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
Cambridge Bible Plummer
40. besought him] Or, kept beseeching Him. How different from His own people at Nazareth; Mat_13:58; Luk_4:29. Comp. the thankful Samaritan leper, Luk_17:16-17.
tarry with them] Better, abide with them. See on Joh_1:33. They perhaps mean, take up His abode permanently with them, or at any rate for some time.
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 λαλία 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 andthe Savior of the world, they undoubtedly have learned this from hearing him. Hence we infer that, withintwo 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, (Eph_2:17.)
Cambridge Bible Plummer
42. thy saying] Not the same word as in Joh_4:39, the Greek for which is the same as that translated ‘word’ in Joh_4:41. Joh_4:39; Joh_4:41 should be alike, viz. ‘word,’ meaning ‘statement’ in Joh_4:39 and ‘teaching’ in Joh_4:41. Here we should have ‘speech’ or ‘talk.’ In classical Greek lalia has a slightly uncomplimentary turn, ‘gossip, chatter.’ But this shade of meaning is lost in later Greek, though there is perhaps a slight trace of it here; ‘not because of thy talk;’ but this being doubtful, ‘speech’ will be the safer translation. The whole should run, no longer is it because of thy speech that we believe. In Joh_8:43 lalia is used by Christ of His own words; see note there.
we Have heard him ourselves] Better, we have heard for ourselves. There is no ‘Him’ in the Greek. ‘The Christ’ is also to be omitted. It is wanting in the best MSS.
the Saviour of the world] It is not improbable that such ready hearers would arrive at this great truth before the end of those two days. It is therefore unnecessary to suppose that S. John is here unconsciously giving one of his own expressions (1Jn_4:14) for theirs.
And very many more believed, during that visit, by reason of his word—Christ’s own word. We know not what the word was, but the specimens which John has recorded make us certain that torrents of living water flowed from his lips. He was moving in the full power of the Spirit. He was unveiling the nature of that “salvation” which was, as he said, “from the Jews;” but a salvation which affected and was adapted to the whole world. And they (repeatedly) said to the woman (the play of aorist and imperfect tenses throughout this passage is very noteworthy), No longer do we believe by reason of thy speaking. The word λαλιά does not generally connote so serious a meaning as λόγος. The first word is used for “utterance” pure and simple (Mat_26:73), and for the inarticulate voices of lower creatures as well, while λόγος and λέγειν never have the latter meaning; but still λαλιά is used in classical Greek for “discourse,” and in Joh_8:43 is used by Christ of his own “utterance.” Meyer says the term is purposely chosen from the standpoint of the speaker, while in Joh_8:39 λόγος is used of the same λαλιά by St. John as narrator. The above are the only times the term is found in the New Testament. For we have ourselves heard, and we know—fully, by personal intuition (we might have expected ἐγνῶμεν here)—that this is indeed the Saviour of the world. This sublime description only occurs in one other place in the New Testament (viz. 1Jn_4:14), and here it falls from the lips of a Samaritan. There is no improbability that it should have expressed the thought of Samaritans, for they entertained wider and less nationalized views than did the Jews. Baur’s notion, that the author wished to contrast heathen or Gentile susceptibility with Jewish narrowness and reserve, is out of keeping with the facts. A genuine heathen would have been as easy to invent as a susceptible Samaritan. “The Saviour of the world” is one of the noblest and most accurate terms in all the Bible to denote the work of Christ. It is the outcome of a discourse and of teaching which led men to the idea of spiritual and sincere worship of the Father, which searched for moral conditions rather than orthodox ritual, which demanded purity of life more than outward observance, and treated doing the will and work of the Father as more indispensable than necessary food. We need not be surprised (Act_8:1-40.) to find the outcome of this sojourn of the Divine Lord among the misunderstood and hated Samaritans. The effort of the Tubingen school to find in this narrative an idealization of the synoptic tradition of Christ’s special beneficence towards the Samaritans is very unfortunate, because, in Mat_10:5, the “twelve” were forbidden to enter into cities of the
Samaritans, and advised to occupy all their energies in evangelizing the cities of Israel. The record of Act_8:1-40. affords very slender basis for a corresponding enlargement. The narrative before us shows that, in answer to the receptivity of the Samaritans, the Lord made the richest and fullest and most explicit and immediate revelation of himself. The extension of the kingdom of grace to Samaritans, and their incorporation into the body of Christ, was arrested by the need of the visit of the apostles, by the magic and hypocrisy of Simon; of which there is not here the slightest trace.
Not because of thy speaking (ouketi dia tēn sēn lalian). “No longer because of thy talk,” good and effective as that was. Lalia (cf. laleō) is talk, talkativeness, mode of speech, one’s vernacular, used by Jesus of his own speech (Joh_8:43).
We have heard (akēkoamen). Perfect active indicative of akouō, their abiding experience.
For ourselves (autoi). Just “ourselves.”
