|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-3 Jesus applied himself more to preaching, which was the more excellent, 1Co 1:17, than to baptism. He would put honour upon his disciples, by employing them to baptize. He teaches us that the benefit of sacraments depends not on the hand that administers them.
Verses 1-42. - 7. The ministry and revelation of the Lord to those beyond the strict compass of the theocracy. This passage describes an incident of consummate interest, and records a specimen of our Lord's intercourse with individuals, and the reaction of that instruction upon the disciples. The event is a solitary chink through which the light of historical fact falls upon an otherwise darkened and unknown period of the Saviour's life. When we skirt a forest we see at intervals, where by some accident of growth the light falls upon a narrow space, a miniature world of life and loveliness of every kind, suggesting what might happen if every square yard of the forest could receive a similar illumination. Every day of that wondrous life of Christ may have been equally full of meaning to some souls. "These things are written, that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God; and that believing we may have life." The relation of the Jews to the Samaritans gives a special character and both typical and symbolical meaning to the incident. The lifelike reality of the scene, the extreme unlikelihood of such an event having been fabricated with consummate art to establish any specific theological conclusion, the natural appropriateness of the transaction, all confer a high value and historicity upon this paragraph. Thoma, after the manner of Strauss, finds the origin of every detail in the story of Eliezer at the well; but there are no limits to what allegorists may dream, if the reins are thrown on the neck of imagination. The story of Philip's ministry in Samaria and the successes of the gospel in the early days of Christianity are also supposed to have aided the composition of the story. In our opinion, Acts 8 is better explained from John 4 than the reverse process. Baur's supposition, that the author sought to contrast the cautious hesitation of the Jewish doctor with the susceptible emotional disposition of the Samaritan woman as the representative of the Gentile world, is unreasonable. The woman is represented as a believer in Divine revelation and worship, in the early traditions of the Jews themselves, and even in their Messianic hopes, which, in this instance, were more spiritual than those of the Jews. There are numerous debates as to the origin of the Samaritan nation, and opinions waver as to whether they were the descendants of those remnants of the kingdom of Israel who were left in the district once occupied by the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, after the final deportation under Shalmaneser (or Sargon, as the Assyrian inscriptions make probable), together with the heathen settlers who had been mixed up with them, or were solely and purely of Assyrian origin, as they appear to maintain (Ezra 4:2). The narrative of 2 Kings 25:12 implies that all the inhabitants were carried away to cities of the Medes, but it is tolerably clear and eminently probable (2 Chronicles 34:9) that there were some of the people left behind; so that the extent to which Israelitish blood and ideas prevailed in the mongrel race is very difficult to determine. We know that heathen notions of Jehovah, and the worship of graven images, were curiously blended (2 Kings 17:28-41; 2 Chronicles 34:6, 7). But this is only what might be anticipated if their moral and religious degeneration corresponded with the charges brought against them by Hosea and Amos. In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, efforts on their part to share in the honours and independence of Judah were sternly interdicted, and the interdict avenged by angry recriminations which delayed the progress of reconstruction. The antagonism commenced then was deepened into a deadly rivalry by the erection of a temple to Jehovah on Mount Gerizim ( B.C. 409), and by Manasseh, brother of the high priest of Judah, being driven from Jerusalem by his refusal to renounce Sanballat's daughter, and by his becoming high priest of the heretical temple. This temple on Gerizim, in close proximity with the site of Shechem, the abode of the first patriarchs, gave dignity and solidity to some of their traditions and claims; and the modifications they had introduced into the text of the Pentateuch in their celebrated version of it helped to aggravate the schism between the two peoples. The district of country was held during the quarrels of the Ptolemies and Seleucidae alternately by both. Samaritan hatred of the Jews led them to purchase peace during the cruel oppression of Judah under Antiochus Epiphanes, by dedicating their temple to Zeus (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12:05, 5), and again by siding with the Syrians against the Maccabees. Their temple was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, B.C. 130, and its ruins only were visible in the time of Christ. The city of Sebaste was built by Herod, on the site of the city of Samaria, and Flavia Neapolis, now called Nablous, was erected on the site or close neighbourhood of the ancient Shechem. There were mutual recriminations between Jews and Samaritans, which led to strained relations and fierce condemnation, and yet, strange to say, the rabbis did not treat the land as "unclean" (Edersheim, 'Life of Jesus the Messiah,' bk. 3, 100, 7), and consequently the disciples were not precluded from purchasing articles of food from the Samaritan village. They were the "foolish people," "abhorred" of devout Jews (Ecclus. 50, 25, 26); and Rabbi Chuda treated them as heathens, yet Simon ben Gamaliel regarded them as Israelites, and the 'Mishnah' shows that in many of their customs they resembled the Jews. It is doubtful whether they denied the resurrection, and it is certain that their principal tenets and practices were derived from the old revelation. The opposition was felt so strongly by some Jews in the northern province of Galileo that they travelled to Jerusalem through Persea in order to avoid it. Our Lord's treatment of Samaritans in this narrative seems at first sight inconsistent with Matthew 10:5, where the apostles are advised to avoid cities of the Samaritans on their first experimental journey. Still, there is a difference between Christ's "passing through" Samaria, on his way to Galilee, and his limiting the early proclamation of the kingdom to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The disciples were not then to be entrusted with a commission which, not until after Pentecost, they would fulfil with so much joy (Acts 8.). The success of Philip, Peter, and John may have been due to the first sowing of the heavenly seed by the Lord himself. That Christ should have chosen a woman of doubtful reputation from a semi-alien and accursed race to have received some of his greatest teaching (albeit there was no less an ear than John's at hand to record the marvel) is akin to many of the mysteries of his life. Why, it is sometimes asked, did he not proclaim his sublimest thoughts in the schools or temple courts? Why did he confine them to Nicodemus and the Samaritaness? There is no reason to compel us to any such conclusion. The simple fact before us is full justification of the belief that on many another occasion as well as on this, he uttered like things. Verses 1-6. -
