|CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX
An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.
In this chapter is recorded our Lord’s journey to Galilee through Samaria (1–3.) His long and interesting colloquy with the Samaritan woman, which ended in the conversion of this sinful woman (3–28). His conversation with His disciples, whose approach interrupted His discourse with her (28–38). The conversion of a great number of the Samaritans (39–43).
Our Lord cures the Ruler’s son, who was sick unto death, at Capharnaum (46–54).
1–3. Our Lord had known, in virtue of His Divine Omniscience, “that the Pharisees,”—probably members of the Sanhedrim, composed chiefly of Pharisees, who, out of jealousy, on seeing John’s popularity and their own influence lessened among the people, had delivered John up to Herod—(Matthew 17:12), had heard that He had more disciples and baptized more than John had heretofore baptized. At this time John was in prison. Our Lord Himself did not commonly baptize, He did so through His disciples, who baptized with His sanction and authority, thus showing His superiority over John, whose Baptism was performed by himself only. If our Lord Himself had baptized some few, as is generally stated, this would not be opposed to the statement made here. He did not usually baptize the multitudes indiscriminately, which statement will admit of His baptizing a few.
“He (therefore) left Judea, and went again into Galilee.” This was a second time. His first return to Galilee is mentioned (c. 1:43). Our Lord retired not from fear; but, as the time marked out for His Passion had not yet arrived, He avoided the Pharisees, who, as He knew, would, out of jealousy and hatred, endeavour to compass His death before the appointed time, by denouncing Him to the authorities, with whom, as appears from John’s case, they had vast influence (Matthew 17:12). John was, at this time, cast into prison. This was partly owing to the machinations and envy of the Pharisees, who were offended at his bold denunciations, his great influence and popularity, to the consequent lessening of their own influence with the people; and partly, to the offence given to Herod, in being reproached with his incestuous connexion with his brother’s wife.
4. His direct route was through Samaria—a district which lay between Judea and Galilee inhabited by the tribe of Ephraim and half tribe of Manasse (see Matthew 10:4, Commentary on). The Evangelist mentions this circumstance, to introduce us naturally to the following interesting colloquy with the Samaritan woman.
5. “Sichar,” formerly called Sichem, one of the oldest cities of Palestine (Genesis 12:6). But, the Evangelist adopts the name by which it was commonly called in his time. It was in the tribe of Ephraim (Jos. 21:21). This city of Sichem is celebrated on account of the many remarkable events recorded of it in the Old Testament. (Jos. 24 etc.). It was destroyed by Abimelech (Judges 9:45) and afterwards rebuilt by Jeroboam, who dwelt there (3 Kings 12:25). It was waste in the time of St. Jerome, and a city built close by, called Neapolis in the Roman age; now, Naplous, situated “near the land which Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” On his return from Mesopotamia, Jacob purchased a piece of land from the children of Hemor for a hundred lambs (Genesis 33:19). This piece of land Jacob gave, at his death, in addition to his other inheritance, to his son Joseph (Genesis 48:22). Here the bones of Joseph were buried (Josue 24:32).
6. “Jacob’s well,” which he dug and secured while living there for his own use (v. 12).
“Was there,” either within the ground or near it, a little distance from “Sichar” or Sichem.
“Wearied with his journey,” which he performed on foot. “Sat thus on the well.”
“Thus,” is understood by some to mean, sat in the position of one fatigued, without any seat, but carelessly, as might best secure refreshing rest. By others, it is understood to mean, “therefore.” Being wearied, He, therefore, sat down to rest and refresh His wearied limbs. It is a common acceptation of the word, “so.” We say of a man, he travelled far, and so (therefore) sat down to rest.
“On the well,” by the side of it; or, on the covering of the well, which was sunk deep in the ground.
“About the sixth hour.” Midday, when the heat is greatest. It was the hour of taking food and rest in Judea. Hence, the disciples went to procure food (v. 8). This was another reason for His sitting down, and it introduces us actually to the subsequent narrative.
7. “There cometh,” from the town of Sichem close by, “a woman of Samaria,” a native of the district of Samaria, “to draw water,” and carry it home for domestic use.
8. In this is assigned a reason for His asking the Samaritan woman to give Him to drink. The disciples who were in the habit of ministering to Him were away, and our Lord hath providentially so arranged it, in order to be able to converse more fully with this wretched woman, when alone.