The Saviour of the world (ho sōtēr tou kosmou). See Mat_1:21 for sōsei used of Jesus by the angel Gabriel. John applies the term sōtēr to Jesus again in 1Jo_4:14. Jesus had said to the woman that salvation is of the Jews (Joh_4:22). He clearly told the Samaritans during these two days that he was the Messiah as he had done to the woman (Joh_4:26) and explained that to mean Saviour of Samaritans as well as Jews. Sanday thinks that probably John puts this epithet of Saviour in the mouth of the Samaritans, but adds: “At the same time it is possible that such an epithet might be employed by them merely as synonymous with Messiah.” But why “merely”? Was it not natural for these Samaritans who took Jesus as their “Saviour,” Jew as he was, to enlarge the idea to the whole world? Bernard has this amazing statement on Joh_4:42 : “That in the first century Messiah was given the title sōtēr is not proven.” The use of “saviour and god” for Ptolemy in the third century b.c. is well known. “The ample materials collected by Magie show that the full title of honour, Saviour of the world, with which St. John adorns the Master, was bestowed with sundry variations in the Greek expression on Julius Caesar, Augustus, Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, Trajan, Hadrian, and other Emperors in inscriptions in the Hellenistic East” (Deissmann, Light, etc., p. 364). Perhaps Bernard means that the Jews did not call Messiah Saviour. But what of it? The Romans so termed their emperors and the New Testament so calls Christ (Luk_2:11; Joh_4:42; Act_5:31; Act_3:23; Phi_3:20; Eph_5:23; Tit_1:4; Tit_2:13; Tit_3:6; 2Ti_1:10; 2Pe_1:1, 2Pe_1:11; 2Pe_2:20; 2Pe_3:2, 2Pe_3:18). All these are writings of the first century a.d. The Samaritan villagers rise to the conception that he was the Saviour of the world.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
44. For Jesus himself testified] This is a well-known difficulty. As in Joh_20:17, we have a reason assigned which seems to be the very opposite of what we should expect. This witness of Jesus would account for His not going into Galilee: how does it account for His going thither? It seems best to fall back on the old explanation of Origen, that by ‘his own country’ is meant Judaea, ‘the home of the Prophets.’ Moreover, Judaea fits in with the circumstances. He had not only met with little honour in Judaea; He had been forced to retreat from it. No Apostle had been found there. The appeal to Judaea had in the main been a failure.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.
For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country , [ en (G1722) tee (G3588) idia (G2398) patridi (G3968)]. If “his own country” here meant Galilee, His having no honour in it would seem to be a reason why he should not go to it. Hence, some of those who think so render the words, He “went into Galilee, although He Himself testified,” etc. But this is against the sense of the word “for” [ gar (G1063)], and is inadmissible. Others of those who understand “His own country” here to mean Galilee get over the difficulty by connecting the “for” with what follows in the next verse rather than with what goes before, thus: ‘The Galileans received Him, not because they appreciated His character and claims – “for” He had grown too common among them for that, according to the proverb-but merely because they had seen His recent miracles at Jerusalem.’ This is the view of Tholuck, supported by Lucke in his 3rd Edition, DeWette, and Alford.
But it is too far-fetched. Hence, some give up Galilee as “His own country,” and think Judea, or Bethlehem as But it is too far-fetched. Hence, some give up Galilee as “His own country,” and think Judea, or Bethlehem as His birthplace, to be meant. So Origen, Maldonat, Lucke, 2nd Edition, Robinson, Wieseler. But our Lord was never either at Bethlehem or in Judea at all from the time of His birth until the commencement of His ministry; and therefore “His own country” can only mean the place of His early life-the scene of such familiar contact with others as would tend to make Him grow common among them. And what can that be but Nazareth?-which is expressly called “His country” [ teen (G3588) patrida (G3968) autou (G846)] in Mat_13:54; Mat_13:57, in precisely the same connection; as also in Mar_6:4; Luk_4:24. In this sense all is clear and natural: ‘Now after the two days, Jesus, having left the province of Samaria as He had done that of Judea, went into the province of Galilee; but not, as might have been expected, to that part of it where He had been brought up, for Jesus knew that there-in His own country-He would have no honour, according to the proverb: He went, therefore as the reader shall learn presently, to Cana of Galilee.’ So Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Olshausen, etc.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_4:43-44.And after the two days he went forth thence into Galilee.For Jesus himself bare witness, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. The connection between these two verses is a question on which the most different opinions have been held. The latter verse evidently assigns a reason why Jesus went into Galilee; and (we may add) Joh_4:45, which begins with ‘When therefore,’ must be understood as stating that the welcome He received in Galilee was in full accordance with the motive of His action as stated in Joh_4:44.These two conditions of interpretation must evidently be observed, and yet in several solutions of the difficulty one or other of them is plainly set aside. Were we to judge only from what is before us, we should say that the words must mean: Jesus went into Galilee and not into His own country, for there He would be a prophet without honour; and so, when He came into Galilee, He was welcomed by the people. If such be the true sense, ‘His own country’ must be Judea. This is certainly not the meaning of these words in the earlier Gospels, and hence the difficulty. A similar saying is recorded by every one of the three earlier Evangelists, and in each case it is introduced to explain the neglect of the claims of Jesus on the part of the inhabitants of Nazareth, the cityof Galilee in which His early years were spent (Mat_13:57; Mar_6:4; Luk_4:24). In one case, Mar_6:4, the saying is enlarged so as to apply especially to kindred, and not to country alone. If then we have rightly given the sense of these verses of John, it must follow that, though the saying quoted is nearly the same here as elsewhere, the application is wholly different, ‘His own country being in the one case Galilee (or rather Nazareth), and in the other Judea. This is by many held to be impossible. But is it really so? Would not such a difference be in exact accord with the varied aims of the first three Evangelists and the fourth, as they respectively relate the Galilean and the Judean ministry of our Lord? The saying is one that may be used with various shades of meaning. Used in relation to Nazareth, the proverb brings before us the unwillingness with which the claims of a prophet are listened to by those who have grown up with him, have familiarly known him, have regarded him as one of themselves. Used in relation to Judea, the true home and fatherland of the prophets, the land which contained the city of Messiah’s birth, the city associated with Him alike in ancient prophecy and in popular expectation (see chap. Joh_7:41-42), the words surely signify that a prophet is unhonoured by those to whom he is especially sent:Jesus came unto His own country, and ‘His own received Him not.’ This interpretation then (which is that of Origen, in the third century) seems completely to meet the requirements of the passage. In Samaria Jesus had not intended to remain, and He must therefore either return to Judea or go into Galilee; to Judea He will not go, for the reason given; He departs therefore into Galilee. There is only one objection of any weight to the view we have taken—viz., that in Joh_4:1-3 of this chapter a somewhat different motive for leaving Judea is assigned; yet even there, though success in winning disciples is implied, it is said that He left the land because of the Pharisees. If this last consideration does not entirely remove the difficulty, it is to be borne in mind that our knowledge of the circumstances is imperfect, and that, even in its utmost force, the objection is much smaller and less important than those which lie in the way of the other interpretation of ‘His own country.’ For such as think that Galilee must be intended there are but two explanations possible: these we give, only expressing our belief that they involve difficulties much greater than those presented by the other view. (1) Jesus went into Galilee, for there He would not meet with the honour of a true faith; and there, consequently, He had a work to do, a mission to prosecute: when therefore He came into Galilee, although He was welcomed, it was from unworthy not worthy motives. (2) Jesus now at length went into Galilee, for (He had avoided Galilee in the belief that) a prophet has no honour in his own country: such honour, however, He has now won in Judea, outside His own country; when therefore He was come into Galilee, the Galileans received Him.
