The first Week (John 1:19–51) - continue

The first disciples (1:35–51)

Jesus is finally on center stage, and the identity of Jesus as the revelation of God is given explanation. The disciples of Jesus are learning who Jesus is and what it means to be his disciples, and are invited to “come and see”.

  1. Andrew, the Anonymous Disciple, and Peter (1:35–42)
    a). “Come and see”: Jesus’ invitation to the disciples (1:35–39);
    b). The naming of Peter (1:40–42);
  2. Philip and Nathanael (1:43–51)
    a). The “good” that comes from Nazareth (1:43–49);
    b). The revelation of the Son of Man (1:50–51).

Now, we are moving from the public ministry of the Baptist to the public ministry of Jesus.
It is the witness of John that directs the disciples to Jesus. In the synoptic Gospels it is Jesus who calls the disciples himself (Mt 4:18–22; 9:9; Mk 1:16–20; 2:13–14; Luke 5:1–11, 27–28).

Andrew, the Anonymous Disciple, and Peter (1:35–42)

1:35 - see 1:29 - The “next day” after John bore the testimony.

The care with which the successive days are enumerated in this part of the narrative (1:29, 35, 43, 2:1; cf. also 6:22; 12:12), suggests that it is based on the recollection of a participant in the events described.

Perhaps, he was one of the two disciples of John mentioned in 1:37 who clearly remembered the detailed sequence of his first acquaintance with Jesus. What about the others? It seems that they remained John’s disciples till his death (cf. John 3:25–26; Mt 11:2).

1:36 - 1:29

In 1:29 - the testimony takes place before Israel (1:31). In 1:36, the testimony is before his own disciples.

1:29 - John sees Jesus walking “towards him”; 1:36 - John sees Jesus “walking by”. Jesus is about to begin his ministry. In the synoptic Gospels the beginning of Jesus’ own ministry is announced by John’s arrest (cf. Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14; Luke 4:14).

Moreover, John was “looking at” Jesus as he was walking by. Finally, he knew at whom to look.

What kind of response did John expect from his disciples to his testimony?


This verse describes the fruit of the Baptist witness - they followed Jesus. The verb “follow” is used in reference to discipleship (1:43; 8:12; 12:26; 21:19–20,22).

They certainly did not grasp the depth of the meaning of John’s witness but they trust the witness of John and responded in obedience. They were probably also eager to know more about Him.


This the first recorded action of the Word of God in the world.

“Turned” (cf. Mt 9:22; 16:23; Luke 7:9, 44; 10:23; 14:25; 22:61) is more than just physical action. It denotes a remarkable change of Jesus’ attitude and is often followed by an unexpected saying.

But, perhaps it can mean more. See Zech 1:3 and Mal 3:7 - “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”.

The moment the two disciples (Israelites) turned from the Baptist towards Jesus, he turned towards them, towards his people and answering the prayers of the psalmist “turn on Lord! How long?” (Ps 90:13).

“What do you seek?” (See also 18:4, 7; 20:15). In all these three instances Jesus’ question leads to an answer.

Notice that the title “Rabbi” is explained for the benefit of the Greek reader. It means “my great one” but in the first century AD it came to refer to someone who completed appropriate course of rabbinical training and was qualified to teach. Although it was an honorific title, it gave an individual the highest status as a teacher (see John 3:1).

“Where are you staying?” - This question contains their desire to be with Jesus, to know him and follow him.


Jesus immediately responds to their longing with a (surprising but desired?) invitation.

In 1:14 - The Word made dwelling among us. Now, the first disciples could come and see that dwelling and remain with the Word. What an incredible experience! No wonder that the exact hour was recorded - from morning till 4 pm.

What Jesus said that day to them is not recorded but it was enough to convince them that John was not mistaken. Jesus was indeed the Coming One, the expected Messiah.

Such wonderful news could not be kept to themselves: their friends must share it with them.


