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Jesus Makes His First Disciples.
(Bethany Beyond Jordan, Spring a.d. 27.)
D John I. 35–51.
d 35 Again on the morrow [John's direct testimony bore fruit on the second day] John was standing, and two of his disciples [An audience of two. A small field; but a large harvest]; 36 and he looked [Gazed intently. The word is used at Mark xiv. 67; Luke xxii. 61 Mark x. 21, 27. John looked searchingly at that face, which, so far as any record shows, he was never to see on earth again. The more intently we look upon Jesus, the more powerfully we proclaim him] upon Jesus as he walked [This detail seems to be introduced to show that the Baptist did not stop Jesus and enter into familiar conversation with him. The witness of John was wholly that of an inspired, unbiased prophet, and not that of a friend or a familiar acquaintance], and saith, Behold the Lamb of God! [John repeats this testimony. He might have chosen another message, but preferred this one. Paul also had but one theme—I. Cor. ii. 2; Gal. vi. 14.] 37 And the two disciples [Andrew and probably John, the writer of this Gospel. The following are indications that it was John: 1. From this time on he speaks as an eye-witness. 2. We have no other account in his Gospel on his call to discipleship. 3. On seven other occasions in this Gospel he withholds his name—John xiii. 23; xix. 26, 35; xx. 2; xxi. 7, 20, 24] heard him speak, they followed Jesus. [Here is the fountainhead of Christianity, for Christianity is following Jesus.] 38 And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? [They doubtless felt such awe and reverence for the person of Jesus as would make them hesitate to address him. Hence Jesus himself opens the way for intercourse with himself.] And they said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher) 110[By the way in which John explains Jewish words and customs, it becomes apparent that his Gospel was written for Gentiles as well as for Jews. Some take these explanations as evidence that John's Gospel was written after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. They are indeed a slight evidence of this, for it is more expedient to explain a custom which has ceased to exist than one which survives to explain itself] , where abidest thou? 39 He saith, Come, and ye shall see. [The fitting invitation of him who says: “Seek, and ye shall find.”] They came therefore and saw where he abode; and they abode with him that day: it was about the tenth hour. [It being a crisis in his life, John remembered the very hour. If John reckoned time according to the Jewish method, it was about 4 P. M. If according to the Roman method, it was 10 A. M. We are inclined to accept the latter as correct.] 40 One of the two that heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He findeth first [before he did anything else] his own brother Simon [The word “own” is here coupled with “brother” to show that Simon was not a mere relative (as the word “brother” might mean), but it was literally Andrew's brother] and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, Christ). [“Messiah” is Hebrew, “Christ” is Greek, “Anointed” is English. Jesus is the anointed of God. In finding him, Andrew had made the greatest discovery which it is possible for a man to make.] 42 He brought him unto Jesus. [Thus Andrew has in a sense the honor of being the first Christian evangelist.] Jesus looked upon him, and said, Thou art Simon [this name means “hearing”] the son of John: thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter). [Cephas is Hebrew, Peter is Greek, stone is English. It means a mass of rock detached from the bed-rock or strata on which the earth rests. The future tense, “thou shalt be,” indicates that Peter was to win his name. It is given prophetically to describe the stability to which the then weak and vacillating Simon should attain.] 11143 On the morrow he was minded to go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip [In the synoptists, Philip is a mere name in the apostolic list. Through John we gain some acquaintance with him—vi. 5; xii. 21; xiv. 8]: and Jesus saith unto him, Follow me. [The Lord's usual invitation to discipleship— Matt. viii. 22; ix. 9; xix. 21; Mark ii. 14; x. 21; Luke v. 27; ix. 59; John xxi. 19.] 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida [Bethsaida of Galilee, on the northwestern shore of the Lake of Galilee. It was a wicked place—Matt. xi. 21], of the city of Andrew and Peter. [It appears that Peter afterward removed to Capernaum—Mark i. 29.] 45 Philip findeth Nathanael [Nathanael is commonly identified with Bartholomew for the following reasons: 1. The name Bartholomew is only a patronymic, and hence its bearer would be likely to have an additional name. (Compare Matt. xvi. 17; Acts iv. 36.) 2. John never mentions Bartholomew, and the Synoptists never mention Nathanael, though John mentions him among apostles at the beginning and at the close of Christ's ministry. 3. The Synoptists, in their list of apostles, invariably place Philip next to Bartholomew, and show a tendency to place brothers and friends together. 4. All the other disciples mentioned in this chapter become apostles, and none are so highly commended as Nathanael. 5. Bartholomew is connected with Matthew in the list at Acts i. 13, and the names Matthew and Nathanael both mean the same, and are equal to the Greek name Theodore, which means “gift of God.” But even so the identification is not perfect] , and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote [The whole law is full of symbolism which refers to Christ. The following references may be taken as more specific: Gen. xlix. 10; Num. xxiv. 17–19; Deut. xviii. 