John 1:35-42: From John to Jesus
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Transitions can be difficult. Whether it is between jobs, ministries, governments, or generations, transitions can be tricky. It can be hard for the old to ‘let go’ and let the new take over. It can be hard to adjust to new circumstances as a transition takes place.
In John 1 we are witnessing a transition between eras. In verse 35 we hear what happened on the next of the sequence of days that John records through the chapter.
We begin with John, standing with two of his disciples, and as Jesus walks past John’s testimony rings out again: ‘Look, the Lamb of God’. The two disciples with John hear this and follow Jesus. The transition has begun between John and Jesus. John has performed his role and it is now time for his disciples to move on from the shadow to the fulfilment; from the announcer to the main star of the show.
We finally hear Jesus speak in the narrative as he turns in verse 38, and asks a question pregnant with meaning, ‘What do you seek?’ As the disciples turn from John to Jesus, Jesus also turns to them. Zechariah 1:3 uses the language of (re)turning to announce the program for rebuilding the people of God after the exile…’Return to me, declares the Lord almighty and I will return to you’.
What are you looking for? What do you want?
Jesus is constantly putting questions like this to those who follow him or appear to want to follow him. ‘What do you think?’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ and so here this question is put. Jesus asks penetrating questions of us all.
The disciples’ response, ‘where are you staying?’ is to be understood as saying they are looking for someone to follow…they want to go where he is staying because they him to be their leader, their teacher.
The disciples’ seemingly innocuous question uses the word often translated ‘remain’ or ‘abide’. This is a significant word through the Gospel. We will read later in the Gospel that Jesus remains with the Father and the true disciple remains with Jesus.
The next part of this exchange is Jesus’ invitation to the disciples in verse 39, ‘Come and see’. This is an open-ended invitation to come which has to be trusted and taken up.
The recording of this moment is precise and solemn. We are told that they went, saw, and remained with him. The time is recorded. The first encounter between Jesus, the eternal Word, and his disciples has occurred. The transition between the ministry of John and the ministry of Jesus is complete.
The final part of this narrative, in verses 40-42, picks up the story of Andrew, who finds his brother Simon to tell him about who he has found. A new title is introduced as Andrew announces that they have found the Messiah. Andrew is an interesting character in John’s narrative. Whenever he is mentioned, he is bringing people to Jesus. He is a model disciple.
Simon meets Jesus. Jesus acknowledges him and then gives him a new name. In this action Jesus shows his authority to give such a name. The re-naming also reflects the work of Jesus in his new disciple. There is a newness about Simon that is expressed in this name change.
When we meet Jesus, this is the most significant transition that can take place in our life. We too receive a new name, ‘child of God’ (1Jn 3:1; cf Rev 2:17; 3:12). We can be full of thanks for this.
Will we invite others to come and see who Jesus is and what he can do?
Our Father, as we behold the manner of love you have given us that we might be called your children, we pray that you will fill our hearts with joy and gratitude. Help us to be bold to ask others to come and see Jesus and we pray that you would work your miracle of grace in them, by your Spirit, to open their eyes. We ask this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.