World Wide Study Bible


a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary

The First Disciples of Jesus

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38When 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?” 39He 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. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42He 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).

Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

Select a resource above

34. I saw and testified. He means that what he declares is not doubtful; because God was pleased to make him fully and thoroughly acquainted with those things of which he was to be the witness to the world; and it is worthy of notice, that he testified that Christ was the Son of God, because he who gives the Holy Spirit must be the Christ, for to no other belongs the honor and the office of reconciling men to God.

36. Behold the Lamb of God! Hence appears more clearly what I have already stated, that when John perceived that he was approaching the end of his course, he labored incessantly to resign his office to Christ. His firmness too gives greater credit to his testimony. But by insisting so earnestly, during many successive days, in repeating the commendation of Christ, he shows that his own course was nearly finished. Here we see also how small and low the beginning of the Church was. John, indeed, prepared disciples for Christ, but it is only now that Christ begins to collect a Church. He has no more than two men who are mean and unknown, but this even contributes to illustrate his glory, that within a short period, without human aid, and without a strong hand, he spreads his kingdom in a wonderful and incredible manner. We ought also to observe what is the chief object to which John directs the attention of men; it is, to find in Christ the forgiveness of sins. And as Christ had presented himself to the disciples for the express purpose that they might come to him, so now when they come, he gently encourages and exhorts them; for he does not wait until they first address him, but asks, What do you seek? This kind and gracious invitation, which was once made to two persons, now belongs to all. We ought not therefore to fear that Christ will withdraw from us or refuse to us easy access, provided that he sees us desirous to come to him; but, on the contrary, he will stretch out his hand to assist our endeavors. And how will not he meet those who come to him, who seeks at a distance those who are wandering and astray, that he may bring them back to the right road?

38. Rabbi. This name was commonly given to persons of high rank, or who possessed any kind of honor. But the Evangelist here points out another use of it which was made in his own age, which was, that they addressed by this name the teachers and expounders of the word of God. Although, therefore, those two disciples do not yet recognize Christ as the only Teacher of the Church, yet, moved by the commendation bestowed on him by John the Baptist, they hold him to be a Prophet and teacher, which is the first step towards receiving instruction.

Where dwellest thou? By this example we are taught that from the first, rudiments of the Church we ought to draw such a relish for Christ as will excite our desire to profit; and next, that we ought not to be satisfied with a mere passing look, but that we ought to seek his dwelling, that he may receive us as guests. For there are very many who smell the gospel at a distance only, and thus allow Christ suddenly to disappear, and all that they have learned concerning him to pass away. And though those two persons did not at that time become his ordinary disciples, yet there can be no doubt that, during that night, he instructed them more fully, so that they soon afterwards became entirely devoted to him.

39. It was about the tenth hour; that is, the evening was approaching, for it was not more than two hours till sunset. The day was at that time divided by them into twelve hours, which were longer in summer and shorter in winter. But from this circumstance we infer that those disciples were so eagerly desirous to hear Christ, and to gain a more intimate knowledge of him, that they gave themselves no concern about a night’s lodging. On the contrary, we are, for the most part, very unlike them, for we incessantly delay, because it is not convenient for us to follow Christ.

40. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. The design of the Evangelist, down to the end of the chapter, is to inform us how gradually the disciples were brought to Christ. Here he relates about Peter, and afterwards he will mention Philip and Nathanael. The circumstance of Andrew immediately bringing his brother expresses the nature of faith, which does not conceal or quench the light, but rather spreads it in every direction. Andrew has scarcely a spark, and yet, by means of it, he enlightens his brother. Woe to our indolence, therefore, if we do not, after having been fully enlightened, endeavor to make others partakers of the same grace. We may observe in Andrew two things which Isaiah requires from the children of God; namely, that each should take his neighbor by the hand, and next, that he should say,

Come, let us go up into the mountain of the Lord,
and he will teach us, (Isaiah 2:3.)

For Andrew stretches out the hand to his brother, but at the same time he has this object in view, that he may become a fellow-disciple with him in the school of Christ. We ought also to observe the purpose of God, which determined that Peter, who was to be far more eminent, was brought to the knowledge of Christ by the agency and ministry of Andrew; that none of us, however excellent, may refuse to be taught by an inferior; for that man will be severely punished for his peevishness, or rather for his pride, who, through his contempt of a man, will not deign to come to Christ.

