Gospel: John 1:35-42

Come and See

When was the last time you received an invitation? What expectations did you have? Have you ever been surprised by what you saw?

Invitations come in many shapes and sizes. Some come in the mail or in e-mail. Others come on the street corner. Others come in ways unexpected. Some are personal, almost intimate. Others are general and impersonal. No matter their shape or size or means, invitations ask us the same question: why don't you come and see?

Why do we come? What do we seek? The early disciples of Jesus must have asked themselves those questions. Despite a culture that distrusted novelty, they would come and see something new. The public appearance of the Messiah.

Popular Translation

35 The next day, John the Baptist stood with two of his followers. 36 When John saw Jesus walk by, he declared, "Look! There is Lamb of God!"

37 The two followers of John heard him and followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned around and saw the two following him. "What are you looking for?" Jesus asked them.

"Teacher," they answered, "where are you staying?"

39 "Come and see," Jesus said. It was around four o'clock in the afternoon when they went with Jesus and saw where he lived. They stayed with him the rest of the day.

40 Andrew, Simon's brother, was one of the two followers who heard what John said, and who followed Jesus. "We found the Messiah!" Andrew told Simon. 41 Andrew took Simon to Jesus. 42 When Jesus saw Simon, he said, "You're Simon, son of John. From now on, your name will be Peter (which means 'Rock')."

Literal Translation

35 The next day, (there) had stood John along with two of his disciples. 36 And, having seen JESUS walking around, he said, "Look! The LAMB of God!" 37 And the two of his disciples heard him saying (that) and they followed Jesus. 38 Having turned, however, and having seen them following, JESUS said, "What do you seek?" They, however, said to him "RABBI (which, being called, is translated 'teacher'), where do you stay?" 39 HE said to them, "Come and see." They went, then, and saw where HE stayed, and with HIM they stayed that day. It was four o'clock in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two having heard (this) from John and having followed HIM. 41 This one first found (his) own brother Simon and said "We have found the MESSIAH (which is translated 'the Christ')." 42 He brought him to JESUS. Having seen him, JESUS said, "You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas (which means 'Rock')."

1:37-42 In this section, John used verbs in the present tense (imagining he was present to what was enfolding) for past events. These verbs were translated into English as simple past.

1:35 " . . . the next day . . . " is literally " . . . in the 'morrow . . . "

1:38, 41, 42 The parentheses in italics are side comments made in the Greek text. Unlike words in parentheses added for clarity in English, these clauses were inserted by the evangelist for the benefit of his non-Jewish audience.

1:39 "It was four o'clock in the afternoon" is literally "It was the tenth hour." John marked time in the Roman tradition which began the day at sunrise. The placement of this sentence is confusing. They arrived reached Jesus' house at four o'clock, so the sentence should be placed at the beginning of the verse (see the Translation for Meaning).

In quick succession, John the Gospel writer laid out the evangelization of the first disciples. Unlike Matthew, Mark, or Luke, John clearly connected the Baptist's followers to those of Jesus. In other words, John saw the ministry of the Baptist flow into the ministry of the Galilean.

In John 1:19-51, the evangelist presented six stories of witness and testimony over seven days. This gospel represent the activity of days three through four in a seven day week. Scripture scholars see this "week" as the new creation. God created a new people, starting with the testimony of the Baptist, and ending with the miracle at the Cana wedding feast. The first day was studied in John 1:19-28 (the Third Sunday in Advent: Cycle B) where the Baptist defined his ministry as " . . . a voice crying out in the desert; 'Make straight the way of the Lord!'" (see 1:23) This gospel presented the next two stories. Unlike 1:19-28 where the Baptist testified to the Jewish leadership, he evangelized his own followers, who, in turn, evangelized others.

When the Baptist saw Jesus, he proclaimed "Look! The Lamb of God!" While this title might strike us as enigmatic, the proclaimed title caused two followers to follow Jesus. Why? As gentle, docile animals, lambs were prized for their tender meat and fine coat; in other words, they gave all they had for their masters. The "Lamb of God" referred to the sacrificial animal, slaughtered at the Temple for the Passover meal. (See John 19:14, 31, 42) In John, this was the same day Jesus was crucified. Jesus was the One the Baptist foretold, because he gave himself totally for his followers, even to death. This theme resonated with Isaiah's Suffering Servant ("He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." Isaiah 53:7, RSV)

(Note how John wove discipleship, sacrifice, and meal together in one title. Don't we see the same themes in Eucharist, a meal of sacrifice and discipleship?) [1:36]

Two disciples left John and followed Jesus. Since any legal testimony required more than one witness, the gospel writer presented two disciples to assure the veracity of the Baptist's claim. [1:37] Even though they sought the Lord, notice the initiative of Jesus. He first asked the followers intent and invited them to join him. The gospel writer used the invitation "come and see" in other contexts of evangelization. Philip invited Nathaniel to meet Jesus with the phrase "come and see" in 1:45. The Samaritan woman at the well invited others in her town to "come and see the man who told me everything I have done" in 4:29. The invitation begun by Jesus was continued with followers bringing others into the community. [1:38-39]

John used one of the two followers as the transition point between the Baptist and the new Rabbi. Andrew invited his brother, Simon, to meet his new Teacher. Again note the language of Andrew's invitation. "We (dual witnesses indicating the veracity of the claim) have found the Messiah (the title definitively claiming what the Baptist inferred)." The invitation sealed the transition. Jesus was the Christ, the focal point of revelation. [1:40-41]

When Jesus met Simon, he gave the follower a new identity. He called Simon by his formal name to clearly identify him. Then Jesus gave him his new name: "Cephas" (Aramaic for "Rock;" the Greek translated the word as "Petros," from which we get the name "Peter"). When Jesus gave Simon his new name, he defined the new disciple's role in the community. Simon was like solid rock, not a pebble or a stone that could be moved. Peter was a rock layer strong enough to securely build the foundation of a house. In light of the other gospels, Jesus gave Simon a leadership role with the new name. Remember that, in the time of Jesus, one's name revealed one's strength of character and abilities. In other words, a name defined one's power. [1:42]

Catechism Theme:  "The Lamb who takes away the sins of the world" (CCC 606-609)

When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the "Lamb of God," he recognized not only the role of Jesus in salvation; he inferred the relationship of the Son to the Father. As he had come from the Father, Jesus gave himself back to the Father. His self-giving began with his Incarnation, became explicit in his baptism, continued through his ministry, and culminated on the cross. He gave himself because he loved the Father and loved all God's creatures. The Baptist's declaration ("The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world") revealed both the character and the mission of Jesus. Through his love, he accepted the role of the Suffering Servant. He gave himself to his Father for our sake in spite of suffering and death.

Why is self-giving so unusual? Have you ever been impressed by others who give their time and talent to others? Have they ever asked you to join them? What happened? Did their invitation change you?

A simple invitation can be life-changing. Come and see . . . That invitation can come in different ways, from a letter or a look to a simple act of unselfish love. Come and see . . . When we invite others to faith, we ask them to encounter the One after whom we pattern our lives. Come and see . . . the Lord. He will show us the loving way to live and he will give us a new identity as a Christian. He will show us the way to the Father. Come and see . . .

How have you influenced others to become Christ-like? Have you extended them acts of love? Have you ever asked them to join you at Church? Try to help someone this week and invite him or her closer to the Lord.