(1) The contrast between Jewish unsusceptibility and Samaritan pre-disposition to faith. Verses 1, 2. - When therefore the Lord - a few occasions are found in the Gospels where this appellative, without any proper name, is used for Jesus (John 6:23; John 11:2; Luke 10:1; Luke 17:5; Luke 22:61), and on these occasions some special suggestion is made of the Divine rank and personality of Jesus - knew that the Pharisees heard; i.e. were taking notice, after their wont, with secret machination and with open hostility, of the course which he was pursuing. The treatment which John the Baptist received at their hands was pointedly referred to by our Lord on two occasions (Matthew 17:12, 13; Matthew 21:23-32). They did not believe in John's baptism. The publicans and harlots had repented and pressed into the kingdom before them. This "generation" did whatever it listed to the Elias. Therefore we judge that Herod's persecution, stimulated by his guilty passions, was assisted by "the offspring of vipers." They had probably broken up the baptismal enthusiasm of the multitudes, and aided Herod to shut up John in the castle of Machearus, and hence their present "hearing" meant immediate and hostile action. Jesus had left the temple, and retired to the courts and homes and neighbourhood of Jerusalem; and then was only visited at night by solitary men, who ought to have come in crowds. He left Jerusalem itself for some point in Judaean territory, and there continued for a season the preparatory call for repentance and conversion. The extraordinary success of Jesus at this period excited the special attention of the Pharisees. The matter that came to their ears was that Jesus makes and baptizes more disciples than John. In other words, they heard of an extraordinary wave of popular excitement, yet of nothing answering to the Baptist's imagination of what ought to have taken place. John's ideas corresponded more closely than the teaching of Jesus did with the tenets and methods of the Pharisees. We find that the disciples of John are coupled with Pharisees in the matter of fasting (Matthew 9:14 and parallel passages), yet that John's preaching and baptism were distasteful to the Pharisees. A fortiori the baptism of Jesus would be still more offensive, for it was doubtless accompanied by more searching demands. It had invaded the temple precincts, it had advanced more conspicuous personal claims. John said, "I am come to prepare the way of the Lord;" Jesus said, "I am come down from heaven." (Although (and yet) Jesus himself (in person) baptized not, but his disciples performed the act.) This parenthetical clause, explanatory of the statement of John 3:22, as well as of the previous verse, is justified on the simple ground that Jesus baptized with the Spirit, and not with water. For him to baptize into his own name would have been to darken the mystery; for him to baptize into One who should come would in a way have hidden the fact that he had come. The administration of the rite by the few disciples who were with him would preserve all the symbolism of the new observance. We have no repetition of this statement, nor the faintest hint that the apostles continued this Johannine ceremonial. Moulton and some others lay emphasis on the present; tenses, "makes and baptizes," and therefrom argue that the ministry of John had not yet been brought to a termination, that John was not yet cast into prison, and that the journey into Galilee does not correspond with that described in Matthew 4, but thai; our Lord removed from Judaea simply to avoid the apparent rivalry between the two baptismal and evangelistic ministries. When Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard, etc., he resolved upon a new and startling course.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
When therefore our Lord knew,.... Or Jesus, as some copies, as the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions read; who is Lord of all, Lord of lords, the one and only Lord of saints: and who knew all things as God; every man, and what is in man; who would believe in him, and who not, and who would betray him; he knew his adversaries, what they thought, said, or did; what was told them, and how it operated in them; and what were the secret motions of their hearts, and their most private counsels and designs; for this is not merely to be understood of his knowledge as man, which he might have by private intelligence from others; though what is here said, might be true also in this sense:
how the Pharisees; the inveterate and implacable enemies of Christ, and particularly those that dwelt at Jerusalem, and were of the great sanhedrim, or council of the nation:
had heard; either by their spies, which they constantly kept about Christ; or by John s disciples, who, through envy, might apply to the sanhedrim, to put a stop to, or check upon the baptism and ministry of Christ; or by common fame:
that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John; see John 3:26. The method Christ took was, he first made men disciples, and then baptized them; and the same he directed his apostles to, saying, "go and teach", or "disciple all nations, baptizing them", &c. And this should be a rule of conduct to us, to baptize only such, who appear to have been made the disciples of Christ: now a disciple of Christ, is one that has learned of Christ, and has learned Christ; the way of life, righteousness, and salvation by him; who is a believer in him; who has seen a beauty, glory, fulness, and suitableness in him, as a Saviour; and is come to him, and has ventured on him, and trusted in him; and who has been taught to deny himself, sinful self, and righteous self; to part with his sins, and to renounce his own righteousness, and all dependence on it, for justification before God; and who has been made willing to leave and forsake all worldly things and advantages, and to bear all reproach, indignities, and persecutions, for Christ's sake: and such who are Christ's disciples in this sense, are the only proper persons to be baptized; these are they, that ought to put on this badge, and wear Christ's livery: nor can baptism be of any use to any others; for such only are baptized into him, and into his death, and partake of the saving benefits of it; for whatsoever is not of faith, is sin; and without it also, it is impossible to please God.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Joh 4:1-42. Christ and the Woman of Samaria—The Samaritans of Sychar.
1-4. the Lord knew—not by report, but in the sense of Joh 2:25, for which reason He is here styled "the Lord."
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