Chrysostom on John 31
"The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
 ‘Great’ is shown to be in all things the gain of humility.1 Thus it is that we have brought arts to perfection, not by learning them all at once from our teachers; it is thus that we have built cities, putting them together slowly, little by little; it is thus that we maintain2 our life. And marvel not if the thing has so much power in matters pertaining to this life, when in spiritual things one may find that great is the power of this wisdom. For so the Jews were enabled to be delivered from their idolatry, being led on gently and little by little, and hearing from the first nothing sublime concerning either doctrine or life. So after the coming of Christ, when it was the time for higher doctrines, the Apostles brought over all men without at first uttering anything sublime. And so Christ appears to have spoken to most at the beginning, and so Jn did now, speaking of Him as of some wonderful man, and darkly introducing high matter.
For instance, when commencing he spake thus: “A man cannot receive anything of himself”3 (c. 3,27): then after adding a high expression, and saying, “He that cometh from heaven4 is above all,” he again brings down his discourse to what is lowly, and besides many other things saith this, that “God giveth not the Spirit by measure.” Then he proceeds to say, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.” And after that, knowing that great is the force of punishment,5 and that the many are not so much led by the promise of good things as by the threat of the terrible, he concludes his discourse with these words; “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Here again he refers the account of punishment to the Father, for he saith not “the wrath of the Son,” (yet He is the Judge,) but sets over them the Father, desiring so the more to terrify them.
“Is it then enough,” saith one, “to believe on the Son, that one may have eternal life?” By no means. And hear Christ Himself declaring this, and saying, “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 7,21); and the blasphemy against the Spirit is enough of itself to cast a man into hell. But why speak I of a portion of doctrine? Though a man believe rightly on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, yet if he lead not a right life, his faith will avail nothing towards his salvation. Therefore when He saith, “This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God” (c. 17,3), let us not suppose that the (knowledge) spoken of is sufficient for our salvation; we need besides this a most exact life and conversation. Since though he has said here, “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life,” and in the same place something even stronger, (for he weaves his discourse not of blessings only, but of their contraries also, speaking thus: “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him”;) yet not even from this do we assert that faith alone is sufficient to salvation. And the directions for living given in many places of the Gospels show this. Therefore he did not say, “This by itself is eternal life,” nor, “He that doth but believe on the Son hath eternal life,” but by both expressions he declared this, that the thing6 doth contain life, yet that if a right conversation follow not, there will follow a heavy punishment. And he did not say, “awaiteth him,” but, “abideth on him,” that is, “shall never remove from him.” For that thou mayest not think that the “shall not see life,” is a temporary death, but mayest believe that the punishment is continual, he hath put this expression to show that it rests7 upon him continually. And this he has done, by these very words forcing them on8 to Christ. Therefore he gave not the admonition to them in particular, but made it universal, the manner which best might bring them over. For he did not say, “if ye believe,” and, “if ye believe not,” but made his speech general, so that his words might be free from suspicion. And this he has done yet more strongly than Christ. For Christ saith, “He that believeth not is condemned already,” but Jn saith, “shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” With good cause; for it was a different thing for a man to speak of himself and for another to speak of him. They would have thought that Christ spake often of these things from self-love, and that he was a boaster; but Jn was clear from all suspicion. And if at a later time, Christ also used stronger expressions, it was when they had begun to conceive an exalted opinion of Him.
Jn 4,1-3. “When therefore Jesus9 knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (though Jesus Himself baptized not but His disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee.”
(He indeed baptized not, but they who carried the news, desiring to excite their hearers to envy, so reported. “Wherefore then ‘departed’ He?” Not from fear, but to take away 10 their malice, and to soften their envy. He was indeed able to restrain them when they came against Him, but this He would not do continually, that the Dispensation of the Flesh might not be disbelieved. For had He often been seized and escaped, this would have been suspected by many; therefore for the most part, He rather orders matters after the manner of a man. And as He desired it to be believed that He was God, so also that, being God, He bore the flesh; therefore even after the Resurrection, He said to the disciple, “Handle Me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Lc 24,39); therefore also He rebuked Peter when he said, “Be it far from Thee, this shall not be unto thee.” (Mt 16,22). So much was this matter an object of care to Him.
[2.] For this is no small part of the doctrines of the Church; it is the chief point of the salvation wrought for us; 11 by which all has been brought to pass, and has had success, for it was thus that the bonds of death were loosed, sin taken away, and the curse abolished, and ten thousand Blessings introduced into our life. And therefore He especially desired that the Dispensation should be believed, as having been the root and fountain of innumerable goods to us.
