John 4:27: Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”
They “marveled.” This word expresses profound amazement or astonishment, and the context determines whether it is positive or negative. Furthermore, it is in a form that means that they were continuing to marvel, and concerning what their Lord was doing – speaking to a woman, and a Samaritan one at that – it is safe to say that they were not being amazed in a positive sense; yet, they did not speak to Him about it, or ask Him anything about it.
It is to their commendation that they did not say anything, for they were learning from the Master, and though at times they would question Him, (as to His coming suffering, death, and resurrection), and dispute with Him, we find this conduct (of reverent listening) more often than not in their fellowship with Him, and this is a good lesson for us: When we do not understand a particular thing, or particular things, of which our Master has deigned to give us through those He wills (those who preach and teach the Word as He has ordained them – 2 Timothy 2:2 – as well as our teaching one another in mutual fellowship in the light, as He is in the light – 1 John 1:7), we are better off to go into prayer and study, using those means He has so ordained, until such a time as He wills to make clear to us what is not clear at present. When we precipitously, or rashly, blurt out disagreements with that which is taught, we are coming against not merely the one teaching, but the One who has appointed the teacher, and in a covenant relationship which has been established by He who is our Head, such ought not to be done in either the immediate setting of corporate worship, nor in the single unity of personal worship or fellowship with members outside the corporate setting (for we are all members of one another, and with one another always, spiritually, whether alone or with others), lest we hear from our Lord “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23).
We can extend this observation outward to include all the covenant dealings of God’s people which are after the flesh, for it is when such order as the Lord has ordained (1 Corinthians 14:26, 33, 37-38, 40) is not maintained, that we cease to “strive mightily to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” and there arises that thing, or those things, which breed what is variously called dissensions, factions, and schisms, all of which are but descriptions of divisions, and such divisions as are pictures by the gulf between one part of a mountain and the next by an impassable valley cut into the mountain (and but for the Lord, such schisms would be without healing), and so James, the brother of our Lord, by the Spirit, well states, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? 6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (James 4:1–6 – The New King James Version).
If we are amazed at what is being said by the teacher of the Lord in our corporate worship, as in the manner of the apostles in this instance of our Lord speaking with the Samaritan woman, let us take their example, and remain silent, not giving vent to irritation, annoyance, or outright anger that stems from our lack of understanding, which in turn most often stems from our strong desires to have our pleasures (what is deemed right and desirable by us) immediately gratified, actually lusting for that which we do not have, because what we do have springs forth from those desires to gratify the fleshly knowledge that is a friend of the world – even a temporary making ourselves friends with the world shows that, at just that point, the lust of the flesh, eyes and pride of life are so important to us that we would blurt out that which shows that we are, at that very moment, enemies of God.
As the apostle has said, “May it never be!” Let us learn from the example of the silence of the first disciples of our Lord here, and remember the Proverb, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:27-28).
However, we trust that we are not those deemed intelligent simply by our silence, but that is not the thrust of the Proverb – it is to teach that in our Lord’s presence, as always, it is wisdom to hear what is being taught by Him, and if there is disagreement, such will also be done in the spirit of the unity of the faith, having the same mind and doctrine, so the question will be asked in a manner which does not disrupt the people of God’s fellowship at a proper time, and in a manner that is consistent with the God of peace, not confusion, as in all the churches of Christ. There are times set for asking in a study context, but even these will not be done in a manner that causes confusion and dissension, which are not of God or His Spirit, but of the flesh, and this is in accordance with that formative discipline which is to be a part of every sort of corporate and private worship of our great God and Savior and Head, as we looked at elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
So, we see that even in the silent amazement of the apostles that our Lord spoke with one who was disdained by her own people, there was not only some wisdom, but instruction, which we would do well to observe.
Let us be in awestruck wonder at the instruction of the Lord even in the most simple of Scriptural statements.
Soli Deo Gloria – Bill