Fifth Sunday of Pascha―The Samaritan Woman
From The Explanation of the Gospel of John
by Blessed Theophylact
5-6a. Then cometh He 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. It would be worthwhile to explain the origin of the Samaritans and how they got their name. Ambri, a king of of Israel, bought the mountain Semeron from its owner, Semer, and built a city on it which he named Samaria (see III Kings 16:23-25). At first, Israelites, not Samaritans, lived in this city. Later, when they sinned against God, these Israelites were chastised at the hands of the Assyrians on various occasions (see IV Kings 17:6-7. Finally the Assyrian king (Tiglath-pileser III) attacked them as they were plotting a rebellion, took them captive, and to forestall future revolts exiled them to the country of the Babylonians and Medes. He settled their former home with Gentiles brought from various places in his realm. After this, God showed the barbarians that He had delivered the Jews into their hands, not because He was unable to defend His people, but because the Israelites had sinned. At His command, lions attacked the Gentiles of Samaria, devouring many. When the king learned of this, he sent for certain elders of the Jews in captivity and asked them what could be done to prevent further attacks by the lions. The elders explained that the God of Israel watched over that place and would not allow anyone ignorant of His laws to dwell there. Therefore, if the king was concerned about the settlers, he should send Jewish priests to teach them the laws of God, and thus the Lord would be appeased. The king did as they suggested, and sent a Hebrew priest to Samaria to teach the new inhabitants the law of God (see IV Kings 17:24-28). However, they did not accept all the divine books, but only the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Neither did they at first completely renounce impiety; but later they did give up their idols and worshiped God alone.
After the Jews returned from captivity, they were always suspicious of the newcomers, considering them to be Assyrian by race, and called them “Samaritans” after the mountain, Semeron. But the Samaritans reckoned themselves descendants of Abraham and Jacob: for Abraham was from Chaldea, as were they; and Jacob they considered to be their own because they possessed his well. To the Jews, then, the Samaritans were an abomination, as were all Gentiles. When the Jews wished to revile the Lord, they said, Thou art a Samaritan (Jn. 8:48); and the Lord Himself commanded His disciples, Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not (Mt. 10:5).
Why does the Evangelist provide these details about Jacob’s ground and well? So that you will understand the woman’s startling statement: Our father, Jacob … gave us this well (Jn. 4:12). Sychar is another name for the town of Sykima (Shechem), whose inhabitants were massacred by Simeon and Levi, sons of Jacob, because their sister Dinah had been ravished by the son of the Sykimite ruler (see Gen. 34). From all this we learn that the rejection of the Jews began long ago. When the Jews sinned against God, the Gentiles (i.e. the Samaritans) took possession of their land; and what the patriarchs had acquired through faith in Christ, their descendants—the Jews—lost through impiety. So it is nothing new that Gentiles have now entered into the kingdom of heaven in their place.
6-8. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on 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 unto the city to buy food. By saying that the Lord was wearied with His journey, the Evangelist shows us His humility and simplicity: Christ did not use even a donkey on His journey, but walked on foot, teaching us to make do with less. He also indicates that the Lord did not journey in a leisurely manner, but purposefully. From this we should learn to labor diligently and attentively at God’s work. The words, He sat thus, indicate that He sat unpretentiously on the ground by the well. He did so because it was about the sixth hour, high noon, and the Lord needed rest and refreshment from the intense heat of the day. Lest anyone accuse the Lord of inconsistency—forbidding His disciples to go near the Gentiles while He Himself went to the Samaritans—the Evangelist explains that He stopped there and conversed with the woman because He was tired and thirsty, in accordance with His human nature. When He asked the woman for drink, she showed her eagerness to learn. Was He to shun this woman so eager to learn, who thirsted to resolve her perplexity? Of course not! God, the Lover of man, could never act thus. Again, the Lord’s utter simplicity is in evidence here. He is left all alone on the road, while His disciples have gone into the city to buy food. They gave so little attention to the demand of the stomach that they were out buying food at a time when most people are napping after dinner. They bought loaves of bread only, from which we too may learn to limit the variety of what we eat. Note the preciseness of the Evangelist. He did not assert, “It was the sixth hour,” but instead, It was about the sixth hour, so careful was he to ensure the accuracy of every word of his Gospel.