Now after the two days—i.e. the two days of our Lord’s sojourn in Sychar (Joh_4:40)—he went forth thence into Galilee. Here the author takes up the narrative of Joh_4:3. The delay in Samaria was parenthetical to the chief end of his journey, which was to leave Judaea and commence his ministry in Galilee. He now enters it a second time from Judaea. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country, When therefore he came into Galilee, the Galilaeans willingly received him, having seen all things whatsoever he did in Jerusalem, at the feast: for they themselves also went to the feast. These words bristle with difficulties, and hardly two commentators entirely agree in their interpretation of them. Christ’s visit to Galilee is here accounted for by the principle embodied in the proverb, or a part at least of the proverb, which he used (according to the synoptic narrative) with reference to his visit to and reception in Nazareth, about this some period in his career. Apart from that reference, the most simple explanation of the quotation would be that our Lord regarded Jerusalem and Judge, as in one sense, and a very deep one, “his country,” not simply his birthplace, and which he felt at twelve years of age was to contain his Father’s house and kingdom and work; and of which he afterwards said, “O Jerusalem, that killest the prophets,… how oft would I… but ye would not!” The Fourth Gospel records our Lord’s various Judaean ministries with such striking incidents and impressive discourse, that his claim upon the loyalty of the metropolis was repeatedly urged and as repeatedly rejected. True that in Joh_4:1-3 we are told that our Lord left Judaea because the Pharisees, the influential religious party, were in a hostile sense comparing his ministry with that of the Baptist. This may only be another way in which the comparative unfruitfulness of his early ministry in Judaea is stated. “The prophet hath no honour in his own country.” If this was the meaning of Christ’s recurrence to the proverb, then we can understand the οὖν of Joh_4:45, as well as the γάρ of Joh_4:44, The Galilaeans who had been up to Jerusalem, and been favourably impressed—perhaps more so than any Judaeans, having formed the bulk of those who received baptism at his hands—received him graciously on his entrance into Galilee. The whole passage thus would hang together; a subsequent and similar and more acute experience where he was best known by face, in Nazareth, drew from him an expanded form of the proverb, in sad and melancholy iteration, “A prophet is not without honour save in his own country, and amongst his kindred, and in his own house” (Mar_6:4; Mat_13:57). [In Luke’s enlarged account of the visit to Nazareth (Luk_4:16-30), possibly an event which is perfectly distinct from the visit to his “own country” cited by Matthew and Mark, the proverb appears in its shorter form.] This interpretation is that preferred by Origen, Maldonatus, Wieseler, Baur, etc., formerly by Ebrard and Lucke, and now by Westcott, Moulton, and Plummer. In my opinion it is the most satisfactory and least encumbered interpretation. It does not seem satisfactory to Meyer and others, who urge that πατρίς can only mean what it obviously does in the synoptic narrative, viz. Galilee as represented by Nazareth. Meyer also interprets the γάρ as introducing a reason, not only for our Lord’s present return to Galilee, but for his earlier departure from Galilee to Judaea; and Meyer supposes that he must have uttered the words then. On this supposition, the Galilaeans in the first instance must have failed to appreciate his prophetic claims. Christ had gone to Jerusalem and Judaea, and there acquired the fame of a prophet, and subsequently these Galilaeans were ready to recognize it second hand, on the occasion of his return. Godet adds to this the joyful emotion that was felt when the plan of Jesus had been successful as far as the Galilaeans were concerned. Moreover, he gives a pluperfect sense to ἐμαρτύρησε, “he had testified.” Against this we observe that our Lord must have soon found that, in a narrower and closer sense, his nearest friends and neighbours had learned nothing by their journey to the feast; and that the author of the Fourth Gospel must have been ignorant of the kind of reception so soon accorded to our Lord at Nazareth. Bruckner and Luthardt suppose by the γάρ that Jesus either sought the struggle with his unbelieving compatriots or the solitude induced by the absence of sympathy. There is not the faintest trace of this in the narrative. Then, again, Cyril, Calvin, Bengel, Olshausen, Hengstenberg, suppose that by πατρίς is meant his own city, Nazareth, which is here contrasted with Galilee in general, including Capernaum, which became the missionary centre of his early ministry. These commentators suppose that, when we are told “he went to Galilee,” it means (as we see from verse 46) he went to Cana, “for he testified,” etc.; and therefore that in this forty-fourth verse comes the tragic scene described in Luk_4:16-30. Lange has supplemented this theory by another that removes part of the difficulty, viz. that by ἅτρίς was meant Lower Galilee, including Nazareth, and by the Galilee of Luk_4:44 was meant Upper Galilee and the neighbourhood of the lake, including Capernaum, to which we find that, after his cruel treatment at Nazareth, he retired. So Geikie. Now, there are difficulties in either of these views, which give great awkwardness to the expression, “So he came to Cana again,” in verse 46. Tholuck, De Wette, Lucke, in various ways, urge that the γάρ of Luk_4:44 may mean namely, that is to say, etc., pointing onwards to the kindly reception which the Galilaeans gave him being due to the signs which they beheld, and not to the words of life which he had spoken. Every view seems to us far-fetched and inconsistent, with the exception of the first interpretation. The only objection that is at all urgent, arises from the fact that, in the synoptic narrative, Nazareth is spoken of as his country. But if this were so, we do but see in the reception accorded to him in Nazareth a further illustration of the very same spirit which was shown to him in the metropolis. In both places “he came to his own, and his own received him not.” There is nothing improbable, if so, that in both places Jesus should have appealed to the homely proverb. On the second occasion he added to it, “his kindred and his home,” as well as “his country.”
