first as a prophet by one, finally as Saviour of the world by all who believed on Him there. There the fullest confession of His grace was found where one might have looked for least intelligence; but faith gives new wisdom so different from the old that those who are wise must become fools if they would be wise according to God. How blessed for those who have no wisdom to boast, whom grace forms with all simplicity according to its own power! Such were the Samaritans among whom the Lord abode for this little while.

John 4:43-46.

Matt. 4:12-17; Mark 1:14-16; Luke 4:14-16.

“And after the two days He went forth thence57 into Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.” He resumes His place among the despised and lowly. The first Gospel points out that this sphere of His ministry was according to prophecy, for Isaiah, in setting forth the sins and judgment of Israel from first to last, had spoken of the light shining in Galilee when darkness enveloped the favoured seats in the land. All the evangelists, indeed, for one reason or another, dwell upon His ministry in Galilee, John alone bringing into prominence some characteristic incidents in Jerusalem. Mark speaks much of Galilee, because his office was to describe the Lord’s ministry, and there, in fact, we must follow Him if we would trace its details. Luke, again, gives it as illustrating the moral ways of God in the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the activities of One Who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil. John, on the other hand, as usual, lays it on a ground that pertains more strictly to His Person.

It was His own testimony that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. He had come down not to seek His own honour, but that of Him Who sent Him. He had riches of grace and truth to dispense; He was sent, He was come, to do His Father’s will; content to be nothing, have nothing from men, He goes away into Galilee. But if the Galileans paid Him no honour when He was in their midst,90 they were not unmoved by the fame that had gone out, specially by the impression made in the capital. “When, therefore, He came into Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all that58 He did in Jerusalem at the feast, for they, too, went unto the feast.” Galilee was not only the place where He had spent the greater part of His earthly life in humiliation and obedience, but there He had begun to make Himself known to the disciples, and there He had first wrought a sign in witness of His glory. “He59 came, therefore, again into Cana of Galilee where He made the water wine.” That first sign held out the promise, pledge, and earnest of Israel’s future joy and blessedness; and He Himself, in the day that is coming, will be there in the land, no longer the guest nor the master of the feast alone, but the Bridegroom. And the barren one shall know her Maker as her husband, Jehovah of hosts His name, and her Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. The God not merely of the land, but of the whole earth, shall He be called.

But it is not yet the day for singing, but of sadness; not yet for enlarging the place of Israel’s tent, nor of stretching the curtains of their habitation, nor of strengthening the stakes: no breaking forth yet on the right hand or on the left, no inheriting the Gentiles, or making the desolate cities to be inhabited. Contrariwise, did not Messiah come to His own things, and His own people received Him not? Nay, they were about to consummate their sin in His cross, and to seal their unbelief in their rejection of the Gospel, forbidding His servants to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always, so that wrath is come upon them to the uttermost, however grace may turn their fall to the salvation and the riches of the Gentiles. Nevertheless, grace is yet to make good every sign which is hung out to Israel, and the Lord adds on this occasion a fresh and suited display of His power for their actual circumstances and present need.

John 4:46-48.

“And there was a certain courtier whose son was sick at Capernaum. He, having heard that Jesus was come out of Judæa into Galilee, went away unto Him, and asked that He would go down and heal his son, for he was about to die. Jesus therefore said unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will in nowise believe.” How strikingly in contrast with the simpler souls in Samaria! There was faith in the power of Jesus, but it was of a Jewish sort.97 The courtier had heard, no doubt, of miracles wrought by Him personally present. His faith rose no higher, yet evidently, if it were the power of God, there could be no limits. Absence or presence could account for nothing-they were but circumstances, and the very essence of a miracle is God rising above all circumstances. It is irrational, as well as unbelieving, to measure a miracle by one’s experience. It is solely a question of God’s will, power, and glory, and therefore the Lord justly rebukes the unbelief of all such thoughts.

How finely, too, the grace which wrought in the Gentile centurion whose servant was sick contrasts with the limited expectations of this Jewish courtier! There, just to exercise and manifest the power of his faith, the Lord proposed to go with the elders of the Jews who begged Him to come and save his bondman. But even though He was not far from the house, the centurion sent to Him friends expressly not to trouble Him, for he was not worthy that He should come under his roof, any more than he counted himself worthy to come to Him. He had only to say by a word, and his servant should be healed. This accordingly drew out the strong approbation of the Lord, not His censure as here. “Not even in Israel” had He found such great faith.

John 4:49 F.