9. From His dress and accent, the woman knew Him to be a Jew; and hence, she reproachfully asks, how could He, a Jew, ask any request of a Samaritan. A deadly hatred existed between the Jews and Samaritans; and hence, the woman takes an opportunity of reproaching our Lord, with the deep hatred His nation bore her people.
“For the Jews do not communicate,” etc. The Jews refused all social and familiar intercourse with the Samaritans. She throws the whole blame on the Jews. She does not say, the Samaritans refuse all intercourse with the Jews, throwing the whole blame of this national hate on the Jews. The Jews held the Samaritans in special aversion, for several reasons. First, on account of their mixed origin, being partly descended from the Assyrians, who cruelly oppressed the Jews; again on account of their possessing the inheritance of the Jews, the lands formerly held by the Israelities; again, on account of their mixing up false and idolatrous rites with the Jewish worship; again, on account of their encouraging and giving refuge to every scandalous and refractory Jew, who passed over to them. It was not considered a departure from the social exclusion the Jews determined on, in relation to the Samaritans, to relieve individual distress, to buy or sell food. Hence, the Samaritan woman drew too fast a line in reproaching our Lord for asking of her to drink.
10. “The gift of God,” most likely, means our Lord Himself (3:16), in whom were eminently contained all we want: who was sent to be the Saviour of all mankind. This gift was common to her with all others. It may also refer to what was peculiarly granted herself, the special favour bestowed on her of having this opportunity of conversing with Him, whom God sent into this world. This latter meaning seems expressed in the words, “and who He is that saith to thee,” etc., the Eternal Son of God, who would cheerfully, if asked, instead of refusing, as she did, have granted all her requests.
“Thou perhaps wouldst have asked,” etc. “Perhaps” (αν), is generally understood to mean, surely, though rendered in the Vulgate, forsitan, “perhaps,” to express free will on the part of the woman to petition Him, to receive or reject God’s gift. “Living water.” She refused Him water from the well. He, on the other hand, would have given her “living water,” the Holy Ghost, to dwell in her with His gifts, to slake her thirst and purify her soul of the stains with which it was covered, as natural water has the effect of removing stains from the body, and this water would not be stagnant or become putrid, or corrupted; but, like the running water, would ever vivify her, and “spring up into life everlasting” (v. 14).
Allusion to “living water,” is not unusual in the Old Testament. (Zacharias 14:8; Jeremias 2:23, etc.)
11. The words of our Lord in the preceding verse impressed the woman with a sense of respect. Hence, although before scornfully addressing Him as a Jew, the enemy of her people; now, altering her tone, she says “Sir,” etc. She understood our Lord to speak of elementary natural water, which was better than that in the well, and as she saw no other water save that of the well, which He had no means of reaching, she cannot understand where He could get the water He promises to give, if asked for.
12. “Our father Jacob.” The Samaritans claimed descent from the Patriarchs, and they occupied the portion of the Land of Promise assigned to Ephraim, who was reckoned among his sons by Jacob (Genesis 48:15). The Samaritans were descended from the Gentiles and Jews united (2 Paralip 35:18). For, on the abduction of the ten tribes into Assyria, there were left behind many Jews, who formed one people with the Babylonian colony, who were sent to inhabit the country. Whenever the kingdom of Juda was prosperous, the Samaritans as representing Ephraim and Manasses, claimed descent from the Patriarchs; when otherwise, the Samaritans disowned them (Josephus, Lib. Antiq. 9).
Jacob and his family used the water of this well, a proof of its superior quality—“and his cattle,” a proof of its abundance.
The woman’s mind is undergoing a gradual change. She changes her tone and asks, without denying it, if he could claim to be greater than Jacob, to be endowed with greater power and sagacity, so as to dig a well and find out better water than that which Jacob procured at such trouble; and from the fact of his drinking of it himself, was considered the best to be found in the locality. From the superior quality of the water, she would seem to infer the superiority of the party giving it. Hence, taking advantage of her ideas, our Lord, in order to prepare her for faith in Himself, as the Messiah, points, in the next verse, to the superior excellence of the living water He speaks of.
13. Our Lord leaves her to infer the superiority of the person from the superior excellence of the water He gives.
The water from the well which you refused Me, can only slake one’s thirst for a time, only to return again. But, the living water I will give, slakes all thirst in future and for ever, unless through their own fault men reject it.
“Shall not thirst for ever.” Whether we regard bodily thirst, or the thirst of the soul, these words have reference to the world to come, when the bodies of the just, who have drunk plentifully of the gifts and grace of the Holy Ghost, shall rise glorious, not subject any longer to animal wants, miseries or passions of any sort, and their souls shall be fully satiated. “Satiabor cum apparuerit gloria tua”—“Non esurient neque sitient amplius.”—“Inebriabuntur ab ubertate domus tuæ.”—“Quoniam ipsi satura buntur.”