9-11. Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, How is it that Thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, 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. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast Thou that living water? The Samaritan woman concluded that the Lord was a Jew—presumably because of His appearance, dress, manner, and speech. This led her to ask, How is it that Thou, being a Jew, asketh drink of me? See how circumspect she is. If either of them had need of caution, it was the Lord, not her. For it was not the Samaritans who were forbidden to have contact with the Jews, but, as she says, the Jews who have no dealings with the Samaritans. Nonetheless, the woman attempted to correct Him out of concern that He would do something not permitted by His own Jewish law. The Lord does not reveal Who He is until the woman’s virtue, prudence, and conscientiousness have all been manifested. Then He begins to speak of more profound things. If thou knewest the gift of God…. This means, “If you knew what eternal and incorruptible blessings God bestows, and if you comprehended that I, being God, am able to give you these things, you would have asked for and received living water.” The Lord calls the gift of the Holy Spirit water because it cleanses and refreshes those who receive it. It is not still, like the water in ponds and wells, but living and continuously gushing upwards. For the grace of the Holy Spirit makes the soul constantly active in doing good, and always ready for spiritual ascents. Of such living and active water did the Apostle Paul drink, causing him to forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those which are before (Phil. 3:13). Then the woman saith unto Him, Sir. She quickly discards her perception of Him as a lowly person and addresses Him as Sir. However, she has not yet perceived the depth of Christ’s words. He means one thing by water; she understands something quite different.
12-15. Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 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. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. The woman claims Jacob as her ancestor, insisting that she shares the noble lineage of the Jews, and from the difference between the two kinds of water, at once infers the difference between the two who give them. “If You can give such water as You claim, truly You would be greater than Jacob who gave us this water.” Behold, an astute woman indeed! She approves the sweetness of the water from Jacob’s well, saying that the patriarch drank thereof himself, and his sons, and she praises its abundance, adding that there was enough for all his cattle. Then the woman asks, Art Thou greater than our father Jacob? Not having given any indication of His power, the Lord does not wish to appear boastful by stating plainly, “Yes, I am.” But His answer implies that He is indeed greater. “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give … shall never thirst. If you marvel at Jacob who gave you this water, much more should you be amazed at Me. For the water I give is far superior, and becomes a spring continuously abounding.”
The saints do not merely lay up the gifts of grace they receive from God. Rather, having accepted these gifts as seeds of virtue, they put them to use and thus increase them. The Lord teaches us to do the same in His parables of the talents and of the Good Samaritan. The man who had been given two talents earned another two by putting them to work (see Mt. 25:17); and to the innkeeper who received the man wounded by thieves the Lord promised, “Whatever more you have spent of your own, I will repay (see Lk. 10:35).” This is what the Lord implies here: “I, too, give water to the thirsty, but what I give does not remain the same in quantity. Instead, it increases to overflowing and becomes a spring.” The Lord gave Paul a small amount of water, namely, the teaching given by Ananias (see Acts 9:17); but Paul increased it, and it became a fountain pouring out torrents of preaching that flowed from Jerusalem … unto Illyricum (Rom. 15:19).
And how does the woman respond to the Lord’s words? Still in a lowly manner, for she thought He was speaking about actual water. Yet she also shows signs of spiritual progress. Before, when she could not understand, she asked dubiously, Whence then hast Thou that living water? Now, without doubting she accepts Christ’s words and begs, Give me this water. She shows herself to be wiser than Nicodemus, to whom the Lord gave a much lengthier explanation, but who still objected, How can these things be (Jn. 3:9)? Already she esteems the Lord more highly than Jacob and his well, and says: “If You have such water, give it to me, and I will no longer come here to draw.”
