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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

The First Disciples.

35. Again the the next day after, Jesus stood, and two of his disciples. In verses 19-28, the account is given of the visit of the priests and Levites, sent by the Sanhedrim to John. |The next day| after this John sees Jesus and points him out as the Lamb of God, giving a discourse of which, in verses 29-34, we have a synopsis. On the |next day| after this, the third day after the deputation of the Sanhedrim, and the second after the return of Jesus from the wilderness, John stood with two of his disciples. One of these two, we learn from verse 40, was Andrew; the other, we have reason to believe, was John, the apostle. The statement that they were John's disciples, shows that they had accepted his message and been baptized by him. All the earlier disciples of Christ had been prepared for him by the Forerunner. At first glance it might seem as if John was merely repeating the testimony that he had given in verse 29, but there the testimony is general; it is not stated to whom it was spoken; here it is specific, and spoken to two disciples who were afterwards, almost certainly, apostles of Jesus. (Joh 1:36)

36. Behold the Lamb of God! On the preceding day John had recognized Jesus in a public discourse as |the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.| Now he personally points the disciples to him. The lamb, throughout Old Testament times, was commonly used as a sin-offering (Lev.4:32), at the morning and evening sacrifice (Ex.12:21-27), at the great feasts (Num.28:11), and on special occasions (1 Chron.29:21). The paschal lamb was offered by every family in Israel at every passover. In pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God, John declares that he is the great sin-offering of which all the lambs slain on Jewish altars were the types. |He taketh away the sins of the world;| he is the great sin-bearer, not for a single generation, but for all time; not for a single family or race, but for the world. These words teach a sacrifice and an atonement, but were not understood by John himself, as we learn by turning to Matt.11:2-6. |Under the Old Testament were provided by the sinner, lambs, whose sacrifice took sins away from the individual or the nation, but for the time only, and therefore the sacrifice had to be continually repeated; under the New Testament one Lamb is provided, the Lamb of God, whose sacrifice takes away the sin of the whole world, and therefore needs never to be repeated.| -- Abbott. (Joh 1:37)

37. And they followed Jesus. As John intended, the two disciples at once left him and followed the footsteps of Jesus. They did not become followers in the religious sense, but literally followed him, possibly from curiosity, possibly from a yearning desire to know more of the Lamb of God. (Joh 1:38)

38. Jesus turned . . . and saith, What seek ye? Jesus does not ask this in order that he may know their object, but to open a conversation and to draw them out. Such was his custom; for example, see the conversation with the woman at Sychar (Chap.4:10-16). The Christian teacher may find a valuable hint in the example of the Master. His teaching was almost all by conversation and his methods are incomparable. Rabbi. A term of very ancient origin, signifying teacher, or master. Ahasuerus set a Rab, or master, over the tables of his feast (Esther 1:8). Among the Jews there are three degrees -- Rabban, Rab, and Rabbi -- the last being the lowest. It is by the highest that Mary addresses the Lord at the tomb after his resurrection. Where dwellest thou? The disciples dared not probably, from their timidity, to express fully their motives in following Jesus, but asked for his temporary abiding place and where he might be found. This question, which some might have regarded impertinent curiosity to be met by a rebuff, was met by a kind invitation that attached the disciples to Jesus for life. Here again we should note the effect of gentleness and hospitality. Note, too, that Jesus is not sought in vain. |They that seek shall find.| (Joh 1:39)

39. They abode with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. The Jew commenced the hours with 6 A. M. and hence the tenth hour would be 4 P. M. As it was near the close of the day the disciples remained over night. The conversation of that evening is unrecorded, but the impression that it made upon the minds of the two guests is seen in their conduct the next day. All doubts had passed away and they were ready to seek their friends with the joyful message: We have found the Messiah. (Joh 1:40)

40. One of the two . . . was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. Andrew and his brother Simon were sons of Jonas, of the town of Bethsaida in Galilee, and were fishermen by trade. The description of Andrew as Peter's brother shows the importance assigned by John to the apostle who was to open the doors of the kingdom. Andrew was afterwards one of the Twelve. The other |one of the two| is supposed to be John, the apostle, for the reason that he never mentions his own name, but invariably those of other disciples. (Joh 1:41)

41. He first findeth his own brother Simon. Andrew sought and found Simon, before he sought anyone else. This is the true spirit. Unless one is ready to tell the joyful story to his own relatives and neighbors, we have a poor opinion of his zeal for the conversion of the Zulus or Congo negroes. Christ and the apostles began their work at home and extended it in an ever widening circle. We have found the Messias. The Anointed, the Hebrew term which corresponds to the word Christ. It was with the utmost joy that Andrew told this joyful story. It was the fruition of the long delayed hope of Israel. Andrew's exclamation of delight on finding the Messiah is the same attributed to Archimedes when he made his discovery of the amount of adulteration in Hiero's crown. The, cry of each was Eureka, |I have found.| The grandest discovery ever made, greater than that of a continent, was the finding of Christ, the hope of the world. (Joh 1:42)

