Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. AN EVIDENT PHYSICAL NEED. This chapter connects spiritual truth with one great physical need of men, even as ch. 6. connects spiritual truth with another great need. Both Jesus and the woman were exactly in the position to appreciate the value of water, and the opportunity of getting it easily and freely. Jesus is a thirsty Traveller; the woman is one who has frequent journeys from her home to get the indispensable supply forevery day's needs. We cannot all get the same amount of good out of the conversation between Jesus and the woman. Those whose toil often makes them thirsty, and those who get their supplies of water with difficulty, they will be the people to relish the figure by which spiritual benefits are here set forth. Our very difficulty in profiting by this conversation should be a matter for thankfulness. If we are thirsty we very soon get a drink; and if others in their thirst ask from us, we very soon get them the requisite supply.
II. AN UNFELT SPIRITUAL NEED. This woman is an excellent specimen of a very large class. They feel the physical need so much that the spiritual need is altogether overlooked. It is little wonder that the woman talked as she did in this conversation. How was she to know, without a good deal of instruction and experience, whence Jesus came and what he meant? By this conversation, as well as other recorded ones of his, Jesus would evidently stir us up to consider whether there be not other wants just as necessary to be met in their way as the wants that are met by a supply of water. When we are hungry we all know the use of bread; when we are thirsty we all know the use of water; why is it, then, that we know not the use of Jesus? it is either that we have not yet felt the deeper thirst of the heart, or, having felt it, we do not yet understand how in Jesus alone that thirst can be effectually quenched. This woman was wholly and solely occupied with the idea of getting natural water more easily. Her journeys to the well must have been very frequent ones, and, though they might not be long ones, yet they might be quite enough to add very considerably to the toil and burden of the day. What a warning there is for us in this woman's gross spiritual ignorance, her inability to comprehend, even in the very least degree, what Jesus was talking about! She had come out to get as much water as she herself could carry back. There she stood before Jesus, and so ignorant was she of his mission and his power, that at the moment she could think of nothing better to ask him than the opening up of some natural fountain of waters such as would render needless any more toilsome journeys to Jacob's well.
III. THE CONTINUAL READINESS OF JESUS TO SUPPLY ALL SPIRITUAL NEED. He is weary with travel and heat, and needs rest. But the need of this ignorant, degraded woman is far greater than his, and, more than that, in speaking the words that may go far in instructing her as to her need, he speaks the words that may instruct many others also. The physical want of Jesus is soon supplied; a draught from Jacob's well will do that. But the want of the woman is not so easy to supply. It would be easy enough if she were only in the right state of mind; but, first of all, what ignorance, misconception, and wrong desires have to be removed! A deal has to be done for us before we care to appropriate our share in that fountain which, because of its unfailing, fulness, can do nothing else but leap forth to everlasting life. But what an encouragement to know that Jesus is so ready to do all when we are willing to have it done! If we are unsaved, unblessed, unbelieving, unhoping, unloving, if no fresh, deep spiritual stream runs through our nature, it is because we keep away from the fountain that Jesus has opened up. It is not he who has to discover the need and make the preparation. Jesus has everything in perfect readiness so soon as the heart begins to feel its thirst.-Y.
I. THERE IS A GOOD SIDE TO PATRIOTISM WHICH, AS COMPARED WITH SELFISHNESS, IS A VIRTUE. The love of country is both greater and more difficult than the love of family or the love of self. It is morally elevating for a man to lose regard for his own interests in an absorbing desire for the welfare of his tribe or nation. Great deeds have]seen wrought, and great characters have been shaped, by love of fatherland.
II. THERE IS A BAD SIDE TO PATRIOTISM WHICH, AS CONTRASTED WITH PHILANTHROPY, IS A FAULT. The love of country may be magnified selfishness. When it renders a man insensible to the merits of those of alien blood or of different education, it warps the nature, and is often the occasion of injustice. Crimes have been done, and that sincerely, in the name of patriotism. Envy and jealousy, hatred, malice, and revenge, have sprung from spurious patriotism - that is, from a too exclusive regard to the interests or the honour of a nation.
III. CHRISTIANITY, WHILST NOT INIMICAL TO TRUE PATRIOTISM, INTRODUCES A GREAT DIVINE UNITING POWER INTO HUMAN SOCIETY.
1. The religion of Christ teaches the unity of the human race. It represents humanity as united by common origin and participation in a common nature.
2. The religion of Christ bases human unity upon the fatherhood of God. The family is one, because acknowledging one Head.
3. The Incarnation reveals and establishes this unity. Christ is the Son of man, the Friend of man, the Brother of man, the Saviour of man, the Lord of man. In him provision is made for the restoration of that unity which sin has broken.
IV. CHRISTIANITY THUS ENCOURAGES SUCH PATRIOTISM AS IS GOOD, AND CHECKS THE EVILS OFTEN CLOAKED UNDER THE NAME.
1. On the one hand, the religion of Christ fosters the feeling of duty which has its scope in political relationships. The duty nearest us is first, and, as we must not neglect our own household for the sake of strangers, so neither must we prefer foreigners and their interest to the welfare of our "kindred according to the flesh." A spurious philanthropy is a poor substitute for a genuine patriotism.
2. On the other hand, our religion forbids us to limit our regard to our immediate neighbours; and requires us to sweep with our spiritual vision the vast horizon of humanity. There is a homely proverb, "Charity begins at home;" to which a homely addition has been made, "but does not end there." The patriotism that takes us out of self is good; yet alone it is insufficient. It should broaden until our regard and our interest and our love reach far as the virtue of Christ's sacrifice, far as the range of Christ's gospel. Suspicions and contentions are alien from the Spirit of Christ. There is no limit to the comprehensiveness of the Saviour's pity; there should be no limit to the comprehensiveness of his people's love. - T.
I. WHAT MEN FAIL TO SEE AND TO HEAR.
1. The unenlightened and unspiritual do not recognize in Christ the Gift of God. They do not look beneath the surface, and consequently do not recognize the true glory, the Divine power, which are the rent attributes of the Son of man.
2. They do not discern in the tones of the Saviour's voice the Divine authority with which he ever speaks. In every word of his may be perceived, by the spiritually cultured, "grace and truth," the utterance of superhuman wisdom and superhuman love. But to multitudes his speech has, alas! no Divine significance.
II. WHAT MEN CONSEQUENTLY FAIL TO ASK. Had the woman of Samaria known more of Jesus, she would have asked of him, and thus have received the "living water." And it is reasonable to believe that ignorance, more or less culpable, is the reason why many remain unblest when blessing is within their reach. They do not ask, either
(1) because they do not feel the need of the "living water," which alone can bring life, satisfaction, and refreshment to the soul; or
(2) because they do not think of the Lord Jesus as of the One Being who alone can supply the wants experienced.