Nevertheless, the grace of the Lord never fails, and little faith receives its blessing as surely as greater faith its larger answer. “The courtier said unto Him, Sir, come down ere my child die.” Here again how scanty the faith, if urgent the appeal! Still faith must have a gracious assurance. “Jesus saith to him, Go, thy son liveth” (verse 50). It was better for the courtier’s soul in every way, and more to the glory of God, that Jesus should bid him go, instead of going with him. If it crossed the man’s thoughts and words, it was meant to exercise his faith so much the more. “(And)60 the man believed the word which Jesus had said unto him, and went his way” (verse 50). He had not long to wait before he knew the blessing.

John 4:51-54.

“But as he was now going down, his61 servants met him, and brought (him) word, saying, Thy child liveth. He inquired, therefore, from them the hour at which he got better. They said to him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. The father, therefore, knew that (it was) at that hour in which Jesus said to him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed and his whole house.” Thus God took care to arrest the servants, who were all the more interested and responsible because of their master’s absence. They would watch the case, they would mark the changes in the malady of the patient, and they, therefore, were the first to see when he began to amend. They could tell the master the precise hour when the fever left the child-the very hour, as he could tell them, when Jesus spoke the word of healing power. “This second sign again did Jesus on coming out of Judæa into Galilee.”98 Is it not a sign of what He is to do in the day when, reanimating the dead daughter of Zion, He will also change the water of purification into the wine of joy for God and man? Meanwhile He relieves the one ready to perish in Israel, where there was the faith, however feeble, to seek it from the Christ. It was true even then of His ministry in all its meaning and force. In the chapter which follows we have the rights of His Person asserted still more mightily in effects present and future. Here it is rather arresting the power of death than giving life. Even that He only could do, and did where there was faith.99

42 [Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 440-446.]80

43 AB[pm]E Δ, etc. [as Weiss and Blass], omit; CDLMT, 1, 33, 69, and many ancient versions [including Syrsin] insert [as W. and H.].

44 [“For . . . Samaritans,” attested by א CorrABCL, etc., Orig. Chrys. Cyr. Alex., and read by Lachm., Treg., W. and H. (t), Weiss, but discredited by Tisch., who follows corr D. The words are bracketed by Blass87.]

45 It is not merely οὐ μή, nor οὐ μὴ . . . πώποτε, but οὐ μή . εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, the strongest possible exclusion of what is in question for eternity.

46 In pmB and Origen the reading is διέρχωμαι, which Tischendorf and W. and H. [Weiss and Blass] adopt; but the MSS. differ, many giving the indicative, many the subjunctive.

47 The imperfect εθαύμαζον is better than the common ἐθαύμασαν, and rests on far better authority; but it is needless to express its continuity in English in such a case as this.

48 [Syrsin: “was standing and talking,” as Blass, ἑστηκὼς ἐλάλει.]

49 There is a question between [Edd.] on the authority of BCpm and some other ancient witnesses, and ὅσα with far more numerous copies, here and in verse 39, the difference in English being that the latter adds “ever.”

50 The great majority of witnesses [including Syrsin] add δὲ, “and” or “but”; the most ancient omit.

51 The best reading [that of Weiss and Blass] and most forcible sense is ποιῶ (AEGHMSUV ΓΔΛ, etc.), not ποιήσω , read by Lachmann, Treg. W. and H., though a manifest assimilation to τελειώσω .

52 Tischendorf, etc., sever ἤδη from verse 35 and make it begin verse 36, following some ancient authorities; but the most ancient ( pmBM Πpm, etc.) leave it open, and most [as Weiss] give as is here done, which seems to be alone in keeping with the context [Blass omits, as Syrsin Chrys. Hil.].

53 The common text prefixes καὶ on ample authority [including Syrsin], but the most ancient uncials, and some good cursives, etc., are adverse [so Blass].

54 Some good and ancient authorities omit καὶ [as Weiss, but Blass retains it].

55 The article before ἀληθινὸς is not read by BCpmKLTb ΔΠpm, many good cursives, and some of the Greek fathers [so W. and H., Weiss]. In one passage of Chrysostom which has the article, he has ἀληθὴς after it, and so have a few cursives.

56 The Sinai, Vat., Palimpsest of Paris [Cpm], and an old St. Petersburg uncial (Tb), with almost all the most ancient versions, etc., do not read ὁ Χριστός . [It is in ACcorrDLT ΔΛΠ, etc., Syrpesch hcl hier (corr) Chrys. Cyr. Alex.]

57 The Received Text, with most uncials and cursives, etc., has also καὶ ἀπῆλθεν, contrary to BCDTb, 13, 69, and some other excellent authorities.

58 There is good authority for ὅσα [Edd.] as well as , the more widespread, if not ancient, copies inclining to the latter.

59 The best witnesses do not read Ἰ., as do the Received Text and Scholz (though with a slight difference of position), following many MSS.

60 BD and a few other authorities omit καὶ, “and.”

61 DgrL., etc., omit αὐτοῦ, “his.”