This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
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His whole house - His whole family. We may learn from this,
1. That sickness or any deep affliction is often the means of great good. Here the sickness of the son resulted in the faith of all the family. God often takes away earthly blessings that he may impart rich spiritual mercies.
2. The father of a family may be the means of the salvation of his children. Here the effort of a parent resulted in their conversion to Christ.
3. There is great beauty and propriety when sickness thus results in piety. For that it is sent. God does not willingly grieve or afflict the children of men; and when afflictions thus terminate, it will be cause of eternal joy, of ceaseless praise.
4. There is a special charm when piety thus comes into the families of the rich. and the noble. It is so unusual: their example and influence go so far; it overcomes so many temptations, and affords opportunities of doing so much good, that there is no wonder that the evangelist selected this instance as one of the effects of the power and of the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Bishop Pearce says: "It seems probable to me that John, when he wrote this verse, either joined the word παλιν to ελθων, as he had done in John 4:46, or meant that it should be so joined in the construction." John does not mention here the miracles which our Lord did at Capernaum on his first journey, John 2:11, nor those which he did at Jerusalem on the feast of the passover. See John 2:12; Luke 4:23.
There are several particulars in the preceding history of the Samaritan woman which confirm the doctrine of a particular providence, and show how God manages the most common occurrences in order to accomplish the designs of his mercy and love.
The Gospel must be preached to the Samaritans: this is God's purpose; and in this case, the wrath of man is caused to praise him.
1. Christ finds it necessary to quit Judea because of the persecution raised up against him by the scribes and Pharisees, John 4:1-3. How worthy of admiration is that Divine providence that presses every thing into the accomplishment of its own designs! The doctors of Jerusalem oblige the Savior to leave their city; and a simple woman persuades all the inhabitants of a Samaritan city to open their gates and their hearts, and entreat the Redeemer of the world to enter in.
2. Christ must pass through Samaria, John 4:4. He was so situated in Judea that he could not reach Galilee except through Samaria, without taking a large circuit, which the necessities of the present case could not admit. Thus, while he appears to fly only from the fury of his persecutors, he is in reality seeking the lost, and fully accomplishing the work he came into the world to perform.
3. Christ being weary finds it necessary to sit down to rest himself by Jacob's well, John 4:5, John 4:6, spent with fatigue and hunger. How energetic was this fatigue? how active was this rest! Nothing can happen to Christ in vain - nothing can turn him out of the way of his mercy - his great work he continues to carry on, without the smallest interruption, where we would have thought it must have been necessarily suspended.
4. The disciples are obliged to go to the city to buy victuals, John 4:8, and Jesus was left alone. Even this circumstance was not only favorable to the conversion of the Samaritan woman, but even essentially necessary, as, without it, she could not have had that opportunity of conversing freely with our Lord; nor would it have been proper for him to have made that discovery of himself, in their presence, which we find he did during their absence. See the note on John 4:26.
5. The Samaritan woman is induced at that very time to go and draw water. Even so small a circumstance as this becomes a necessary part in the economy of her salvation. There is not a circumstance in our life not an occurrence in our business, but God will make it subservient to our salvation, if we have a simple heart and a teachable spirit. The steps of a good man especially are ordered of the Lord; and, while he acknowledges his Maker in all his ways, he will direct all his steps. A proper consideration of this great truth will produce both confidence and humility.