He came therefore again unto Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. The οὖν of this verse is best explained by the simple supposition that Cana lay in his way. In Cana of Galilee, not Judaea, he had manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him. He came, then, to Galilee, to Cana, and for a while tarried there, long enough for the βασιλικός to have heard of his healing power and prophetic gifts. There have been numerous attempts to identify this narrative of the nobleman’s son with the healing of the centurion’s servant as recorded in Mat_8:5 and Luk_7:2. Recently Weiss and Thoma have laid emphasis upon this identification. Strauss, Baur, and all the opponents of John’s Gospel, are eager to press this subjective handling of the synoptic tradition. But, as Edersheim has observed, they are here in hopeless contradiction with their own theory; for we find that the Hebrew Gospel here confers the loftiest encomium upon a Gentile, and the Hellenic Fourth Gospel makes the hero of this scene to be a Jew. True, in both cases a man of higher rank than that of fishermen and taxgatherers approaches our Lord with a request on behalf of another. But it should be observed that in the one case we have a Roman centurion, a heathen man, coming with great faith, one who, though “not in Israel,” recognizes the imperial claims of Jesus; in the present narrative we have an Herodian officer, some person of Jewish blood attendant on the tetrarch’s court, who displays a weak faith, reproved though rewarded by the Master. The one asks for a dying slave afflicted with paralysis; the other for a dying son suffering from deadly fever. Jesus meets the centurion as he crones down from the mountain, after the delivery of the great sermon; the Lord, when he receives the request of the nobleman, was a resident in. Cana. Both cures are said to take place at Capernaum by the utterance of a word, but the centurion disclaims the right to a visit, and asks for a word only. The nobleman entreats that the Lord would travel from Cana to Capernaum to heal his son. Thus the two narratives, with certain resemblances, are still strongly contrasted. The βασιλικός is one in the service of a king. The title of a king was given to Herod in later times (Mar_6:14), and characterized other references to him. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.
Again (palin). A second time.
Unto Cana (eis tēn Kana). Note article, “the Cana of Galilee” already mentioned in Joh_2:1.
Where he made the water wine (hopou epoiēsen to hudōr oinon). That outstanding first miracle would still be remembered in Cana and would indicate that Jesus had some friends there.
Nobleman (basilikos). One connected with the king (basileus), whether by blood or by office. Probably here it is one of the courtiers of Herod the tetrarch of Galilee, Chuzas (Luk_8:3), Manaen (Act_13:1), or some one else. Some of the manuscripts used basiliskos, a petty king, a diminutive of basileus.
Was sick (ēsthenei). Imperfect active of astheneō (a privative and sthenos, without strength, Mat_25:36), continued sick.
At Capernaum (en Kapharnaoum). Some miles from Cana near where the Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee.
47.When he had heard that Jesus had come. When he applies to Christ for aid, this is some evidence of his faith; but, when he limits Christ’s manner of granting assistance, that shows how ignorant he was. For he views the power of Christ as inseparably connected with his bodily presence, from which it is evident, that he had formed no other view concerning Christ than this, — that he was a Prophet sent by God with such authority and power as to prove, by the performance of miracles, that he was a minister of God. This fault, though it deserved censure, Christ overlooks, but severely upbraids him, and, indeed, all the Jews in general, on another ground, that they were too eager to behold miracles.
But how comes it that Christ is now so harsh, who is wont to receive kindly others who desire miracles? There must have been at that time some particular reason, though unknown to us, why he treated this man with a degree of severity which was not usual with him; and perhaps he looked not so much to the person as to the whole nation. He saw that his doctrine had no great authority, and was not only neglected but altogether despised; and, on the other hand, that all had their eyes fixed on miracles, and that their whole senses were seized with stupidity rather than with admiration. Thus, the wicked contempt of the word of God, which at that time prevailed, constrained him to make this complaint.
True, indeed, some even of the saints sometimes wished to be confirmed by miracles, that they might not entertain any doubt as to the truth of the promises; and we see how God, by kindly granting their requests, showed that he was not offended at them. But Christ describes here far greater wickedness; for the Jews depended so much on miracles, that they left no room for the word. And first, it was exceedingly wicked that they were so stupid and carnal as to have no reverence for doctrine, unless they had been aroused by miracles; for they must have been well acquainted with the word of God, in which they had been educated from their infancy. Secondly, when miracles were performed, they were so far from profiting aright, that they remained in a state of stupidity and amazement. Thus they had no religion, no knowledge of God, no practice of godliness, except what consisted in miracles.
