Ver 1. This knowledge which the Pharisees had of our Saviour's making so many disciples, and baptizing such members, could not prevail upon them to follow him for their salvation; otherwise Christ would not have departed out of Judea. Jesus knew full well that this, their knowledge, would not work their conversion, but only stir up their envy, and excite them to persecute him; and therefore he retired. He could indeed have remained amongst them in security, had he chosen to exercise his power; but he would not: that so he might leave an example to his faithful servants, teaching them to flee from the rage of their cruel persecutors. S. Austin.
Ver. 2. S. Chrysostom thinks that this baptism, given by the disciples of Christ, did not at all differ from the baptism of S. John; both, in his opinion, being used to prepare the people for Christ; but Alcuin interprets it otherwise. Some will ask, says he, whether the Holy Ghost was given by this baptism, since it is said the Holy Ghost was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified? To this we answer: that the Holy Ghost was given, though not in that manifest manner as after the ascension; for as Christ, as man, had always the Holy Ghost residing within him, and yet after his baptism received the Holy Ghost, coming upon him in a visible manner, in the shape of a dove; so before the manifest and public descent of the Holy Ghost, all the saints were his hidden temples. S. Thos. Aquinas.
Ver. 5. This is what Jacob gave to his son Joseph, when calling him to him just before he died, he said: (Gen. xlviii. v. 22.) I give thee a portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorrhite, with my sword and bow. Theophylactus.
--- It was thirty-six miles from Jerusalem, and the same place as Sichem, (Gen. xxxiv.) the capital of Samaria, now called Neplosa.
Ver. 10. Thou didst know the gift of God; i.e. the favour now offered thee by my presence, of believing in me.
--- And he would have given thee living water, meaning divine graces; but the woman understood him literally of such water as was there in the well. Wi.
Ver. 12. The Samaritan woman says, our father Jacob; because the Samaritans claimed lineage from Abraham, who was himself a Chaldean; and they; therefore, called Jacob their father, because he was Abraham's grandson. S. Chrys.
--- Or she calls him their father because they lived under the law of Moses, and were in possession of that spot of ground which Jacob had bequeathed to his son Joseph. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 13. Shall thirst again. After any water, or any drink, a man naturally thirsts again; but Christ speaks of the spiritual water of grace in this life, and of glory in the next, which will perfectly satisfy the desires of man's immortal soul for ever. Wi.
Ver. 15. Sir, give me this water. The woman, says S. Aug. does not yet understand his meaning, but longs for water, after which she should never thirst. Wi.
Ver. 16. Call thy husband. Christ begins to shew her that he knows her life, to make her know him and herself. Wi.
Ver. 20. Our fathers adored on this mountain, &c. She means Jacob and the ancient patriarchs, whom the Samaritans called their fathers; and by the mountain, that of Garizim, where the Samaritans had built a temple, and where they would have all persons adore, and not at Jerusalem; now she had a curiosity to hear what Christ would say of these two temples, and of the different worship of the Jews and of the Samaritans. Wi.
--- Sichem was at the foot of Mount Garizim. The Samaritans supposed the patriarchs had exercised their religious acts on this mountain. V.
--- Josephus (Antiq. l. xiii. c. 6.) gives the dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans. Both parties referred themselves to the arbitration of king Ptolemy Philometer, who gave judgment in favour of the Jews, upon their stating the antiquity of their temple, and the uninterrupted succession of the priesthood, officiating there throughout all ages. In this controversy, the intelligent reader will see some resemblance to that which subsists between Catholics and Protestants. See Dr. Kellison's Survey of the New Religion, p. 129.
--- The woman in this place must mean offering sacrifice, for adoration was never limited to any particular place. It is clear from 3 K. ix. 3. from 2 Par. vii. 12. that God had chosen the temple of Jerusalem; but the Samaritans rejected all the books of Scripture, except the Pentateuch of Moses. The schism was begun by Manasses, a fugitive priest, that he might hold his unlawful wife thereby, and obtain superiority in schism; which he could not do whilst he remained in the unity of his brethren. How forcibly do these circumstances remind us of a much later promoter of schism, king Henry VIII. It is true the Protestants appeal to the primitive Christians, as the Samaritans appealed to the patriarchs, but in the argument both must stand or fall by the incontrovertible proof of continual succession.