6. But this blessed doctrine may be abused; for some may suppose that God always acts according to a fixed necessity, through which, whatsoever was, is, or will be, has had its existence, mode of being, operation, and direction, according to predetermined irrevocable laws. This system makes God himself the necessary agent of eternal fate, as it supposes him to be constantly employed in doing what eternal necessity obliges him to perform; and thus his infinite freedom is bounded or acted upon by uncontrollable necessity. Perdition is not farther from glory than necessitating decrees are from a particular and gracious providence, by which the means of salvation are placed within the reach of every human being.John 2:23; and so the following words explain it:
when he was come out of Judea into Galilee; this was the first he wrought, after his coming out of Judea into Galilee, this time, and was the second that he wrought in Cana of Galilee; see John 2:11.This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.Verse 54. - This is again a second sign which Jesus did, when he had come out of Judaea into Galilee. The point is that each return from Judaea to Galilee had been charged with special emphasis by the occurrence of a "sign." We are told (John 2:23; John 3:2) of slams wrought in Jerusalem, and, consequently, it could not be meant to be the second sign wrought by him. The πάλιν refers to the ἐλθὼν clause, i.e. to the repetition of his entrance on work in Galilee. The first sign was the transformation of the water; the second, under similar conditions, was the healing a dying child by his word (so Godet, Lunge, and Westcott). This passage of St. John's Gospel which we have now reviewed is a distinct period of our Lord's life and ministry, concerning which the synoptists were silent; and it is marvellously complete in itself. It is an epitome of the whole life of the blessed Lord, and presents an outline and specimen of his method and his work. The disciple unnamed seems always at the side of the Lord. A mighty spell had fallen on him; and he was beginning already to discern in him the characteristics which ultimately directed him to compose the prologue. The penetration of the hidden secrets of all hearts - first his own, then those of Cephas and Nathanael, and the motives of Mary, and the spirit of Nicodemus, the intentions of the Pharisees, the secret life of the Samaritaness, and the inchoate and imperfect faith of the nobleman. Jesus is presented to us in marvellously different, yet mutually complementary, relations.
(1) Gathering susceptible spirits to himself, and judging men by the reception they were giving or not giving to his word; e.g. Nathanael, Nicodemus, the Jews, the Samaritans, the Galilaeans.
(2) Accepting or revealing the mightiest and most enduring names - "The Son of God," "the Lamb of God," the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost, "the King of Israel," the Opener of the kingdom of heaven, the Creator of all things, the Head of the theocracy, the Rebuilder of the temple of his body, the Teacher of the teacher of Israel, the "Son of man," the Saviour, the Giver of eternal life, the Light, the Bridegroom of the true bride, the Object of the eternal Father's love, the Revealer of the Father in his most essential features and most perfect will, the "Prophet that should come into the world," the "Saviour of the world," the "Christ of God."
(3) We see him, in the majesty of his omnipotence, hiding himself, as the Almighty always does, behind and in his works; we see him hallowing and heightening the joys of nuptial love, and again purifying the house of God from all contaminating adjuncts; we see him in his exalted mood consumed by holy zeal, and also weary and thirsty by the well, asking for water from an alien, and making to her the most astonishing revelations, hushing the pride, as they have secured the reverence, of all after ages by their spirituality and refinement.
(4) We have specimens of every kind of reception and non-reception accorded to his teaching. Some at once perceive his extraordinary claims, and pour forth their homage; others are silent, and pass out of sight forever. Some are cold and reserved, critical and puzzled; others glow and gush with instantaneous conviction. We see in these chapters the shadow of the cross, and gleams also of the crown of Jesus.
(5) We have, moreover, remarkable forthshadowing of the immense human personality which is sustained, not only by what follows in this Gospel, but by what was well known and widely circulated when this Gospel was written, e.g. the impression which he spontaneously gave of reserves of power and truth. A necessity seems imposed upon him of speaking in parabolic, enigmatic language. He continually rises from the commonest incident and material to the Divinest truth; utilizing for his purpose the fig tree, the wine cup, the temple courts and sanctuary, the roaring wind, the flowing water, the rising corn, and the coming harvest. One remarkable aspect of this preliminary ministry is the light it throws upon the profoundly difficult passage in the synoptics, descriptive of the temptation of Jesus - a subject on which this evangelist says nothing. Later on, indeed, he tells us that Jesus said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me;" and, "Now is the crisis of this world: now is the prince of this world cast out. And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to me" (John 12:31; John 14:30). In these chapters the evangelist records certain events which correspond in a remarkable way with the threefold temptation of the devil, which we know to have preceded the public ministry in Galilee. Thus,
(1) over against the devil's temptation to make stones into bread for his own sustenance, and as proof of his sonship to himself, we find that Mary his mother said to him, at the marriage feast, "They have no wine." His reply was, "Not in the way which you propose will I make myself known to the world." "Mine hour [for that] is not yet come." He did, however, in a manner baffling to all but his disciples, turn water into wine for the behoof of poverty and the hallowing of earthly joy, and the manifestation, not so much of the glory of his power as of the fulness and sweetness of his love. Compare with this his asking for water from the well for his own refreshment as a weary, thirsting man, and also the spirit of his reply to his disciples, "I have meat to eat which ye know not off;" "My meat is to do the will of him who sent me."
(2) Over against the devil's temptation to descend in splendid supernatural effect from the pinnacle of the temple upon the astonished multitude, trusting in the mean while to the hands of angels to hold him up, we have John's account of his sudden appearance in the temple, when, consumed by holy zeal for its purity, instead of loud acclaim, he encountered the first muttering of the storm which culminated on Calvary, and made it evident that he only looked to victory over their prejudices by eventually building up that temple of his body which they, by their obtuseness, were beginning to destroy.
(3) Over against the temptation to win the powers of the world and the glory of them by a sinful compromise, i.e. by admitting the legitimacy of the power of the devil in human polity, John tells us that Jesus, by uncompromising fidelity to his great mission as spiritual Healer, waved off the half-homage of the ruler of the Jews and master of the schools, and pointedly declared his need of personal, individual regeneration. Then we read that he quietly began his humble career of persuasion, that he grappled with and discarded the presumptuous claim of nationality, and announced the nature of spiritual worship. Not by the pomp of national homage won by truckling to the power of evil, but by the conversion of the simple hearts of Samaritans through their personal conviction that he was indeed the Saviour (not the Caesar) of the world, he would win the world. Such obvious comparisons are not fortuitous. These events set forth, on a magnificent scale of converse and action, the deep lessons of the temptation, and show, as. the synoptists tell us, that he was filled with the Holy Ghost (see Introduction). Yet, notwithstanding all this, it were a great mistake to suppose that he had exhausted his resources or his teaching; he has simply uttered the alphabet of the whole gospel which he is about to disclose. The teaching of the valedictory discourse is prodigiously in advance of this introduction to his ministry. The truths absolutely revealed are the need of a complete purification of man and temple, the imperative necessity of heavenly birth, of spiritual worship, of implicit faith in the Father's love, and of patient waiting for God. We have two incidents of the Lord's ministry in Galilee, but also impressive hints of the adaptation of his gospel to that world of strangers and outcasts that he has come to seek and save. Our great difficulty is in the silence which the Fourth Gospel preserves concerning the continuous ministry of our Lord in Galilee after this preparation for it. In John 6:4 we learn that the Jews' Passover was at hand, and we find ourselves in the midst of a group of facts in which some chronological hints may be gained. The multiplication of the loaves, the walking upon the sea, are events which are recorded by the synoptists, and which appear there to have followed the execution of John the Baptist, and the conclusion of the trial mission of the twelve disciples. We must, therefore, conclude that, between the Passover of John 2:13 and John 6:4, one year must have, at least, elapsed. (It is true that Browne, in his 'Ordo Saeculorum,' has endeavoured to obliterate this reference to the Passover as a gloss, but without any authority from codices, or versions, or other diplomatic evidence.) This period, moreover, includes a vast amount of incident in the synoptic narrative; all that, e.g., which is recorded in Mark between John 1:14 and John 6:56. Now, it is obvious that, after a period of general response to his claims, our Lord encountered (according to the synoptists) an organized opposition from the Pharisees (see Mark 2, 3, and parallels, and especially from John 2:23 to John 3:6), in particular a bitter and deadly persecution on the ground of his heterodoxy of word and conduct with reference to the rabbinic interpretation of the sabbatic law. There are also other indications of a rising storm of indignation, even in Galilee, to modify the popular enthusiasm. Concerning this John says nothing, but he does record the origin of the storm in the metropolis in his account of a journey to Jerusalem taken in the course of this period. It was his obvious purpose to detail the history of the conflict with the hierarchical party at Jerusalem. The metropolis was the great focus of the antagonism to Christ, and John describes those scenes which appeared in Jerusalem to have stimulated the assault, and thereby, elicited the self-revelation of Jesus.
Literally, this did Jesus again as a second sign. The pleonasm in again, the second, is only apparent. Other miracles had indeed been wrought between these two; but John emphasizes these two as marking Jesus' coming from Judaea to Galilee. The healing of the nobleman's child was the second miracle, only in respect of its taking place upon Jesus' withdrawal from Judaea into Galilee. Hence the again. He wrought a miracle again, when He again came into Galilee, and this miracle was the second, as marking His second coming.
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