14. “But the water which I shall give him”—and shall not be drawn from without—“shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting.” The Holy Spirit whom Christ shall give with all His graces and gifts, shall cause these waters of grace so to bubble up and gush forth from the fountain, like springs of elementary water, which mount up sometimes as high as their source, that they will cause them to mount up to heaven to their heavenly source, and resuscitate their mortal bodies by the power of the Holy Ghost who dwells in them, so as to become sharers in a glorious immortality in heaven.
That water in the minds of men will bound up to God and eternal life, because it makes men possessors of life eternal.
15. Although the carnal mind of the woman did not fully comprehend our Lord’s allusion to the spiritual waters of grace; still, she was undergoing a gradual change, so as to become divested of the aversion shown our Lord in the first instance. She respectfully addresses Him, “Sir” or “Lord,” and seemed inclined to believe, He would give her this superior water, and to regard Him, therefore, as superior to Jacob, and to have the remote dispositions for embracing the faith. She did not ask for eternal life, but only for the water which would spare her the drudgery of coming again so far for refreshing water. Our Lord told her if she asked for it, He would give it. She who before refused Him for water from the well, now asks for the living water spoken of by Him. Some Commentators think it likely the woman understood our Lord to have spoken of the spiritual waters of grace at His disposal; but that she disbelieved Him, and feigning belief, derisively asked Him to give what she fancied He could not do. At all events, our Lord, in order to bring conviction to her mind regarding His sacred character and mission, calls her attention to a remarkable feature in her life, and shows His hidden knowledge of the sinful life she was pursuing.
16. “Call thy husband,” etc. Likely, in speaking thus, our Lord had mercifully in view to introduce gradually the subject of her sinful life, to elicit from her a confession of the same, and by thus stimulating her to a course of penance, to prepare her for the due reception of His heavenly gift, sanctifying grace. He, at the same time, wished to show her, that He, was endowed with a supernatural knowledge, so that she might know who He was, and be thus inspired with due reverence for Him and confidence in His teaching.
17. Anxious to receive the promised living water without any delay, which would result from her doing what our Lord commanded; she, at once answers evasively, not confessing; still not denying her guilt. “I have no husband,” not looking upon the man, with whom she lived in sin, as her lawful husband. Our Lord fully expressed what she had not clearly confessed, and discloses the real state of the case “Thou hast said well, I have no husband.”
18. “Five husbands,” very likely, lawful husbands—though Maldonatus and others think otherwise. For, our Lord draws a comparison between the five husbands she had had, and the present one. The former “she had,” because, legitimate; the present she has not. He is not her husband, because unwedded to him. In this, our Lord lets her know the hidden knowledge He had of her past life, and from this, she sees in Him at once something supernatural. She bears well the reprehension and tacit correction conveyed in our Lord’s words, mildly intimating His knowledge of her sinful condition. Hence, she at once, conceiving a high opinion of His exalted station, exclaims:
19. “Sir, I perceive Thou art a Prophet,” as if to say—You disclose a knowledge of my sins hidden from You. I admit You state facts. From this knowledge of my wicked life, “I see Thou art a Prophet,” by disclosing, although a stranger, a knowledge of things that could not naturally be known to Thee; hence, communicated from above. She admits her guilt by acknowledging that He discloses facts not known by natural means. It was the part of Prophets not only to predict future events, but to make known secret things at present occurring (4 Kings 5:26).
20. She now proposed to Him whom she regarded as a “Prophet,” but whom she had not yet believed to be the Messias, (25) to decide a question much controverted among the two peoples regarding the place, where, by Divine ordinance, sacrifices should be offered to God. This is the meaning of the word, “adore,” here. Only one place was allowed for this purpose. In earlier times, the altar of the Tabernacle (Leviticus 17:1–7); in latter times, since the building of the Temple, the Temple of Jerusalem (Deut. 12:13, 14). There was never any question, as to the lawfulness of privately adoring and worshipping God in any place. This our Lord Himself did and this St. Paul prescribes (1 Timothy 2:8). The question regarded solely the offering of Sacrifice, to which reference is made (Deut. 12) and the one place which God had chosen for that purpose. The Jews contended that this place was Jerusalem, where Solomon, by divine sanction, built the Temple and offered sacrifices pleasing to God. (2 Par. 2:6) Our Lord (v. 22) approves of this.
