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Commentary On John Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

John 4:39-45

39. And many Samaritans out of that city believed in him on account of the saying of the woman, who testified, I told you all things that ever I did.40. When the Samaritans, therefore, came to him, they entreated him to remain with them; and he remained two days.41. And many more believed on account of his word; 42. And said to the woman, We no longer believe on account of thy speech; for we ourselves have heard, and know, that this is actually the Christ, the Savior of the world.43. And after two days he departed, and went away into Galilee.44. For Jesus himself testified, that a Prophet hath no honor in his own country.45. And when he came into Galilee, the Galileans received him, who had seen all that he did in Jerusalem on the feast-day; for they had also come to the feast-day.

39. And many Samaritans out of that city believed. The Evangelist here relates what was the success of the woman's announcement to her citizens, from which it is evident that the expectation and desire of the promised Messiah had no small vigor among them. Now, the word believe is here used inaccurately, and means that they were induced by the woman's statement to acknowledge Christ to be a Prophet. It is, in some respects, a commencement of faith, when minds are prepared to receive the doctrine. Such an entrance to faith receives here the honorable appellation of faith, in order to inform us how highly God esteems reverence for his word, when he confers so great honor on the docility of those who have not yet been taught. Now, their faith manifests itself in this respect, that they are seized with a desire to profit, and, for that reason, desire that Christ should remain with them

41. And many more believed. From what followed it is evident that Christ's compliance with their wish was highly proper; for we see how much fruit was reaped from the two days which he granted to their request. By this example we are taught that we ought never to refrain from working, when we have it in our power to advance the kingdom of God; and if we are afraid that our readiness in complying may be liable to unfavorable reports, or may often prove to be useless, let us ask from Christ the Spirit of counsel to direct us. The word believe is now used in a different sense; for it means not only that they were prepared for faith, but that they actually had a proper faith

42. On account of thy speech. Though I have followed Erasmus in rendering this word by oratio, (speech,) because loquela, which the ancient interpreter uses, is a barbarous term; yet I wish to warn my readers that the Greek word lalia has the same meaning with the Latin word loquentia, that is, talk, or talkativeness; and the Samaritans appear to boast that they have now a stronger foundation than a woman's tongue, which is, for the most part, light and trivial.

We believe. This expresses more fully the nature of their faith, that it has been drawn from the word of God itself, so that they can boast of having the Son of God as their Teacher; as, indeed, it is on his authority alone that we can safely rely. True, indeed, he is not now visibly present, so as to speak to us mouth to mouth; but, by whomsoever we happen to hear him, our faith cannot rest on any other than on himself. And from no other source proceeds that knowledge which is likewise mentioned; for the speech which comes from the mouth of a mortal man may indeed fill and satisfy the ears, but will never confirm the soul in calm confidence of salvation, so that he who has heard may be entitled to boast that he knows In faith, therefore, the first thing necessary is, to know that it is Christ who speaks by his ministers; and the next is, to give him the honor which is due; that is, not to doubt that he is true and faithful, so that, relying on so undoubted a guarantee, we may rely safely on his doctrine.

Again, when they affirm that Jesus is the Christ and the Savior of the world, they undoubtedly have learned this from hearing him. Hence we infer that, within two days, the sum of the Gospel was more plainly taught by Christ than he had hitherto taught it in Jerusalem. And Christ testified that the salvation, which he had brought, was common to the whole world, that they might understand more fully that it belonged to them also; for he did not call them on the ground of their being lawful heirs, as the Jews were, but taught that he had come to admit strangers into the family of God, and to bring peace to those who were far off, (Ephesians 2:17.)

44. For Jesus himself testified. The apparent contradiction which strikes us here at first sight, has given rise to various interpretations. There is an excess of subtlety in the explanation given by Augustine, that Christ was without honor among his own countrymen, because he had done more good among the Samaritans in two days only than he had done, in a long time, among the Galileans; and because, without miracles, he gained more disciples in Samaria than a great number of miracles had gained him in Galilee. Nor am I satisfied with the view of Chrysostom, who understands Christ's country to be Capernaum, because he dwelt there more frequently than in any other place. I rather agree with Cyril, who says that he left the city of Nazareth, and departed into a different part of Galilee; for the other three Evangelists mention Nazareth, when they relate this testimony of Christ. The meaning might indeed be that, while the time of full manifestation was not yet come, he chose to remain concealed in his native country, as in a more obscure retreat. Some, too, explain it to mean, that he remained two days in Samaria, because there was no reason why he should hasten to go to a place where contempt awaited him. Others think that he went straight to Nazareth, and immediately left it; but, as John relates nothing of this sort, I do not venture to yield to that conjecture. A more correct view of it is, that when he saw himself despised in his native city Nazareth, he rather withdrew to another place. And, therefore, it immediately follows (verse 46) that he came into the town of Cana. What is next added -- that the Galileans received him -- was a token of reverence, not of contempt.

A Prophet hath no honour in his own country. I have no doubt that this saying was common, and had passed into a proverb; and we know that proverbs are intended to be a graceful expression of what commonly and most frequently (epi to poli) happens. In such cases, therefore, it is not necessary that we should rigidly demand uniform accuracy, as if what is stated in a proverb were always true. It is certain that prophets are usually more admired elsewhere than in their own country. Sometimes, too, it may happen, and in reality does happen, that a prophet is not less honored by his countrymen than by strangers; but the proverb states what is common and ordinary, that prophets receive honor more readily in any other place than among their own countrymen.

Now this proverb, and the meaning of it, may have a twofold origin; for it is a universal fault, that those whom we have heard crying in the cradle, and whom we have seen acting foolishly in their boyhood, are despised by us throughout their whole life, as if they had made no progress, since they were boys. To this is added another evil -- envy, which prevails more among acquaintances. But I think it probable that the proverb arose from this circumstance, that Prophets were so ill-treated by their own nation; for good and holy men, when they perceived that there was in Judea so great ingratitude towards God, so great contempt of his word, so great obstinacy, might justly utter this complaint, that nowhere are the Prophets of God less honored than in their own country. If the former meaning be preferred, the name Prophet must be understood generally to denote any teacher, as Paul calls Epimenides a prophet of the Cretians, (Titus 1:12.)

45. The Galileans received him. Whether or not this honor was of long duration we have not the means of determining; for there is nothing to which men are more prone than forgetfulness of the gifts of God. Nor does John relate this with any other design than to inform us that Christ performed miracles in presence of many witnesses, so that the report of them was spread far and wide. Again, this points out one advantage of miracles, that they prepare the way for doctrine; for they cause reverence to be paid to Christ.

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