15. The passages in the prophets are too numerous to mention. For samples see Isa. vii. 14; ix. 6; lii. 13; liii. 1–12; Ezek. xxxiv. 23–31. In brief, Moses wrote of him as a Prophet, David as Lord, Isaiah as the Son of the virgin and suffering Servant, Jeremiah as the 112Branch, Ezekiel as the Shepherd, Malachi as the Messenger of the Covenant, Daniel as the Messiah. Christ is the hero and subject-matter of both Testaments—I. Pet. i. 11; John v. 39], Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. [Philip knew no better at this time, and John did not change the words of Philip to suit his later knowledge of Christ's parentage. John has already declared the divine origin of Jesus (ver. 14), thereby agreeing with the detailed account of Matthew and Luke.] 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? [Because of their want of culture, their rude dialect, and their contact with Gentiles, the Galileans were lightly esteemed by the inhabitants of Judæa (John vii. 52). But here Nathanael, a Galilean himself, speaks slightingly of Nazareth. Some think that Nazareth was no worse than the rest of Galilee, and that Nathanael speaks thus disparagingly because he dwelt in the neighboring town of Cana, and felt that jealousy which often exists between rival villages. The guileless Nathanael had no such jealousy, and the persistency with which the enemies of Jesus called him the Nazarene indicates that there was more than a local odium attached to the name Nazareth. Moreover, it was the first city to offer violence to Christ and was ready on one day's acquaintance with his preaching to put him to death.] Philip saith to him, Come and see. [So said afterward the woman of Samaria (John iv. 29). Investigation removes prejudice.] 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed [An Israelite in spirit as well as in flesh (Rom. ii. 28, 29; ix. 16). Such a character contrasted sharply with the prevalent formalism and hypocrisy of that day], in whom is no guile! [Some see in the word guile a reference to Jacob. He was a man full of all subtlety and guile in his early years, but his experience at Peniel (Gen. xxxii. 22–31) changed his nature and his name, and he became Israel, the spiritual father of all true Israelites.] 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? [Nathanael's surprise clearly indicates that the knowledge 113which Jesus exhibited was miraculous. Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. [The fig-tree affords the densest shade in Palestine—a shade where no sunspot can be seen. This fact has made it immemorially a resting-place and a refuge from the fierce Syrian sunlight. Under such a cover Jesus saw Nathanael when he was alone. Such superhuman knowledge wrought faith in Nathanael, as it did afterward in the woman of Samaria.—See Prov. xv. 3.] 49 Nathanael answered and said unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. [Psalm ii. and Isa. ix. 6 prophetically announce Jesus as the Son of God. These and other prophecies had just been more clearly announced by the Baptist (ver. 34). It is clear, therefore, where Nathanael got his words; but it is not so clear how well he understood them. This is the first recorded uninspired confession of the divinity of Jesus, but Matt. xvi. 16, 17 indicates that it was but partially comprehended, else Peter might have been instructed by Nathanael. The expression “King of Israel” probably expressed the hope which Nathanael then entertained that Jesus would restore the ancient Jewish kingdom of David—Acts i. 6.] 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee underneath the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. [Nathanael regarded the revelation of his character and whereabouts as a great thing, but he was destined to see yet greater miracles. Opportunities improved lead to larger privileges, and for those who believe, the evidences are increased.] 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily [This word means “in truth.” John twenty-five times represents the Saviour as thus using the double “verily.” Matthew quotes the single “verily” thirty times, Mark fourteen times, and Luke seven times. The word is used to mark the importance of the truth about to be uttered] , I say unto you [“you” is plural and includes all present as well as Nathanael], Ye shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. 114 [Jesus having referred to Nathanael as a true Israelite, promises to him—and to those like him—a blessing answering to Jacob's vision of the ladder; that is, that the ascent and descent of ministering angels shall be by means of Christ. Jesus calls himself the Son of man upwards of eighty times. The expression is found in all four Gospels, but is there invariably used by Christ himself. Stephen (Acts vii. 56) and John (Rev. i. 13) also use this title, to indicate that the glorious being whom they saw was like Jesus—like him in his human estate. In this chapter Jesus has been called by others “The Lamb of God,” “the Son of God,” “the Messiah,” and “the King of Israel.” Jesus chooses yet another title, “Son of man,” for himself. At this earliest dawning of their expectations, while their minds were thus full of his titles of glory, Jesus introduces to his disciples this one which speaks of his humanity and humility. The expression may have been suggested by Dan. vii. 13, 14.]
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