“Our fathers,” are understood by some to refer to the fathers, common to Jews and Samaritans, viz., the Patriarchs, Jacob and his sons (Genesis 33:20). Others say, she refers to the fathers of the Samaritans.
“Adored,” offered up sacrifices “on this mountain,” within sight, viz., Garazim, overhanging Sichem. The Samaritans, at least, were persuaded of this. The woman states the case in a way to favour her own people, as if she said: they were only following the example of their fathers, in sacrificing on Mount Garazim. But the Jews, she insinuates, said on their own authority—without proving it, “You say, that at Jerusalem,” etc. The Temple of Garazim was built, out of a schismatical spirit of revenge, by one of the Persian Governors, to gratify the spleen of Manasses, the High Priest, who was deprived of his place in the Temple, for having married, contrary to law, the daughter of Sanaballeth, Persian Governor of Samaria, whom he refused to send away. Upon this, Manasses had recourse to his father-in-law Sanaballeth, who built a Temple on Mount Garazim, to rival that of Jerusalem, constituting Manasses, High Priest. The latter was afterwards joined by other reprobates, and established a rival schismatical form of worship. This rendered the breach between the Jews and Samaritans irreparable, and was among the chief causes, why the Jews had such aversion for the Samaritans.
As has been already remarked, in only one place which the Lord had chosen, was it allowable to offer sacrifices. This, in the first instance, was the altar of the Tabernacle (Levit. 17). And as the Temple of Jerusalem succeeded the Tabernacle, the Jews contended, therefore, that Jerusalem was the place, while the Samaritans contended for Mount Garazim. The dispute being referred to Ptolemy Philometer, King of Egypt, he decided in favour of the Jews (Josephus 13, Antiq. c 6). Our Lord conveys, very significantly, in the following verses, that the solution of the question was, at present, but of little consequence, owing to the changes to take place, in the near future, in their religious relations, consequent on the coming of the Messias.
21. “Woman, believe Me,” invests the following words with great weight. As she regarded Him as a Prophet, then, let her place more trust in Him, more reliance on the truth of what He was about to announce, that in the supposed acts of her fathers referred to.
“The hour cometh,” is just at hand, when the pure worship of the true God is no longer to be confined to the narrow precincts of Judea, as the Jews imagined, or of Samaria, as the Samaritans fancied, but was to extend to the entire earth; hence, the present controversy is of no consequence.
“Adore the Father,” implying that they were to be children of God. The word, “Father,” refers to the fundamental mystery of the Trinity, obscurely, however, so as to let the light of faith gradually dawn on the mind of this still unbelieving and sinful woman.
22. Lest it might be inferred from the abolition of both forms of worship, that they were both on terms of equality, our Lord approves of the Jewish worship preferably to that of the Samaritans. “You,” Samaritans, “adore what you know not.” The words might, perhaps, be more easily understood by inversion. “You know not, what you adore,” because, although the Samaritans believed in the God of Israel as the true God; still, they mixed up with His worship several idolatrous rites, at least in the beginning (4 Kings 17:33), and even in the time of our Lord, although the grosser form was removed by Manasses and the Priests who served with him, in the schismatical worship at Garazim; some leaven of idolatry could still be found. Having lost the true faith, and being in ignorance, they were adoring what they had no accurate conception of. They had no solid foundation for their worship or religion, no certain form sanctioned by God, no priests nor pastors legitimately sent.
“We,” Jews—with whom our Lord, who was born of the Jews, identifies Himself—“adore that which we know,” without any admixture of error. The Jews knew the true God, believed in Him, and retained His true worship. They knew what they worshipped; because, they worshipped in a place prescribed by God and pointed out by the Prophets. As a people, they retained the true faith, whatever might be the wanderings of individuals at certain times. Hence, our Lord, in reply to her question, decides in favor of the Jewish claims, and conveys, at the same time, that the controversy was but of little practical consequence at present, owing to the abolition of both forms of worship, in the near future; the Samaritan, as bad and idolatrous; the Jewish, as imperfect, its shadows soon to be replaced by the reality.
He assigns a reason why the Jews should know the proper mode and place of true worship, “because salvation,” promised to the world, the Saviour of the world is admittedly to come “from the Jews” (Genesis 49:10). The promises of salvation through the Messias and fully accomplished by Him, were made to the Jews, and through them, to the rest of mankind. It would be preposterous to suppose, that the Saviour of mankind would spring from a race ignorant of the true God and of His true worship; or, that He would allow the true faith and consequent true worship to pass away from His own race and nation, although in some matters, there might be a departure from it, for which He often reproved them.