Yet while acting thus in regard of His Humanity, 12 He did not allow His Divinity to be overcast. And so, after His departure He again employed the same language as before. For He went not away into Galilee simply, 13 but in order to effect certain important matters, those among the Samaritans; nor did He dispense these matters simply, but with the wisdom that belonged to 14 Him, and so as not to leave to the Jews any pretense even of a shameless excuse for themselves. And to this the Evangelist points when he says,
Jn 4,4. “And He must needs go through Samaria.”
Showing that He made this the bye-work of the journey. Which also the Apostles did; for just as they, when persecuted by the Jews, came to the Gentiles; so also Christ, when the Jews drove Him out, then took the Samaritans in hand, as He did also in the case of the Syrophenician woman. And this was done that all defense might be cut away from the Jews, and that they might not be able to say, “He left us, and went to the uncircumcised.” And therefore the disciples excusing themselves said, “It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken unto you; but seeing ye judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Ac 13,46). And He saith again Himself, “I am not come 15 but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15,24); and again, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to give 16 it to dogs.” But when they drove Him away, they opened a door to the Gentiles. Yet not so did He come to the Gentiles expressly, but in passing. 17 In passing then,
Jn 4,5-6. “He cometh to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there.”
Why is the Evangelist exact about the place? It is, that when thou hearest the woman say, “Jacob our father gave us this well,” thou mayest not think it strange. For this was the place where Levi and Simeon, being angry because of Dinah, wrought that creel slaughter. And it may be worth while to relate from what sources the Samaritans were made up; since all this country is called Samaria. Whence then did they receive their name? The mountain was called “Somor” from its owner (1R 16,24): as also Esaias saith, “and the head of Ephraim is Somoron” Is 7,9 LXX)., but the inhabitants were termed not “Samaritans” but “Israelites.” But as time went on, they offended God, and in the reign of Pekah, Tiglath-Pileser came up, and took many cities, and set upon Elah, and having slain him, gave the kingdom to Hoshea. 18 (2R 15,29). Against him Shalmaneser came and took other cities, and made them subject and tributary. (2R 17,3). At first he yielded, but afterwards he revolted from the Assyrian rule, and betook himself to the alliance of the Ethiopians. 19 The Assyrian learnt this, and having made war upon them and destroyed their cities, he no longer allowed the nation to remain there, because he had such suspicions that they would revolt. (2R 17,4). But he carried them to Babylon and to the Medes, and having brought thence nations from divers places, planted them in Samaria, that his dominion for the future might be sure, his own people occupying the place. After this, God, desiring to show that He had not given up the Jews through weakness, but because of the sins of those who were given up, sent lions against the foreigners, 20 who ravaged all their nation. These things were reported to the king, and he sent a priest to deliver to them the laws of God. Still not even so did they desist wholly from their impiety, but only by halves. But as time went on, they in turn abandoned 21 their idols, and worshiped God. And when things were in this state, the Jews having returned, ever after entertained a jealous feeling towards them as strangers and enemies, and called them from the name of the mountain, “Samaritans.” From this cause also there was no little rivalry between them. The Samaritans did not use all the Scriptures, but received the writings of Moses only, and made but little account of those of the Prophets. Yet they were eager to thrust themselves into the noble Jewish stock, and prided themselves upon Abraham, and called 22 him their forefather, as being of Chaldaea; and Jacob also they called their father, as being his descendant. But the Jews abominated them as well as all (other nations). Wherefore they reproached Christ with this, saying, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.” (c. 8,48). And for this reason in the parable of the man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, Christ makes the man who showed pity upon him to have been “a Samaritan” (Lc 10,33), one who by them was deemed mean, contemptible, and abominable. And in the case of the ten lepers, He calls one a “stranger” on this account, (for “he was a Samaritan,”) and He gave His charge to the disciples in these words, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” (Mt 10,5).
[3.] Nor was it merely to describe the place that the Evangelist has reminded us of Jacob, but to show that the rejection of the Jews had happened long ago. For during the time of their forefathers these Jews possessed the land, and not the Samaritans; and the very possessions which not being theirs, their forefathers had gotten, they being theirs, had lost by their sloth and transgressions. So little 23 is the advantage of excellent ancestors, if their descendants be not like them. Moreover, the foreigners when they had only made trial of the lions, straightway returned to the right worship 24 of the Jews, while they, after enduring such inflictions, were not even so brought to a sound mind.