III. WHAT MEN, THEREFORE, FAIL TO ENJOY. It is observable that Jesus gave the woman to understand that asking would have secured the supply of her deepest needs. As the conversation proceeded, the Saviour unfolded the nature of the blessings he came to bring, and which men withhold from themselves only by restraining faith and prayer. These blessings are within the reach of all whose hearts are athirst for the water of life, and are obtainable upon the simple condition of compliance with the terms appointed by Divine wisdom. Free as the streams which flow from mountain springs are the blessings of the gospel of God. Yet to multitudes these blessings are inaccessible, simply from their want of knowledge, their want of spiritual appreciation, and their want of believing prayer. - T.
From whence then hast thou that living water?" is suggestive of considerations most interesting and most serious.
I. IT IS A FACT THAT THE WORLD OBTAINS MANY AND GREAT BLESSINGS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. The living water is the emblem of personal, social, and general benefits which have been experienced through long centuries in virtue of the advent, the ministry, and sacrifice of the Son of man.
II. IT IS UNREASONABLE TO ATTRIBUTE THESE BLESSINGS TO ORDINARY, EARTHLY, AND HUMAN SOURCES. An examination of their quality proves them to be different from any, superior to any, which other teachers, other religions, provide. Every attempt to refer the blessings of Christianity to human origin has failed; either by depreciating the value of the streams or by exaggerating the virtue of the sources.
III. THE QUESTION IS THUS FORCED UPON REFLECTING MINDS, "FROM WHENCE?" There is a general desire to know the causes of great effects. And men have a special interest in a case which so nearly concerns themselves. There is no fear lest men should resign themselves to contented ignorance upon matters of so high moment. Agnosticism is self-condemned.
IV. THE ONLY SATISFACTORY ANSWER TO THIS INQUIRY IS, "FROM ABOVE!" The Divine origin of the sacred blessings procured by Christ for man is apparent from their nature. They are fraught with spiritual life and spiritual refreshment, such as this world cannot yield. It is apparent also from the abundance and perpetuity of these blessings. They come leaping up as from an exhaustless spring. They come falling down as in an unceasing shower. All other explanations fail. The world yields nought but an echo to the heart's eager cry, "From whence?" The true answer is that which revelation affords. The source of the spiritual blessings which Christianity confers upon mankind is heavenly and Divine. This reply is completely and forever sufficient. - T.
I. A CHANGE OF SPIRITUAL ATTITUDE IS HERE EXHIBITED. At first Jesus had asked water from the Samaritan woman, who seemed almost reluctant to grant so small a favour, and who laid stress upon nationality rather than upon humanity. But a short conversation wrought a marvellous change. And soon the woman came to beg for living water from him who had just before asked from her a draught from Jacob's well. How many have listened to the gospel, have turned their gaze towards Christ, with indifference, and even with a kind of ignorant condescension, who, upon knowing more of him, have exchanged indifference and contempt for reverence and faith! There are those who consider that a favour is asked from them by the ministers of religion when they are urged to accept the Lord Jesus; who seem to suppose that their adhesion would be a boon, if not to the Saviour, yet to his people. Let such persons really come into spiritual contact with Christ, and the case will be altogether changed. They will then see that they have nothing to give, and all to gain, and the Divine Benefactor of humanity will be approached with humble entreaty.
II. THE ATTRACTION EXERCISED BY THE DIVINE WATER OF LIFE IS HERE ILLUSTRATED.
1. We discern, on the part of the Samaritan woman, the desire for personal satisfaction. "That I thirst not" is a plea that personal cravings may be stilled and personal wants supplied. Let Christ's gift be understood, and the approach of it will excite the longing of the needy spirit.
2. We perceive also the desire to take to others, by a ministry of help, a Divine satisfaction. "Neither come hither to draw" is language which reminds us that the woman came to the well, not only to supply her own need, but to fetch water for her household. Could Jesus help her to minister to the wants of others in some way more satisfactory and less tedious than that to which she was accustomed? Experience shows that to realize, not only our own wants, but the wants of those connected with and dependent upon us, is increasingly to appreciate that spiritual provision which is symbolized by the living water.
III. APPLICATION TO THE TRUE SOURCE FOR THE WATER OF LIFE IS HERE EXEMPLIFIED. With all her faults, there were in this woman a clearness of thinking, a directness of language, and a candour of disposition which we cannot but admire. Once convinced that the mysterious Stranger before her had great gifts to confer, she promptly sought the promised good. The directness of her appeal, in which was no qualification, is an example to all who approach Christ. Those whom the gospel reaches, and who are convinced that the Lord Jesus is the Spring of life eternal to mankind, are reminded that they should apply without delay to the Personal and Divine Source of the highest blessing, with the assurance, which his character inspires, that they cannot ask of him in vain. - T.
I. THERE IS A NATURAL TENDENCY IN MEN AND IN NATIONS TO REGARD CERTAIN PLACES AS SACRED. Where is the country in which there have not been consecrated mountains, valleys, and groves? Where the religion which has not boasted its sacred oracles, its solemn temples, its spots hallowed by memorable, by awful associations? Devotion, at all events of a kind, is stimulated by local assistance. The buildings where one has experienced unusual emotions acquire sanctity and elicit reverence.
II. THE SATISFACTION OF THIS TENDENCY OFTEN OBSCURES THE SPIRITUALITY OF TRUE WORSHIP. The means are mistaken for the end; the place for the purposes it is intended to promote. Hence it has often come to pass that those who are most employed about sacred places, and who become most familiar with them, have less than others of the sentiment of true devotion. There is a proverb, "The nearer to Rome, the further from God."
III. DURING THE PREPARATORY DISPENSATION, IT PLEASED GOD IN HIS WISDOM TO MAKE USE OF THIS TENDENCY TO PROMOTE EDUCATIONAL ENDS. The temple at Jerusalem actually was the house of God; in it was the holiest place; its beauty was the beauty of holiness. Such a provision was adapted to the religious childhood of humanity. Thus reverence was inculcated, the consciousness of a Divine presence was elicited, and the minds of men were drawn on to more elevated and spiritual conceptions.
IV. THE INCARNATION SUPERSEDED ALL LOCAL SANCTITY. Our Lord Jesus became the true Tabernacle, the true Temple. In him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The temple of his body was taken down, but in three days was reared again. On the other hand, the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed, never to be replaced.
V. THE TENDENCY OF TRUE RELIGION IS NOT SO MUCH TO DECONSECRATE ANY PLACE AS TO CONSECRATE ALL PLACES. Doubtless, as our Lord declared, spiritual worship is independent of localities. Yet all places where Christians meet, and where the Master is spiritually present, become "holiness unto the Lord."
"Jesus, where'er thy people meet,
I. CHRIST TELLS US WHOM WE ARE TO WORSHIP. Idolaters offer their adoration, in some cases to the great and imposing objects of nature, as the sun, the moon, etc.; in other cases to the works of their own hands, as to images of silver, of gold, of wood, etc. The perplexed in mind have worshipped "the Unknown God," and agnostics profess to venerate "the Unknowable." But it is the happy privilege of Christians to worship the God who is revealed by the Lord Jesus.