To the same purpose is that reproach which Paul brings against them, the Jews demand signs, (1Co_1:22.) For he means that they were unreasonably and immoderately attached to signs, and cared little about the grace of Christ, or the promises of eternal life, or the secret power of the Spirit, but, on the contrary, rejected the Gospel with haughty disdain, because they had no relish for any thing but miracles. I wish there were not many persons in the present day affected by the same disease; but nothing is more common than this saying, “Let them first perform miracles, and then we will lend an ear to their doctrine;” as if we ought to despise and disdain the truth of Christ, unless it derive support from some other quarter. But though God were to overwhelm them by a huge mass of miracles, still they speak falsely when they say that they would believe. Some outward astonishment would be produced, but they would not be a whit more attentive to doctrine.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
47. that he would come down] Literally, in order that he might come down; comp. Joh_4:34, Joh_5:7; Joh_5:36, Joh_6:29; Joh_6:50.
at Capernaum] 20 miles or more from Cana.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
48. signs and wonders] Christ’s miracles are never mere ‘wonders’ to excite astonishment; they are ‘signs’ of heavenly truths as well, and this is their primary characteristic. Where these two words are joined together ‘signs’ always precedes, excepting four passages in the Acts, where we nave ‘wonders and signs.’ This is the only passage in which S. John uses ‘wonders’ at all. In Joh_2:11 the word translated ‘miracles’ is the same as the one here translated ‘signs.’ See below, Joh_4:54.
ye will not believe] In marked contrast to the ready belief of the Samaritans. The form of negation in the Greek is of the strong kind; ye will in no wise believe. See note on 1Co_1:22. Faith based on miracles is of a low type comparatively, but Christ does not reject it. Comp. Joh_10:38, Joh_14:11, Joh_20:29. This man’s faith is strengthened by being put to test. The words are evidently addressed to him and those about him, and they imply that those addressed are Jews.
Then said Jesus to him—as representing the whole class whose faith rested upon, and was nourished, by, the outward sign, with a certain amount of reproof if not of irony in the strength of his phrase—Except ye see (there is no special emphasis laid on the ἴδητε, as distinct from the mere report or testimony of such things) signs and wonders, ye will by no means believe. This is the only occasion in John’s Gospel where these two terms are conjoined. They are frequently brought together in Acts (Act_2:22, Act_2:43; Act_4:30; Act_5:12, etc.), and used in conjunction in Mat_24:24; Mar_13:22; Rom_15:19; 2Co_12:12. John ordinarily uses (ἔργα) “works” to denote those objective tangible facts which were “signs” (σημεῖα) of the Lord’s higher nature and claims. Here τέρατα, a word meaning “portents,” remarkable, inexplicable events out of the common order, accompanies “signs,” to complete the notion. The craving for “signs and wonders” did absorb the higher life of Judaism. “The Jews require a sign” (1Co_1:22), and minds that are yet in the Jewish stage of partial discipline, for spiritual revelation, still do the same. There is still in many of us the weak faith which needs the stimulating diet of the “sign” before there is any full recognition of the Divine fulness of blessing. Christ does not condemn, though he mourns over, this spiritual babyhood; and while he says (Joh_10:38; Joh_14:11; Joh_15:24) that belief for the works’ sake may lead up to true faith, yet the language addressed to Thomas, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” reveals his deepest thought of their comparative worth. The demand for “signs and wonders” in Galilee contrasts with the ready reception which the Samaritans had given to his word. Many of the difficulties of these narratives arise from the obvious fact that they are so closely compressed. Weiss has a hard task to make what he calls this “harsh answer” tally with Matthew’s account of the reception of the centurion, and of the “great faith” which in his case preceded the miracle. A single sentence in the urgent request of the nobleman, implying that at Capernaum they needed the same kind of proof that had been given at Jerusalem of the Lord’s prophetic claims, would account for all the emphasis laid upon the inperfect faith of the Galilaeans. He who “knew what was in man” knew in what way to rouse in this suppliant an adequate recognition of the Divine in himself.
49.Sir, come down, ere my child die. Since he perseveres in asking, and at length obtains what he wished, we may conclude that Christ did not reprove him in such a manner as if he intended altogether to reject him, and refused his prayers; but that he rather did so for the purpose of correcting that fault which obstructed the entrance of true faith. And we ought to remember — what I have formerly stated — that this was a general reproof of a whole people, and was not peculiarly addressed to one individual. In this manner, whatever is improper, or distorted, or superfluous, in our prayers, must be corrected or removed, that dangerous obstructions may be taken out of the way. Now courtiers are usually fastidious and haughty, and do not willingly submit to be treated with harshness; but it deserves notice, that this man, humbled by his necessitous case, and by the dread of losing his son, does not burst into a passion, or murmur, when Christ speaks to him roughly, but passes by that reproof in modest silence. We find the same things in ourselves; for we are astonishingly delicate, impatient, and fretful until, subdued by adversities, we are constrained to lay aside our pride and disdain.
50.Thy son liveth. The first thing that strikes us here is, the astonishing kindness and condescension of Christ, that he bears with the man’s ignorance, and stretches his power beyond what had been expected. He requested that Christ would come to the place and cure his son. He thought it possible that his son could be freed from sickness and disease, but not that he could be raised up after he was dead; and therefore he urges Christ to make haste, that his son’s recovery may not be prevented by his death. Accordingly, when Christ pardons both, we may conclude from it how highly he values even a small measure of faith. It is worthy of observation that Christ, while he does not comply with his desire, grants much more than he had requested; for he testifies as to the present health of his son. Thus it frequently happens that our Heavenly Father, while he does not comply with our wishes in every particular, proceeds to relieve us by unexpected methods, that we may learn not to prescribe to him in anything. When he says, Thy son liveth, he means that he has been rescued from the danger of death.
