The Call of Peter
Ordinary 2 Year B
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
St. John 1: 35 — 42
It can be a little confusing to read the text at hand, without a little background explaining the setting, and the time-line in which events occurred.
About four or five months before the events in our current reading, John the Baptist had begun his preaching in the wilderness of the Jordan Valley. He had been doing this public teaching for a few months before Jesus (now about 31 years old) came to him for baptism. Our Lord had now reached the technical age at which He could teach about the interpretation of Biblical texts. His baptism marks the official beginning of His public ministry. Jesus went first into the wilderness west of Jericho and remained there for forty days, undergoing the temptations of the devil.
Introduction to our text
Meanwhile, John the Baptist continued to give his testimony before the enthusiastic crowds which came out into the desert to hear him. Some of John’s visitors were not so enthusiastic. We pick up the story as narrated in “The Gospel Story” by R. Cox.
Early in March the snow thaws on Mt. Hermon to the north
of the lake of Galilee, and the Jordan is in flood. John the
Baptist moved away from the river a few hundred yards to
a smaller rain-fed stream, to continue his baptising in safety.
There was a small village nearby called Bethany (a distinct
place from Bethany on mount Olivet). Here the delegation
from the Jewish leaders found him. “Priests and Levites”
represented the Sadducees; they were the official rulers of the
people, whereas the Pharisees were the intellectual leaders.
These latter were teachers, and interpreters of the Jewish
way of life, the Mosaic law. Both parties resented John’s
popularity and influence; they were the accepted masters,
he a mere upstart. Also he had shown no respect for their
position, even calling them “a brood of vipers” (see Matt. 3: 7
and Luke 3: 7).
So now they were seeking information from his own lips to
enable them to work up a case against him. John’s life of
solitude had made him sparing of words; he is abrupt with
them. He goes straight to the point: The popular opinion,
that he is the Messiah is false. He is not Elijah come back to
earth (Elijah had been taken in a fiery chariot from this
place in 850 B.C.), nor is he the prophet foretold by Moses
(actually this was the Messiah, though John’s questioners
did not seem aware of it). His work is to prepare the way for,
and point out the Messiah; if they were genuine seekers,
they would be able to recognise him.
It was during this confrontation with the authorities that John the Baptist was asked, “Who are you?” and “Why are you baptising?” The day after being interrogated by a delegation sent by the senior authorities in Jerusalem, John saw Jesus coming towards him (on His way back from 40 days in the desert) and said, “Look, this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He followed this with a statement explaining that the very reason he was there, was to make this Lamb known to Israel.
It is the day after that when our text takes up the sequence of events, recording a second time that John pointed out Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.
Some Reflections on our text
Verses 35 to 37
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples,
and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the
Lamb of God.”
The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
• Our opening scene indicates St. John the Baptist was more or less in the
same locality as the events of the previous days, and is accompanied by
two of his own disciples. One is Andrew, and the other is John, author
of the text (which he allowed to be inferred from 13: 23, and 20: 2, among
• Not only did John the Baptist have disciples, but he taught them specific
prayers (See Luke 11: 1) and upheld strictly certain rules of
fasting (Mark 2: 18).
We need to be aware that the reference to “disciples” does not mean merely
being “followers of”, or “associated with”; John’s disciples also learnt from
him. More about this when we talk of our Lord’s disciples.
• Let us now reflect a little on this unusual term, “Lamb of God”, and why the
Baptist’s pointing Jesus out as such, was so important, since it actually led
to some of the Baptist’s disciples becoming disciples of Jesus — and
therefore following Him. So first a note on the “Lamb” idea, and then to the
aspect which drew disciples to Him.
Most readers and commentators link the “Lamb of God” to the Passover Lamb. Here is an explanation of this.
According to John’s Gospel, Jesus was crucified at the same
time that the Passover lambs were being put to death in the
Temple (19: 14). The fact that the soldiers did not break Jesus’
legs (19: 33) is understood to be the fulfilment of Exodus 12: 46,
which prescribes that no bones of the Passover lamb should
be broken (19: 36). Originally, the Passover lamb was not
looked upon as a sacrifice, but since the priests had taken over
responsibility of killing the lambs, it is probable that in New
Testament times many people would look on it as a kind of
sacrifice. Although the Passover Lamb was not looked upon
as a sin offering in Judaism, it is easy to see why Christians
would view it this way, on the basis of their understanding
of Christ’s death. (UBS)
• Now, how did this understanding affect the way Jesus attracted disciples?
According to St. John Chrysostom (C.E. 349 — 407), when John the Baptist spoke of the greatness of Jesus, no one seemed to be attracted to the Lord as a disciple. But when the Baptist referred to Him as “Lamb of God”, with all the Biblical meaning of God’s mercy and forgiveness, then disciples truly followed Him. Chrysostom goes on the say:
“We may observe, not only in the instance of the disciples, but
that many are not so much attracted when some great and
sublime thing is said concerning God, as when some act of
graciousness and loving kindness, something pertaining to the
salvation of the hearers, is spoken of. They heard that He takes
away the sin of the world and straightway they ran to Him.