Now only, we know the name of one of the two disciples of John who on that day followed Jesus. What is more interesting, although Simon Peter had not appeared on the scene yet, Andrew is described as his brother.

Again, the evangelist presumes that the synoptic story of the two famous brothers is known to the reader. The fact that in John, Andrew together with the anonymous disciple met Jesus before Simon Peter is also worth noting.

The second disciples remains unnamed and it has to intentional. The author knew too many details about that first encounter with the Word that he had to also know the name of the other disciple. Here, many find a clue that this disciple is the author of the Gospel who for various reasons decided to remain anonymous.


“The first thing he (Andrew) did was to find his brother” - This is beautiful testimony. Andrew finds his own brother and shares ‘the Gospel’ with him.

“We have found the Messiah”. This semitic term appears only one more time in 4:25. Other times in the NT this term appears in Greek - but here it is translated again.

This title denotes:
1. the king of Israel (1 Sam 16:6 - the Lord’s anointed);
2. The high priest (the "anointed priest - Lev 4:3);
3. And once, in the plural, of the patriarchs in their role as prophets (‘my anointed ones’, Ps 105:15).

Jesus is the Messiah in all three roles: prophet, priest, and king.

However, like in the case of Peter (cf. Mt 16:16,21–23), Andrew could not at that time fully grasp the meaning of his own statement.


Andrew did not only tell Peter, the good news, he also brought Peter to Jesus. When in the Acts, Peter is portrayed as performing mighty works in the name of Jesus, Andrew could only look with satisfaction that he was the one who introduced his brother to the Lord.

(No one can foresee, when he brings a man or woman to Jesus, what Jesu will make of that person).

Each time Andrew is mentioned in the narratives, he is bringing someone to Jesus (6:8–9; 12:22).

Jesus looked at Peter, the way John looked at Jesus in 1:36. He knows his name - Simon Bar-Yohanan (see Mt 16:17; John 21:15–17).

But then, Jesus changes his name - Kepha - which means in Aramaic - “rock”. The form “Cephas” with a final “s” was used in order to adopt to the Greek tongue (1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:18). The Greek translation is also provided - “Petros” - which also means “rock” (see Mt 16:17–19).

The change of a name indicates the change in life - Peter becomes Christ’s disciple and the “rock” on which he will build his church. See also Mt 7:24–25.

Philip and Nathanael (1:43–51)

1:43–44 - we move to another day - 4th day already.

It is grammatically possible that the one who planned to leave for Galilee and found Philip was Andrew (cf. 1:41 “he first found Peter”). In that case, Philip would be second one brought by Andrew to Jesus. But, most assume that it was Jesus.

Philip is called to follow Jesus. “Follow me” or “Come after me” is a command.

“Bethsaida” means “house of the fisherman”. It was located on the northeast shore of Lake Gennesaret in the territory of Herod Philip. We are informed that Andrew and Peter also came from that town.

Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13 - Philip is always in the fifth place after Simon, Andrew, James, and John - but the synoptics do not give further information about him.

In John, Philip is often confused and misunderstands Jesus (John 6:7; 12:21–22; 14:8–9).


Philip finds Nathanael. He is also mentioned in John 21:2 where we are told that he comes from Cana in Galilee. The meaning of his name is “God has given”. The tradition see him on the list of the Twelve under the name Bartholomew immediately following Philip (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13 has a different order). But, some consider him to be one of the many Jesus’ disciples.

Compare Andrew’s declaration with the one of Philip.

We have found the Messiah - Andrew.

“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

The prophet of whom Moses spoke is mentioned in Deut 18:15–19. But we can expand the list of passages to Gen 49:10; Num 24:17; Is 11:1; Jer 23:5–6; Zech 3:8).

But, Philip also includes the full designation of Jesus he was known. Here, for the first time, we know that Jesus comes from Nazareth and is known as son of Joseph. Again, the evangelist presumes the story of the synoptics (Mt 1–2; Luke 1–2; Mt 13:53–58; Mk 6:3; Luke 4:22).