The man believed the word which Jesus had spoken to him. Having come with the conviction that Christ was a prophet of God, he was on that account so much disposed to believe, that, as soon as he had heard a single word, he seized it and fixed it in his heart. Though he did not entertain all the respect that he ought for the power of Christ, yet a short promise suddenly awoke new confidence in his mind, so that he believed the life of his son to be contained in a single word of Christ. And such is the promptitude with which we ought to receive the word of God, but it is very far from producing always so immediate an effect on the hearers. For how many will you find that profit as much by many sermons as this man, who was half a heathen, profited by hearing a single word? So much the more ought we to labor with zeal to arouse our sluggishness, and, above all, to pray that God would touch our hearts in such a manner, that we may not be less willing to believe than He is ready and gracious to promise.
Pop Comm Schaff
Joh_4:50.Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. The man believed the word that Jesus spake unto him, and he went his way. Jesus does not need the passionate appeal: the prayer has been already granted. ‘Thy son liveth’ does not mean, ‘is made to live now after thy second petition’; but, ‘even while the word is in thy mouth, or before it was so, thy son liveth.’ The meaning, in short, is not, I perform the cure at this instant; but rather, I have performed it, the work is done, thy son is recovered. He will not come to heal the child; there is no need that He should do so, the child is already whole. Will the father believe the word? He will, for his faith is purified and changed: it is now faith in the word of Jesus, though no sign or wonder has been seen.
51.While he was still going down. Here is described the effect of faith, together with the efficacy of the word; for as Christ, by a word, restores to life this child who was just dying, so in one moment the father, by his faith, regains his son safe and sound. Let us therefore know that, whenever the Lord offers his benefits to us, his power will always be ready to accomplish whatever he promises, provided that the door be not shut against him by our unbelief. It does not always happen, I acknowledge, and even is not frequent or ordinary, that God instantly displays his arm for giving us assistance; but whenever he delays, he has always a good reason, and one that is highly advantageous to us. This at least is certain, that so far is he from delaying unnecessarily, that he rather contends with the obstacles which we throw in the way; and, therefore, when we do not see his immediate aid, let us consider how much of concealed distrust there is in us, or at least how small and limited our faith is. And we ought not to wonder if He is unwilling to allow his benefits to be lost, or to throw them at random on the ground, but chooses to bestow them on those who, by opening the bosom of their faith, are ready to receive them. And though he does not always assist his people in the same manner, yet in no instance will the faith of any one be fruitless, or hinder us from experiencing the truth of what the Prophet says, that the promises of God, even when they seem to delay, are in reality making great haste.
Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry, (Hab_2:3.)
Now as he was going down to Capernaum (if we take any of the more recent determinations of the site of Cana (see Joh_2:1, Joh_2:2), this means that he had traversed a distance of between twenty and twenty-five miles, so that there is no reason to treat with ridicule or regard as inexplicable the time taken for the return journey, or that a night should have been spent in the transit from Cana), his servants met £ him, saying, £that his boy lived. The oblique form is certainly far more reasonable, less mechanical, and more likely to have been altered into the direct form by an incautious copyist from the previous verse, than to have constituted the original text. Note that Jesus used the most dignified title, “son” (υἱός); the father employs the tender diminutive (παιδίον); while the servants use the domestic term (παῖς).
52.Therefore he inquired at them. That this courtier asked his servants at what time his son began to recover, was done by a secret impulse from God, that the truth of the miracle might be rendered more conspicuous. For by nature we have an exceedingly wicked disposition to extinguish the light of the power of God, and Satan labors, by various means, to hide the works of God from our view; and, therefore, in order that they may obtain from us that praise which is due to them, they must be made so manifest that no room is left for doubt. Whatever then may be the ingratitude of men, still this circumstance does not permit so illustrious a work of Christ to be ascribed to chance.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
52. began to amend] Or, was somewhat better; a colloquial expression. The father fancies that the cure will be gradual. The fever will depart at Christ’s word, but will depart in the ordinary way. He has not yet fully realised Christ’s power. The reply of the servants shews that the cure was instantaneous.
Yesterday at the seventh hour] Once more we have to discuss S. John’s method of counting the hours of the day. (See on Joh_1:39 and Joh_4:6.) Obviously the father set out as soon after Jesus said ‘thy son liveth’ as possible; he had 20 or 25 miles to go to reach home, and he would not be likely to loiter on the way. 7 a.m. is incredible; he would have been home long before nightfall, and the servants met him some distance from home. 7 p.m. is improbable; the servants would meet him before midnight. Thus the modern method of reckoning from midnight to midnight does not suit. Adopting the Jewish method from sunset to sunset, the seventh hour is 1 p.m. He would scarcely start at once in the mid-day heat; nor would the servants. Supposing they met him after sunset, they might speak of 1 p.m. as ‘yesterday.’ (But see on Joh_20:19, where S. John speaks of the late hours of the evening as belonging to the day before sunset.) Still, 7 p.m. is not impossible, and this third instance must be regarded as not decisive. But the balance here seems to incline to what is antecedently more probable, that S. John reckons the hours, like the rest of the Evangelists, according to the Jewish method.
The father is full of joy at the blessed intelligence, but naturally seeks at once to link the event with the word and will of Jesus. He therefore inquired from them the hour in which he began to amend (κομψότερον ἔσχε). (This peculiar phrase is suitable on the lips of a man of rank; literally, “he did bravely, exceedingly well;” and κόμψως ἔχειν is occasionally used in contradistinction with κάκως ἔχειν in a similar sense. Epictetus, ‘Diss.,’ Joh_3:10-13.) They say to him, therefore, Yesterday during the seventh hour the fever left him. The advocates of John’s adoption of the Roman computation of time suppose that this was seven p.m., and, therefore, that a night had intervened on the return journey (so Westcott, Edersheim, and Moulton). This is not necessary, because, even on the Jewish computation, from sunrise to sunset, though the seventh hour must then mean between noon and one p.m., it could not have happened that much before midnight he should have broken into the streets of Capernaum. At that hour the noon might be spoken of as “yesterday.” This, however, is not imperative; for, if the distance between Capernaum and Cana was from twenty to twenty-five miles, and if the nobleman had travelled to Cana on the day that he presented his request, it is clear that a night’s halt might easily have been required. Baur and Hilgenfeld make the note of time an attempt on the part of the writer to exaggerate the marvel, as if the distance through which the will of Christ asserted itself could augment the wonder, or that the real supernatural could be measured by milestones. And Thoma thinks so poorly of the originality of the Johannist, that he imagines him to have worked into his narrative some of the small details of the Cornelius and Peter interviews in Act_10:1-48.