1. As the Spirit, apprehended, not by the senses, but by the soul. The Divine Being, spiritual in nature, everywhere present, everywhere conscious, everywhere acting, is the proper Object of human worship.
2. As the Father, who is not distant and unapproachable, but very near, to whom we owe our being, who supplies our wants, exercises over us a constant care, and trains us for the future by a moral discipline. Such is the affectionate relation which is sustained to us by the great Object of our adoration.
II. CHRIST TELLS US HOW WE ARE TO WORSHIP. There have been devised by men's ingenuity and superstition many methods by which it has been thought worship might be acceptably offered. Bodily posture, ascetic rites, unholy ceremonial, painful pilgrimages, and cruel sacrifices have been deemed acceptable, and have accordingly been practised. In contradistinction from such modes of service, Christ bids his disciples worship:
1. In spirit. Man's spirit, because created in the likeness of the heavenly Father, possesses the power of honouring, praising, thanking, and loving the living God. The heart is the seat of loyalty, of gratitude, of love. Not that worship is to be locked up in the secrecy of the breast; it may and will find expression in solemn speech and joyful song. But all utterances and forms of worship derive their value and their power from their being the manifestation of spiritual life and spiritual aspirations.
2. In truth; i.e. with a just conception of the Being worshipped, and in sincerity and reality. Such worship will be personal, and not merely formal or vicarious. The priest must not arrogate the functions of the worshipper. And true worship will be of the life, as well as of the lips; for both alike will be accepted as the revelation of deep and spiritual feeling.
III. CHRIST TELLS US WHEN AND WHERE WE ARE TO WORSHIP. Upon these points his lessons differ from the maxims and the practices of those who follow the narrow ordinances of superstition. For whereas men have usually set apart special places and special seasons as peculiarly suitable for worship, as peculiarly acceptable to God, the Lord Christ speaks on these subjects with a breadth and freedom quite superhuman.
1. At all times, irrespective of human ordinances and customs. There are special seasons when it is well, when it is in accordance with the practice of the Church, and even with the authority of the primitive Christians, to offer stated, solemn, and spiritual sacrifices. But both the precepts and the example of Jesus assure us that we are not confined to such times, but that there is no season when sincere worship is not acceptable to God.
2. In every place worship may be presented to the omnipresent Creator. No longer on the heights of Gerizim or in the temple of Jerusalem, i.e. exclusively and specially, is the Eternal Father worshipped. Wherever God's people meet together in a devout and lowly attitude of mind, and under the guidance of the Spirit of God, there is a consecrated place. Nay, the scene of retired and solitary worship is holy; for a worshipping nature and a worshipped Deity are together there.
IV. CHRIST TELLS US WHY WE ARE TO WORSHIP.
1. One reason is to be sought in ourselves - in our own nature; we have been made capable of this lofty exercise. This is a prerogative denied to the inferior creatures of God. We live beneath the high possibilities of our being, if we restrain worship and draw not near unto the Father of our spirits.
2. Another reason is to be found in God himself; his nature and character are such as to command and to invite our worship. Our heavenly Father cannot be known by any who are capable of right judgment and right feeling without appearing to such deserving of the lowliest and most fervent adoration.
3. God seeks believing worshippers. An amazing proof both of condescension and compassion! How can we withhold from God that which he, the Almighty Lord, deigns to seek from us? - T.
I. WHOM GOD SEEKS.
1. Spiritual natures are the object of his quest. To him nothing is more precious than the souls of men.
2. They whom he seeks are his children. When once we realize the fatherhood of God, the difficulty disappears in the way of believing that the Eternal can concern himself with such a quest as this.
II. WHAT GOD SEEKS. It is the true worship of his people, his children, that the Father desires. He seeks:
1. Sincere worship; that which is not of the lip merely, but of the heart.
2. Intelligent worship; that which is not superstitious or formal, or traditional, but such as proceeds from a nature convinced of the Divine existence, and appreciative of the Divine attributes.
3. Sympathetic worship; rejoicing in the faithfulness, the righteousness, the love, of that adorable Being who is justly praised and honoured.
4. Consistent worship; i.e. such as is supported by a life and conduct truly harmonious with the language and the sentiments of devotion.
III. HOW GOD SEEKS. The Omnipotent can be at no loss to devise means by which his purposes may be brought to pass. Men, indeed, often seek what is dear to them in a manner which defeats their own aims; but it cannot be so with the All-wise and Almighty.
1. God seeks true worshippers by manifesting himself. If he be not known, or he not known aright, those ignorant of him cannot render suitable and acceptable worship. One great purpose of revelation, and especially of the Incarnation, is this - that God may so be seen and known that he may be duly glorified and served.
2. By removing the obstacles which prevent sinful men from worshipping aright their holy Creator and Lord. The great work of redemption must be regarded as the chief and most admirable method by which the King of glory seeks to secure the homage and loyalty of his sinful subjects.
3. By the actual invitations of his Word. Inasmuch as he is infinitely the Superior, any advances must come from him. And the commands such as, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve," are intended to press upon us what is his good pleasure; whilst the invitations such as, "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker," are designed to encourage us to lay aside our fears, and to worship him "in the beauty of holiness."
IV. WHY GOD SEEKS. It is sometimes objected to Christian worship that it assumes a Being delighting in his own praises, and so partaking of the infirmity of human vanity. It is said that if even wise men are above this weakness, it is dishonouring to the Eternal to ascribe to him any desire to delight himself in the adoration of his creatures, whose praises, after all, may be very little worthy of his acceptance. But it is a misapprehension to attribute such littleness to Jehovah. He "inhabiteth the praises of Israel;" but he simply claims what it is right for him to have, and profitable for men to offer. To withhold worship from the All-worshipful would evince the grossest insensibility and ingratitude. And experience shows that there is no attitude, no exercise, of the human spirit so fitted as is worship to exalt and. refine the affections, and to purify and dignity the whole nature. - T.
I. THE FALLACY EMPHATICALLY STATED. Up to this point in the conversation the woman has not the slightest idea that religious matters are in question; but immediately on concluding that Jesus is a Prophet, she proceeds to show that she can talk about religion as well as other people. Jesus seeks to fasten her up in a corner where she may be dealt with according to her individual sin and individual need, and so she tries to escape away into a general discussion on an old point of difference that was altogether beside the question that should have had most interest for her. The fallacy of holy places is emphatically illustrated in the experience Jesus had of them. We see that he had experience of two places reckoned specially holy, Gerizim and Jerusalem. Truly the holiness of Gerizim had done little for this Samaritan woman; and the holiness of Jerusalem did little for those priests and Law expounders who, in their fanaticism, put Jesus to death. Here is the paradox of a woman apparently unconcerned about her own misdoing, but very much concerned about the rightful localization of Deity.
