“Come, and you will see…”

Posted: October 8, 2012 in Sunday school
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On Mondays I present short versions of the Sunday school lessons I teach at my home church. We are studying the Gospel of John, with the focus of seeing Jesus as the Apostle wishes: the holy Son of God; the Messiah prophesied by all of the Old Testament; the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption. Once we see Him, we will have to believe, and thus be saved.  Scripture references are NIV unless otherwise noted.

John the Baptist, Day Three (1:35-42) – The Apostle John  grants us a look “behind the scene” at the genesis of Jesus’ earthly ministry – the calling of His first disciples in Judea.

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”  They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are You staying?”  “Come,”  He replied, “and you will see.”  So they went and saw where He was staying, and they spent that day with Him. It was about four in the afternoon.

(v. 35-39) – This second day begins much as the previous one: John the Baptist is out with two of his disciples; sees Jesus; and repeats his identification of Jesus with the prophetic Messianic title “Lamb of God”. This time, though, we see a response to John’s message – the disciples leave him to go follow Jesus!
“Following” someone, becoming a “disciple”,  in this time and place involved something very like a contractual agreement between teacher and student, and in this passage we watch the negotiations as they occur. First, because of John’s testimony, these two men recognize that Jesus is someone worthy of learning from, and so they begin to (literally) follow after Him, going where He went  and doing what He did, hoping to attract His notice (it was considered unseemly to demand the attention of a teacher). Second, Jesus does acknowledge them, asking them what they want; this is an important question, because not everyone who is interested in a teaching is automatically committed to learning. Jesus wants these men to declare their intentions – both to Him… and to themselves. Next, they do exactly that: by addressing Jesus as “Rabbi”, they express their desire to become His students; by inquiring about His current residence, they are saying that they understand that following Him will mean leaving behind the lives they already know, and living instead in the place and manner of their Teacher. This is the hallmark of discipleship – to live in the same manner as the teacher, under complete submission to his authority, in a desire to wholly absorb and reflect the likeness of the one followed. Jesus responds to this by extending an invitation – “Come and see.” Jesus lets them know that they need to be aware of what they are in for, to “count the cost” of being His disciple. This same invitation is the crux of the whole of John’s Gospel, and in fact the basis for Christian evangelism. Finally, we see the men complete the negotiation by deciding to remain with Jesus, and continue to follow Him.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

(v. 40-42) – The Apostle now reveals the name of one of these first two disciples – he is Andrew, son of John, brother of Simon Peter. Andrew is not prominently featured in John, only appearing two other times (6:8-9, 12:20-22), but it is worth noticing that every time we do see him he is bringing someone to meet Jesus; evangelism has become a priority for him – we see his motive in the words he uses with his brother,“We have found the Messiah.” All Jews placed their hopes in the promised coming of this person, the Chosen One to rescue and redeem God’s people; by using this name for Jesus, Andrew is expressing his belief that He is the fulfillment of the hopes of generations. He believes so completely he brings his brother to see for himself, so he may also be convinced.

Simon Peter must have been very puzzled by his first meeting with Jesus – by the text, His first words seem almost arrogant, calling Simon by name, then giving him a different name. But there is more going on than we see on the surface; in fact, two different sub-texts are in play. One theme is disguised by reading in English, rather than the original languages. Jesus is making a play on words by exchanging the Greek petros, meaning “stone”, for Cephas, a transliteration of the Aramaic kephas, meaning “rock”. The difference is in the way these names are used. Simon Peter could be loosely rendered “Hard-headed Simon”, or “Simon with a head like a stone” – not the most encouraging thing! But Jesus uses Peter as his first name, implying steadiness and dependability – far more inspiring. So how would Jesus know anything about this man He has only just laid eyes upon?  This is the second theme: Jesus is asserting His identity (as being privy to the knowledge of God) and authority (having the power of God) in a unique way, by naming someone. The privilege of naming is normally reserved for a father, and expresses some aspect of the recipient’s character or personality. We see God the Father exercising His privilege to change a name several times in the Old Testament (Abram/Sarai becoming Abraham/Sarah, Jacob becoming Israel), with the change being a sign that God will intervene to make the person live up to their new name. Peter as we know him from the Gospels is not the stable, steady influence his new name would suggest; rather he is impulsive, temperamental, and proud. Later, however, God would use Peter (and Paul, another disciple who received a new name) to found and lead the great churches at Antioch and Rome, which would spread the good News of Jesus far and wide.

One final note: who is the other disciple? No name is mentioned here, but the Synoptic Gospels list the first disciples as Peter, Andrew, James…and John, the writer of this account. By habit, John rarely names himself in his writings, preferring to keep the focus on Jesus; he is often described simply as “the beloved disciple”. We may imagine that when Andrew left to find his brother on that very first day, John remained at Jesus’ side; this special period of one-on-one interaction may very well  have led to a deeply intimate bond between them.

Next week we will finish Chapter One, verses 43-50, as Jesus returns home (there’s a wedding He has to attend).  He also calls more disciples to follow Him, and reveals more of Himself along the way.

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