To this place Christ now came, ever rejecting a sedentary and soft 25 life, and exhibiting 26 one laborious and active. He useth no beast to carry Him, but walketh so much on a stretch, as even to be wearied with His journeying. And this He ever teacheth, that a man should work for himself, go without superfluities, and not have many wants. Nay, so desirous is He that we should be alienated from superfluities, that He abridgeth many even of necessary things. Wherefore He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” (Mt 8,20). Therefore He spent most of His time in the mountains, and in the deserts, not by day only, but also by night. And this David declared when he said, “He shall drink of the brook in the way” (Ps 110,7): by this showing His frugal 27 way of life. This too the Evangelist shows in this place.
Jn 4,6-8. “Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus by the well; and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink. For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat.”
Hence we learn His activity in journeying, His carelessness about food, and how He treated it as a matter of minor importance. 28 And so the disciples were taught to use the like disposition themselves; for they took with them no provisions for the road. And this another Evangelist declares, saying, that when He spake to them concerning“ theleaven of the Pharisees” (Mt 16,6), they thought that it was because they carried no bread; and when he introduces them plucking the ears of corn, and eating (Mt 12,1), and when he saith that Jesus came to the fig-tree by reason of hunger (Mt 21,18), it is for nothing else but only to instruct us by all these to despise the belly, and not to deem that its service is anxiously to be attended to. Observe them, for instance, in this place neither bringing anything with them, nor because they brought not anything, caring for this at the very beginning and early part of the day, but buying food at the time when all other people were taking their meal. 29 Not like us, who the instant we rise from our beds attend to this before anything else, calling cooks and butlers, and giving our directions with all earnestness, applying ourselves afterwards to other matters, preferring temporal things to spiritual, valuing those things as necessary which we ought to have deemed of less importance. 30 Therefore all things are in confusion. We ought, on the contrary, making much account of all spiritual things, after having accomplished these, then to apply ourselves to the others.
And in this place it is not His laboriousness alone that is shown, but also His freedom from pride; not merely by His being tired, nor by His sitting by the way-side, but by His having been left alone, and His disciples having been separated 31 from Him. And yet it was in His power, if He had willed it, either not to have sent them all away, or when they departed to have had other ministers. But He would not; for so He accustomed His disciples to tread all pride beneath their feet.
“And what marvel,” saith one, “if they were moderate in their wishes, since they were fishermen and tentmakers?” Yes! Fishermen and tentmakers they were; but they had in a moment 32 mounted even to the height of heaven, and had become more honorable than all earthly kings, being deemed worthy to become the companions of the Lord of the world, and to follow Him whom all beheld with awe. And ye know this too, that those men especially who are of humble origin, whenever they gain distinction, are the more easily lifted up to folly, because they are quite ignorant how to bear their sudden 33 honor. Restraining them therefore in their present humblemindedness, He taught them always to be moderate, 34 and never to require any to wait upon them.
“He therefore,” saith the Evangelist, “being wearied with His journey, sat 35 thus at the well.” 36
Seest thou that His sitting was because of weariness? because of the heat? because of his waiting for His disciples? He knew, indeed, what should take place among the Samaritans, but it was not for this that He came principally; yet, though He came not for this, it behooved not to reject the woman who came to Him, when she manifested such a desire to learn. The Jews, when He was even coming to them, drove Him away; they of the Gentiles, when He was proceeding in another direction, drew Him to them. They envied, these believed on Him. They were angry with, these revered and worshiped Him. What then? Was He to overlook the salvation of so many, to send away such noble zeal? This would have been unworthy of His lovingkindness. Therefore He ordered all the matter in hand with the Wisdom which became Him. He sat resting His body and cooling It by the fountain; for it was the very middle of the day, as the Evangelist has declared, when he says,
“It was about the sixth hour.”
(He sat “thus.” What meaneth “thus”? Not upon a throne, not upon a cushion, but simply, and as He was, 37 upon the ground.
Jn 4,7. “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water.”