23. After interposing the statement contained in v. 22, which might be regarded as parenthetical, our Lord now resumes and perfects His teaching referred to in v. 21. By “adoration,” she meant sacrifice. Our Lord also uses the word in the same sense. “The true,” genuine heartfelt, sincere “adorers,” “in spirit and in truth.” Their adoration, their sacrifices (for, it is of sacrifices, the woman and our Lord speak) however corporeal in their external form, will chiefly proceed from an interior “spirit,” unlike the Jewish oblations, which were all external. They will not be associated with any gross false ideas regarding the true God, like the sacrifices of the Samaritans. Both forms of worship, Jewish and Samaritan, are soon to be abolished, and succeeded by a true form of worship of which spiritual, interior feelings of reverence towards God, and correct notions of Him, shall be the chief characteristics. It is adorers of this description that God always seeks and always cherishes. Such adorers alone can please Him.
“Spirit,” is opposed to the Jewish; “truth,” to the Samaritan form of worship.
24. As “God is a Spirit,” and also a true Spirit, “they that adore Him,” must offer Him worship suited to His nature and true attributes. It must proceed from spiritual feelings, “in spirit,” dictated by a clear knowledge of His true and adorable perfections, “and in truth.” As both forms of worship, Jewish and Samaritan, were soon to be abolished, the new form alone pleasing to God, shall be distinguished chiefly by interior feelings of religion, so much wanting in the purely exterior Jewish worship, and by truthful external profession in regard to the attributes, and adorable perfections of God, so much wanting in the false worship, the outcome of false ideas regarding God, practised by the Samaritans.
Some say “spirit” and “truth” mean the same. For, he who adores “in spirit,” by acts proceeding from grace and faith, thereby adores “in truth,” or in a manner becoming a true adorer.
Then as “God is a Spirit,” the sacrifices offered to Him must be chiefly spiritual. This cannot exclude external worship, accommodated to the nature of man, who is composed of a body as well as of a soul; and it is through the medium of actions performed by the body, this spiritual worship must be presented. Hence, temples and external rites cannot be excluded, otherwise, our Lord would contradict Himself when purifying not abolishing the temple, and in exercising external worship (Luke 24:50 22:41).
The Apostles, too, would have disobeyed our Lord’s instructions (Acts 9:40; 16:25; Eph. 3:14).
The only sacrifice referred to, as excluded here, is that of the Jews, consisting almost in mere external and corporeal oblations. Our sacrifice of the Mass, although containing something external and corporeal, is still “in spirit and truth,” appertaining to the supernatural order of faith, grace and glory. The same holds in regard to the sacraments. Our Lord reproves those who, addicted to external rites of worship, undervalue and neglect the interior spirit. The just of old were true adorers; because, in presenting Jewish sacrifices, they did so, not regarding them as pleasing in themselves; but as figures of Him who was to come, “the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world.”
The word, “adoration,” is hear taken in a general sense also, so as to include all acts of religious worship, interior acts proceeding from faith and grace, prayer, of every description. Hence, as God is a Spirit; a spirit, however, who is omnipresent, filling all space with His glorious and adorable immensity, He can be adored in every place: and such worship is pleasing to Him (1 Tim. 2:8).
25. “I know that the Messias cometh,” etc. The Samaritans admitted the Pentateuch, in which was contained the promise of the coming of Christ (Deut. 18:18). Hence, our Lord says (v. 46), “if you believe Moses, you would also believe Me.” However, they could not learn His near approach from Deuteronomy, Hence it is likely the woman was made aware of His near approach from the rumours prevalent amongst her neighbours, the Jews, regarding the fulfilment of the time marked out for His coming; and also from the testimony of the Baptist, which must have reached even to the Samaritans. Probably, not pleased with our Lord’s decision in favour of the Jews, and unable fully to understand His words, she, waiving all further discussion, remits the whole case to the Messiah now at hand, whose decision all were prepared to abide by, “who is called the Christ.” These are likely the words of the Evangelist himself, as the woman could hardly be expected to know the meaning of the word “Messias,” which signifies, Christ, or anointed.
“When He comes He will tell us all things.” This shows she herself expected to see the day of His coming.