16-22. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said 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. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews. Seeing the woman eager to receive what He offers and insistent that He give it, the Lord asks her to call her husband, as if bidding her to share His gift with him. She answers, I have no husband, striving at once to hide her sin and to receive the gift without delay. The Lord now discloses His prophetic power: He tells her how many husbands she has had, and reveals she is now living in sin. Does she become vexed at His rebuke? Does she flee from Him in shame? No, she marvels at Him, and becomes even more attentive, saying, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. Because her soul is filled with longing for wisdom and virtue, she then questions the Lord about divine doctrines and not about worldly things like health and money. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain. Here she refers to Abraham and Isaac; for the Samaritans believed it was on this mountain that Isaac was taken to be sacrificed (see Gen. 22). “And how is it,” she asks, “ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship?”
Do you see how her thoughts are moving to a higher plane? Moments earlier her concern was how to avoid the daily trouble of satisfying her thirst; now she questions the Lord on issues of doctrine. Christ knows her capacity to understand spiritual things, but does not yet address her question. Instead He reveals a loftier teaching than He had disclosed to either Nicodemus or Nathaniel: “The time is coming when God will be worshiped neither here nor in Jerusalem. You are trying to prove that the worship of the Samaritans is superior to that of the Jews. But I say to you that neither one is the best: there will be another way, superior to both. Nonetheless, the worship of the Jews is holier than that of the Samaritans. For ye worship ye know not what: we, the Jews, know what we worship.”
Here Christ counts Himself a Jew, speaking in terms the woman can understand. She thinks of Him as a Jewish prophet, so He says, We worship. In what way did the Samaritans not know what they worshiped? They thought that God was limited to one location, their holy mountain. This is why, when the lions were attacking them, as related above, they sent word to the king of the Assyrians that the God of that place did not accept them. For this same reason, they continued a long time to worship idols and not God Himself. Most, but not all, of the Jews were free of this misconception and knew God to be the Lord of all; thus, salvation is of the Jews. This has two meanings for us. First, God’s truth was revealed to the world through the Jews. The Jews were the first to know God and reject idols. Moreover, even many erroneous doctrines (such as the Samaritan notions about the worship of God) are merely distortions of Jewish teaching. Second, the Lord’s Advent, which was from the Jews, He calls salvation. For the Lord—Who came from the Jews according to the flesh—is Salvation.
23-24. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. “We Jews have a form of worship superior to yours; nevertheless, the worship of the Jews will also come to an end. Not only will the places of worship change, but the manner of worship as well. This change is at the very door, and now is; the statutes taught by the prophets will not last much longer.” By true worshippers the Lord means those who live according to His law, who neither confine God to one place, as do the Samaritans, nor serve Him with a material, bodily worship, as do the Jews, but who worship Him in spirit and in truth, that is, with their soul and with purity of mind. Because God is spirit, which means He is bodiless, He must be worshipped in an incorporeal manner appropriate to the soul, which is both spiritual and bodiless. The Lord knew that many heretics would soon appear, seeming to worship Him incorporeally, but not holding to the Orthodox doctrine regarding His person. With this in mind, the Lord adds the words, and in truth. For one must do both: worship God noetically, and hold to true doctrine regarding the nature of His being.
By a different interpretation, some say that “spirit and truth” refer to the two aspects of our Christian philosophy: active virtue (πράξις) and divine vision (θεωρία). In spirit means “by activity.” The Apostle Paul writes, As many as are led by the Spirit of God …mortify the deeds (τὰς πράξεις) of the body (Rom. 8:13-14). And again, The desires of the flesh are against the spirit, and the desires of the spirit are against the flesh (Gal. 5:17). Therefore, to worship the Father in spirit implies the active practice of the virtues (to subdue the flesh). To worship Him in truth implies contemplation of the divine. This is what Paul means when he writes, Therefore let us keep the feast … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (I Cor. 5:8). Sincerity refers to purity of life, which is active virtue; truth refers to divine vision (θεωρητικοῦ), which is, contemplation of the true dogma of the divine Word.