Pop Comm Schaff
Joh_4:52.He enquired of them therefore the hour when he began to amend. They said therefore unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. As the distance between Cana and Capernaum is not above five-and-twenty miles, it may seem strange that the officer should not have reached his home the same day. If the ‘seventh hour’ were reckoned from sunrise, the time of the cure would be a little later than noon; in that case it would be necessary to suppose that the servants were following the familiar Jewish reckoning of time, and regarding sunset as the commencement of a new day. It seems, however, much more probable (see the note on Joh_4:6) that by the ‘seventh hour’ we must understand 6 to 7P.M.Even without the supposition that the father had been detained in Cana, this will suit all the circumstances of the narrative.—The words ‘began to amend’ do not suggest any hesitation on the father’s part as to the completeness of the cure. He had believed the word ‘thy son liveth’ (Joh_4:50), and what he asks now is as to the hour at which his child had been stopped upon the road to death, and turned back upon that to full health and strength.
The seventh hour – About one o’clock in the afternoon.
The same hour – The very time when Jesus spoke.
The fever left him – It seems that it left him suddenly and entirely; so much so that his friends went to inform the father, and to comfort him, and also, doubtless, to apprise him that it was not necessary to ask aid from Jesus. From this miracle we may learn,
1. That Jesus has an intimate knowledge of all things. He knew the case of this son – the extent of his disease where he was and thus had power to heal him.
2. That Jesus has almighty power. Nothing else could have healed this child. Nor could it be pretended that he did it by any natural means. He was far away from him, and the child knew not the source of the power that healed him. It could not be pretended that there was any collusion or jugglery. The father came in deep anxiety. The servants saw the cure. Jesus was at a distance. Everything in the case bears the mark of being the simple energy of God – put forth with equal ease to heal, whether far or near. Thus, he can save the sinner.
3. We see the benevolence of Jesus. Ever ready to aid, to heal, or to save, he may be called on at all times, and will never be called on in vain.
53.And he believed, and his whole house. It may appear absurd that the Evangelist should mention this as the commencement of faith in that man, whose faith he has already commended. Nor can it be supposed that the word believe — at least in this passage — relates to the progress of faith. But it must be understood that this man, being a Jew and educated in the doctrine of the Law, had already obtained some taste of faith when he came to Christ; and that he afterwards believed in the saying of Christ was a particular faith, which extended no farther than to expect the life of his son. But now he began to believe in a different manner; that is, because, embracing the doctrine of Christ, he openly professed to be one of his disciples. Thus not only does he now believe that his son will be cured through the kindness of Christ, but he acknowledges Christ to be the Son of God, and makes a profession of faith in his Gospel. His whole family joins him, which was an evidence of the miracle; nor can it be doubted that he did his utmost to bring others along with him to embrace the Christian religion.
So the father knew – He had the fullest proof that his son’s cure was supernatural, and that it was wrought by the Lord Jesus.
Himself believed, and his whole house – He and his whole family became true converts to the doctrine of the manifested Messiah. The whole family, impressed with the great kindness of God in sending health to the child, were the more easily led to believe in the Lord Jesus. The sickness of the child became the mean of salvation to all the household. They, no doubt, thought at first that God was dealing hardly with them, when threatening to remove the child; but now they see that in very faithfulness God had afflicted them. Let us learn never to murmur against God, or think that he does not act kindly towards us. His wisdom cannot permit him to err; his goodness will not suffer him to do any thing to his creatures but what may be subservient to their best interests. By providential occurrences, apparently the most adverse, he may be securing our eternal salvation.
There is an account in Beracoth, fol. 34, very similar to this of the evangelist, and very possibly stolen from this holy source. “When the son of Rab. Gamaliel fell sick, he sent two of his disciples to R. Chanina, that he would pray to God for him. When he had seen them, he went on the roof of his house and prayed for him. He then came down and said to them, His fever has departed from him. They said unto him, Art thou a prophet? He answered, I am neither a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but when I can recite my prayers readily, I know I shall be heard. They then wrote down the hour; and, when they returned to R. Gamaliel, he said to them, Ye have fulfilled your ministry – in respect to my son, all is complete. In that hour the fever (חמה chomah, ὁ πυρετος) left him, and he desired water to drink.” Schoettgen very properly remarks, Ovum ovo non magis simile est, atque haec fabula narrationi evangelicae. “One egg is not more like to another, than this fable to the evangelical narration.”
The father then knew (came to know, by putting the facts together) that his son began to amend in the same hour in which Jesus said to him, Try son liveth. The word was mighty, none other than that very voice of the Lord “which healeth all our diseases,” and “redeemeth our lives from destruction.” No mere coincidence, no common accident. And himself believed and his whole household; believed in the Divine claims of Jesus. This is the earliest mention of “household faith” (cf. Act_10:44; Act_16:15, Act_16:34). In this case a whole picture rises before our eye. The mother, the sisters, the servants, the entire family, had shared in the anxiety, had sympathized in the journey to Cana, and now accepted the exalted claims of Jesus. Faith is graciously contagious. The nearness of the unseen world often reveals the features of the God-Man. The suggestion has frequently been hazarded that this βασιλικός was Chuza, the house steward of Herod, whose wife, Joanna, ministered to Jesus (Luk_8:3 and Luk_24:10).