II.. IT IS A FALLACY WHICH PREVAILS WIDELY AND DEEPLY STILL. Jerusalem and. Gerizim are still reckoned holy places, and to them, in the name of Jesus, how many more have been added! Special places, special forms, special symbols, special words, have been slowly exalted unto an honour and an influence they were never meant to obtain. Many who on no account would bow before an image, yet act as if Deity had a special dwelling and special surroundings. We do not make a sufficient distinction between what is necessary to us and what is acceptable to God. Holy buildings, holy forms, may have in them much value; but the value is for us, and not for God. If one can think of God esteeming some spots of earth holler than others, surely they are those where most has been done for the renewal and sanctification of men. We may learn a lesson from the obscurity into which the ark of the covenant fell. How it vanishes away with the departure of Jehovah's people into the Babylonian captivity!
III. A FALLACY WHICH IS ONLY TO BE REMOVED BY A CONTINUAL REMEMBRANCE OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD AND MEN. God is pure Spirit. A thousand things which in themselves serve and gratify human beings because of their correspondence with human nature cannot serve and gratify God. The whole position is placed before us in the question, "Can I eat the flesh of bulls, and drink the blood of goats?" Incense from Sheba, and sweet cane from a far country, became abominable to Jehovah because the people who offered them did not hearken to his words, and rejected his Law (Jeremiah 6:20). We who have bodies must to some extent be served even as the beasts are served; but if we got nothing more we should soon be miserable. The higher and peculiar part of our nature has also to be amply served. That which is invisible in us is the most important thing; and that which we value most from others comes from what is invisible in them. How much more, then, when we are dealing with that Being who has in him no mixture of the bodily! We do give human berets something when we give to their bodies; but unless we give God the spiritual we give him nothing at all.-Y.
I. THE DEGRADED CONDITION OF THIS WOMAN. A condition, not because of something peculiar to her as an individual, but simply because she was a woman. Think of the work to which she was put, travelling away out of the city at the noontide hour to get water at the well. Hard as her lot was, it was not peculiarly hard; she would not be worse off than most women of her acquaintance. Think, too, of the light thrown upon the life of woman in that place by the startling announcement of Jesus, "Thou hast had five husbands." Some of these, perhaps, had died, but some, possibly all even, had got tired of the wife, and made an excuse to send her away. Considering the need of the woman, the real marvel would have been if Jesus ha& remained silent with such a golden opportunity.
II. THE HELP JESUS GAVE HER. Take this woman as representative of the toiling, burdened woman everywhere. She has her own share in this world's work and, weariness, and more than her own share in the world's monotony. Many women there must be who want refreshment and brightness, something to make life less mechanical, something to bring at least a bit of blue into the sky, a bit of sunshine into the room. Jesus, speaking to the woman of Samaria, speaks to such. It was irksome work for her coming "hither" daily to draw. So Jesus hints mysteriously at a new fountain of waters, gushing out with a fulness and force which indicated the exhaustless stores within; and so the poor woman, thinking but of her daily toil, begs for this water that she may thirst not, neither come to draw. Yet this was the request Jesus did not comply with. She still would have to take her daily journey to Jacob's well. Jesus helped her otherwise; even spiritually, one hopes that, after getting so much instruction and so many explanations, this wearied woman did have opened up in her heart the well of water springing up to everlasting life. If so, then forever she would have to bless the journey to the well. Her load of daily duties was not diminished in itself, but practically it was diminished, because her strength was increased. Thus Jesus would help all women. He is far above the limitations of sex. The marvel now is that women will not come and talk with Jesus, seeing he is a Helper still wherever the faith and obedience are found that make his help available.-Y.
I. PERSONAL REVELATION THE CHIEF AGENCY IN PRODUCING CONVICTION.
1. It is noticeable that our Lord chose to utter to this woman of Samaria some of his sublimest revelations of religious truth. To her he declared himself to be the "living water" which alone can assuage the thirst of humanity. To her he communicated the glorious and ever-memorable truth, "God is a Spirit." To her he revealed the necessity of spiritual worship. All these revelations made, it is clear, an impression on the woman's mind. She was an interested and thoughtful listener. Declarations such as these could not but fill her mind with amazement, could not but raise her thoughts heavenwards.
2. Yet the text makes it plain that what chiefly produced conviction of Jesus' Messiahship was his penetration into her heart, his perusal of her history, his revelation to her of her own character, her own conduct, in the light of the Divine Law, and doubtless also in the light of his own pity and loving kindness. It is not to be imagined that the power of this revelation lay simply in its correspondence with the actual facts of the woman's life. Christ detected the moral significance of all she had done, and made all apparent to her in the light of a very tender, but a very faithful criticism. This made her feel towards him as she had felt towards none other. That he should enter into, and interest himself in, what she had been, what sort of life she had led and was leading, - this was wonderful. But that he should deal with her conscience and heart as he did - though we are left to conjecture how - that he should open up to her sinful nature the glory and the grace of the Eternal Father, - this was convincing, this was effective in bringing about her bold acknowledgment, for such virtually was the inquiry, "Is not this the Christ?" The same principle holds good today. The witness that chiefly issues in the enlightenment and conversion of sinful men is the witness which the Saviour bears to their sinfulness and need, and to his own Divine sufficiency to meet their case and bring them back to God.
II. PERSONAL REVELATION THE CHIEF AGENCY PROMPTING TO EVANGELIZATION. We should have expected that when the woman returned to the city, and conversed with the townspeople, her chief endeavour would have been to give them some idea of the transcendent wisdom of the Lord Jesus - some evidence of his Messiahship. But such does not seem to have been the case. She acted upon the principle, "We believe, therefore we speak." Like the apostles, she testified of what she had seen and heard and handled, etc. Enlightened and impressed, benefited and purified, this woman became a missionary to her countrymen. The same principle is applicable to our own time. We need not expect men to become bearers of glad tidings to their fellow men merely because impressed with the grandeur of Divine truth. The impulse that leads to such testimony must come from a personal experience of the power of the gospel, and from a personal faith and affection towards the Divine Redeemer. - T.
I. THE FOOD OF THE BODY. "Master, eat."
1. The body must have food. It is true that "man doth not live by bread alone," but it is quite as true that he cannot live without bread. Man's physical nature requires suitable physical support. If we wish to live, we must eat - eat to live, but. not live to eat.
2. The body must have food at stated times. "In due season." There is physical waste, there is a continual demand, and there must be a continual supply. There is a law of health and life, and should be observed. The prayer of the disciples, "Master, eat," was quite timely and natural. The meal time had passed, and he was hungry and fatigued, and their request was the natural language of propriety, want, and kindness.
3. The claims of the body are recognized by Christ:
(1) In the provisions of nature. In their fulness and variety he was the Provider, and there is no way so effectual to recognize the claims of the body as to provide amply for it.
(2) Under human conditions, he was thoroughly human. He knew by experience what were hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and, as such, he could sympathize with the cravings of others. He had sent his disciples unto the city to buy meat; not, perhaps, so much for his own sake as that of his disciples. In little things he was more concerned for others than for himself.