By yet a third interpretation, spirit and truth may also be understood as follows. On the one hand, the Samaritans viewed God as a divinity limited to a particular location, and believed He must be worshipped only “in this place.” On the other, all the religious observances of the Jews consisted of types and figures of things to come. Thus the words in spirit are addressed to the Samaritans: “You Samaritans offer to God a kind of worship that limits Him to one location. True worshippers will not be limited by locality; they will worship in spirit, which means, with mind and soul. Neither will they worship by means of types and figures, as do the Jews. Instead, they will worship in truth, in full reality, when the Jewish customs and observances have come to an end.” Since the Judaic law, understood according to the letter, was a type and shadow, perhaps the words in spirit are contradistinctive to the letter of the law. (For the law of the letter no longer prevails among us, but in its place, the law of the spirit, for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life, II Cor. 3:6.) And the words, in truth, are contradistinctive to the types and foreshadowings.
Therefore the Lord proclaims that the hour cometh, and indeed now is. He is referring to the time of His Advent in the flesh, when true worshippers will not worship in one place only, like the Samaritans, but in every place will offer immaterial worship according to the Spirit. Paul expresses the same thought when he writes, God is my witness, Whom I worship with my spirit (Rom. 1:9). Nor will true worshippers offer service to God that is a type and shadow of things to come, as did the Jews. Instead, they will offer true worship, containing nothing obscure. Such are the worshippers whom God seeks: spiritual, because He is Spirit, and true, because He is Truth.
25-27. The woman saith unto him, I know that the Messiah cometh, Who is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He. And upon this came His disciples, and marvelled that He talked with a woman: yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her? How did the woman know that the Messiah is coming, Who is called Christ? From the writings of Moses, for the Samaritans accepted the five books of Moses, as we have already explained. Reading these, they knew the various prophecies concerning Christ, which tell that He is the Son of God. For example, at the creation, when God said, Let us make man (Gen. 1:26), the Father was speaking to the Son. When the three Angels visited Abraham, it was the Son Who spoke with Abraham in the tent (see Gen. 18). When Jacob prophesied, A ruler shall not fail from Judah … until there come the things stored up for Him, and He is the expectation of the nations (Gen. 49:10), he was referring to the Son. When Moses stated, The Lord thy God shall raise up to thee a Prophet of thy brethren, like me; Him shall ye hear (Dt. 18:15), he was also speaking about the Son. From these and many other prophecies pointing to the coming of the Christ, the woman knew that the Messiah cometh.
Having reached the opportune moment in their conversation, the Lord reveals Himself to her. If He had said from the start, “I am the Christ,” He would have put her off by appearing arrogant and presumptuous. Instead He leads her step by step to the point where she remembers that the Messiah will come; then He reveals Himself. But why to this woman, and not to the Jews who repeatedly demanded, “Tell us if Thou art the Christ”? He said nothing to the Jews because the purpose of their questions was not to learn, but to have as many charges as possible to bring against Him. Because this woman is honest and questions Him with a sincere intent, the Lord reveals Himself to her. For she desired simply to know the truth. This is clear from what follows: hearing His words, she at once believed, and led others into the net of faith, showing that her mind was both probing and believing.
At just the right moment, when the Lord had finished teaching and conversing with the woman, the disciples returned. They were astounded at His humility when they saw Him, a man acclaimed by all, speaking meekly and compassionately with a poor woman, and moreover, one who was a Samaritan. But though astonished, they were not so presumptuous as to ask what He had been discussing with her, for they usually maintained the proper respect of disciples for their teacher. On certain other occasions they did act more boldly: for instance, when John leaned on His breast and inquired who would betray Him (see Jn.13:23-25), or when they asked Him which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (see Mt. 18:1), or when the sons of Zebedee requested that one of them sit at His right hand and the other at His left (see Mk. 18:1). They were outspoken on these occasions because they wanted to know about seemingly important matters of direct concern to themselves. Here, however, such boldness would have been out of place. They had no need to ask about what did not pertain to them.