[4.] Observe how he declareth that the woman came forth for another purpose, in every way silencing the shameless gainsaying of the Jews, that none might say that He acted in opposition to His own command, bidding (His disciples) not to enter into any city of the Samaritans, yet conversing with Samaritans. (Mt 10,5). And therefore the Evangelist has put,
Jn 4,8. “For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat.” 38
Bringing in many reasons for His conversation with her. What doth the woman? When she heard, “Give Me to drink,” 39 she very wisely makes the speech of Christ an occasion for a question, and saith,
Jn 4,9. “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a Samaritan? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”
And whence did she suppose Him to be a Jew? From His dress, perhaps, and from His dialect. Observe, I pray you, how considerate the woman was. If there was need of caution, Jesus needed it, not she. For she doth not say, “The Samaritans have no dealings with the Jews,” but, “The Jews do not admit the Samaritans.” Yet still, although free herself from blame, 40 when she supposed that another was falling into it she would not even so hold her peace, but corrected, as she thought, what was done unlawfully. Perhaps some one may ask how it was that Jesus asked drink of her, when the law 41 did not permit it. If it be answered that it was because He knew beforehand that she would not give it, then for this very reason He ought not to have asked. What then can we say? That the rejecting such observances as these was now a matter of indifference to Him; for He who induced others to do them away, would much more Himself pass them by. “Not that which goeth in,” saith He, “defileth a man, but that which goeth out.” (Mt 15,11). And this conversation with the woman would be no slight charge against the Jews. For often did He draw them to Himself, both by words and deeds, but they would not attend; while observe how she is detained by a simple request. 42 For He did not as yet enter on the prosecution of this business, 43 nor the way, 44 yet if any came to Him He did not prevent them. And to the disciples also He said thus, “Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” He did not say, “And when they come to you, reject them”; that would have been very unworthy of His lovingkindness. And therefore He answered the woman, and said,
Jn 4,10. “If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.”
First, He showeth that she is worthy to hear and not to be overlooked, and then He revealeth Himself. For she, as soon as she had learnt who He was, would straightway hearken and attend to Him; which none can say of the Jews, for they, when they had learned, asked nothing of Him, nor did they desire to be informed on any profitable matter, but insulted and drove Him away. But when the woman had heard these words, observe how gently she answers:
Jn 4,11. “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?”
Already He hath raised her from her low opinion of Him, and from deeming that He is a common man. For not without a reason doth she here call Him, “Lord”; 45 but assigning to Him high honor. That she spake these words to honor Him, is plain from what is said afterwards, since she did not laugh nor mock, but doubted for a while. And wonder not if she did not at once perceive all, for neither did Nicodemus. What saith he? “How can these things be?” and again, “How can a man be born when he is old?” and again, “Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” But this woman more reverently: “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?” Christ said one thing, and she imagined another, hearing nothing beyond the words, and as yet unable to form any lofty thought. Yet, had she spoken hastily, she might have said, “If thou hadst had that living water, thou wouldest not have asked of me, but wouldest rather have provided for thyself. Thou art but a boaster.” But she said nothing like this; she answers with much gentleness, both at first and afterwards. For at first she saith, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me?” she saith not, as though speaking to an alien and an enemy, “Far be it from me to give to thee, who art a foe and a stranger to our nation.” And afterwards again, when she heard Him utter great words, a thing at which enemies are most annoyed, she did not mock nor deride 46 ; but what saith she?
Jn 4,12. “Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?”
Observe how she thrusts herself into the noble stock of the Jews. For what she saith is somewhat of this kind: “Jacob used this water, and had nothing better to give us.” And this she said showing that from the first answer (of Christ) she had conceived a great and sublime thought; for by the words, “he drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle,” she implies nothing else, than that she had a notion of a better Water, but that she 47 never found it, nor clearly knew it. More clearly to explain what she means to say, the sense of her words is this: “Thou canst not assert that Jacob gave us this well, and used another himself; for he and his children drank of this one, which they would not have done if they had had another and a better. Now of the water of this well it is not in thy power to give me, and thou canst not have another and a better, unless thou dost confess that thou art greater than Jacob. Whence then hast thou that water which thou promisest that thou wilt give us?” The Jews did not converse with Him thus mildly, and yet He spake to them on the same subject, making mention of the like water, but they profited nothing; and when He made mention of Abraham, they even attempted to stone Him. Not so does this woman approach Him; but with much gentleness, in the midst of the heat, at noon, she with much patience saith and hears all, and does not so much as think of what the Jews most probably would have asserted, that “This fellow is mad, and beside himself: he hath tied me to this fount and well, giving me nothing, but using big words”; no, she endures and perseveres until she has found what she seeks.
