"Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat thus down by the well. It was about the sixth hour." John 4:6

Nothing more frequently impressed the writer while sojourning in Palestine, than a feature in the humiliation of our blessed Lord which never so much as occurred previously—the bodily fatigue which He must have constantly undergone in His often pilgrimages along arid plains and sultry valleys. If even now, with all the comforts of tent and equipage, the modern traveler finds walking oppressive and exhausting, what must it have been to traverse these, with no aid but the staff and rough sandal. The Ethiopian eunuch, referred to in the preceding chapter, traveling through the desert of Gaza, was "sitting in his chariot." We picture Abraham, or his grandson who dug the well of Sychar, as they came and went from Mesopotamia or Hebron, mounted on their camels, with "all the substance they had gotten" following in long file; but, He, whose day they saw afar off and were glad, seems on all occasions, except one, to have journeyed on foot; that one (the Hosanna entrance) being an exceptional public assertion of His theocratic and royal rights as Zion's king. While the pilgrim father of old, and the pilgrim wayfarer still, pitch their canvas or goatskin tents, this Lord of pilgrims was content to spread His garment of camel's hair under the shade of some fig tree or thorny nook; or perchance within one of the abounding natural caverns in the limestone rock, He would catch a few hours of broken slumber, either when night drew its curtains around Him, or, as is the used of travelers and caravans still, during the sultry heat of noon. Often in His own touching words, (among the most touching He ever spoke,) 'the foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of man had nowhere to lay His head.'

It is such a picture which is now brought before us in the course of our narrative—"Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat thus down by the well. It was about the sixth hour." Touching description! He had been traversing as already described in the introductory chapter, during the long hours of morning, the valleys of Ephraim, on His way to the Wady El-Mokhna, and then along the unsheltered plain itself, under the blaze of that Syrian sun. The ordinary mealtime of noon had arrived, when hunger was superadded to physical fatigue, and being weary with His journey and long fast, He "sat down by the well." This is an expression which, indefinite in itself, has received various interpretations. By some it has been supposed to mean that He sat there 'as best He could;' either on the hard parapet, or else on the beaten ground, making the rough curb-stone a pillow for His head. By others, and among these Chrysostom, that He flung Himself down 'as soon as He could,' upon the first seat He could find. Others, connecting the word "thus" with the word "tired," refer it to His weary position; He sat "thus"—faint, toilworn—His hand, perhaps, on His throbbing temples, shielding His head from the oppressive sun-rays. Whichever meaning we adopt, here at least, we have an apparently poor pilgrim of Galilee, companionless, hungry, thirsty, prostrated with fatigue, thankful, as we shall find, of a cup of water from a wayside well, but being unprovided with rope or pitcher or other appliance, compelled to wait for some chance visitor to supply the boon.

It is in such incidental occurrences that our Lord's humanity and the lowliness of His humiliation are most touchingly exemplified. We have other more marked and expressive illustrations of His weakness and weariness—His participation alike in the sufferings and innocent infirmities of the race He came to save. As when, amid the peculiar white limestone deserts which overhang the Dead Sea, utterly devoid of sustenance for man and beast, the arch-enemy assaulted Him through one of the avenues of our physical nature, and, on the plea of demonstrating His divinity, would make Him yield to the temptation of converting the rocks around into bread, to stay the race of hunger. Or as, after a long day's unremitting labor on the shores of the Lake of Galilee, overtasked nature asserted her claims, and on the rough planks of a fishing-boat He lay fast asleep. Or when, in the lingering agonies of the Cross, His life-blood ebbing away, He gasped forth with fevered burning lips, "I thirst."

But, we repeat, it is in the quieter nooks of that valley of humiliation which He trod, that we come often on the most affecting of such testimonies. As when His poverty is attested by His virgin mother, eight days after His birth, "when the time of her purification according to the law had been completed," unable to bring the customary sacrifice of "a lamb for a burnt-offering," she resorts to the gracious alternative provided for the poor of the people—"a pair of turtle doves and two young pigeons." Or when He has to summon a fish from the sea of Gennesaret to pay the tribute-debt He is otherwise unable to pay. Or when mind and body together shattered by the news of the beloved Baptist's cruel death, He has to suspend His labors; and seek the restorative for a wounded spirit in rest and solitude. Or in crossing Mount Olivet, when it is touchingly said, "Early in the morning as He was on His way back to the city He was hungry;" and when that bodily hunger was mocked by the pretentious leaves of a fig tree "where He found no fruit." Or when, on His way to Calvary, the agonizing strain of the preceding day and night, alike on His physical and moral nature, caused Him to fall powerless under the weight of His cross.

Or yet again, as here, when we behold Him a weary, exhausted wayfarer on the Palestine highway, the sun of high noon beating on His unsheltered head, asking a cup of cold water from the poor sinner He was about to pluck as a brand from the burning! It has often been noted, that though from time to time He exercised miraculous powers to provide for the needs and even the redundancies of others, (as in the case of the wine at Cana, or the bread and fishes at Bethsaida-Julias,) He never called these into requisition for Himself.