For, said they, it is not possible to wash away the charges that
lie against us, why do we delay? Here is One who will deliver
us without labour of ours. Is it not extreme folly to put off
accepting the gift?”
What stands out overwhelmingly is that the first followers of Jesus were won to Him by the proclamation of His Atoning Sacrifice — i.e. the sacrifice of His life to restore humanity back to full unity (at-one-ment) with God.
• John the Baptist’s words — his prophetic testimony about the Messiah,
really struck home: they heard John, and they followed Jesus.
(Noting the Greek: akolou thein — to walk behind, to be a follower.)
We probably feel a touch of sympathy for the Baptist as he bows out of
this present scenario. However the power and effectiveness of his
preaching and testimony could not have produced more blessed fruit!
Verses 38 and 39
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
“What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi”
(which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
He said to them,”Come, and you will see.” So they went and
saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.
It was about four in the afternoon.
The spotlight is now on Jesus. In the text before us, He turns around to the two following Him. (As a little aside, the Greek verb “following” implies, “trying to catch-up”.)
Jesus asks the two young men, “What do you want?” “What are you looking for?” They then address Him as “Rabbi”, literally, “Great one”. It can also be translated as, “My Master” — applied only to those deemed qualified to interpret, explain, and apply the Torah: the Teaching of God in the Sacred Scriptures.
Then they come out with what they really want to know and to say:
“Where are you staying?” (Not exactly where do you live,
because His dwelling at the time may have been just a
“lean-to” of reeds, whilst away from home, visiting the area).
They are, in fact asking Jesus, “Where can we find you,
to be with you”?
This is a very Hebraic moment when two robust and enterprising young men put aside everything else and ask the Rabbi, “Where should we go to sit at your feet”? This is a customary way of asking if they might be His ‘talmidim’ (plural of ‘talmid’ — disciple). We must not overlook the importance, of this special moment in St. John’s Gospel,
Our Lord’s reply is, “Come, and you will see”. St John, the author of our text, and one of the ‘talmidim‘ recorded very precisely:
They went, they saw, they stayed.
This is a powerfully emphatic statement indicating their complete acceptance of Him as fulfilling everything that had been prophesied.
St. John the Evangelist was writing this Gospel perhaps fifty years after the event — yet remembers that when they went to Jesus’ abode, it was in the tenth hour — around 4 p.m. Can you remember what you were doing at 4 p.m. on any day 50 years ago? Most of us would find that difficult. St. John has signalled here, that from this particular moment, his life was never the same! It was the turning point of his whole life. Now that is some testimony!
St. Augustine reflects beautifully the energy of the rabbinic-talmidic moment:
‘ They wished to see where He stayed and to do what is written:
“The threshold of His door let thy foot wear: rise and come to
Him assiduously, and be instructed by His precepts“. He showed
them where He stayed: They came and they were with Him.
What a happy day they spent, what a happy night! Let us also
build in our heart and make a house for Him to visit. Let Him
teach us, let Him converse with us ‘. (Tract. In Joann. In loc.)
Verses 40 and 41
He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We
have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).
Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and
said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called
Kephas” (which is translated Peter).
Before going to where Jesus was staying, Andrew went off to find his brother Simon. All he said to Simon was, “We have found the Messiah”. Simon dropped everything and went with his brother.
Andrew was very forthright in his announcement to his brother, Simon. “We have found the Messiah”. His words put him in the category of people who were sincerely waiting for and seeking the “Consolation of Israel“#. Chief among the characteristics of such people are the joy they experience when the thing awaited has happened, and the haste with which they want to share news of it with others. That is the Biblical pattern.
# Consolation of Israel — Common name for the awaited Messiah probably linked to Isaiah 12: 1 and 49: 13.
The Greek term for this title is paraklesis meaning comforter, which appears in
John14: 16 (Comforter, Paraclete, etc.) Also, as used by Simeon in blessing the
baby Yeshua — Jesus, in Luke 2: 25.
But we are left wondering, how were they so certain of the arrival of the Consolation of Israel? John the Baptist’s testimony obviously crowned their own assessment of the teaching of Jesus. It was not a miracle which won them over — though miracles did follow later. Clearly it was the beautiful simplicity and clarity of His speech. He brought new light to shine on the Scriptures. His comments and unfolding of the Plan of God’s Salvation met and satisfied the deepest yearnings of His listeners. The New Age was dawning, and they caught the first rays of the New Light at its very source.
Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said,
“You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas”
(which is translated Peter).
Knowing what we know, looking back on what is recorded about these two men in the New Testament, this scene presented an interesting little snapshot. Older brother, Andrew bar-Jonah, (who is probably a year older than our Lord) brings younger brother, Simon bar-Jonah to Jesus. Two sons of John (thus Hebrew, bar-Jonah), very, very different temperaments, but both passionate about their culture and Faith. It would not be long before the older brother would be known among the disciples as Simon Peter’s brother. Well, that leads us to reflecting on how young Simon gets a name change.
Giving names expresses special relationship:
In Genesis 2, God assigns to Adam the responsibility of calling each creature by a name of his choice.