26. Having gradually prepared her mind to accept the great truth; seeing her docile dispositions, He now at once tells this sinful woman, who He was—a thing He refused telling the haughty Jews, who so often asked Him in order to persecute Him. He thus exhorts her to embrace the faith, at the same time, pouring His grace into her soul. Wonderful condescension of our Lord. “Qui in altis habitat, ac humilia respicit in cælo et in terra.” (Psalm 112)
27. “And immediately,” after this declaration, and revelation of His Divinity—When He had said all that was needed, and no sooner, “the disciples came,” after having purchased food at Sichem “And they wondered that He talked with the woman,” which is understood by some in praise of His condescension to engage in conversation with so poor and humble a person—others, more probably, interpret the words to mean, they wondered at seeing Him, with whom it was unusual to speak to any woman apart, save His immediate relatives, engaged in conversation with a strange, unknown woman, alone in such a place Our Lord always set an example of modesty and circumspection to His followers, by His holy reserve, in regard to females. This He intended for our instruction. “Yet no one said, what seekest thou?” etc. Their profound reverence for their Master prevented them from asking any questions regarding His interview with the woman, knowing He was engaged in some useful and instructive conversation.
28. “Therefore,” on hearing the wonderful announcement, which she believed from one who had already disclosed secret sins, “the woman,” inflamed with ardour and faith—“left her waterpot,” wherewith she came to carry water home from the well. Indifferent about her temporal and domestic wants, she went in haste into the city, to announce to her people and fellow-citizens, the wonderful tidings communicated to her, in order that they might come out, to see our Lord before leaving, and thus become sharers with her in the heavenly treasures of grace.
29. “All things whatsoever I did.” It may be, our Lord spoke more than is recorded here, or she may have inferred from His disclosing the leading features of her life, that He knew all. She thus prepares them to receive the faith. “Is He not the Christ?” Although she had no doubt herself, she, still, speaks the language of hesitation, and puts the matter in an interrogative, rather than affirmative form; lest, by betraying too much anxiety, she would create doubt or prejudice in their minds. She excites their curiosity, and invites them to come, see, and judge for themselves, in which she displayed consummate prudence.
31. In the meantime, whilst the woman is in the city speaking to her fellow-citizens, the Apostles press Him to partake of the food they procured in the city.
32. Our Lord, in rather obscure language, which He afterwards clears up (v. 34), replies to the invitation of His disciples to eat. He referred to the spiritual hunger, he had for the conversion of the Samaritan.
33. The disciples misunderstand Him, as if He spoke of material food.
34. Our Lord explains. His food was to do His Father’s will, and accomplish the work of God, which, although in general, referring to the salvation of mankind, in this instance, regarded the conversion of the Samaritans.
35. Our Lord, in response to the invitation of His disciples, asking Him to partake of the material food they procured in the city, said, His principal food was the doing of the will of His Father who sent Him. Now, the will of His Father in sending Him was, that He should engage in the work of salvation, and gather in a harvest of souls; and that harvest was just ripe and fit for the sickle, as might be seen from the crowds of Samaritans coming out to see Him. If men, generally, were so solicitous about bodily food, that from the time the seed is committed to the earth, they are looking forward from a long period, and preparing to gather it in when it is sufficiently ripe: how much more solicitous should they be, in regard to the spiritual harvest of souls, which they themselves could see is now ripe and fit for the sickle.
“Do you not say?” etc., which means; are not men generally in the habit of saying? These words are to be taken in their literal sense, as conveying, that a period of four months intervened between the time they were spoken and the coming harvest; and as the fruits were ripe in Palestine in the month of May, between the Pasch and Pentecost, it is inferred that our Lord spoke these words about the end of January. “And then the harvest cometh,” which being then ripe, is at once to be cut down.
“Lift up your eyes,” the eyes of the body to see the crowds coming out from Sichem, and the eyes of the soul as well, to contemplate a sinful world, whereof Sichem, which was sending forward its people with such promptitude, was a type, prepared to receive the Gospel, and be gathered into the granary of God’s Church. Prepare, therefore, to attend to it at once, the ripe harvest calls for the sickle.
36. He stimulates His fellow labourers in the spiritual harvest, to labour zealously in this spiritual work of salvation, not on account of the temporal, but of the everlasting abiding reward they have to treasure up for themselves in the life to come; unlike the reapers of the material harvest, who labour for their masters, and treasure up fruits soon to be consumed.
So that the sower and the reaper may again rejoice together. That is to say, the consequence will be, that the joy on seeing the abundant spiritual fruit of the seed they had sown, in other words, at seeing numberless souls saved through their labours, will not be confined to the reaper, as generally happens in regard to the material harvest; but will also extend to the sower, who laboured hard in his day. Both will rejoice together; as having laboured for God and as co-operators with God, from whom alone the increase can come, in beholding the abiding and abundant fruits of their toil. This fruit, unlike the material harvest, will abide for ever, so that all may enjoy it in the eternal life to come.
37. For in the case of the spiritual harvest, which I now point out to you as ripe for the sickle, is verified and fulfilled, the trite adagial saying—“It is one man that soweth, it is another that reapeth,” both, in this case, enjoying the fruit and reward. The saying is verified in reference to the difference of persons engaged in sowing and reaping; but, not in reference to the fruit and reward. For, in the spiritual harvest, both sower and reaper receive the reward.
38. Our Lord illustrates this adage in His dealing with the Apostles, and accommodates it to their case, in this way: “I sent you to reap” in Judea, to labour for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, “wherein you did not labour.” Likely, our Lord here immediately refers to the mission among the Jews, which was to be succeeded by a more general, nay, a universal, mission hereafter, “to all nations.”
“Others have laboured,” viz., Moses, the Patriarchs and Prophets, toiled hard in instructing and enlightening a stiffnecked people, to prepare them for Jesus and His law, at great personal risks and sacrifice; so did the Baptist, not to speak of His own labours and privations, and fructifying graces, so abundantly tendered.
“And you have entered into their labours,” by perfecting their teaching, and bringing men to heaven, the abiding fruit of eternal life, to be enjoyed in common by all. Of this the spiritual toilers of old could not be partakers, until they would enjoy it in common with us (Heb 11:40).
He thus encourages them to labour hard in the work of saving souls. The harvest is to be plentiful; the reward, not far distant By His death, He is soon to fling open the gates of heaven, so long closed against the human race.
39. “Believed in Him” as the Christ, or Messiah, on account of the testimony of the woman whom, all things considered, viz., the absence of motive to deceive, the confession of her own guilty and sinful life, etc., they prudently regarded as truthful, and a safe medium of conveying Divine revelation. To this was added, the powerful influence of God’s grace. Not unlikely, she told them of His declaration, that He was the Messiah or Christ. They believed on account of the assertion of the woman, before they came out of the city to see Him.
40. His brief stay was, no doubt, very interesting to them. Possibly, He may have baptized them through His disciples. If He tarried longer among them, the Jews would calumniate Him, as preaching to the Samaritans and not to the Jews, to whom He was promised.
41. His own preaching drew a greater number of believers, than had already embraced the faith, owing to the testimony of the woman.
42. “Now we believe,” refers to the portion of the Samaritans who had already believed in the testimony of the woman; but, not to those who believed, only after seeing and hearing our Lord.
“Not for thy saying” only. Their faith was strengthened and corroborated by the teaching of our Lord. “The Saviour of the world,” not of the Jews only, or any other section of men; but, of the entire human race sunk in sin, and in need of a Redeemer. This one article of faith comprised everything else.
43. He prosecuted His intended journey through the Province of Samaria into Galilee (v. 3), which was interrupted by His short stay in Samaria.
44. The force of “for,” is seen by supplying the narrative omitted here, and recorded by the other Evangelists, viz., that our Lord passed by Nazareth, His native place, and came to Capharnaum (Matthew 4:13). “A Prophet,” etc. (See Matthew 13:57.)
Some connect it with the preceding, giving “for,” the meaning of although, as if He said: “Although, Jesus Himself gave testimony by word and act, “that a Prophet had no honour,” etc., He may still anticipate some good results from His visit, owing to the miracles they saw Him perform, during the Festival, in Jerusalem.
How these are warranted in giving “for,” the meaning of although, cannot well be seen. It seems somewhat arbitrary. Others, among them, Patrizzi, say, “His own country,” was Judea; and hence, He left it for Galilee. The former interpretation is warranted by the history given in St. Matthew (9), and we learn from St. Matthew 13, Luke 4, that our Lord uttered the words, “a Prophet,” etc., in reference to Nazareth.
45. The Galileans received Him with great honour, as they witnessed His miracles, on the Festival day at Jerusalem. In this the simple and confiding faith of the Samaritans is tacitly commended, who believed, without seeing any miracles. Whether the Galileans believed in Him, is not stated here. They received Him, however, with honour. But the Jews, although witnessing His miracles, neither received Him with honour nor believed in Him. Who these Galileans were, the Evangelist does not mention.