At this very moment, how easily could He, to whom belonged the cattle on a thousand hills and every bird that soared among these surrounding valleys, have summoned from the groves of Shechem and Gerizim winged messengers like those which fed of old His great prophet, to minister to His necessities. No, He had only to speak the word, and nobler ministering spirits—legions of angels—would have trooped to His side with the bread of heaven—the best fruits culled from the celestial paradise. But "in all things it behooved Him to be like His brethren." He had chosen poverty as His birthright; and His divine prerogatives, so far as regarded Himself, are never employed to mitigate the needs and woes and privations of the estate to which He thus voluntarily submitted. Even on the cross He refused the soporific offered to deaden the acuteness of pain. And now, faint and weary at the well of Sychar, He is content with the draught of water, until His disciples return from their errand to the adjoining city "to buy food."

Oh most precious and consolatory truth! That Savior to whom I owe my everlasting salvation, is the Brother of my nature—in all points tempted like as I am. It is impressively said regarding Him by the great apostle, "He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham," (Heb. 2:16.) In other words, it was not the Angelic, but the Adamic nature he given to assume. Why not the angelic? why not the nobler nature of these principalities and powers—the chieftains and aristocracy of God's family? We answer, for two reasons: first, The angelic nature is a spiritual essence. "A spirit has not flesh and bones:" it is incapable, therefore, of corporeal suffering. It behooved Him as the divine oblation to suffer, and to suffer in the nature—the human nature which had sinned. "Therefore," says the apostle, adverting to this very point, "we see Jesus made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death." And then, secondly, in addition to this, and more especially—had the assumption of the angelic nature been otherwise compatible with the requirements of the divine law, it would have prevented participation in feeling and sympathy with the myriads He came to redeem. An angel can sympathize only with his brother angel—the brotherhood of ministering spirits. It requires a man to sympathize with his brother man. But we have SUCH a Brother—such a High Priest "touched with the feeling of our infirmities."

Moreover, while He had it in His power to select from all the degrees and gradations of society—the mass of the human family being composed of the lowly and the poor, the children of need and poverty and suffering, He has forever sanctified and dignified POVERTY by taking it as His earthly inheritance. And thus, while those occupying the pinnacles of worldly greatness—while widowed royalty on the throne can cling to Him in this blessed identity of humanity as the Prince of sufferers, preeminently can the widow and orphan of the mine, and the hut, and the lonely garret—the teeming thousands struggling with hard toil and privation and poverty, claim the exalted sympathy of Him who, "though He was rich, yet for their sakes became poor."

But it would be a poor and insufficient anchorage for the human soul, in its deathless interests, if this were all. However pure and untainted that HUMANITY was, however wide and comprehensive in its sympathies, we require something else, something more stable to lean upon, than the mere virtues of a spotless human life—the ideal of a perfect manhood nature. Blessed be God, the might of DEITY is revealed in conjunction with the tenderness of Humanity, "His name is Immanuel, God with us."

And it is remarkable how often, how generally, the two natures in the one Person are associated, alike in typical prefiguration, in gospel narrative, and in dogmatic statement. The modern Socinian or Unitarian overlooks or ignores this. He takes the coin and gazes only on the side bearing the human mark and superscription—the manger, the temptation, the unsullied life, the hero-death: he has not turned to the reverse golden side, gleaming with divine attestations. He goes to the old Sinai wilderness, where that same Savior, the covenant angel, revealed Himself as the deliverer of typical Israel; but he sees only a bush—a desert shrub, "a root out of a dry ground," burning with fire—the emblem of lowly, yet pure humanity: he has failed to hear the voice emanating from that oracle of burning flame, "I AM THAT I AM!" "I am the Lord God of your fathers, the GOD of Abraham, the GOD of Isaac, and the GOD of Jacob." He goes to the gospel story. He beholds a lowly individual baptized in the Jordan, receiving a sinner's lowly rite; but he fails to see that "fulfillment of all righteousness" transfigured into a divine manifesto, by the opened heavens and the descending dove and the witnessing voice. He beholds a slumbering man breathing heavily on the deck of a Tiberias fishing boat; but he fails to hear Him rebuking, with the voice of omnipotence, the winds and waves. He beholds the expiring criminal on Calvary, thorn-crowned, scourged, naked, buffeted—a pure and innocent, but a helpless, powerless martyr, dragged to unmerited death; but he fails to note how that mysterious Sufferer evokes a tribute from the dumb earth as it trembles to support His ignominious cross—the upheaving rocks around resenting the insults to the great Lord of all. And here, while he beholds an exhausted traveler reclining on the parapet of the well at Sychar, he forgets the omniscient glance which could unlock the deep secrets of the heart which quailed under the eye of Infinite purity, and the tongue which "told her all things that she ever did."

