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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

Sowing and Reaping.

The hearty reception given by the Samaritans to the Jewish teacher shows that their hearts were much more open to the reception of divine truths than the conceited and bigoted Jews. It seems strange, with such readiness to receive him on their part, that we do not hear more of our Lord's intercourse with the Samaritans. His heart, full of the love of man, not of a single race, seemed bursting to reach out and embrace all the lost children of Adam. He is the |Son of Man,| not of David or Abraham; he |came to save the world,| not the Jewish race alone; he is |the Lamb slain for the sins of the world.| Yet, when he gives his apostles their first commission, he forbids them to go to the Samaritans and Gentiles. Why is this? Because he was |born of woman, made under the law.| The law of Moses was yet in force. He kept it in all points blamelessly. It was still the law of God, but when the |handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross,| then the |middle wall of partition was broken down,| the |Old Covenant was taken away to give place to the new,| and then, under the New Covenant, a covenant that embraced mankind instead of the children of Abraham, the Lord directed his disciples to preach the gospel |in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.| (Joh 4:27)

27. Upon this came his disciples and marvelled that he talked with the woman. His disciples had left him alone at the well, while they went to the village of Sychar to buy food. As they return they see him in the clear air of that country and on the elevated site of the well on the mountain side, engaged in conversation with a woman. They probably approached near before the conversation ended, and paused and wondered that he would talk with a woman, and especially with a Samaritan woman. It was considered by the Jews indecorous to talk with a woman in public, and the Rabbis held that to talk with such an inferior creature was beneath the dignity of a doctor of the law. Their surprise well illustrates the state in which woman was held before Christ lifted her to the side of man as his equal and companion. Among the Greeks, Socrates, their best and wisest teacher, thanked the gods daily, that he was born neither a slave nor a woman; the Roman law gave the husband absolute authority over the wife, even to put her to death; among the Jews the wife could be divorced |for any cause,| their most renowned doctor, Hillel, insisting that for her to burn the bread in baking was a sufficient reason. It is in the New Testament, first, that woman stands forth as the minister of Christ and the helper in the gospel. Christ's disciples had not yet been emancipated from their false teachings, and hence they were filled with surprise at the condescension of the Master. Yet such was their awe that none interrupted, or asked a reason for his departure from all that they had ever known. They soon learned better. (Joh 4:28)

28. And the woman left her water-pot and went her way. Her soul was so stirred that she forgot the errand on which she came to the well. She had got a taste of the |living water,| and forgot her need of the water of the well. The Savior had told her to call her husband. Her soul was so full of the strange, good news, that she wished to tell every one. What a touch of nature in her forgetting her water-pot in her excitement! Such little things prove the truth of the narrative. (Joh 4:29)

29. Come and see a man who told me all things I ever did. He had told her some things about her own life, and conscience had told her more. She felt that all was known to him, and naturally exaggerates by saying, |He told me all my life.| Notice that as soon as she believes she seeks to spread the tidings. Notice, too, her unconscious skill. Instead of asserting, she asks them to come and see for themselves. She believed him to be the Christ, but she asks: Is not this the Christ? Chrysostom speaks of her zeal and wisdom: |She said not, Come, see the Christ, but, with the same condescension with which Christ had netted her, she draws men to him; Come, she saith, See a man who told me all I ever did. Is not this the Christ? She neither declared the fact plainly, nor was she silent She desired, not to bring them in by her own assertion, but to make them share her opinion by hearing him.| Had she asserted they would hardly have believed her, but her modest manner arouses their curiosity and makes them eager to see and hear. There is a good example here for all Christian workers. (Joh 4:30)

30. And then went they out of the city. Her success was immediate. Their curiosity was aroused and they were eager to hear. It is evident, by the effect of her words, that they were not a skeptical people, but were waiting for the Christ. (Joh 4:31)

31. His disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. While the woman was gone, spreading the tidings, this episode occurs with the disciples. They had returned with food, which they now pressed upon the Master whom they had left wearied and hungry. To their surprise, although it was now past the noon hour, he hesitated to touch the food. (Joh 4:32)

32. I have meat to eat ye know not of. |Man shall not live by bread alone.| The Lord who could go forty days in the wilderness without food, in the exaltation of soul caused by his baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit, would forget the hunger of the body also, when he was pouring out the water of life to a poor, thirsty soul. He had been lifted above hunger by the eagerness of his spirit in his holy work. This forgetfulness of the needs of the body at such an hour was not surprising or supernatural. It constantly occurs to those whose spirits are deeply stirred. (Joh 4:33)

33. Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Their ideas were still as gross as those of the Samaritan woman, who at first could not comprehend the |living water.| They cannot think of spiritual food, heavenly manna, bread of life. Yet, long before, the prophet had spoke of this food and had said, |Ye that have no money, come, buy bread, and eat.| They fancy, therefore, that he has received food, and wonder who has brought it. (Joh 4:34)

34. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. It must be borne in mind that |meat| in the Scripture, means not only flesh, but any kind of food. The Savior then declares, in explanation of the perplexity, to his disciples, that to do the will of God is food to him; that is, discharges the same offices as food.1. It was an enjoyment; 2. He longed for it, as the hungry long for food; 3. It refreshed and strengthened him. This is always true of doing the will of God. The character of his service is such that the faithful (1) Delight in it; (2) Are made better and stronger by it, all the time. His work does not weary, but refreshes the soul.

Some have insisted that Christ says: |My meat is in order to do his will, etc.| or that his soul is fed that he may do it. Though the original may be thus translated it does not harmonize with verse 32. He is explaining what the meat is that has taken away his hunger, not what it is for. The whole passage is one of many similar sayings. See Matt.4:4; John 5:30; 6:38; 15:10, etc. (Joh 4:35)

35. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Harvest began about the middle of April in Palestine. The time when the Savior spoke would then be about the middle of December. This would indicate that he had passed eight months in Judea, as he had come from Galilee to attend the passover. Of this period of his ministry but little is recorded, save the incidents of the passover, the conversation with Nicodemus, and the fact that Christ preached and baptized (through his disciples) more converts than John. Now the idea of the harvest suggests, as the water and the food had done, another spiritual lesson. From their elevated position on the mountain side the road to Sychar is visible, filled with the throngs who are flocking to |see and hear| the Stranger of whom the woman has told. He points to them and says: |Lift up your eyes and look on the (spiritual) fields. They are already white for the harvest.| The words, |Lift up your eyes,| show clearly that he pointed to what was visible, the fields with a harvest of men ready to be gathered. (Joh 4:36)

36. He that reapeth receiveth wages. The figure is kept up. The reaper in the harvest fields receives wages, and so shall those who reap the harvest of souls; not earthly pay in money, or fame, or position, but the happiness of doing the noblest work, and beyond, the crown of life shining with stars. |They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as stars forever and ever. In the reaping there is joy on earth and, on high, the joy of bringing sheaves to the Lord. Gathereth fruit. Souls, that are gathered as sheaves, into the eternal gainer. There, the saved souls and the reaper who gathered them |rejoice together.| (Joh 4:37)

37. One soweth, and another reapeth. This was a common proverb, growing out of constant human experience, true of worldly and spiritual things. How often has the patient pastor sowed, and then the evangelist has reaped in a meeting the results! (Joh 4:38)

38. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor. The verb |sent| is past, and refers to some event before the present incident. It can only be explained by referring it to the events of the last eight months. The disciples had baptized multitudes, |more than John| (chapter 4:1); so many that John's disciples reported |all men come unto him| (chapter 3:26). The disciples of Christ who baptized all of these (chapter 4:2), were reaping the fruit of John's sowing, to a great extent, supplemented by the labors of Christ. John had sown; they were reaping. Other men labored. John and other holy men, but the disciples had entered in upon their labors. So, too, Christ sowed, and at Pentecost, in Judea, and in Samaria, they afterwards entered into his labors. See the reaping of what he had sowed in Samaria, at this time, in Acts 8:5-8. (Joh 4:39)

39. And many of the Samaritans believed on him for the saying of the woman. She had borne witness, wisely, gladly, as best she could, and though a very humble creature, she had not preached Christ in vain. (Joh 4:40)

40. So when the Samaritan were come. Because already faith was sprung up in their hearts, they insisted that he should tarry with them. A strange invitation for a Samaritan village to give to a Jew. It was also a strange thing for a Jewish teacher to accept the invitation. (Joh 4:41)

41. Many more believed because of his own word. They saw and heard for themselves. He worked no miracles, but he poured the waters of life with the result that they recognized in him a divine teacher. He wrought miracles at Jerusalem, but how different the course of the self-righteous Pharisees! (Joh 4:42)

42. Know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world. The Samaritan hearts were good soil, ready for the word, open and honest, and hence there was a wonderful result. To the woman Jesus had said, that he was the Christ. Now by his teachings, many months before Peter's confession, the Samaritans pronounce him the Christ, the Savior, not of Jews only, or Jews and Samaritans, but of the world. It indicates a wonderful freedom from the narrow prejudices of their times that they should proclaim him as the world's Savior.

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