The Gospel of John, part 11, The next days (Revised)
Sep 22, 2019
Matthew and Luke tell us that after His baptism Jesus “immediately” (Mark 1:12) went into the wilderness, where He was tempted by the devil. John omits that entire story, probably thinking that it was unnecessary to repeat that story. John’s Gospel was written to supplement the other gospels, not simply to repeat them.
If we look carefully, we see that John’s account of Jesus’ baptism appears to be from the vantage point of looking back on a previous event. We are told that John had been questioned by the delegation of Pharisees, and then “the next day” he saw Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). It does not say that he baptized Jesus at that moment. Instead, John simply bore witness of Him (John 1:32).
It appears, then, that this “witness” actually occurred after Jesus had returned from the wilderness. No doubt Jesus had returned to the same Jordan crossing where John was still baptizing. The apostle then tells us in John 1:35,
35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
If Jesus had already gone into the wilderness for 40 days, why would He still be walking around on the shore of the Jordan River? Did He not go “immediately” into the wilderness? Likewise, in John 1:43 John tells us that “the next day” Jesus told Philip, “Follow Me.” Was Jesus already calling His disciples for two days before He went into the wilderness? No, of course not.
The apostle omitted the actual account of Jesus’ baptism, preferring to give an account of John’s witness that Jesus was the Christ. The other gospels make it clear that John had borne witness to Christ at His baptism, but the apostle John was focusing upon a continuing witness after Jesus had returned from the wilderness.
In John 1:32-34 the Baptist recounted how he had seen the Spirit of God descend as a dove (about 40 days earlier). Then “the next day” (i.e., the third day in the sequence) John again observed “Jesus as He walked” and again declared Him to be “the Lamb of God.” We do not know how often John bore witness of Jesus in this manner, nor does it matter. The point is that Jesus had already returned from the wilderness and was beginning to call His disciples.
With that background in mind, let us continue in John 1:37-39,
37 The two disciples [John’s disciples] heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
Again, we see that Jesus was “staying” somewhere, which implies that He was remaining in that area for at least a few days. And obviously, this had to be after His return from the wilderness. John implies that Jesus was there to find disciples from among those who had accepted John’s baptism and believed John’s witness that He was the Christ. It was unusual for the disciples of one Rabbi to switch Rabbis in the middle of training. In fact, under normal circumstances, this would have been a serious breach of protocol. But those two disciples realized that John had deferred to the Messiah, and so they were already prepared to change their allegiance.
Disciples normally were trained by their Rabbi from the time that they were confirmed by the Bar-Mitzvah at age 13 until they were 30 years old.
Andrew and Simon Find Jesus
John 1:40-42 says,
40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which translated means Peter).
This seems to tell us that Andrew was one of the first two disciples to follow Jesus. He immediately found his brother Simon and told him the good news. When Jesus saw Simon, He renamed him Cephas, which is the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek name Peter (“stone”).
Jesus did not actually tell these disciples to follow Him. It was the disciples who had decided to follow Jesus. Jesus took note of their desire, saying only, “Come, and you will see.” Jesus wanted them to take some time to make such a life-changing decision. He wanted them to observe Him and get to know Him better, so that they could make a more informed decision.
So also we read in Mark 1:16, 17, 18 that Jesus did not tell Andrew and Peter to “Follow Me” until later, while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee. We do not know how much time had transpired since they first met Jesus. Luke 5:1-11 gives us a fuller account. This was the occasion where they had been fishing all night with no success. They had returned to shore the next morning, and Jesus used their boat as a platform for teaching.
After teaching the crowd, Jesus told them to go back into the lake and try again. They did so and caught so many fish that the boat was in danger of sinking. That was the occasion, Mark tells us, that Jesus invited them to “Follow Me.” Only then did they officially become Jesus’ disciples.
We are not told explicitly the name of the second of the Baptist’s disciples who expressed his desire to follow Jesus in John 1:37. The reason for the silence may be that the disciple was John himself, the author of the gospel, and that he was being modest and somewhat anonymous. He often spoke of himself, not by name but as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20) and “the disciple who is testifying of these things” (John 21:24).
If that second disciple is John himself, then perhaps he went to find his brother James, even as Andrew had gone to find his brother Simon. Later, Jesus called James and John while they were repairing their nets on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus called them shortly after telling Andrew and Peter to “Follow Me” (Mark 1:19, 20). But it is quite possible that John and his brother James came to meet Jesus earlier.
Yet there is another possibility as to who that second disciple was. Perhaps it was Philip.
Philip and Nathanael
John 1:43, 44 says,
43 The next day He purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.
The apostle gives few details about how Jesus “found Philip” or why He immediately told Philip to “Follow Me.” Philip means “lover of horses.” His Greek name implies that he came from a family of Hellenized Jews from Bethsaida, about a mile north of the Sea of Galilee on the east side of the Jordan River. It was located a few miles northeast of Capernaum.
Perhaps Philip was converted through the ministry of John the Baptist. Certainly, he had been baptized by John and was thus prepared to follow the Messiah as soon as He was revealed.
Philip’s calling came “the next day,” as verse 43 tells us. John gives us a three-day sequence following the delegation of the Pharisees. First we see (vs. 29) John’s declaration that Jesus was the Christ on the first day, then (vs. 35) Andrew and Peter follow Jesus on the second day, then (vs. 43) Jesus encounter with Philip and his hometown friend, Nathanael, on the third day.
Philip’s possible Hellenistic background may also explain why Philip was the first disciple to preach the gospel outside of Judea. He went to Samaria with the gospel in Acts 8:5.
John 1:45, 46 continues,
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Nazareth was a Jewish outpost on a ridge in Samaria, populated by a radical settler movement that was not so different from the modern Jewish settler movement in Palestinian territory today. Nathanael’s first reaction was quite negative, showing that he disdained the radical settler mentality. Later, when Jesus taught there (Luke 4:16), He told them that “there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah… yet Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath in the land of Sidon” (Luke 4:25, 26).
He also told them that “there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syria” (Luke 4:27). The people reacted violently, for we read in Luke 4:28-30,
28 And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way.
Such was the mentality of the ultranationalist people of Nazareth, the city where Jesus was raised. If Jesus had been as radical as His fellow Nazarites, neither Philip nor Nathanael would have been impressed. When Philip invited Nathanael to see for Himself, Nathanael came only because he trusted his friend. Jesus then proved that He was a prophet, telling him something that no one else could have known.
This is part 11 of a series titled "The Gospel of John" To view all parts, click the link below.