Thought for the day
It is good to stop from time to time and ask myself, what am I looking for? This can be answered in the ideal: “what do I think I should be looking for?” or in the real: “what do I actually want as evidenced by my choices and actions?” To move from one to the other we need the grace of dissatisfaction. In the words of Augustine, “You must be dissatisfied with the way your are now, if you ever want to get to where you are not yet.”
Shake us up, Lord, and help us to see ourselves as we truly are, often settling for less, for the moderately good and the reasonably faithful. Give us a longing for more, for all you have in store for us, and on the way bless us with exhilaration that we may be joyful bearers of your Good News. Amen.Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
John 1:35 Again the next day John was standing there with two of his disciples. 36 Gazing at Jesus as he walked by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?” So they said to him, “Rabbi” (which is translated Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 Jesus answered, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. Now it was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
John 1:40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which is translated Christ). 42 Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, the son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
In the ancient tradition, there were three “epiphanies” after Christmas: the visit of the Magi (the Epiphany proper), the baptism in the Jordan (the voice from heaven) and the wedding feast at Cana (they saw his glory). Although we now use a three-year cycle of readings, this triple epiphany influences today’s choice of John’s Gospel and the acclamation of the Baptist “Here is the Lamb of God.” Below, greater than usual space is given to the commentary, because the text is so rich and powerful.
Kind of writing
The call stories in the Synoptic Gospels strip away all questions of human psychology and practicality, so that the sovereign voice and call of Jesus may stand out. John’s Gospel uses the call stories to present a profound Christology. In this chapter one, from v. 19, Jesus is named “one whom you do not know”, the lamb of God, the Son of God, Rabbi, Messiah, “the one about whom Moses wrote”, the King of Israel, the Son of Man.
Theology drives the narrative and the apparently historical verisimilitude of human response and chain reaction is the creation of the author.
Old Testament background
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. (Ex 12:1–6)
New Testament foreground
(a) The Fourth Gospel has a special outline for these days.
a. The first day: the proclamation of the Baptist (1:19-28).
b. The “next day”: John bears witness to Jesus (1:29-34)
c. The “next day”: the call of Andrew and Simon (1:35-42)
d. The “next day”: the call of Philip and Nathaniel (1:43-51)
As the following story begins “on the third day”, the author seems to have lost count or is writing with some symbolic intent. In any case, the sequence of days in chapter 1 means the chapter is to be read a whole, given that one story gives rise immediately to the next.
(b) Passover in John: see John 2:13, 23; 6:4; 11:55; 12:1; 13:1; 18:28, 39; 19:14.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. (John 19:28–29; see Exodus 12:22).
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs (John 19:31–34; cf. Exodus 12:46 regarding the Passover lamb).
Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. (1Corinthians 5:7)
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed– namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness. (Romans 3:21–26 NET version)
Verse 35 John’s Gospel counts the days in the early part of the Gospel (see above). John the Baptist has just given an oblique account of the baptism, and it is time for Jesus to call his disciples. The Baptist apparently directs two of his disciples to Jesus. This is unlikely historically, but, nevertheless it is true that the core constituency of the Johannine community was former followers of the Baptist (also Pharisees [ch. 3], Samaritans [ch. 4] and Gentiles[ch. 4]).
Verse 36 Note the contrast between the static John and the dynamic Jesus. The words here are the first human reaction to Jesus in John’s Gospel and they are accordingly rich is resonance. Passover is a key to the structure of this Gospel, in which three Passovers are marked. The final Passover receives a very careful introduction in 13:1-4.
Furthermore, in this Gospel, the final Passover is Friday night to Saturday, not Thursday night to Friday. At the very time on Friday, when the slaughter of the lambs for Passover began, Jesus is handed over by Pilate to death. This is the explanation of the otherwise puzzling timing “Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon.” (John 19:14).
Finally, the treatment of Jesus’ body after death echoes the instruction regarding the Passover lamb in Exodus 12. All in all, the acclamation of the Baptist exposes a deep vein of theological reflection.
Verse 37 John the “voice” has spoken. The two followers of the Baptist detach from him to follow Jesus. Who these two are we will learn in a moment.
Verse 38 The first words of Jesus in this Gospel are resonant: what are you looking for (lit. seeking). (i) This is a Gospel of quest stories, of which this is the first. (ii) The words of the Risen Lord to Mary at the tomb resemble these words but are significantly different: whom are you looking for. In a word, Jesus proclaimed a message; the first Christians proclaimed a person. The explanation of Rabbi tells us the Gospel was finally edited outside of Jewish territory. Rabbi is positive in this Gospel (John 1:38, 49; 3:2, 26; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8).
“Staying” (or in the older translation “abiding”) is a word of deep significance in this Gospel (John 1:32–33, 38–39; 2:12; 3:36; 4:40; 5:38; 6:27, 56; 7:9; 8:31, 35; 9:41; 10:40; 11:6, 54; 12:24, 34, 46; 14:10, 17, 25; 15:4–7, 9–10, 16; 19:31; 21:22–23). One example: As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (John 15:9–10) To find out where Jesus is staying/abiding it is not sufficient to have his address!
Verse 39 To come and see is an invitation firstly to experience (see 1 John 1:1-4) and then to witness (1 John 1:5). It is also an invitation to the seeing of faith, an ambiguous value in this Gospel where there are two kinds of seeing. The translation of “four o’clock” is hopelessly up-to-date! The number ten is a figure of completion (ten plagues, ten commandments, ten men in a synagogue congregation) and something is coming to completion here. Tenth hour is better.
Verse 40 At last we learn who these are. The sequence is a flat contradiction of the Synoptic tradition and may reflect the Johannine reserve towards the Peter traditions. Nevertheless, it is presumed all readers/hearers know who Simon Peter is.
Verse 41 The proclamation is startling. In the Synoptic tradition, this confession is the fruit of experience and struggle and, furthermore, is assigned to Simon himself. By the time this Gospel was written, “Christ” is almost a personal name for Jesus.
Verse 42 This is also a surprise. First of all, this is the only occurrence in the Gospels of the Aramaic “Cephas”, immediately translated as Peter. Secondly, only in Matthew 16:13-20 is the change of name appended to the confession at Caesarea Philippi. There is no motive given for the change at this very early stage in John’s narrative. In fact, Peter gives no reaction whatsoever at this point. Thirdly, there is a related “confession” of Peter in typically Johannine form in 6:68-69, but no special appointment or change of name follows. All in all, an intriguing puzzle.
Pointers for prayer
1. John pointed the disciples towards Jesus as the one they should follow. Remember the people in your life who have pointed you in a new and life-giving direction? Perhaps in some cases this may have involved directing you away from your association with them—e.g., leaving home, changing jobs, etc.
2. Accepting an invitation to “Come and see” may be part of exploring a new path in life. When has this been so for you? Who issued you the invitation? What benefits came to you from accepting the invitation?
3. Andrew did not keep the good news to himself but also invited his brother to join him in following Jesus. What is your experience of receiving, or giving, an invitation to join in some worthwhile venture?
4. Jesus looked at Peter and could see what he would become. Who have been the people who have been able to name for you your potential? For whom have you been able to do this?
From our earliest days, O God, you call us by name. Make our ears attentive to your voice, our spirits eager to respond that, having heard you in Jesus your anointed one, we may draw others to be his disciples.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.