(3) He was sociable and simple in his diet. There was not one table for the Lord and another for the servants; but he shared with them, and his fare was simple and homely. And this, perhaps, was better for mental and spiritual labour. Eating and drinking were secondary matters with him. Nevertheless, by example, by actions and words, he fully recognized the claims of the body.
II. THE FOOD OF THE SOUL.
1. Doing the Divine will. "My meat is to do the will," etc.
(1) This involves self-sacrificing service. A service devoted entirely to God. Self is altogether ignored. Jesus was rapt in the will of him that sent him. He lived in his Father, and fed on his will.
(2) This service involves the whole of his Divine will. "His work." Including his will in its minutest details - the brief mission of Samaria; and also in its most comprehensive purposes - the salvation of the human family, the great scheme of redemption.
(3) This service involves the carrying out the Divine will to its final and proper issues. "And to finish his work." The completion of the work inspires and supports the Worker all through. It is the wine of the spirit and the reviver of the soul. This was Jesus' meat. And it is ever the true food of the soul.
2. As soul food, many are ignorant of it. Even the disciples were so now. "I have meat to eat that ye know not of."
(1) There is ignorance of its nature and origin. It is spiritual and heavenly. In the disciples as yet the material was in the ascendant. They were babes in Christ, dependent on the nurse. The soul had scarcely opened its eye, was scarcely conscious of its real wants.
(2) There is ignorance of its value and effects. From the beginning the will of God is the real food of the soul; but on account of sin, materialism, animalism, and indifference, the realization of it was exceptional, and ignorance of its true value and effect was the rule. This was specially the case at the time of Christ's earthly history. Its value and effect must be known by experience.
(3) It was the mission of Christ to reveal it, to introduce it, create a craving in humanity for it, and to supply them with the knowledge of its nature and value. This he did by precept and example. "My meat is to do the will," etc. His whole life and death were brilliant, but most familiar and telling illustrations of the Divine will as the only genuine food of the human soul.
3. As soul food, it is essential and perfectly adapted.
(1) The soul is spiritual in its essence and wants, and must be supplied with spiritual food, else it cannot thrive and grow and be useful and happy. The will of God is adapted to supply all this. It is spiritual and Divine.
(2) The soul is immortal, and must have immortal nourishment. The will of God is the imperishable meat, and calculated to satisfy the immortal cravings of the soul. Christ brought life and immortality to light. Let the soul feed. on him, and its immortal instincts will be nourished; and this is only the will of God.
(3) The soul is an emanation of the Divine will. Its parentage suggests at once its only proper food. The babe feeds and thrives on its mother's milk. What but the will of God can feed the offspring of that will?
(4) It is essential and addicted to the well being and final perfection of the soul. What is its well being and final perfection? Growth in its original direction, holiness, perfect love, as much God-likeness and happiness as it is capable of. To do the will of God will effect all this. As a proof, look at Christ. What made his character perfect and his manhood complete? The proper answer is in his own words: "My meat is to do the wilt of him," etc.
4. As soul food, it is delightful. "My meat." To do the will of God is not a burden, but a delight; not sacrifice, but pleasure. It is like food to the hungry or water to the thirsty. It is not a mere duty, but a natural instinct and craving, a passion and the highest gratification of being. "My meat." Never a man enjoyed the daintiest dish as well as the believing soul enjoys doing the will of God. It is his meat.
5. As soul food, it is absorbingly satisfying. The claims of God and the spiritual interest of humanity are stronger than any other. They are supreme.
(1) Stronger in this case than social custom. It was customary among the Jews, as among all nations, to partake of food at stated times of the day. Jesus and his disciples generally observed and provided for this. The custom was strong; but doing the will of God, to Christ, was infinitely stronger. The custom was ignored.
(2) Stronger than the solicitations of friends. The disciples begged and even prayed him to eat. This was done out of pure kindness and sympathy, and Jesus was by no means unimpressive to this. Even human kindness had great influence on him, but could not prevail now. He had fed, and was even then feeding, (m a higher and more satisfying food.
(3) Stronger than the cravings of nature. Jesus was fatigued and hungry when the disciples left for the city to buy meat, but meanwhile he was fed with food from the city of the great King. In a higher sense the disciples were right in surmising that some one had brought him aught to eat. God had fed him with his will, and he had partaken of food by doing his will. The success of his brief and almost accidental mission in Samaria satisfied him, and the spiritual impression on the woman and the sight of Samaritan citizens already streaming to him over the plain so filled his soul with satisfaction and joy that bodily food was forgotten, and the thought of it almost distasteful. The material was lost in the spiritual, the personal in the general, and the human in the Divine. The cravings of his own bodily wants were completely neutralized by the unspeakable delight of doing the will of God in supplying the spiritual wants of others.
1. The claims of the body, although important, are nothing to those of the soul. The former are represented by the disciples on this occasion, the latter by Christ. "Master, eat," they said. "Disciples, eat," he said; but pointed them to their higher nature and its true nourishment.
2. We should cultivate the spiritual appetite to feed on the will of God. For this is the proper food of the soul, adapted here and hereafter. From the altitude of spiritual satisfaction and joy earthly things appear gross, and material food becomes too distasteful for even thought, much inure for participation. This points to a state where material food will not be required, nor can it be procured. Let the soul free itself from all gross influences and from the dominion of bodily appetites and passions, and this will discipline it for the enjoyment of the purely spiritual.
3. We should feel thankful to Christ for introducing to us the true food of the soul. He made our physical nature and provided for it; he made our spiritual nature and supplied it with proper nurture - the will of God.
4. If we wish to become Christlike, we must feed on the same meat as Christ. If we wish to be God-like, we must do his will. Food has great influence on the growth of the soul. Inferior and adulterated food dwarfs it, causes it to grow downwards. Doing the will of God causes it to grow heavenwards. Holy activity whets the spiritual appetite and supplies it with nourishment. The soul feeds by doing, by activity, by the sweat of its brow. If we want to be benevolent, like Christ, we must not feed on ourselves, but the will of God - on the love of Christ and the welfare of our fellow men. - B.T.
I. THE HIGHEST VIEW OF SPIRITUAL AND BENEVOLENT EFFORT. This is all the more striking and wonderful when we remember the dignity, the Divinity of the Speaker.
1. All he did had reference to his Father. The "will" of the Father was for him supreme; the Father had "sent" him into the world for a definite purpose.
2. His mission was one of active service. Jesus, no doubt, came to live; to be himself, to suffer for our sins. But although his mere living among men was an incomparable lesson, though his death was of incomparable value, we must not lose sight of his activity, his ministry of energetic service.
3. His aim was to bring the undertaking committed to him to a conclusion honourable to himself and to the Father. In accomplishing, in finishing, his work, he found a Divine satisfaction. Allowing for the difference between Master and servants, we may recognize in Christ's view of his life work the model for our own. To think thus of our human vocation will add a dignity to our life, an effectiveness to our ministry.