[5.] If now a woman of Samaria is so earnest to learn something profitable, if she abides by Christ though not as yet knowing Him, what pardon shall we obtain, who both knowing 48 Him, and being not by a well, nor in a desert place, nor at noon-day, nor beneath the scorching sunbeams, but at morning-tide, and beneath a roof like this, enjoying shade and comfort, 49 yet cannot endure to hear anything that is said, but are wearied 50 by it. Not such was that woman; so occupied was she by Jesus’ words, that she even called others to hear them. The Jews, on the contrary, not only did not call, but even hindered and impeded those who desired to come to Him, 51 saying, “See, have any of the rulers believed on him? but this people, which knoweth not the Law, are cursed.” 52 Let us then imitate this woman of Samaria; let us commune with Christ. For even now He standeth in the midst of us, speaking to us by the Prophets and Disciples; let us hear and obey. How long shall we live uselessly and in vain? Because, not to do what is well-pleasing to God is to live uselessly, or rather not merely uselessly, but to our own hurt; for when we have spent the time which has been given us on no good purpose, we shall depart this life to suffer severest punishment for our unseasonable extravagance. For it can never be that a man who has received money to trade with, and then has eaten it up, shall have it 53 required at his hands by the man who intrusted it to him; and that one who has spent such a life as ours to no purpose shall escape punishment. It was not for this that God brought us into this present life, and breathed into us a soul, that we should make use of the present time only, 54 but that we should do all our business with a regard to the life which is to come. Things irrational only are useful for the present life; but we have an immortal soul, that we may use every means to prepare ourselves for that other life. For if one enquire the use of horses and asses and oxen, and other such-like animals, we shall tell him that it is nothing else but only to minister to the present life; but this cannot be said of us; our best condition is that which follows on our departure hence; and we must do all that we may shine there, that we may join the choir of Angels, and stand before the King continually, through endless 55 ages. And therefore the soul is immortal, and the body shall be immortal too, that we may enjoy the never-ending blessings. But if, when heavenly things are proffered thee, thou remainest nailed to earth, consider what an insult is offered to thy Benefactor, when He holdeth forth to thee things above, and thou, making no great account of them choosest earth instead. And therefore, as despised by thee, He hath threatened thee with hell; that thou mayest learn hence of what great blessings thou deprivest thyself. God grant that none make trial of that punishment, but that having been well-pleasing to Christ, we may obtain everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
1 lit). “condescension.”
3 [eja;n mh; h|/ ded. aujtw`/.] G. T.
4 a]nwqen, G. T.
5 al). “of the mention of punishment.”
6 i.e. believing.
7 lit). “sits upon.”
9 oJ Kuvrio", G. T.
10 lit). “cut out.”
11 th`" uJper hJmw`n swt..
12 oijkonomw`n ta; ajnqrwvpina.
13 i.e. without an object, aJplw`".
14 or, “became.”
15 [oujk ajpestavlhn] G. T.
16 [bavllein] G. T.
17 Morel). “having thus hinted that which he wished, he again begins, saying, Jesus therefore cometh,” &c.
18 This account does not agree with the history, (2R 15,29-30) but there is no other reading.
19 i.e. the Egyptians).
21 lit). “started away from.”
22 lit). “registered.”
23 al). “truly little.”
25 bavnauson kai; uJgro;n.
26 lit). “introducing.”
27 or “active.”
29 ajristopoiou`ntai. See on Stat. Hom. 9,1, and note.
31 al). “having departed.”
33 al). “so great.”
35 ejkavqhto [ejkaqevzeto] G. T.
36 ejpi; th`/ phgh`/.
37 wJ" e]tucen.
38 al). “had not yet come.”
39 al. being asked for water by Christ; for, “Give Me to drink,” the Evangelist tells us, was what Christ said to her. What then saith she? “How is it,” &c.
40 al). “sin.”
41 i.e. custom.
42 al). “introduction.”
43 i.e. conversion.
44 i.e. of salvation).
45 Kuvrie, “Sir,” E. V.
47 al). “not even he.”
48 al). “having seen.”
49 or, “coolness.”
50 ajpoknaivonte", al). ajpoknou`nte".
51 al). “to enter in.”
52 c. 7,49. al). “is not this people,” &c).
53 al). “an account.”
54 al). “live only for the present,” kata; to; p.
55 al). “incorrupt.”
"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life."
