Hw does one glean deep and subtle meanings from scripture?
The superior faith of the Samaritans
Signs and Wonders
The Nobleman compared to the Centurion
The meaning in Scripture is often very subtle, and not immediately obvious on the surface. Today’s reading is especially subtle in one of its important messages.
Blessed Theophylact comments that St John made a point to remind us about the miracle in Cana (a ciy of the Jews) to underscore the superiority of the faith of the Samaritans, as he had just finished recounting the story of the woman at the well, and how the Samaritans gladly received Jesus and believed in Him even though He did not do any miracles in their presence:
So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. (41) And many more believed because of his own word; (42) 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. (John 4:40-42)
The superiority of the Samaritan’s faith to that of the haughty Jews (who hated the Samaritans and considered them to be unclean heretics and inferiors) is further emphasized by our Lord’s rebuke, spoken to a Jew (for the nobleman was certainly a Jew in good standing among his people):
48. Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
The nobleman’s weak faith also shows a marked contrast with that of the Samaritans:
49. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.
He could not believe that Jesus could heal without seeing his son, and blessed Theophylact further tells us that he was very afraid that his son would die, and that Christ would be unable to raise him. He only believed Jesus power to heal after he heard from his servants, who met him as he went back to his home:
51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.
Of course, it is wonderful that the man’s weak faith was made strong by the incident, and his entire household believed.
At the end of this incident, St John again stresses the weak faith of the Jews, by again mentioning that Jesus had done two miracles among the Jews. The Samaritans had believed with no miracles, and the Jews needed two miracles, and only a few believed.
54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
There is nothing in the Gospel which explicitly exalts the faith of the Samaritans over that of the Jews, but in several ways, the Gospel makes this point strongly, although subtly.
How does one glean such deep meanings from the Scripture? There are several ways; we must do them all.
We must be students of the Scriptures; it must be familiar to us because of long time association with its content. In other words, we must read it, a LOT.
We also must be “doer’s of the law and not hearers only” – no amount of reading the scripture divorced from trying to follow it will give us understanding in things that matter.
Of course, anybody who reads and studies something enough will know much about it, but the knowledge that saves is only available to those who read and attempt to follow the scripture!
We also must be liturgical people. Our services explain the hidden points of the scriptures every day. A person who reads the scriptures for understanding and neglects frequent, attentive worship in as many services as possible is like a man who studies physics but does not understand algebra. The services explain everything, either explicitly, or by framing and shaping our minds in a way which make us able to understand the Scriptures.
It is also very helpful the read the Holy Fathers, but without the first three, above, reading the Fathers is an endeavor that can only lead to deficient knowledge and boasting.
JOHN 4:46-54 46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
The Explanation of the Holy Gospel according to St john, by Blessed Theophylact, published by Chrysostom Press – http://www.chrysostompress.org/. ALL FOUR BOOKS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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