II. THE PLACE WHICH A LIFE OF SPIRITUAL AND BENEVOLENT EFFORT HOLDS IN THE AFFECTIONS.
1. Work for God is the necessity of the Master and of the servants alike. As the body cannot live without food, so the higher nature cannot be maintained in health, in life, without work for God. It was so with Christ, who could forget water and bread, though thirsty and hungry, but who could not exist without labouring for the cause of human well being.
2. Work for God affords the servant of God the purest satisfaction and delight. The thirsty and famishing traveller is revived and gladdened when he comes where he can quench his thirst and satisfy his hunger. Greater joy did our Lord find when there opened up before him some opportunity of doing the will of God in securing the enlightenment, the conversion, the consolation, of some poor human soul.
3. Work for God, like food, strengthens for new and larger efforts. Work is its own wages. They who toil eat, and they who eat are the fitter for renewed and happy work. If it was thus with the Master and Lord, shall it not be thus with the disciple, the follower, the servant, the friend? We are encouraged, not only to take a high view of Christian service, but to seek in it our purest satisfaction, and the means of unceasing devotedness and usefulness. - T.
I. THE RESOURCES OF JESUS. The disciples had left their Master by the well, wearied, hungry, and thirsty, while they went to the city near by to get some food; certainly they would stay no longer than they could help, seeing Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. Returning to Jesus, they are astonished to find a change in his appearance. He looks fresh and satisfied. Jesus had ways for recruiting bodily strength and receiving bodily nourishment, such as lie beyond us. He was not hedged in by our limitations, though, as a general rule, he kept within them. Whatever nourishment there be in the customary channel of bread, God can send through some secret and special channel, if there be sufficient reason. And such a reason there was here. A weary, exhausted man could not talk to the woman of Samaria as she needed to be talked to. Jesus would always put himself in the best possible state physically for doing the Father's will and finishing his work.
II. THE PURPOSE IN EATING. Every human being, because he is a reflecting and, responsible being, is bound to consider the why and wherefore of every voluntary act. Jesus eats that he may satisfy hunger, but, when the hunger is satisfied, he seeks in the strength thus gained to go on fulfilling the great purpose of his life. Jesus tells us the purpose underlying every meal that he took. He was no ascetic, no imitator of John as to his food; doubtless he sat down at times in the company of gluttons and wine bibbers, but all the while he would make it plain that he did not eat and drink just to gratify appetite. We are not to eat as the brute beasts, conscious of a recurrent need and a recurrent pleasure, but with no purpose beyond serving the present bodily need, receiving the present bodily pleasure. When good digestion waits on appetite, and health on both, be sure that adds to the responsibilities of life. Having the health that comes from a sound and vigorous stomach, it will be required from us according to our health. It is a shame to see some in health and strength, using it all in selfish pleasure, while others, whose life is one constant struggle against disease and pain, yet manage to work on for God and Christ, their hearts unwearied, however wearied their bodies may be.
III. THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS IN THIS MATTER. He used what health and strength he had to do the will of him that sent him. One feels that he must have been a thoroughly healthy man in body. We read of him being wearied; we never read of him being ill. That there should he in him great fulness of physical life is just what we might expect. He who requires us to use health and strength in doing the will of God, first of all so used health and strength himself. And how we benefit by the result of all this! There was much work to be done; Jesus was capable of much work, and so he did it. There was no wasted effort and energy; all his conversations and dealings with men were directed to a certain aim. Where should we have been, if he had not bent every energy and thought of life to the finishing of his Father's work? All things had to be made subordinate to the mission. Jesus was speaking fresh from the gladness and encouragement he had got, because of his talk with the Samaritan woman. He who pointed his disciples to the fields white to harvest had done some reaping by that very talk; and he wants his disciples to aim at reaping also. We must have the bread that perisheth, and it will not come like the sunshine and the rain-we must work to get it. But always beyond the bread and the pleasure of eating, and the strength to which the eating nfinisters, there must be the service of God. Even in a matter of routine and habit, like eating and drinking, let us aim to do the will of him who made us and. saved us, and get strength for doing such work as may be useful in his kingdom.-Y.
I. ITS NATURE. It is spiritual. "Lift up your eyes," etc. To see the temporal harvest you look down and around, but to see this you must look up; it is in the spiritual region, and concerns the spiritual nature and interest of man. It is the harvest of souls - the harvest of Jesus' soul. It is spiritual in its processes, its sphere, its aim, and its results. It means the spiritual quickening, the germination, the growth, the cultivation and ripening of human souls. Think not that this world is only for material and physical purposes. Its chief end is the production of holy and perfect souls. And as the system of nature is adapted to produce different grains in perfection, so there is a spiritual system of Divine grace adapted to produce perfect souls.
II. THE OPERATIONS OF THE HARVEST.
1. There are preparatory operations. As in the material, so in the spiritual harvest, the soil of the soul is ploughed, cultivated, by warnings, by judgment and mercy, by Divine threatenings and promises; and the seed. of the Divine Word is sown with much prayerfulness and tears, and then left in hope and anxiety.
2. There are the secret, Divine operations. Once the seed is deposited carefully in the soil, the husbandman can do nothing more but hope, watch, and trust. It is now in the custody of God; he alone can make it grow. The Christian husbandman can only commit the Divine seed to the soil; he must there leave it to the secret and quickening operations of the Holy Spirit.
3. There are the subsequent Divine and human operations. As soon as the seed begins to bud, it is partially given back to human care. As soon as the Divine Word begins to bud in repentance and faith, and grow in grace, it is at grace, to some extent, under human discipline and supervision. The Divine and human operations join in its development and progress.
4. These operations are very great and various. There is infinite thought, sacrifice, and life, and there is much toil and labour, and there are various agencies. "One soweth, and another reapeth."
III. THE VASTNESS OF THE HARVEST.
1. Vast in relation to space. The space of the harvest is the whole earth. The field is the world. But there are fields. Human geography is recognized. "Look on the fields." Judaea, Galilee, and especially Samaria, were in the eye of Jesus now. Human geography fits in well with the Divine purposes. The whole earth is the Lord's farm, and the harvest covers it all; but it is well for the purpose of spiritual cultivation that it is divided into fields. Thus labour and vastness are distributed so as to suit finite comprehension and energy. Through the parts the whole will be reached. Field after field will be cultivated till the whole earth he covered with waving corn fit for harvest.
2. Vast in relation to time. It reaches from the first moment of the "day of grace" to the last, and in results stretch forward to the endless eternity. Men have a series of harvests, but Jesus has only one great harvest, embracing all time and all ages.
3. Vast in relation to the labour and agencies employed. These embrace all Divine, human, and angelic agencies from the first sower to the last reaper. Abel, Paul, and Luther worked in the same harvest. All the spiritual energy brought to bear upon this world belongs to the same. The spiritual harvest is infinitely vast, its labour infinitely great, and agencies infinitely various.