28-30. The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, who told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto Him. The Lord’s words kindled such zeal in her heart that she left her waterpot, straightway choosing Christ’s water over that of Jacob’s well. Ordained to the rank of apostle by the faith taking hold of her heart, she teaches an entire city and draws it to Christ. Come, see a man, she says, who told me all things that I ever did. Her soul aflame with divine fire, she disregards all earthly consequences, even shame and dishonor. Behold, she is not afraid to declare her sins: See a man who told me all things that ever I did. She could have spoken more guardedly by saying, for instance, “Behold a prophet.” Instead, she disregards her own reputation and thinks only to proclaim the truth. Nevertheless, she does not state categorically, “This is the Christ,” but rather, Is not this (perhaps) the Christ? making the truth easier for the others to accept and encouraging them to reach the same conclusion themselves. If she had insisted, “This is the Christ,” they may have scoffed at her and rejected her proclamation out of hand as merely the opinion of a fallen woman.
Now there are some who understand the five husbands of the woman to represent the five books of Moses, the only part of the Old Testament that she, as a Samaritan, accepted. They also interpret Christ’s words, He whom thou now hast, to mean, “The word which you have now received from Me is not thy husband,” that is, “You have not yet been yoked to My teaching.” The Samaritan woman may also be understood as a type of human nature, which formerly dwelt on a mountain, symbolizing the human mind originally filled with grace. Before he sinned, Adam was adorned with every divine gift, and was even a prophet. When he was raised from sleep he spoke prophetically of the fashioning of the woman and the husband’s relationship to her: This now is bone of my bones (Gen. 2:23) and, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother … (Gen. 3:1).
Our nature, then, was on this mountain; the human mind was exalted. But when it rebelled against God and transgressed, it was led away captive; and the devil, who had taken us prisoner, also took our nature’s holy offspring, by which I mean all divine thoughts, and led them away to Babylon, that is, he subjected them to the confusion of this world. In their place the devil planted barbarous thoughts. These in turn were assailed by lions (symbolizing the noble thoughts which should exercise dominion over us) until these vile thoughts accepted divine truth. But they did not accept truth in its entirety, for the evil which had once settled on the mountain of our lofty mind was not altogether transformed into good: having accepted the law of Moses, it remained under the curse. Therefore Jesus journeyed to us, that is, He took many paths and employed many stratagems to bring us salvation—sometimes issuing threats and warnings, sometimes striking us with calamities, sometimes showering us with blessings, sometimes promising us good things to come.
When He had grown weary from His journey and employing all the methods devised for our correction, He found the final means for our salvation; being well-pleased, He sat down and rested. What was the final method? The font of Baptism, by which He brought salvation to our nature, as He did to the Samaritan woman. This spring may rightly be called the well of Jacob, that is, the well of him who seized the heel of his brother Esau and supplanted him. For in the font of Baptism, where the Lord crushed the head of the dragon and gave him as food to the Ethiopian people, a man can trip up and vanquish the devil (see Ps. 73:15). By the dragon, understand the devil, who is the food and joy of those whose souls are black and have no share in the divine light. Five “husbands” have been yoked to our nature, namely, the various laws which God gave her: to Adam in paradise, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, and lastly, to the prophets. For Noah received a commandment after the Flood, and Abraham received the law of circumcision (see Gen. 9:1-17; 17:1-4). After our nature was wedded to these five laws, she took to herself a sixth, who was not her husband and whom she had not yet wedded—the law of the New Testament. But, by a different interpretation, one might also understand this sixth, which was not our nature’s husband, to be the law of idolatry. Indeed God did not give her this law for a husband; instead, she joined herself to it as an adulteress. Therefore the prophet cries, She hath committed adultery with wood, and, They have fornicated under every tree (Jer. 3:6, 9), referring to the pagan carvings and trees which Judah and Israel worshipped. Man has fallen headlong to such depths of senselessness as to worship lovely trees like the cypress and the plane simply because they are beautiful. Therefore, when our nature loved and embraced this sixth law, an adulterer, and succumbed to idolatry, the Lord came and delivered us. This is why He says, he whom thou now hast; for by the time of Christ’s appearing the wisest even of the Jews had been tainted by paganism. Thus the Pharisees believed in fate and practiced astrology.
