Friday, April 4, 2014

Calling His Disciples (part 2)

Looking at the first chapter of John then for the initial calling of disciples, an observer finds himself in the setting of the event of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.  On the day after the baptism, “John was standing there with two of his disciples.  Gazing at Jesus as He walked by, he said, ‘Look, the lamb of God!’  When John’s two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus” (1:35-37).  Momentarily, it is learned that one of these disciples was Andrew, though Jesus is not heard calling him to follow.  Instead, the author reports that “Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, ‘What do you want?’  So they said to Him, ‘Rabbi’ (which is translated Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’  Jesus answered, ‘Come and you will see.’  So they came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day.  Now it was about four o’clock in the afternoon” (1:38-39).  The use of “they stayed with Him that day” seems to convey a double meaning, indicating that they stayed with Jesus at the place where He was staying, while also indicating the fact that they stayed with Jesus from that point forward. 

Immediately after that, one goes on to learn that “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus.  He first found his own brother Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah!’ (which is translated Christ).  Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, the son of John.  You will be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).  On the next day Jesus wanted to set out for Galilee” (1:40-43a).  It should be noted that in contrast to Mark, Matthew, and Luke, there is no mention whatsoever of fishing, Andrew and Simon are not together, Jesus does not explicitly call either to follow Him, and they are not even in the region of Galilee.

In Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus moves directly from calling Andrew and Simon, to calling James and John, who, according to Luke, are all partners in the fishing business.  The fishing motif is strong.  In John, the story moves from the non-call of Andrew and Simon, who are not portrayed as fishermen, to the very first overt call by Jesus, which is to Philip.  The story of this call is completely absent from the other three Gospels.  Having learned that Jesus wanted to set out for Galilee, it is reported that “He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’  (Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.)  Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about---Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’  Nathanael replied, ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth?’  Philip replied, ‘Come and see.’” (1:43b-46) 

So rather than moving from calling Andrew and Simon to calling James and John, the story of Jesus’ gaining of disciples moves to Philip and Nathanael.  Expanding on a previous notation and emphasizing that the calls of Philip and Nathanael are to be found only here in John’s Gospel, one could surmise that this probably serves as an indication that they were somehow connected to the community for which this record of Jesus is composed.  It is also worth noting that it is Philip, in fact, who is the one that calls Nathanael, rather than Jesus, which will be reinforced momentarily. 

Moving along to that instance then, “Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward Him and exclaimed, ‘Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’  Nathanael asked Him, ‘How do you know me?’  Jesus replied, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’  Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe?  You will see greater things than these.’  He continued, ‘I tell all of you the solemn truth---you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” (1:47-51) 

Thus ends the record, in John, of Jesus’ “calling” of disciples (“calling” is in quotes because only Philip is explicitly commanded to follow).  So not only does John not provide a record of the calling of James and John, there is no forsaking of occupation (fishing) or of family (James and John leaving their father), as is to be found in the rest of the Gospels, which simply serves as a reminder that John’s Gospel is quite unique in many ways.  

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