“The First Disciples of Jesus”
John 1: 35-42
35 “The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39 He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed One). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).”
This Sunday the Liturgy takes a diversion from the Gospel of Mark. Today’s text is in continuity with the previous week as it keeps track of successive Gospel events.
We make a transition as if it were from the Old Testament, represented by the last of the Prophets (John the Baptist) to the New Testament, represented in the encounter of Jesus with his first Disciples.
A symbol of God taking the initiative to meet human beings
The person who searches finds God. The spiritual journey is always prompted by God, even before the person discovers who God is.
In this text, we see two disciples of John the Baptist coming after Jesus, but it is Jesus who takes the initiative to turn around and speak with them. Jesus approaches Andrew and his friend and begins a dialogue with them.
“We could not even have begun to seek for God unless He had already found us.” (St. Augustine).
The Trust of John the Baptist
John the Baptist, being an influential personality at the time of Jesus, was responsible for the well-being of his own disciples.
When he pointed out Jesus to Andrew and the other disciple (who was this ‘other disciple’?) the Baptist attests to the trust he had in Jesus. He shows his belief in Jesus as the Messiah, otherwise he would not have entrusted two of his disciples to Him.
The Lamb of God
Why would John the Baptist use this particular title to introduce Jesus?
The title has evident reminiscences of the Old Testament. It refers to the experience of liberation from Pharaoh, King of Egypt, when the blood of the unblemished one-year old lamb was sacrificed and its blood smeared on the door posts of houses. This sign was to free the household from the destruction carried by the ‘angel’ of the Lord. Jesus is ‘the Saviour’ who by his Blood freed us from the snares of sin and death. By following the invitation of John the Baptist to meet Jesus, his disciples showed their readiness to follow Jesus without counting the cost, even to the shedding of their blood following the example of their new Master, the Lamb of God.
What are you looking for?
This question is of vital importance for all of us:
‘What is our aim in life?’
‘What are we really trying to get out of life?’
Is the Disciple of Jesus merely looking for security, or seeking a career at almost any cost? Is s/he looking for inner peace or rather for an easy way of life?
When we receive a call to follow Jesus we need to uncover all the intentions of our heart in order to properly discern if God is calling us to a concrete service and/or style of life.
Andrew and his companion are not looking for a casual conversation and/or encounter. They do not want to have a brief chat with someone they have just come across. “Where do you live?” is a question that invites a long conversation. They want to spend time with Jesus. The hour of the day in which they met him tells us that they were ready to spend the evening with him, as seems to have been the case.
By calling Jesus ‘Teacher’, the two demonstrate show they are ready to leave behind their previous master behind and follow Jesus.
The teachers of the time used the expression, ‘Come and see’, when they wanted to take pupils step by step to the correct answer to a particular problem or difficulty. On the lips of Jesus it signifies the acceptance of his first two Disciples to be introduced into a life of service and into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, step by step.
This is the moment when two strangers became friends of Jesus and not his servants. This is a life-transforming encounter. John the Evangelist recorded even the hour in which it took place. This detail only makes sense if it was written by an eye-witness to the event. Therefore, we can venture to say that the unnamed companion of Andrew was none other than John, the ‘writer’ of the Fourth Gospel.
If we want to make a comparison, the intensity of this meeting with Jesus can be likened to the day, the hour and the minute when a wife and her husband fell in love. A moment that will remain engraved on their hearts for the rest of their lives. John the Evangelist, an old man when he ‘wrote’ the Gospel, is still able to express his emotions from that very moment when he experienced the love of Jesus for the very first time.
While not knowing a great deal about Andrew, we do know from the Gospel accounts that he was a man who derived great contentment from bringing people to Jesus.
He did not resent giving priority to his brother Peter. Andrew found great joy in sharing with others the glory he experienced from knowing Jesus. He had a missionary heart.
Andrew is a beautiful icon for disciples of the Lord who bring others to an encounter with Jesus, and the experience of the Holy Spirit.
The look of Jesus
The Greek word for “having looked at him” is ἐμβλέψας (emblepas), the very same word used by Luke in his Gospel to describe how the eyes of Jesus met with those of Peter after his denials at the house of the High Priest: “looked at him” ἐνέβλεψεν (eneblepen). Jesus loved Peter with the same love even after Peter had betrayed him three times!
A change of name
In the Old Testament a change of name was often related to a change of relationship between a person and God.
Abram became Abraham.
Jacob became Israel.
For them, life began again; in effect, a new man was born.
In the New Testament, the preference was to translate people’s names in Aramaic into Greek to signify a new identity for the person. For example, the Aramaic name ‘Thomas’ means ‘Twin’ and his name was translated into the Greek, ‘Didymus’. Again, ‘Tabitha’ is an Aramaic name which means ‘Gazelle’ which translated into Greek is ‘Dorcas’.
Yet in the case of ‘Simon’, the brother of Andrew, Jesus gave him a new name in Aramaic ‘Cephas’ which means ‘Rock’, and is translated into the Greek as ‘Peter’.
As happened in the Old Testament, the new name that Jesus gave to Peter signifies a change of life in that he received the commission to be the first of the Disciples, the rock upon which Jesus built his Church.
What stands out in this episode is that Jesus does not stop with appearances. He considers rather what we can become. He sees our potentiality and opens up a future for each one of us.
“As Michelangelo chipped away with his chisel at a piece of marble, he is reported to have said ‘I am releasing the angel imprisoned in this marble.’”
God, who is more than we can ever comprehend, help us to seek You, and You alone.
Lift from us our desire to achieve all that we want to be and instead, surrender to what You can be in us.
Help us to stand before all that we could do and seek what You would want us to do, and do that.
Give us ways to calm down from our busyness
that puts us on edge and off centre, and give us today your peace. - Author Unknown
Lord God, who sent your only Son Jesus Christ into the world to be crucified for my sins, have mercy on me. May I follow His example, leading others and loving in great humility, for you oppose the proud but raise up the humble. Help me to be humble and gracious in every circumstance, patient, loving and kind. I humble myself before you, Lord, for I am nothing without you. I long to serve you, Lord, and follow in your way. Amen.
We call to mind the name of the person/s who were instrumental in our knowledge of Christ and growth in the faith.
Is there a particular moment in our journey of faith when we experienced a turning point?
What happened there?
Where was the voice of God and what did He say?
We can cherish that experience, and praise God for his tender loving care shown then and still meaningful today.
We want our life to be always open to the ‘unknown’. God takes us out of our ‘comfort zone’. The call to service continues to push us on, especially when it comes to taking care of the most vulnerable, both near and far.
How can I show God my availability to move forward into the ‘unknown’ and grow to my full potential?
We contemplate the call of Jesus for each one of us and for his Church: to be an instrument of love and an expression of God’s beauty in the world.
 Exodus 12: 22-23: “Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down.”  The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates the Greek word ‘proton’ in Verse 41 as ‘first thing’. But other versions of the Bible have the Greek word: ‘proi’ which means: ‘early in the morning.’  John 1:42: “He brought Simon to Jesus” John 6: 8-9: “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.’” John 12: 20-23: “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.”  Gen. 17: 5: “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.”  Gen. 32: 28: “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”  John 11: 16: “Thomas, who was called the Twin”.  Acts 9: 36: “Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas.”