A second purpose associated with naming is when God changes a person’s name to reflect some special purpose He is assigning to them. Well-known examples are Abram being changed to Abraham, and Jacob to Israel.
A third aspect of this custom giving special names is when some feature of a person’s make-up is highlighted and given extended significance in a new context. An outstanding example of this is when Jesus says to “Simon the son of John (bar-Jonah), you will be called Kephas”. In this action, our Lord incorporates all three of the features above, relating to name giving:
• In the new creation, Simon Peter will demonstrate a very particular relationship with the One assigning him his new name.
• Simon, “the rock-man”, will perform a distinct role in the formation and nurturing of the Church, but only after “the rock” is broken, and he sees that of himself, he is nothing.
• Our Lord saw in Simon a great potential for durability and permanence. This reflects the nature of God who looks beyond the surface into the heart. The early Church linked Psalm 139 with this text. It did so because it exemplifies how the Hebrew culture understood God’s care and concern for His own. Jesus was therefore demonstrating the same love for those who seek to follow Him. See Appendix for an excerpt of Psalm 139. We should not get drawn into arguments about the gender of the terms rock, pebble, bedrock and so on. In our context in this Scriptural text, “rock” does not mean just a large stone; it refers to a rock outcrop on which a house could be built. This was later expanded in the teaching of Jesus:
The Two Foundations
Matthew 7: 24 ― 27
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on
them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and
buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set
solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does
not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on
Then rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and
buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely
In the opening verse of the citation above, the phrase, “these words of mine”, refer to the instruction our Lord gave in the Beatitudes. In Hebrew, Jesus would have said “this torah of mine, which means precisely, “these words of mine“.
Thus Simon, now Kephas ― translated into Greek, Petros ― and then into English, Peter ― is to be closely associated with the Word of God, and the building of His House, the Church. Peter will be united with Christ and will live and die, reflecting his consecration to his Lord and Saviour. His new name certainly reflects the trust Jesus has in Peter’s devotion to the Lord’s words ― His Teaching, His Torah ― and to the durability and steadfastness which Peter empowered by the Holy Spirit, was later to manifest.
It is easy to read this passage rather like a newspaper and gloss over the awesome scene of our Lord ― having just been identified as “Lamb of God” ― now setting about choosing His close disciples. In fact it is packed with significance and is a powerful opening to our Lord’s work among the people.
Jesus asked the two men following Him on His way home (or rather, more likely, where He was staying temporarily at that time). “What is it that you are seeking ― looking for?” It was not just a casual enquiry, “What do you want?” These men were seeking the Messiah. They wanted the Messiah to disclose Himself and reveal His work. They had heard only a little about Him, and from Him, but that was enough for them to want to follow Him. Only later did they realise that it was He seeking them and drawing them into His service. That leads us to the question as to whether we are also seeking Him with a view to following Him closely. It is a question rightly put to us early in the Church Year. The disciples of the Lord were and are those who follow the call of the prophet Isaiah:
“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call him while he
is near.” Isaiah 55: 6
May you be richly blessed as you do so.
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“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”
(Mark 16: 15)
Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
The Call of Peter
Ordinary 2 Year B John 1: 35 — 42
1. There is something special about being present at the beginning of a new
A particular highpoint in our reading is when John the Baptist declared
We too, will “drop everything” and follow the Lord at His call, when we are
2. Andrew and John, if we interpret our reading in terms of Jewish culture,
Our frequent reading and meditating on the Scriptures, especially the Gospels,
3. St. John the Evangelist sat and listened to Jesus, wherever it was that He
How valuable it would be for us to recall our “4 p.m.”, and give thanks to God
John 1: 35 — 42
Ordinary 2 Year B
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples,
36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb
37 The two disciples 27 heard what he said and followed Jesus.
38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,
39 He said to them,”Come, and you will see.” So they went and
40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who
41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have
42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said,
26  John the Baptist’s testimony makes his disciples’ following of Jesus plausible.
27  The two disciples: Andrew (⇒ John 1:40) and, traditionally, John, son of Zebedee (see the note on ⇒ John 13:23).
28  Four in the afternoon: literally, the tenth hour, from sunrise, in the Roman calculation of time. Some suggest that the next day, beginning at sunset, was the sabbath; they would have stayed with Jesus to avoid travel on it.
29  Messiah: the Hebrew word masiah, “anointed one” (see the note on ⇒ Luke 2:11), appears in Greek as the transliterated messias only here and in ⇒ John 4:25. Elsewhere the Greek translation christos is used.
30  Simon, the son of John: in ⇒ Matthew 16:17, Simon is called Bariona, “son of Jonah,” a different tradition for the name of Simon’s father. Kephas: in Aramaic = the Rock; cf ⇒ Matthew 16:18. Neither the Greek equivalent Petros nor, with one isolated exception, Kephas is attested as a personal name before Christian times.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised
Psalm 139: 1 — 10, and 17
For the leader. A psalm of David.
I LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
2 you know when I sit and stand;
3 You sift through my travels and my rest;
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
5 Behind and before you encircle me
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
8 If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
9 If I take the wings of dawn*
10 Even there your hand guides me,
17 How precious to me are your designs, O God;
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised