"Come and See": A Web Commentary on the Gospel of John: Section 2 Witness and Call
Section 2.2: John's Disciples Turn to Jesus (Jn 1.35-42)
In this section John the Baptist and Andrew and another disciple are together on the third day of John's witnessing, when he repeats his words about Jesus as the Lamb of God. We don't of course know whether Andrew and his unnamed fellow were part of the group that John was speaking to in our previous section. It seems likely that they were. But whether or not they were, they reacted strongly to hearing those words on this occasion, and leave John to follow Jesus. As we saw in the Introduction, some scholars think that the other disciple, who is never named, was the Beloved Disciple, thereby making the Evangelist a former disciple of John the Baptist, an intriguing notion.
However perhaps the most intriguing thing about these short scenes is the short conversation with Jesus. Realising that he is being followed, Jesus turns and asks the two, 'What do you seek?' This is a question that, like much Johannine conversation, works on more that one level, both as a form of 'What do you want?', a natural question for anyone to ask under the circumstances, and as a deeper question, 'What are you really looking for?' To both levels of question, Andrew and his companion basically answer that they are seeking the place where Jesus is to be found. This response meets with an extraordinary and generous invitation in reply: 'Come and see'. Although the Apostle Paul affirms that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5.7), for the Evangelist faith and sight are so intertwined that an invitation to see becomes an invitation to believe. As we have seen, it is through the witness provided by the community of disciples who actually saw Jesus, on whose behalf the Evangelist speaks in his Prologue, that we can discern the Son's glory, and ultimately discern the Father. Here we share in Jesus' invitation to come and see, because we share in the sight of these disciples, in the joy and excitement with which Andrew in turn invited his brother Simon Peter to join the community being formed.
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COMMENTS ON SPECIFIC VERSES
According to the normal reckoning of time in the ancient world, this indicates the tenth hour after daybreak. This system leads to the same indicator, like 'the tenth hour', pointing to a different time of day according to the season. If the sun had risen around six AM, then the tenth hour is about four in the afternoon. But in winter it could be as late as six PM. So this indicates a time in the mid to late afternoon, depending upon the time of year (about which we have no clue in the text). So the two would have spent the evening and part of the afternoon with Jesus.
It should be mentioned that the story of Simon's renaming has quite a different emphasis here than it does as told in the First Gospel. Here in John 1.40-2, Andrew came hot-foot to Peter with the news that he and his companion have found the Messiah. This sent Peter at once to Jesus, who looked at him and gave him a new name, which is apparently based on Jesus' insight. In this story Peter provided a perfect example of how through witnessing what another sees can become the basis for someone's belief and action.
In Matthew 16.16-18 on the other hand Peter's renaming comes not at the beginning of his acquaintance with Jesus but at a much later stage. It is part of Jesus' response to Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi: 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God' and in renaming Peter, Jesus also emphasised the importance of his confession in providing a Rock of faith to the community. But in the Gospel of Matthew no human witness has told Peter who Jesus is: his insight comes from the Father, as Jesus says in Matt 16.17.
Although the renaming of Simon by Jesus is clearly part of the primitive tradition of the nascent church, at least one of these Evangelists has felt free to adapt that tradition to the themes and narrative flow of his telling of the gospel story.
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