42. Thou art Simon . . . thou shalt be called Cephas. There was no hesitation on the part of Peter to go at once to see him of whom Andrew spoke. He, also, as one of John's disciples, was waiting for the King. To his name Simon, Christ added another by which afterwards he was known. Cephas is Hebrew, and means a stone; Peter means the same in Greek; not rock, as some have urged. The word for that in the Greek is petra, while the word anglicised as Peter is petros. In Matt.16:18, Christ says, in response to Peter's confession, |Thou art Petros (a stone), and upon this petra (a solid rock) I will build my church.| The Rock was the |Stone cut out without hands.| Peter was a fragment of rock built upon the Stone by the great confession. Christ is the Rock; Peter was a rockman. (Joh 1:43) (Joh 1:44)

43. The day following. The next day after Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. According to Meyer, the order of this interesting week is as follows: First day, John's conference with the priests and Levites (verses 19-28); second day, John's testimony of Jesus (29-34); third day, the two disciples pointed to Jesus (35-39); fourth day, Peter brought to Jesus (40-42); fifth day, Nathanael brought to Jesus (43-51); seventh day, (one day intervening,) the marriage at Cana, (chap.2). Findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. This is the first recorded instance of the Savior calling a disciple to follow him. Philip, it must be borne in mind, is not Philip, |one of the seven,| but |one of the Twelve,| a citizen of Bethsaida, of Galilee, and a fellow-townsman of Andrew and Peter. (Joh 1:45)

45. Philip findeth Nathanael. As we learn from John 21:2, Nathanael, like Peter and Andrew, James and John, and Philip, was a Galilean, his home being at |Cana of Galilee.| His name only occurs in these two places. He is supposed to have been one of the Twelve, the same one mentioned in the other Gospels as Bartholomew, which is a patronymic, meaning son of Tolmai. The use of the name in John 21:2 favors this hypothesis. We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write. There was only one to whom this could refer, |The prophet like unto Moses,| the Messiah; and when Philip names Jesus of Nazareth, Nathanael is at once skeptical whether the Messiah could come out of Nazareth. Note, 1. That although Cana was not far from Nazareth, so quiet had been the life of Jesus, thus far, Nathanael does not seem to have heard of him; 2. As soon as Philip becomes a disciple he at once begins to seek others, an excellent example for all young Christians. For references in the books of Moses to the Messiah, see Gen.3:15; 17:7; and Deut.18:15-19. (Joh 1:46)

46. Nathanael said . . . can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? The Jews of Jerusalem despised Galilee and scornfully rejected the Galilean teacher, while the rest of Galilee seems to have despised Nazareth. From the manner in which the mob thrust Jesus out of the synagogue and tried to kill him, its population could not have been of high moral type. The Jews were wont to associate all moral and religious good with Jerusalem, and could hardly conceive that the King would come from elsewhere than the capital of David. Come and see. That is the best answer to the skeptic. Bring him to Christ, let him consider him, and what he has done for mankind. The strongest proof that Jesus is the Christ is Jesus himself. The unbelieving John Stuart Mill said that no one could find a better rule of virtue than |to endeavor to live so that Christ would approve his life.| Renan pronounces him |the greatest and purest of the sons of men.| (Joh 1:47)

47. Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! The Savior salutes Nathanael with a tribute to his honest, guileless character. He was a true Israelite, without hypocrisy, worshiping God with sincere soul, according to the light he had received. (Joh 1:48)

48. Whence knowest thou me? Nathanael, who had never met Jesus before, was surprised to hear himself spoken of as one known. When thou wast under the fig tree. There was Something about this answer that filled Nathanael with astonishment. Under the shade and shelter of the fig tree he had had some rare experience that is not recorded, and that he supposed unknown to man. That Jesus knew of it and read his soul startled him and dissipated his unbelief. (Joh 1:49)

49. Thou art the Son of God; the King of Israel. Philip had said, |Jesus, the Son of Joseph,| as he supposed, but Nathanael, convinced, declared him the Son of God. This is the first confession of the divinity of Jesus, and is the spirit, rather than the letter of Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah. Nathanael, devout, a devoted student of prophecy, living in the great hope, rises to the heights of the Messianic prophecies. (Joh 1:50)

50. Thou shalt see greater things than these. Nathanael, as a follower of Christ, did see greater things than the revelation of hidden knowledge that convinced him. So, too, if all believers faithfully use their present opportunities they shall have greater. There is a growth in grace and knowledge. (Joh 1:51)

51. Ye shall see the heavens open, and the angels of God ascending. Jacob, old Israel, in his dream at Bethel, saw the ladder that reached to heaven with the angels upon it (Gen.28:12). Christ is that ladder, the way from earth to heaven, the way heaven sends messages to the world and the way we must go to reach it. Nathanael would be permitted to see that Jesus was the Mediator, that through him the Father speaks to man; that through him there is intercommunication between earth and heaven. Nathanael sees heaven open, not opened. It still stands open, and has been since the vail of the temple was rent.

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