41. We have found the Messiah. The Evangelist has interpreted the Hebrew word Messiah (Anointed) by the Greek word Christ, in order to publish to the whole world what was secretly known to the Jews. It was the ordinary designation of kings, 3939     See Harmony of the Three Evangelists, volume 1 page 92, n. 2; and page 142, n. 2. as anointing was observed by them as a solemn rite. But still they were aware that one King would be anointed by God, under whom they might hope to obtain perfect and eternal happiness; especially when they should learn that the earthly kingdom of David would not be permanent. And as God raised their minds, when subdued and weighed down by various calamities, to the expectation of the Messiah, so he more clearly revealed to them that his coming was at hand. The prediction of Daniel is more clear and forcible than all the rest, so far as relates to the name of Christ; for he does not, like the earlier Prophets, ascribe it to kings, but appropriates it exclusively to the Redeemer, (Daniel 9:25, 26.) Hence this mode of expression became prevalent, so that when the Messiah or Christ was mentioned, it was understood that no other than the Redeemer was meant. Thus we shall find the woman of Samaria saying, the Messiah will come, (John 4:25;) which makes it the more wonderful that he who was so eagerly desired by all, and whom they had constantly in their mouths, should be received by so small a number of persons.

42. Thou art Simon. Christ gives a name to Simon, not as men commonly do, from some past event, or from what is now perceived in them, but because he was to make him Peter, (a stone.) First, he says, Thou art Simon, the son of Jonah. He repeats the name of his father in an abridged form; which is common enough when names are translated into other languages; for it will plainly appear from the last chapter that he was the son of Johanna or John. But all this amounts to nothing more than that he will be a very different person from what he now is. For it is not For the sake of honor that he mentions his father; but as he was descended from a family which was obscure, and which was held in no estimation among men, Christ declares that this will not prevent him from making Simon a man of unshaken courage. The Evangelist, therefore, mentions this as a prediction, that Simon received a new name. I look upon it as a prediction, not only because Christ foresaw the future steadfastness of faith in Peter, but because he foretold what he would give to him. He now magnifies the grace which he determined afterwards to bestow upon him; and therefore he does not say that this is now his name, but delays it till a future time.

Thou shalt be called Cephas. All the godly, indeed, may justly be called Peters (stones,) which, having been Sounded on Christ, are fitted for building the temple of God; but he alone is so called on account of his singular excellence. Yet the Papists act a ridiculous part, when they substitute him in the place of Christ; so as to be the foundation of the Church, as if he too were not founded on Christ along with the rest of the disciples; and they are doubly ridiculous when out of a stone they make him a head. For among the rhapsodies of Gratian there is a foolish canon under the name of Anacletus, who, exchanging a Hebrew word for a Greek one, and not distinguishing the Greek word κεφαλὴ (kephale) from the Hebrew word Cephas, thinks that by this name Peter was appointed to be Head of the Church. Cephas is rather a Chaldaic than a Hebrew word; but that was the customary pronunciation of it after the Babylonish captivity. There is, then, no ambiguity in the words of Christ; for he promises what Peter had not at all expected, and thus magnifies his own grace to all ages, that his former condition may not lead us to think less highly of him, since this remarkable appellation informs us that he was made a new man.

43. Follow me. When Philip was inflamed by this single word to follow Christ, we infer from it how great is the efficacy of the word of God; but it does not appear indiscriminately in all, for God addresses many without any advantage, just as if he struck their ears with a sound which vanished into air. So then the external preaching of the word is in itself unfruitful, except that it inflicts a deadly wound on the reprobate, so as to render them inexcusable before God. But when the secret grace of God quickens it, all the senses must be affected in such a manner that men will be prepared to follow wherever God calls them. We ought, therefore, to pray to Christ that he may display in us the same power of the Gospel. In the case of Philip, there was no doubt a peculiarity about his following Christ; for he is commanded to follow, not like one of us, but as a domestic, and as a familiar companion. But still the calling of all of us is illustrated by this calling of Philip.

44. Was of Bethsaida. The name of the city appears to have been mentioned on purpose, that the goodness of God to the three Apostles may be more illustriously displayed. We know how severely, on other occasions, Christ threatens and curses that city, (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13.) Accordingly, when God brought into favor with him some out of a nation so ungodly and wicked, we ought to view it in the same light as if they had been brought out of the lowest hell. And when Christ, after having drawn them out of that deep gulf, honors them so highly as to make them Apostles, it is a distinguished favor and worthy of being recorded.