The Samaritan woman also represents every soul which, being yoked irrationally to the five senses, afterwards falls into the fornication of heresy, erring grievously in doctrine. On such a soul Jesus bestows blessings, whether through Baptism or through the font of tears. Tears may likewise be called Jacob’s well, for they spring from a mind in which repentance has supplanted wickedness. From this water of repentance the mind drinks, and his children, namely, his thoughts, and his cattle, that is, the powers of the soul—such as anger and desire—not endowed with reason. For tears bring refreshment to the soul, its thoughts, and its faculties.
31-34. In the meanwhile His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, eat. But He said unto them, I have food to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him aught to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My food is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work. The disciples asked the Lord to eat, meaning, they begged Him, not impertinently but out of love, when they saw their Master exhausted by the journey and the oppressive heat. But the Lord, knowing that the Samaritan woman was about to bring to Him nearly all the inhabitants of the city, and that the Samaritans would believe in Him, replied, “I have food to eat, which is, the salvation of men. And I have a greater desire for this food than any one of you has for material food. But you, My disciples, do not know what is this food which is Mine to eat. You are still dull in understanding and cannot fathom My enigmatic sayings; you do not realize that man’s salvation is My real sustenance.” In another sense, “You do not know this food,” means, “You do not discern that the Samaritans will believe and will be saved.”
The bewildered disciples ask each other, Hath any man brought Him aught to eat? In awe of Christ, as always, they dare not question Him further. But without their asking, He reveals the meaning of His mysterious words: My food is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work. The will of God is the salvation of men. The prophets and the law were not able to complete the will of God because they themselves were imperfect and incomplete. They could do no more than reveal types and foreshadowings of good things to come. But Christ accomplished God’s work—our salvation and renewal. It seems to me that God’s work is also man himself, whose fashioning the Son of God alone completed. He did so by manifesting our nature as sinless in Himself. Utterly vanquishing the world, He showed it to be complete and perfect in every virtue through His divine life in human flesh. The law, too, is the work of God, since it was written by God’s finger and fulfilled in Christ (see Ex. 31-18; Dt. 9:10). For the end of the law is Christ (Rom. 10:4), Who put an end to the law by fulfilling every one of its requirements, and Who transformed material worship into spiritual.
The Lord often speaks enigmatically to capture His listeners’ attention and induce them to delve into the meaning of His veiled words. By calling man’s salvation food, He teaches His disciples that, having been ordained as the teachers of the world, they should pay less attention to food for the body, and redirect their hunger to the saving of men. Take note that the Lord did accept food offered Him by others, for the disciples said, Hath any man brought Him aught to eat? He did this, not because He needed others to minister to Him (how could this be true of Him that giveth food to all flesh! Ps. 135:25) but so that those who brought Him food might have their reward and become accustomed to providing for others. At the same time, He gave an example to all men to be neither ashamed of poverty nor embarrassed when given food by others. It is especially important to provide teachers their sustenance, that they might labor without distractions or interruptions in the ministry of the word. Elsewhere, He impressed this same point upon His disciples: they are to be fed by those whom they teach (see Lk. 10:7).
35-37. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. Now the Lord begins to reveal to His disciples the meaning of what He just hinted at in riddles (v. 34). “You say,” meaning, you are thinking, “that the temporal harvest is coming in four months. But I say to you, the noetic harvest is here already.” He is referring to the Samaritans who were just then approaching. “Therefore lift up your eyes, both noetic and physical, and look on the multitude of approaching Samaritans, souls ready and eager to believe. They are like fields white for the harvest. Just as whitened ears of wheat are ready for reaping, so are these men’s souls prepared for harvest.