Ver. 22. The Israelites, on account of their innumerable sins, had been delivered by the Almighty into the hands of the king of Assyria, who led them all away captives into Babylon and Medea, and sent other nations whom he had collected from different parts, to inhabit Samaria. But the Almighty, to shew to all nations that he had not delivered up these his people for want of power to defend, but solely on account of their transgressions, sent lions into the land to persecute these strangers. The Assyrian king upon hearing this, sent them a priest to teach them the law of God; but neither after this did they depart wholly from their impiety, but in part only: for many of them returned again to their idols, worshipping at the same time the true God. It was on this account that Christ preferred the Jews before them, saying, that salvation is of the Jews, with whom it was the chief principle to acknowledge the true God, and hold every denomination of idols in detestation; whereas, the Samaritans by mixing the worship of the one with the other, plainly shewed that they held the God of the universe in no greater esteem than their dumb idols. S. Chrys. ex S. Thoma.
Ver. 23. Now is the time approaching, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth, without being confined to any one temple or place; and chiefly in spirit, without such a multitude of sacrifices and ceremonies as even the Jews now practise. Such adorers God himself (who is a pure spirit) desires, which they shall be taught by the Messias. Wi.
--- Our Lord foretells her that sacrifices in both these temples should shortly cease, giving her these three instructions: 1. That the true sacrifice should be limited no longer to one spot or nation, but should be offered throughout all nations, according to that of Malachy; (i. 11.) 2. That the gross and carnal adoration by the flesh and blood of beasts, not having in them grace, spirit, and life, should be taken away, and another sacrifice succeed, which should be in itself invisible, divine, and full of life, spirit, and grace; 3. That this sacrifice should be truth itself, whereof all former sacrifices were but shadows and figures. He calleth here spirit and truth that which, in the first chapter, (v. 17) is called grace and truth. Now this is not more than a prophecy and description of the sacrifice of the faithful Gentiles in the body and blood of Christ; for all the adoration of the Catholic Church is properly spiritual, though certain external objects be joined thereto, on account of the state of our nature, which requireth it. Be careful then not to gather from Christ's words that Christian men should have no use of external signs and offices towards God; for that would take away all sacrifice, sacraments, prayers, churches and societies. &c. &c. B.
Ver. 25. I know that the Messias cometh. So that even the Samaritans, at that time, expected the coming of the great Messias. Wi.
Ver 26. Jesus saith to her: I am he. Christ was pleased to own this truth in the plainest terms to this Samaritan woman, having first by his words, and more by his grace, disposed her heart to believe it. Wi.
Ver. 27. His disciples . . . wondered, &c. They admired his humility, finding him discoursing with a poor woman, especially she being a Samaritan. Wi.
Ver. 29. The Samaritans looked for the Messias, because they had the books of Moses, in which Jacob foretold the world's Redeemer: The sceptre shall not depart from Juda, nor a leader from his thigh, until he come that is to be sent. Gen. xlix. 10. And Moses himself foretold the same: God will raise to thee a prophet of the nations, and of thy brethren. Deut. xviii. 15. S. Chrys. ex S. Thoma.
Ver. 34. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me. Such ought to be the disposition of every one who, as a minister of Christ and his Church, is to take care of souls. Wi.
Ver. 35. For they are white already to harvest. The great harvest of souls was approaching, when Christ was come to teach men the way of salvation, and was to send his apostles to convert all nations. They succeeded to the labours of the prophets, but with much greater advantages and success. And to this is applied that common saying, that one soweth and another reapeth. Wi.
Ver. 38. By these words our Saviour testifies to his disciples, that the prophets had sown the seed in order to bring men to believe in Christ. This was the end of the law, this the fruit which the prophets looked for to crown their labours. He likewise shews that he himself that sent them, likewise sent the prophets before them; and that the Old and New Testament are of the same origin, and have the same design. S. Chrys. ex S. Thoma.
Ver. 42. This is indeed the Saviour of the world. These Samaritans then believed that Jesus was the true Messias, sent to redeem the world. Wi.
Ver. 44. For Jesus himself gave testimony, &c. The connexion and reason given here by the word for, is obscure, when it is said, Jesus went into Galilee and gave testimony that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. One would think this should not be a reason for his going into Galilee, but rather why he should not go thither. S. Cyril,† and also S. Chrys. distinguish different parts of Galilee; and say that when Jesus went into Galilee, the meaning is, that he would not at that time go to Nazareth, where he was bred, nor to Capharnaum, where he had lived for a time, but went to Cana, and those other parts of Galilee; and that the word for only gives the reason of this, that he would not go to Nazareth or Capharnaum, because no prophet is honoured in his own country. And for the same reason he again said to the ruler: (v. 48) Unless you see signs and wonders you believe not: whereas the Samaritans, from whom he was now coming, readily believed without such miracles. Wi.
[†] V. 44. S. Cyril, in Joan. p. 202. Interjacentem Nazareth præterit, paratrecei thn Nazareq dia tou mesou keimenhn. S. Chrys. hom. xxxiv. in Joan. tom. 8, p. 203. quare addidit, quia, gar, quod non in Capharnaum, sed in Galileam, et in Cana abiit.