46. “He came again therefore.” “Therefore,” because He passed by His native place, Nazareth; He came again to the place nearest it, as more convenient for remaining; and, moreover, He was there among His friends and relatives. Allusion is made to the miracle performed there, to distinguish it from another Cana, which was far off.
“A certain ruler whose son was sick,” etc. Several conjectures are hazarded, as to who he was. They are, however, only conjectures. Some say, he was of the Royal family, a connexion of Herod Antipas, or, one of the officers of his Court, whether related to him or not. At all events, he must have been a man of high station and wealth, having a retinue of servants (v. 51). Most likely, he was a Jew, as the reproaches commonly addressed to the Jews, “unless you see,” etc. (v. 48) would seem to indicate. Our Lord addresses reproaches to the Jews, for their stubborn unbelief, more frequently than to the Gentiles.
47. The fame of our Lord’s miracle wrought at Cana, and of those performed by Him at Jerusalem during the festival days, rendered Him celebrated all over the country. This ruler, who resided ordinarily at Capharnaum, which was not far from Cana, on hearing of His arrival, besought Him “to come down”—the site of Capharnaum was lower than Cana—“and heal his son.” If this man had any faith at all, it must have been very imperfect and weak, indeed. How different from the Centurion, on another occasion, “on the point of death,” probably despaired of by the physicians, he was so far gone that healing art could be but of little use to him.
48. Our Lord’s preaching ought to be sufficient to beget faith in him. He also had the testimony of the Baptist, which should be sufficient, especially as the Jews regarded him as sent by God; nay, even some regarded him as the Messiah. Our Lord Himself worked several miracles; and, still, the Galileans were slow in believing; and the Jews utterly rejected and despised Him. On this account it is, that He reproaches the ruler, and the Jews, to whom He refers in addressing Him—hence, using the plural—that unles they see—it won’t do to hear of—a constant succession of signs and wonders, they cannot bring themselves to believe. Our Lord speaks of them not believing, which one would think to be foreign to the object the ruler had in view—viz., the cure of his son; He does so, because, all His miracles, all His works of benificence, such as curing the bodies of the infirm, had for object a greater work of mercy still; viz., to cure their souls and remove the still greater evil of spiritual blindness, nay, spiritual death, from which He meant to resuscitate them by His all-powerful grace.
49. The ruler althogether engrossed with the concern for his dying son, again urges his request to our Lord to go down and save his son from death. His faith, if he had any, must be very weak; he had no idea, that our Lord’s power would restore his son, absent as well as present, and he would seem also to think, that if his son once breathed his last, our Lord could not raise him up from the dead.
50. Our Lord, seeing that His just reproaches had no effect on the ruler, now attaches him to Himself, and induces him to embrace the faith by acts of kindness. He tells him, “Go,” and be of good cheer, that at that very moment, his son was perfectly restored to health; thus, curing him without being present.
“The man believed the word which Jesus said to him.” It is not said he believed in our Lord, but only, knowing our Lord to be a holy, truthful man, he believed that He announced what was true. But he did not seem to believe that our Lord had Himself, by His omnipotent power, effected the cure. This he afterwards discovered after minutely questioning his servants. The result was, that he fully believed (as in verse 53) in our Lord and His Divine mission. The belief referred to in this verse is merely belief in the specific assurance of our Lord, not in His Divinity.
51, 52. His servants hastened to meet their master in order to convey the joyous tidings, and save our Lord the trouble of going down.
The ruler, remembering that our Lord has informed him of his son’s recovery, was anxious to know from his servants the precise time at which this took place.
“Yesterday at the seventh hour.” This corresponds with one o’clock after midday, as the Jews had, by this time, adopted the Roman division of time. Their days commenced at sunrise; their night, at sunset; and were divided into twelve equal parts, which varied in length, according to the season of the year. In summer, the hours were longer in day time; shorter, in winter.
53. Finding the time of his son’s recovery to correspond exactly with the time fixed by our Lord, the ruler at once recognised our Lord’s power and Divinity in the miraculous cure of his son, though absent; and aided by Divine grace, he, with his entire household, embraced the faith and believed in our Lord’s Divinity.
It is but of trifling importance, to ascertain the hour at which his servants met the ruler on his way home.
54. This miracle Jesus performed, it being His second, on His return again from Judea to Galilee. He performed several miracles in Judea (c. 2:25). But, this was His second in Galilee, the conversion of water being his first (c. 2:1–6). The Greek reading is confused. The above is the meaning. “Again,” is to be joined with, “when He was come out again,” on His second return from Judea to Galilee.
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