And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. What Christ means is this: “The prophets sowed but did not reap. Yet by no means have they been deprived of the joy of the reward, but rejoice with you who do the reaping. It is not so with material harvests. If it should happen that one man sows wheat and another reaps, the man who sowed gains only sorrow. But in the spiritual realm, the prophets who preached long ago, cultivating and preparing the minds of men, rejoice with you who now draw men to salvation.” The Lord spoke these words, I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour, to encourage the disciples, so that when they went out to preach, they would not be overwhelmed by the arduous, exhausting task. “The prophets undertook the harder work,” He explains, “while you have merely to complete what has already been prepared.” The Lord aptly quotes the well-known proverb, One soweth, and another reapeth.
See how He always speaks with authority as Master: It is I Who sent you to reap [̓Εγὼ ἀπέστειλα ὑμὰς θερίζειν.) By this saying He rebukes the followers of the accursed Marcion, Manes, and the like, who made the Old Testament something alien to the New. If the Old Testament were indeed opposed to the New, how could the apostles have reaped what the prophets had sown? But in very truth the apostles reaped the harvest of the Old Testament, which therefore cannot be sundered from the New. They are one and the same. And let the followers of Arius hear that it is as Lord and Master that Christ sends out His disciples. He sends them out to cut down and reap Jews and Greeks alike, planted in the earth amidst corruptible things. The apostles carry both to the threshing floor, that is, into the Church, where they are threshed by the oxen—signifying the teachers—and made subject to them. There they are crushed and broken. When all that is chaff (fleshly) and fuel for the fire has been removed, they are stored up as pure ears of wheat in the granaries of heaven, becoming celestial fare for God Who delights in their salvation. Paul likewise reaped souls, cutting them away from attachment to earthly things and teaching that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). The words, look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest, some have taken as an elegant metaphor of old men, in reference to their white beards and to the harvest of death.
39-42. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him for the saying of the woman, who testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and He abode there two days. And many more believed because of His own word, and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. The Samaritans believed because of the woman’s words, wisely determining that she would not have exposed the secrets of her life in order to please another, unless the man whom she proclaimed were truly great and extraordinary. Therefore, showing their faith by their works, they begged Him to remain with them always. For the word tarry (μεῖναι) means “to make one’s home” among them. But He was not persuaded to do so, and stayed there only two days, during which time many more believed because of His teaching. The Evangelist does not need to tell us the particular words of Christ’s marvelous teaching: merely stating the end result allows us to sense their divine power. Often the Evangelists omit many of His great deeds and words, because their purpose in writing is not to make a grandiose display of His life, but simply to declare the truth. By His mere presence among the Samaritans, the Lord is also teaching something profound. Without any sign or miracle, the Samaritans believed and begged Him to live with them. But after receiving ten thousand signs and miracles, the Jews drove Him away; for those in his house shall be all a man’s enemies (Mic. 7:6; Mt. 10:36). See how quickly the multitude outdid the woman who taught them. They do not call Him “prophet” or “Saviour of Israel,” but, the Saviour of the world, using the definite article to indicate, “This is The Saviour,” the only real Saviour of all mankind. Many have come to save—lawgivers, prophets, and angels—but He is the true Saviour.
Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
May 2, 2010
Finding a Samaritan woman by Jacob's well, Jesus, Who covers the earth with clouds, begged her for water. O the wonder! He Who is upborne by the cherubim conversed with a harlot woman; He Who suspended the earth upon the waters asked for water; He Who pours forth springs and lakes of water seeks water, although in truth He desired to draw to Himself her who was entrapped by the adversary, and to give the water of life for her to drink, who was grievously consumed by unseemly deeds: for He alone is compassionate and loves mankind.
(From the Glory, of Lord, I have cried, at Vespers)