10.Jesus answered. Christ now, availing himself of the opportunity, begins to preach about the grace and power of his Spirit, and that to a woman who did not at all deserve that he should speak a word to her. This is certainly an astonishing instance of his goodness. For what was there in this wretched woman, that, from being a prostitute, she suddenly became a disciple of the Son of God? Though in all of us he has displayed a similar instance of his compassion. All the women, indeed, are not prostitutes, nor are all the men stained by some heinous crime; but what excellence can any of us plead as a reason why he deigned to bestow on us the heavenly doctrine, and the honor of being admitted into his family? Nor was it by accident that the conversation with such a person occurred; for the Lord showed us, as in a model, that those to whom he imparts the doctrine of salvation are not selected on the ground of merit. And it appears at first sight a wonderful arrangement, that he passed by so many great men in Judea, and yet held familiar discourse with this woman. But it was necessary that, in his person, it should be explained how true is that saying of the Prophet,
I was found by them that sought me not; I was made manifest to them that asked not after me. I said to those who sought me not, Behold, here I am,
If thou knewest the gift of God. These two clauses, If thou knewest the gift of God, and, who it is that talketh with thee, I read separately, viewing the latter as an interpretation of the former. For it was a wonderful kindness of God to have Christ present, who brought with him eternal life. The meaning will be more plain if, instead of and, we put namely, or some other word of that kind, (75) thus: If thou knewest the gift of God, namely,who it is that talketh with thee By these words we are taught that then only do we know what Christ is, when we understand what the Father hath given to us in him, and what benefits he brings to us. Now that knowledge begins with a conviction of our poverty; for, before any one desires a remedy, he must be previously affected with the view of his distresses. Thus the Lord invites not those who have drunk enough, but the thirsty, not those who are satiated, but the hungry, to eat and drink. And why would Christ be sent with the fullness of the Spirit, if we were not empty?
Again, as he has made great progress, who, feeling his deficiency, already acknowledges how much he needs the aid of another; so it would not be enough for him to groan under his distresses, if he had not also hope of aid ready and prepared. In this way we might do no more than waste ourselves with grief, or at least we might, like the Papists, run about in every direction, and oppress ourselves with useless and unprofitable weariness. But when Christ appears, we no longer wander in vain, seeking a remedy where none can be obtained, but we go straight to him. The only true and profitable knowledge of the grace of God is, when we know that it is exhibited to us in Christ, and that it is held out to us by his hand. In like manner does Christ remind us how efficacious is a knowledge of his blessings, since it excites us to seek them and kindles our hearts.If thou knewest, says he, thou wouldst have asked. The design of these words is not difficult to be perceived; for he intended to whet the desire of this woman, that she might not despise and reject the life which was offered to her.
He would have given thee. By these words Christ testifies that, if our prayers be addressed to him, they will not be fruitless; and, indeed, without this confidence, the earnestness of prayer would be entirely cooled. But when Christ meets those who come to him, and is ready to satisfy their desires, there is no more room for sluggishness or delay. And there is no man who would not feel that this is said to all of us, if he were not prevented by his unbelief.
Living water. Though the nameWater is borrowed from the present occurrence, and applied to the Spirit, yet this metaphor is very frequent in Scripture, and rests on the best grounds. For we are like a dry and barren soil; there is no sap and no rigour in us, until the Lord water us by his Spirit. In another passage, the Spirit is likewise called clean water, (Heb_10:22,) but in a different sense; namely, because he washes and cleanses us from the pollutions with which we are entirely covered. But in this and similar passages, the subject treated of is the secret energy by which he restores life in us, and maintains and brings it to perfection. There are some who explain this as referring to the doctrine of the Gospel, to which I own that this appellation is fully applicable; but I think that Christ includes here the whole grace of our renewal; for we know that he was sent for the purpose of bringing to us a new life. In my opinion, therefore, he intended to contrast water with that destitution of all blessings under which mankind groan and labor. Again, living water is not so called from its effect, as life-giving, but the allusion is to different kinds of waters. It is called living, because it flows from a living fountain.
(75) “Si en lieu de Et, nous mettons A scavoir, ou quelque autre mot semblable.”