[1.] Scripture calls the grace of the Spirit sometimes “Fire,” sometimes “Water,” showing that these names are not descriptive of its essence, but of its operation; for the Spirit, being Invisible and Simple, cannot be made up of different substances. Now the one Jn declares, speaking thus, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire” (Mt 3,11): the other, Christ, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (Jn 7,38). “But this,” saith John, “spake He of the Spirit, which they should receive.” So also conversing with the woman, He calleth the Spirit water;1 for, “Whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him, shall never thirst.” So also He calleth the Spirit by the name of “fire,” alluding to the rousing and warming property of grace, and its power of destroying transgressions; but by that of “water,” to declare the cleansing wrought by it, and the great refreshment which it affordeth to those minds which receive it. And with good reason; for it makes the willing soul like some2 garden thick with all manner of trees fruitful and ever-flourishing, allowing it neither to feel despondency nor the plots of Satan, and quenches3 all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
And observe, I pray you, the wisdom of Christ,4 how gently He leads on5 the woman; for He did not say at first, “If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink,” but when He had given her an occasion of calling Him “a Jew,” and brought her beneath the charge of having done so, repelling the accusation He saith, “If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him”; and having compelled her by His great promises to make mention6 of the Patriarch, He thus alloweth the woman to look through,7 and then when she objects, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob?” He saith not, “Yea, I am greater,” (for He would have seemed but to boast, since the proof did not as yet appear,) but by what He saith He effecteth this. For He said not simply, “I will give thee water,” but having first set that given by Jacob aside, He exalteth that given by Himself, desiring to show from the nature of the things given, how great is the interval and difference between the persons of the givers,8 and His own superiority to the Patriarch. “If,” saith He, “thou admirest Jacob because he gave thee this water, what wilt thou say if I give thee Water far better than this? Thou hast thyself been first to confess that I am greater than Jacob, by arguing against Me, and asking, ‘Art thou greater than Jacob, that thou promisest to give me better water?’ If thou receivest that Water, certainly thou wilt confess that I am greater.” Seest thou the upright judgment of the woman, giving her decision from facts, both as to the Patriarch, and as to Christ? The Jews acted not thus; when they even saw Him casting out devils, they not only did not call Him greater than the Patriarch but even said that He had a devil. Not so the woman, she draws her opinion whence Christ would have her, from the demonstration afforded by His works. For by these He justifieth Himself, saying, “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, if ye believe not Me, believe the works.” (c. x. 37, 38). And thus the woman is brought over to the faith.
Wherefore also He, having heard, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob,” leaveth Jacob, and speaketh concerning the water, saying, “Whosoever shall drink of this water, shall thirst again”; and He maketh His comparison, not by depreciating one, but by showing the excellence of the other; for He saith not, that “this water is naught,” nor “that it is inferior and contemptible,” but what even nature testifies that He saith: “Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever shall drink of the Water which I shall give him, shall never thirst.” The woman before this had heard of “living Water” (v. 10), but had not known its meaning. Since because that water is called “living” which is perennial and bubbles up unceasingly from uninterrupted springs, she thought that this was the water meant. Wherefore He points out this more clearly by speaking thus, and establishing by a comparison the superiority (of the water which He would give). What then saith He? “Whosoever shall drink of the Water that I shall give him, shall never thirst.” This and what was said next especially showed the superiority, for material water possesses none of these qualities. And what is it that follows? “It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” For as one that hath a well within him could never be seized by thirst, so neither can he that hath this Water.
The woman straightway believed, showing herself much wiser than Nicodemus, and not only wiser, but more manly. For he when he heard ten thousand such things neither invited any others to this hearing, nor himself spake forth openly; but she exhibited the actions of an Apostle, preaching the Gospel to all, and calling them to Jesus, and drawing a whole city forth to Him. Nicodemus when he had heard said, “How can these things be?” And when Christ set before him a clear illustration, that of “the wind,” he did not even so receive the Word. But the woman not so; at first she doubted, but afterwards receiving the Word not by any regular demonstration, but in the form of an assertion, she straightway hastened to embrace it. For when Christ said, “It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life,” immediately the woman saith,
Jn 4,15. “Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”
Seest thou how little by little she is led up to the highest doctrines? First she thought Him some Jew who was transgressing the Law; then when He had repelled that accusation, (for it was necessary that the person who was to teach9 her such things should not be suspected,) having heard of “living water,” she supposed that this was spoken of material water; afterwards, having learnt that the words were spiritual, she believed that the water could remove the necessity caused by thirst, but knew not yet what this could be; she still doubted, deeming it indeed to be above material things, but not being exactly informed. But here having gained a clearer insight, but not yet fully perceiving the whole, (for she saith, “Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw,”) she for the time preferreth Him to Jacob. “For” (saith she) “I need not this well if I receive from thee that water.” Seest thou how she setteth Him before the Patriarch? This is the act of a fairly-judging 10 soul. She had shown how great an opinion she had of Jacob, she saw One better than he, and was not held back by her prepossession. Thus this woman was neither of an easy temper, (she did not carelessly receive what was said, how can she have done so when she enquired with so great exactness? 11 ) nor yet disobedient, nor disputatious, and this she showed by her petition. Yet to the Jews once He said, “Whosoever shall eat of My flesh 12 shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (c. 6,35); but they not only did not believe, but were offended at Him. The woman had no such feeling, she remains and petitions. To the Jews He said, “He that believeth on Me shall never thirst”; not so to the woman, but more grossly, “He that drinketh of this Water shall never thirst.” For the promise referred to spiritual and unseen 13 things. Wherefore having raised her mind by His promises, He still lingers among expressions relating to sense, because she could not as yet comprehend the exact expression of spiritual things. Since had He said, “If thou believest in Me thou shalt not thirst,” she would not have understood His saying, not knowing who it could be that spake to her, nor concerning what kind of thirst He spake. Wherefore then did He not this in the case of the Jews? Because they had seen many signs, while she had seen no sign, but heard these words first. For which reason He afterwards reveals His power by prophecy, and does not directly introduce His reproof, 14 but what saith He?