IV. THE RIPENESS OF THE HARVEST. "Look on the fields; for they are white," etc.
1. Whiteness is the colour of ripeness, the colour of the ripe corn. It is the colour of heaven. All is white there, for all is ripe and perfect. Ripeness, when applied to souls here, is used relatively. Its full meaning must be realized hereafter.
2. Souls are ripe to harvest when they begin to manifest a genuine concern for their spiritual welfare. Then they begin to blush with the first colour of ripeness, and naturally call for harvesting.
3. As in the natural harvest, so in the spiritual, some fields ripen more quickly than others. As in soils, so in souls, some bring forth fruit sooner than others. This was the case now in Samaria as compared with Judaea and even Gahlee, and it is ever so.
4. There is a difference between the natural harvest and the spiritual indicated here.
(1) In the natural there is ever a certain stated period between the sowing and the reaping. In the East there was generally four months. But it is not invariably the case in the spiritual harvest. There may be more than four months, and there may be less than so many hours. "The fields are white already." No sooner is the seed sown than it begins to germinate and grow. So it was in the Samaritan woman now, and others.
(2) Men are entirely dependent on the appointed season of harvest. They cannot by any effort make it come a day sooner. It comes according to fixed laws. Not so the spiritual harvest. The servants of God, under him, may bring about a harvest of souls at any time. The Divine Spirit quickens and causes souls to grow and ripen through our earnest and faithful efforts. He blesses our earnest labour, so that the spiritual harvest is not limited by seasons and climates, but is carried on continually as we labour. There are fields ever white to harvest.
V. THE REWARD OF THE HARVEST. "Receiveth wages," etc.
1. The reward is partly present. Especially with regard to the reaper - in the fruit gathered, which is very precious; in the holy pleasure of doing the will of God, and saving souls.
2. The reward will be chiefly in the future. At the great harvest home. For the fruit is gathered unto life eternal. Every effort can only be fully rewarded at its final issues. The final issue of spiritual harvesting is "eternal life," which can only be fully enjoyed in the future.
3. The reward of the future will consist of the highest and greatest happiness. Like the joy of the harvest.
(1) The happiness of a perfect life. Spiritual life, "life eternal." Can a man be happier than in the full enjoyment of all he can desire, and of all he is capable of? This will be reached in eternal life - the perfect ripeness of the soul, and the climax of being, the fulfilment of our sublimest hopes, and the reward of our best efforts with Divine interest.
(2) The happiness of abundance. The thought of famine will be forever buried in the consciousness of plenty. All the labourers in the harvest will be more than satisfied, and their satisfaction will leap into joy.
(3) The happiness of safety. Like the joy of the harvest, when all the produce of the fields is secured, there will be the joy of personal salvation, and the salvation of all. Let the storm rage, and the rain descend in torrents, - all will be safe and infinitely happy in consequence.
(4) The happiness of gratitude. Gratitude to the great Lord of the harvest, for all his defence and loving kindness. After the "harvest home" there will be the great thanksgiving service. And it will be quivering with happiness and singing with joy.
4. All will be rewarded. "He that soweth and he that reapeth." Every one that bestowed any labour on the harvest will be remembered. Even the most insignificant labourer will not be overlooked.
5. All will be rewarded simultaneously. "He that soweth and he that reapeth shall rejoice together" - together in time, in place, in mutual benefit and reciprocity. There will be no partiality, no disadvantage, but as in the labour so in the joy of the harvest, every one shall help himself to the full The lonely sower who ages ago sowed in tears without reaping scarcely any will suffer no disadvantage, but will be fully compensated - his joy will be all the more. Every one will be happy in himself and in others. All will be happy in the Lord of the harvest, the chief Sower and Reaper, and all will be happy in him. The joy of the redeemed throng will be really personal, but intensely mutual, so as to make one anthem of leaping joy.
6. The reward will be everlasting. The fruit is gathered unto life eternal; and. the happiness will be as eternal as the life, as lasting as the fruit. The fear of its coming to an end, even at the remotest period, shall never pass as a cloud over its bright disc, nor cause a discord in its ever-harmonious and thrilling music.
1. Let us realize our relationship to all past and future agencies, that we may feel our indebtedness to the former, and our responsibilities to the latter. We reap much which others have sown. Let us not be elated with pride, but with gratitude remember the tearful sowers. Let us sow faithfully, even if we reap not; and remember the reward and joy of the harvest. Let us leave the same legacy of fruitful labour to our successors as our predecessors left to us.
2. Let us be very diligent in spiritual service. It is harvest. And in relation to us is very short - it will be soon over.
3. Let us be punctual and prompt. "The fields are white." It will be too late soon. There is danger that some corn will spoil for want of timely harvesting. Procrastination is a besetting sin. We cannot say, "There are yet four months," etc. No; "the fields are white already." They call us now to work.
4. Let us be very earnest and watchful "Lift up your eyes, and look," etc. Spiritual cultivation demands earnest and continual watchfulness. The spiritual eye should be keen, and ever on the look out on the old fields and new ones. Let us watch lest we lose an opportunity, lest the fields be riper than the husbandman - he green and they white. The harvest of souls - the harvest of Jesus - is infinitely great, important, valuable, and promising. - B.T.
I. A SEARCHING LOOK INTO THE PAST. There can be little doubt that, when Jesus said the fields were white already to harvest, he meant his disciples to consider the company of Samaritans eagerly coming out of the city towards them. Why were they coming? Jesus knew that the coming was not sufficiently explained by saying that the woman's report had stirred up the curiosity of the people in the city. Jesus rejoiced in the fresh proof he had got of how people everywhere were waiting for the Messiah. Even the Samaritan was waiting, and, if the Samaritan, how much more the Jew! People were ready to run in any direction where they might find one to answer their expectations. And Jesus looked upon this expectant state of mind as the harvest of what had been sown long ago. He did not forget his Father's faithful messengers in ages past, with their testimonies, messages, and predictions. And so we may be sure Jesus would ever have us consider how the present is the result of the past. The valuable and gladdening things we have today did not spring up all in a night. This faith in a coming Messiah had been growing for generations. At first the faith of only a few, it had come to be the faith of more, and then the faith of all.
II. THE PECULIAR WORK OF THE DISCIPLES. They had to he in readiness for a people who, more or less, were ready for them. When harvest time comes, how the reapers are on the look out! Reaping is not like some sorts of work, it cannot be spread over a long term. And these disciples were to be just as reapers, coreapers with Jesus himself. If the farmer has a large extent of ground under corn, he cannot reap it all with his own hands; he must have helpers proportioned to the ground that has to be covered. While Jesus was in the body of his humiliation, he worked with bodily restrictions upon him. Hence the need of colleagues who could do what he was not able to do himself, going forth each one of them, specially authorized and endowed to communicate the blessings of the Christ to needy and eager Israel. We must ever he on the look out for harvest work.