Himself believed – This miracle removed all his doubts, and he became a real disciple and friend of Jesus.
His whole house – His whole family. We may learn from this,
1. That sickness or any deep affliction is often the means of great good. Here the sickness of the son resulted in the faith of all the family. God often takes away earthly blessings that he may impart rich spiritual mercies.
2. The father of a family may be the means of the salvation of his children. Here the effort of a parent resulted in their conversion to Christ.
3. There is great beauty and propriety when sickness thus results in piety. For that it is sent. God does not willingly grieve or afflict the children of men; and when afflictions thus terminate, it will be cause of eternal joy, of ceaseless praise.
4. There is a special charm when piety thus comes into the families of the rich. and the noble. It is so unusual: their example and influence go so far; it overcomes so many temptations, and affords opportunities of doing so much good, that there is no wonder that the evangelist selected this instance as one of the effects of the power and of the preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
54. This is again the second, &c.] Rather, This again as a second miracle (or sign) did Jesus, after He had come out of Judaea into Galilee. Both first and second had similar results: the first confirmed the faith of the disciples, the second that of this official.
The question whether this foregoing narrative is a discordant account of the healing of the centurion’s servant (Mat_8:5; Luk_7:2) has been discussed from very early times, for Origen and Chrysostom contend against it. Irenaeus seems to be in favour of the identification, but we cannot be sure that he is. He says, ‘He healed the son of the centurion though absent with a word, saying, Go, thy son liveth.’ Irenaeus may have supposed that this official was a centurion, or ‘centurion’ may be a slip. Eight very marked points of difference between the two narratives have been noted. Together they amount to something like proof that the two narratives cannot refer to one and the same fact, unless we are to attribute an astonishing amount of carelessness or misinformation either to the Synoptists or to S. John.
(1) Here a ‘king’s man’ pleads for his son; there a centurion for his servant.
(2) Here he pleads in person; there the Jewish elders plead for him.
(3) Here the father is probably a Jew; there the centurion is certainly a Gentile.
(4) Here the healing words are spoken at Cana; there at Capernaum.
(5) Here the malady is fever; there paralysis.
(6) Here the father wishes Jesus to come; there the centurion begs him not to come.
(7) Here Christ does not go; there apparently he does.
(8) Here the father has weak faith and is blamed (Joh_4:48); there the centurion has strong faith and is commended.
And what difficulty is there in supposing two somewhat similar miracles? Christ’s miracles were ‘signs;’ they were vehicles for conveying the spiritual truths which Christ came to teach. If, as is almost certain, He often repeated the same instructive sayings, may He not sometimes have repeated the same instructive acts? Here, therefore, as in the case of the cleansing of the Temple (Joh_2:13-17), it seems wisest to believe that S. John and the Synoptists record different events.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judea into Galilee – that is, not His second miracle after coming out of Judea into Galilee; but ‘His second Galilean miracle, and it was performed after his return from Judea’-as the former was before He went to it.
(1) If we are right as to the sense of Joh_4:43-44 – if Jesus, on His return into Galilee, went to Cana, avoiding Nazareth as “His own country,” in which He knew that He would have “no honour,” according to the proverb which Himself uttered-we have here a strong confirmation of the judgment we have given on the much-disputed question, whether Jesus paid two visits to Nazareth after his public ministry commenced, or only one. See the note at Mat_4:12, and more fully on Luk_4:16, etc. As in our view He avoided Nazareth on this occasion, because He had become too common among them during His early life, so when He did visit it (Luk_4:16, etc.), it was only to be upbraided for never having yet exhibited to His own town’s-people the miraculous powers with the fame of which other places were ringing; and His reception on that one occasion when He visited Nazareth was quite enough to show that a repetition of His visit would be but “giving that which was holy to the dogs.” So He left it, as we believe, never to return.
(2) On comparing the faith of the nobleman whose son Jesus healed, with that of the centurion whose servant was restored by the same healing power, we are not to conclude that the believing disposition of the one was at all behind that of the other. Did the nobleman “beseech Jesus that He would come down and heal his son” – as if the thing could not be done at a distance? The centurion also “sent elders of the Jews, beseeching Him that He would come and heal his servant.” It is true that Jesus replied to the nobleman, “Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe” – referring to the general unpreparedness even of those who believed in Him to recognize His unlimited power-and it is true that the nobleman only proved this by replying, “Sir, come down ere my child die;” while the centurion sent a noble message to Jesus not to come to Him, as that would be too great an honour, and besides there was no need, as it could be done equally well by a word uttered at a distance. But we must remember that the nobleman’s case occurred almost at the outset of our Lord’s ministry, when faith had much less to work upon than when the centurion applied (Luk_7:2, etc). But what shows that the two cases are as nearly as possible on a par is, that whereas even the centurion’s noble message seems to have been an after thought-his faith rising, perhaps, after his first messengers were despatched-the nobleman, as his case became more urgent, reached to the very same faith by another method. For when Jesus answered his entreaty to “come down” by saving, “Go thy way; thy son liveth,” “the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way,” persuaded the cure could and would be performed without the great Healer’s presence.
Thus may two cases, differing in their circumstances and features, be essentially of one character, and thus may a weaker manifestation of faith be consistent with an equal capacity for faith-the opportunities and advantages of each being different. This might indeed baffle man’s power to detect and determine. But it is our comfort to know that it is He with whom both had to do, and from Whom they both experienced such love and grace, who is “ordained to be the Judge of quick and dead.”