Come and See: calling disciples

Ecce Agnus Dei - Francis Hoyland

Ecce Agnus Dei – Francis Hoyland

Andrew. Three times Andrew is doing something in John – ‘and each time he is bringing someone to Jesus. First, his brother, Simon (v.40). Then, a boy with five barley loaves and two fish (6:8); and finally, “some Greeks” (12:20-22), which signals the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified. Andrew is never mentioned just by himself. Twice he is called Simon Peter’s brother (1:40; 6:8). We are told that Philip came from the city of Andrew and Simon (1:44). Andrew and Philip go and tell Jesus about the Greeks (12:22). It may be that being named as the first follower of Jesus (in the Fourth Gospel) was the first time that he had ever been first in anything. It seems likely to me that he was always living under the shadow of his more flamboyant brother. It also seems to me that our parishes are full of more behind-the-scenes “Andrews” than flamboyant “Peters” who seem to get all the credit. (“Peter” occurs in 32 verses in John – ‘8 times as many as Andrew.) One doesn’t have to be a “Peter” to be an effective follower and witness to Jesus (Stoffregen)

Finding Jesus. Francis Moloney (54-55) points out an issue with Andrew telling Simon the “We have found….” Moloney and many other scholars point out that there are two definitions for Greek heurisko: (1) to learn the location of something, either by intentional searching or by unexpected discovery; and (2) to learn something previously not known, frequently involving an element of surprise. It is the aspect of “unexpected discovery” or “surprise” that isn’t translated well by our word “to find,” which, I think, conveys more of the sense of “intentional searching.” Moloney writes:

“Andrew has told Simon, ‘We have found’ (heurekamen), and this is not true (v. 41). The Baptist pointed his disciples toward Jesus, and they followed (vv. 36-37). They were invited by Jesus to come and see, and they did what they were told (v. 39). The initiative for their presence with Jesus and their understanding of him does not belong to them… Andrew led Simon to Jesus he looked at him and spoke to him. The initiative is entirely with Jesus.”

The Messiah. While there is a scholarly debate about how to rendered the word “first” (v.41). most scholars understand the passage to mean, that the next morning Andrew promptly went in search of his brother. When he found him he told him that they (his plural “we” means that he was already thinking of a community) had found the Messiah (an expression that occurs only here and in 4:25 in the New Testament). In his customary manner the Evangelist explains that this word means “Annointed.”

This early recognition of Jesus as the Messiah puzzles some in view of the indications in the Synoptic Gospels that it was a long time before the disciples had anything like an adequate view of Jesus. But, as one scholar (Hoskyns) puts it, “the Evangelist does not, as is often supposed, idealize the first disciples, since it is precisely the title Christ which requires interpretation.” There is no great mystery about the disciples’ thinking of Jesus as the Messiah. There seem to have been many claimants to messiahship in that period. It was the content put into the term that mattered. All the evidence is that it was quite some time before any of Jesus’ followers reached anything like an adequate understanding of the term. But that does not mean that they did not use it. It was easy to call Jesus “Messiah”; it was quite another thing to understand what this should mean as he interpreted his vocation. Part of the Fourth Gospel’s purpose appears to be to refute erroneous ideas about messiahship. It would be quite in accordance with this that he should record the disciples’ first inadequate recognition of Jesus as Messiah, preparatory to unfolding in his Gospel the true meaning of the messianic office. Messiahship means a good deal to John. He writes his whole Gospel to make us see that Jesus is the Messiah.

Simon Peter. Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, an act of which is perhaps as great a service to the Church as ever any man did. Jesus gave the newcomer a searching look and proceeded to rename him. This must be understood in the light of the significance attaching to the “name” in antiquity. It stood for the whole person. It summed up the entire personality. The giving of a new name is an assertion of the authority of the giver (e.g., 2 Kings 23:34; 24:17). When done by God it speaks in addition of a new character in which the person henceforth appears (e.g., Gen. 32:28). There is something of both ideas here. Simon is from this time Jesus’ man. But he is also a different man, and the new name points to his character as “the rock man. Peter appears in all the Gospels as anything but a rock. He is impulsive, volatile, unreliable. But that was not God’s last word for Peter. Jesus’ renaming of the man points to the change that would be wrought in him by the power of God.


John 1:41 Messiah: the Hebrew word māśiâh, “anointed one”, appears in Greek as the transliterated messias only here and in Jn 4:25. Elsewhere the Greek translation christos is used.

John 1:42 Simon, the son of John: in Mt 16:17, Simon is called Bariona, “son of Jonah,” a different tradition for the name of Simon’s father. Neither the Greek equivalent Petros nor, with one isolated exception, Cephas is attested as a personal name before Christian times. Kephas is our transliteration of the Aramaic כֵּיפָא, meaning “rock.” Peter is from the Greek πέτρος with much the same meaning. Strictly the Greek equivalent of Kephas is Πέτρα, but this has a feminine ending and the less usual masculine form is used for Simon’s new name. Originally πέτρα meant the solid rock and πέτρος a stone, a piece of rock, but the two seem not to have been sharply distinguished in New Testament times (see O. Cullmann, Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr [London, 1962], pp. 20–21). Kephas does not occur in any of the other Gospels. It points to an Aramaic-speaking author, as anyone else would use the common form, Peter. This is John’s only use of the name Kephas. Indeed, apart from this passage the term is found only in Paul.


  • K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).
  • Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 29a in The Anchor Bible, eds. William Albright and David Freeman (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1966) 71-80
  • Neal M. Flanagan, “John” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, eds. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989) 982-83
  • Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003) 84-86
  • John J. McPolin, John, vol. 6 of the New Testament Message, eds. Wilfred Harrington and Donald Senior (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1989) 49-50
  • Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John, vol. 4 in Sacra Pagina, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998) 48-62
  • Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995). 135-41.
  • Gail R. O’Day, John in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996) 530-34
  • Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks Christian Resources, available at


  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
  • Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)

Scripture – The New American Bible available on-line at

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