. “Go, call thy husband, and come thither. The woman answered and said I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a Prophet.”
[2.] O how great the wisdom of the woman! how meekly doth she receive the reproof! “How should she not,” saith some one? Tell me, why should she? Did He not often reprove the Jews also, and with greater reproofs than these? (for it is not the same to bring forward the hidden thoughts of the heart, as to make manifest a thing that was done in secret; the first are known to 15 God alone, and none other knoweth them but he who hath them in his heart; the second, all who were sharers in it know;) but still when reproved did not bear it patiently. When He said, “Why seek ye to kill me?” (c. 7,19), they not only did not admire as the woman did but even mocked at and insulted Him; yet they had a demonstration from other miracles, she had only heard this speech. Still they not only did not admire, but even insulted Him, saying, “Thou hast a demon, who seeketh to kill thee?” While she not only doth not insult but admires, and is astonished at Him, and supposes Him to be a Prophet. Yet truly this rebuke touched the woman more than the other touched them; for her fault was hers alone, theirs was a general one; and we are not so much stung by what is general as by what is particular. Besides they thought they should be gaining a great object if they could slay Christ, but that which the woman had done was allowed by all to be wicked; yet was she not indignant, but was astonished and wondered. And Christ did this very same thing in the case of Nathanael. He did not at first introduce the prophecy, nor say, “I saw thee under the fig-tree,” but when Nathanael said, “Whence knowest thou me?” then He introduced this. For He desired to take the beginnings of His signs and prophecies from the very persons who came near to Him, so that they might be more attached 16 by what was done, and He might escape the suspicion of vainglory. Now this He doth here also; for to have charged her first of all that, “Thou hast no husband,” would have seemed burdensome and superfluous, but to take the reason (for speaking) from herself, and then to set right all these points, was very consistent, and softened the disposition of the hearer.
“And what kind of connection,” saith some one, “is there in the saying, ‘Go, call thy husband’?” The discourse was concerning a gift and grace surpassing mortal nature: the woman was urgent in seeking to receive it. Christ saith, “Call thy husband,” showing that he also must share in these things; but she, eager to receive 17 (the gift), and concealing the shamefulness of the circumstances, and supposing that she was conversing with a man, said, “I have no husband.” Christ having heard this, now seasonably introduces His reproof, mentioning accurately both points; for He enumerated all her former husbands, and reproved her for him whom 18 she now would hide. What then did the woman? she was not annoyed, nor did she leave Him and fly, nor deem the thing an insult, but rather admired Him, and persevered the more. “I perceive,” saith she, “that Thou art a Prophet.” Observe her prudence; she did not straightway run to Him, but still considers Him, and marvels at Him. For, “I perceive,” means, “Thou appearest to me to be a Prophet.” Then when she suspected this, she asks Him nothing concerning this life, not concerning bodily health, or possessions, or wealth, but at once concerning doctrines. For what saith she?
Jn 4,20. “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain,” (meaning Abraham and his family, for thither they say that he led up his son,) “and how say ye 19 that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship?”
[3.] Seest thou how much more elevated in mind she has become? She who was anxious that she might not be troubled for thirst, now questions concerning doctrines. What then doth Christ? He doth not resolve the question, (for to answer simply to men’s words was not His care, for it was needless, 20 ) but leads the woman on to the greater height, and doth not converse with her on these matters, until she has confessed that He was a Prophet, so that afterwards she might hear His Word with abundant belief; for having been persuaded of this, she could no longer doubt concerning what should be said to her.