III. A PATHETIC ELEMENT IN AGRICULTURE. Of all who go out to sow in the sowing time, not all survive to the harvest time. This must happen every year, and so no proverb is more likely to start into utterance than that which speaks of the sower being one, and the reaper another. But when Jesus comes to dilate on the higher harvest, he speaks of a state of things where nearly always the sower is one, and the reaper another. The necessity of the case makes it so. Superstitions and traditions have to be overthrown. But when the sower for God well understands that he cannot also reap, then all is right. He does his work with his own joy in the doing of it; he does the work into which God has put him; he is sure of the equity, nay more, of the love, of his Master; and thus he is sure also that the due reward will duly come. The sower and the reaper will rejoice together; and what a new, unimaginable experience that will be! Here sowers have a measure of rejoicing together, and reapers a measure of rejoicing together; but the sowers and reapers must be all together, looking upon the work before they can see it in all its wisdom and fulness. The earliest prophet of the old covenant must clasp hands with the latest servant of the new.-Y.
I. THE MARVEL OF THIS WITNESS TO CHRIST. Nothing in the gospel narrative can be to the thoughtful reader more surprising than that this view of our Lord's office should have been taken and expressed by persons in the position of these Samaritans in the village of Sychar, and especially at this early stage of our Lord's ministry. This is the more marvellous when we remember that neither the Jews generally, nor even Christ's own disciples, had attained to such a conception of Jesus, and when we remember also that the Samaritans occupied a position of inferior privilege, for "salvation was from the Jews."
II. THE MEANS WHICH LED TO THIS WITNESS TO CHRIST.
1. The testimony of the woman who had been favoured with a long and intimate conversation with the Divine Prophet, and whose conscience had testified to his acquaintance with her character and moral life.
2. Their own acquaintance with his religious doctrines, gained during the two days' residence among them.
3. The impression which his presence and demeanour had made upon their minds; for they could not but perceive his superiority to all others whom they had known.
III. THE FULNESS OF THIS WITNESS TO CHRIST. It is remarkable that none, however advanced in religious knowledge, can go beyond this testimony. That Jesus was a Saviour, and not a mere Teacher, - this was a truth which it was creditable to the Samaritans' discernment to attain. But that he was the Saviour of the world, - this was a truth which only the truest insight, the fullest sympathy, of a spiritual kind could reveal. There was in this profession an anticipation of our Lord's own words, "I will draw all men unto myself," and a justification for the most admiring reverence of Christ, and for the most extensive and glorious prospect for mankind. - T.
I. HOW FAITH IS CHRIST ARISES IN THE SOUL.
1. Look at this nobleman's circumstances: his son was sick and at the point of death. Sickness and death are evils, but not unmixed evils. They may, when they come into men's homes, be the means of saving them from selfishness and the pursuit of pleasure, and from indifference to spiritual and eternal realities. This man felt his need of a Helper, but none appeared, and he was brought to a sense of his helplessness and utter distress. In all this was a preparation for faith in a Divine Physician.
2. Look now at the timely appearance upon the scene of the very Friend whom the nobleman needed. Jesus, at this very crisis, had returned from Judaea to Galilee, and had taken up his abode for a time at Cana, within easy reach of Capernaum, the afflicted nobleman's home. The effect was like the preaching of the gospel to a person overwhelmed with the sorrows of life or stricken with a sense of sin.
3. Look at the effect of these tidings in these circumstances. Fatherly affection and anxiety render the nobleman alert and alive to any prospect of help. The rumour of Christ's mighty works suggests to him the possibility that the power of the Prophet may be used for the healing of his son. Thus relative solicitude becomes a means of grace.
II. THE FIRST STEP TO WHICH FAITH PROMPTS.
1. Remark the approach and the appeal. The nobleman goes to the Prophet, and begs him to come down and heal his son. There was faith here; for perhaps to no one else in the land could this entreaty have been addressed. Though the applicant did not fully understand what Jesus could do, he yet had confidence both in his power and willingness, so far as he could understand them.
2. Observe, too, the repetition and urgency displayed in the renewed entreaty used. by the nobleman, even after a somewhat discouraging reception on the part of Jesus. This spirit of persistency and importunity, disagreeable to many, seems always to have been welcomed by Jesus, who saw in it an earnestness allied to faith.
III. THE REBUKE OF WEAK FAITH.
1. The feebleness of the nobleman's faith seems. to have been detected in his request that the great Physician should go down to Capernaum to visit the patient. The faith of the centurion was no doubt far stronger than that of the courtier; yet we cannot wonder that it should not have occurred to this applicant that Jesus should "speak the word only."
2. But this feebleness of faith was made still more apparent by the censure implied in Christ's reply, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will in no wise believe." Our Lord, and his Apostle Paul afterwards, were evidently and most painfully affected by the demand of the Jews for signs and wonders. Instead of believing On Christ, and then looking for miracles as the natural exercise of his Divine power, these prodigy-loving Hebrews asked for marvels and portents, as the things of chief concern, withholding faith until these should he granted them.
IV. THE REWARD OF SINCERE FAITH. It is clear, from this and other passages, that Jesus distinguished between no faith and little faith, He saw that the applicant's faith was growing, for this was evinced by the repetition of the urgent entreaty. The rebuke of Jesus rather stimulated than repressed what measure of confidence the nobleman possessed. The brevity of the reply was the brevity of authority and command, "Go thy way; thy son liveth."
V. FAITH IS FURTHER STRENGTHENED BY PERSONAL CONTACT WITH JESUS. There was a virtue in the Lord's presence, language, and tones - a virtue which was felt by this applicant. He believed the word, and acted in accordance with his belief; and immediately went his way. There are some who have enough faith to bring them to Christ with their petitions, but not enough to rest in Christ's words in which their application is answered. There is, however, every reason why the suppliant should unhesitatingly confide in the assurance of the Saviour, which his very anxiety and eagerness may possibly lead to his doubting.
VI. EXPERIENCE MAKES FAITH PERFECT. The nobleman appears not to have hasted on his return. "He that believeth shall not make haste." He hurried to Christ with his request. It was well that he should not hurry from Christ, now that the boon was granted. Yet, when he met his servants, there may have been some eagerness to know how it was with the boy. And when he learned that the hour of Christ's utterance was the hour of his son's cure, there remained no cloud to shade the brightness of his faith. He believed now, not simply, as at first, the report of Christ; not even, as afterwards, the word of Christ, but Christ himself. This was the faith of a full surrender and devotion. Henceforth the Lord was all to him. His life became a brighter, purer, nobler, stronger thing, because Christ was his, and he was Christ's. The memory of his Lord's mercy could never fade from his mind. What the Lord Jesus does for us and for ours should and must strengthen our confidence in him for all purposes, for all the circumstances, duties, and trials of life.
VII. FAITH SPREADS FROM ONE MEMBER OF THE FAMILY TO THE REST. The whole household believed; for all had the same evidence, and all partook of the same joy. The presence of the restored and healthy boy would be a perpetual reminder of the obligation under which Jesus laid the whole family. A believing household is a microcosm of the household of faith.
1. Christ's discernment of human character.
2. His compassion for human suffering and sorrow.
3. His appreciation of human faith. - T.