Nathanael’s question implies that among the Galileans Nazareth enjoyed no high repute.
In Acts 24:5, the Christians are also looked down upon being described as the “Nazarene sect”.

Philip does not enter into any dispute, he repeats the words that Jesus spoke to the first two disciples: “come and see” (1:39). Experience can cure prejudice. Perhaps, there is something good - an exceptionally good - that can come out of Nazareth.


Nathanael comes, but Jesus saw him coming. “True Israel, in whom there is no deceit!”.

The name of Israel was given to Jacob in Gen 32:28 known for his deceit (Gen 27:35–36). In LXX, the same Greek word is used like in John 1:47 - “dolos” - deceit. Nathanael was unlike the young Jacob.


Only Jesus and Nathanael knew what took place under that fig tree (see Gen 3:7). Some consider the “fig tree” as a symbol of home (Is 36:16; Mic 4:4; Zech 3:10) and even as a place for prayer, meditation, and study.

Whatever the symbolism may be, it was enough to make Nathanael realise the identity of Jesus.


Nathanael gives Jesus two titles: “Son of God and King of Israel”, both have messianic connotations.

The Son of God - (Ps 2:6–7; see also Ex 4:22–23; Deut 1:31; 36:6; Jer 31:9; Hosea 11:1).
The King of Israel - (Zephaniah 3:15; Is 44:6 - relation to God).

The question is: did Nathanael understand properly those titles? Did he see Jesus as a political and militaristic king? The nature of Jesus’ kingship will come in John 18:36, where the kingdom of God ‘meets’ the kingdom of Rome.


Why did Nathanael believe? Because Jesus revealed something unique about him. But there is more to come. Nathanael and other disciples - there is a transition between 2nd person singular to the second person plural - will witnessed greater things that will point to Jesus’ true identity.

We read here “Greater things you will see”, but in John 14:12 - we read “greater things you will do”.

Nathanael is the first disciple of whom the author speaks that he believed.

Jesus’ “Amen” - in John it is doubled “amen, amen”. So, something important must follow after it.

“Amen” is in origin a Hebrew word meaning ‘steadfast’ or ‘sure’; from the same root come Hebrew words for ‘belief’, ‘faithfulness’, and ‘truth’. It was used in the liturgy (cf. Ps 41:13), to express the assurance that a prayer would be fulfilled.

On Jesus’ lips it confirms the certainty and trustworthiness of what he says, and was preserved untranslated in the Greek-speaking church as his ‘ipsissima Vox’ - his ‘actual voice’, proclaiming his unique authority.

It also points to his authority. Using this word, Jesus speak with the authority of God. The Word speaks Lord’s word.

Jesus’ words relate to Gen 28:12. But, here the vision gains true meaning.

The Son of Man is the mediator between God and the human race. Jesus points to his crucifixion (see John 8:28). By the cross heaven is thrown wide open, God draws near to man, and man is reconciled to God.

The “Son of Man” - the title that Jesus preferred to use (see Dan 7:13–14). But, Jesus also understands the Son of Man in the life of Isaiah 52:13–53:12.

During the time of Jesus, there were apocalyptic writings, in which the Son of Man was regarded as a preexistent heavenly figure, who was God’s end-time agent to defeat evil and execute divine judgement (1 Enoch 46:1–4; 62:5–16; 4 Ezra 13:3–13; 25–26).

1 Enoch 46:1 There I beheld the Ancient of days, whose head was like white wool, and with him another, whose countenance resembled that of man. His countenance was full of grace, like [that of] one of the holy angels. Then I inquired of one of the angels, who went with me, and who showed me every secret thing, concerning this Son of man; who he was; whence he was and why he accompanied the Ancient of days.

1 Enoch 46:2 He answered and said to me, This is the Son of man, to whom righteousness belongs; with whom righteousness has dwelt; and who will reveal all the treasures of that which is concealed: for the Lord of spirits has chosen him; and his portion has surpassed all before the Lord of spirits in everlasting uprightness.

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