Let us now after this be ashamed, and blush. A woman who had had five husbands, and who was of Samaria, was so eager concerning doctrines, that neither the time of day, nor her having come for another purpose, nor anything else, led her away from enquiring on such matters but we not only do not enquire concerning doctrines, but towards them all our dispositions are careless and indifferent. Therefore everything is neglected. For which of you when in his house takes some Christian book 21 in hand and goes over its contents, and searches the Scriptures? None can say that he does so, but with most we shall find draughts and dice, but books nowhere, except among a few. And even these few have the same dispositions as the many; for they tie up their books, and keep them always put away in cases, and all their care is for the fineness of the parchments, and the beauty of the letters, not for reading them. For they have not bought them to obtain advantage and benefit from them, but take pains about such matters to show their wealth and pride. Such is the excess of vainglory. I do not hear any one glory that he knows the contents, but that he hath a book written in letters of gold. And what gain, tell me, is this? The Scriptures were not given us for this only, that we might have them in books, but that we might engrave them on our hearts. For this kind of possession, the keeping the commandments merely in letter, belongs to Jewish ambition; but to us the Law was not so given 22 at all, but in the fleshy tables of our hearts. 23 And this I say, not to prevent you from procuring Bibles, on the contrary, I exhort and earnestly pray that you do this, but I desire that from those books you convey the letters and sense into your understanding, that so it may be purified when it receiveth the meaning of the writing. 24 For if the devil will not dare to approach a house where a Gospel is lying, much less will any evil spirit, or any sinful nature, 25 ever touch or enter a soul which bears about with it such sentiments as it contains. Sanctify then thy soul, sanctify thy body, by having these ever in thy heart, and on thy tongue. For if foul speech defiles and invites devils, it is clear that spiritual reading sanctifies and draws down the grace of the Spirit. The Scriptures 26 are divine charms, let us then apply to ourselves and 27 to the passions of our souls the remedies to be derived from them. For if we understand what it is that is read, we shall hear it with much readiness. I am always saying this, and will not cease to say it. Is it not strange that those who sit by the market can tell the names, and families, and cities of charioteers, and dancers, and the kinds of power possessed by each, and can give exact account of the good or bad qualities of the very horses, but that those who come hither should know nothing of what is done here, but should be ignorant of the number even of the sacred Books? If thou pursuest those worldly things for pleasure, I will show thee that here is greater pleasure. Which is sweeter, tell me, which more marvelous, to see a man wrestling with a man, or a man buffering with a devil, a body closing with an incorporeal power, and him who is of thy race victorious? These wrestlings let us look on, these, which also it is seemly and profitable to imitate, and which imitating, we may be 28 crowned; but not those in which emulation brings shame to him who imitates them. If thou beholdest the one kind of contest, thou beholdest it with devils; the other, with Angels and Archangels, and the Lord of Archangels. Say now, if thou wert allowed to sit with governors and kings, and to see and enjoy the spectacle, wouldest thou not deem it to be a very great honor? And here when thou art a spectator in company with the King of Angels, when thou seest the devil grasped by the middle of the back, 29 striving much to have the better, but powerless, dost thou not run and pursue after such a sight as this? “And how can this be?” saith some one. If thou keep the Bible in thy hands; for in it thou shalt see the lists, and the long races, and his grasps, 30 and the skill of the righteous one. For by beholding these things thou shalt learn also how to wrestle so thyself, and shalt escape clear of devils; the performances of the heathen are assemblies of devils, not theaters of men. Wherefore I exhort you to abstain from these Satanic assemblies; 31 for if it is not lawful to enter into an idol’s house, much less to Satan’s festival. I shall not cease to say these things and weary you, until I see some change; for to say these things, as saith Paul, “to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” (Ph 3,1). Be not then offended at my exhortation. If any one ought to be offended, it is I who often speak and am not heard, not you who are always hearing and always disobeying. God grant that you be not always liable to this charge, but that freed from this shame you be deemed worthy to enjoy the spiritual spectacle, 32 and the glory which is to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 al). “saith the same now.”
2 al). “some flourishing.”
3 al). “as quenching easily.”
4 al). “of God.”
5 al). “leads up.”
6 or, “to remember.”
7 or, “see clearly.”
8 al). “things given.”
11 al). “readiness.”
12 oJ ejrcovmeno" prov" me, G. T).
13 al). “not finite.”
15 or, “is the work of.”
17 al). “to be hidden.”
18 al). “the thing which.”
19 kai; uJm. levgete, G. T.
22 al). “this Law was not given.”
23 i.e. on the Day of Pentecost.
24 al). “the reality of the matters.”
25 lit). “nature of sin.”
26 al). “the actions,” i.e. of the Gospel.
27 Morel). [let us prepare].
28 al, “it were meet to be.”
29 Morel). “beholding the devil shamed by means of the Divine oracles, and greatly striving.” Below Morel. reads, “run to such a sight.”
30 skavmmata, diauvlou", laba;", terms of the wrestling school). skavmma, the place dug out for the exercise, hence the exercise itself). divaulo", the double course). labh;, the gripe of the wrestler. Thus of Job, on Stat. Hom. 1,16; of the Three Children, ib. Hom. 4,8, &c.
31 This clause is not found in Ben).
32 al). “of the Eternal Goods.”
Chrysostom on John 31