It is the same with regard to the dogmatic and doctrinal assertions of evangelists and apostles. The Unitarian sees proof positive of the humanity of Christ in John's unequivocal assertion, "The Word was made flesh;" but he has failed to mark the antecedent announcement, equally unequivocal, in the same page, "The Word was God." He reads the unchallenged statement of Paul in the commencement of his Epistle to the Hebrews, "You are my Son, this day have I begotten You;" but he has omitted the counterpart assertion, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." He reads in the declaration of the same apostle, the undoubted testimony to the lowly humanity assumed—"He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men;" but he has eliminated from his creed and his proof the opening words, "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." He reads in connection with the noble pedigree of Israel, "Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came;" but he fails to finish the sentence, "who is over all, God blessed forever," (Rom.9:5.) He looks to Christ as an example. He owns it to be the noblest, purest, loftiest, of restored and regenerated humanity; and he reads in the Epistle to the Colossians, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him;" but he has culpably concealed and overlooked that lofty introduction in the same epistle, "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him; and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," (Col. 1:15-17; 2:6, 9.)

Reader, be it yours to rejoice in the glorious combination; that He who orders the magnificent marchings of Pleiades and Orion, who guides Arcturus with his sons—took into union with the might and majesty of Deity, the lowliness and the weakness of suffering humanity; that He who had the borrowed manger at Bethlehem, and led the youth of artisan toil at Nazareth, and sat the fainting pilgrim by the well of Jacob, can enter not only into the deeper and nobler sympathies of our nature, but even into its lowliest necessities and poorest, lowliest needs—hunger and thirst and faintness and lassitude—so that we may cease to wonder that many a soiled leaf has been doubled down by the begrimed fingers of the children of poverty, at the fourth chapter of John's Gospel.

May it not have been this which induced the very beggars on the streets and highways of Palestine, when they heard that "Jesus of Nazareth passed by," to cry out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon us!"

And He wears that humanity now. He is changed indeed in His outward estate. The wayfarer of Shechem is enthroned as King of saints amid a multitude which no man can number. But it is not the less true that the Divine Shepherd, who is now leading His flock to the living fountains of waters in heaven, is, in the sympathies of His glorified manhood, the unchanged Savior, who sat by the fountain on earth. When the loud wail of suffering humanity is borne to His ear, it gets the response of a Human heart. That noontide hour of Sychar is in habitual remembrance with Him, to whom a thousand years are as one day, for He is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever!"

Are there any whose eyes trace these pages, who, like Him, are weary—weary in another sense—weary with life's journey, the sun of TRIAL beating on their unsheltered heads; weary with pain, weary with heart sorrows—the disciples gone away—left companionless and alone; that too at the noontide hour, the hour they most needed rest and refreshment an d comfort? "Consider Him . . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Go seat yourselves by that weary One, and hear Him whisper in your ears, in the midst of His own languor and faintness, "I know your sorrows!"

Are others weary, but, not like Him, weary with SIN? who have come up through these hot valleys of temptation, and are now sitting by the poisoned wells of existence, the pitcher broken at the cistern; nothing to draw with; the zest of life gone; the hot sun blazing in the meridian; no canopy, no fig tree shade, no rocky shelter to screen them from the fierce rays? Go, seat yourselves, too, by that weary One. Like the bird long struggling with baffled wings against the storm, drop into the crevices of this true Rock and hear the word of welcome, 'Come to Me, and I will give you rest.'

Are there others again—how many such are there—who have reached that period of existence which reminds them of Sychar's noontide—who are undergoing the burden and heat of the day in the very midst of life's arduous callings. Manhood's sixth hour; manhood in its prime! It is a befitting pausing place and pausing season in the journey, a blessed opportunity to seat yourselves by the well and the water of life. "About the sixth hour." One half of existence over. The morning and early hours gone. The steep valleys of early manhood, with their climbing struggles, their "hill difficulties," surmounted. But still, who that has been most successful in the past half journey—who that has reached life's midway well with least toiling effort—but has to fling himself down and confess that he is 'weary,' and if the living water be yet untasted, to cry out, in the anguish of unquenched and unsatisfied longings, "I thirst." Half way!

Oh, with many, with most, it is past the half-way journey. They have seen that sun, which has now attained its zenith, rise; but they are not to see it set. The valley of death, like the valley of Shechem, may be close at hand, its entrance within sight, while the true fountain of life is still unrepaired to.

My brother, as with the pilgrim in the caravan of old, or the traveler at this day by the Well of Jacob, you are seated in a spiritual sense there, gazing either on the Ebal of curses, or the Gerizim of blessings. Which are you to choose? to go on and brave the entrance under Ebal's frowning rocks; or to drink the living, life-giving water, and begin forthwith the ascent of the true Mountain of beatitudes beyond the Valley of the shadow? Is it the Sabbath's reposeful noontide hour which you are now enjoying; in which you are invited to turn aside and "rest a while," after traversing the week's rough highways of toil—to take off the dust-covered sandals and be alone with Jesus? Convert the hour of rest into the hour of solemn meditation and prayerful resolve. Look upwards to these mountain summits which enclose the valley. Select your alternative. Behold there is set before you the blessing and the curse, (Deut. 11:26.) "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart: who does not lift up his soul to an idol, or swear by what is false." He shall receive THE BLESSING from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."

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