[3]   Beginning of Ministry: Calling of Disciples (1:19-51)

Section B. The Beginning of Jesus’ Ministry (1:19-51)

o        This section describes the witness of John the Baptist and the first disciples of Jesus. It relates the chain of events in one week:

·         day 1: Deputation from Jerusalem interrogates John the Baptist (v.19-28)
·         day 2: John’s points out Jesus publicly (v.29-34)
·         day 3: Two disciples of the Baptist follow Jesus (v.35-40)
·         day 4: Andrew brings Peter to Jesus (v.41-42)
·         day 5: Philip and Nathanael come to Jesus (v.43-51)
·         day 7: Jesus attends the marriage feast at Cana (2:1-11)

 

Explanation

[B1]    1:19-34........... The witness of John

·         John the Baptist and the Pharisees (1:19-28)
·         John the Baptist and Jesus (1:29-34)

 

1:19     The inquisitors were from Jerusalem, from Jewish religious leaders, mainly the Pharisees. (Sadducees are the high-priestly families.) The delegation was official and widely representative.

“The Jews” is often used to denote Jewish people hostile to Jesus.

1:20     The emphatic pronoun “I”: “It is not I who am the Christ!” is used frequently in chapter 1: v.23, 26, 27, 30, 31, 33, 34.

The author makes it clear that John the Baptist claimed a subordinate position.

Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew) means the Anointed One.

OT priest and kings were anointed; the rite was used to set men apart for special functions.

1:21     Malachi prophesied that God “will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes,” that is, before the Messiah comes (Mal 4:5). That is the reason of the question.

Jesus also explicitly asserted that John was “the Elijah who was to come (Mt 11:14). John the Baptist was in a sense Elijah as he fulfilled the role of preparing for the coming of Jesus. He was in a sense not Elijah because he was not the same Elijah that appeared in the OT. It is also possible that the Baptist did not know he was Elijah.

John the Baptist denied he was the prophet because the Jews were thinking of a prophet like Moses as described in Dt 18:15-19.

1:23     John’s reply was from Is 40:3. He was no more than a voice (in contrast to the Word) to point people to Jesus.

1:25     Baptism was the regular rite in the admission of converts from other religions, not for Jews. But some expected that there would be baptizing when the messianic age dawned (Eze 36:25; Zec 13:1).

1:26     The Baptist baptized in water only, in contrast to the baptism in the Holy Spirit (in the Synoptics).

1:27     Loosing the sandal was the task of a slave; even a disciple was not expected to perform it, an explicit rabbinic saying.

1:28     This Bethany (on the eastern side of the Jordan) was not the better-known Bethany which was near Jerusalem.

 

1:29     “The Lamb of God”: the genitive “of God” may mean “provided by God” or “belonging to God”. (a) the Passover Lamb, based on the apparent identification of Jesus’ sacrifice with the Passover in 19:36, (b) The lamb led to the slaughter (Isa 53:7), (c) the lamb of the daily sacrifices, (d) the triumphant Lamb in Revelation 14, (e) the God-provided Lamb of Gen 22:8, which foreshadow Christ’s atonement, (f) a lamb as a sin offering (Lev 4:32). Since it is the One who takes away the sin of the world, it is a general allusion to sacrifice. The lamb figure may well be intended to be composite, evoking thoughts of several interpretations.

The words “takes away” conveys the notion of bearing off, signifying the atonement.

“The sin” refers to the totality of the world’s sin, not to many individual acts.

“The world” refers to the comprehensiveness of Christ’s atonement.

Some argued that the idea of the Lamb in atonement was developed late in the first century. But the Baptist received revelation from God. Further, the Qumran scrolls also link suffering, specifically the Suffering Servant (Isa 53), with messiahship.

1:31     John the Baptist’s work was to lead to revelation of the Messiah.

1:32     “I have beheld” is in perfect tense indicating something that had continuing effects; also he saw it with the bodily eye, not a mental vision.

The Holy Spirit not only descended but remained on Jesus (not in the Synoptics).

1:33     John did not know Jesus to be the Messiah who would baptize with the Holy Spirit until he saw the sign which was revealed to him before the event.

1:34     Both “I have seen” and “I testify” are perfect tense, pointing to the continuing effect.

The “Son of God” more accurately “God’s Chosen One”

“Son of God” was used of Solomon (2Sa 7:14) and in the plural of all Israel (Hos 1:10), but here it points to the closest personal relationship to God the Father.

 

[B2]    1:35-51........... The First Disciples

·         Andrew and Peter (1:35-42)
·         Philip and Nathanael (1:43-51)

 

1:35     Disciples (learners) mean those who had attached themselves to a teacher; the other disciple besides Andrew is likely John, the beloved disciple.

1:37     “Follow” can mean “follow as a disciple”.

1:38     “Rabbi” is the customary address by a disciple.

The question “where are you staying” indicates that they would like a more extensive talk.

1:39     Jesus invited them to visit Him.

“Tenth hour” is 4 pm.

1:41     “First thing” indicates that Andrew immediately found his brother before he did anything else, but may mean he found his brother before he found anyone else.

This is the first recognition of Jesus as the Messiah by a disciple.

1:42     Each time we meet Andrew in this Gospel, he is bringing someone to Jesus (6:8; 12:22).

Both Cephas (Aramaic) and Peter (Greek) mean rock. It points to him being the rock of the early church in Acts; but in this Gospel, he was impulsive, volatile, unreliable, and he became a rock only through change by the power of God.

 

1:43     Jesus sought out Philip and called him. Based on other events involving Philip, he seemed to be of limited ability and lack of initiative (6:7; 12:21-22; 14:8-9); perhaps this was why Jesus took the initiative to enlist him.

The word “follow” is present tense with continuous force, meaning keep on following, in the sense of “as a disciple”.

1:44     Bethsaida was the home city of Philip, Andrew, Peter, the city where Jesus exercised a considerable ministry (Mt 22:20-24; Lk 10:13-14).

1:45     “we” shows that Philip had already identified himself with the group headed by Jesus.

Nathanael is recorded only here and 21:2; his name means “God has given” (today’s Theodore), possibly the same as Bartholomew who was coupled with Philip in all three Synoptic Gospels.

Also, Bartholomew is not really a personal name, but only means “son of Tolmai”

1:46     Nathanael (who came from Cana) could not conceive of the Messiah as coming from such an insignificant place of Nazareth.

1:47     The term “a true son of Israel” means a straightforward person.

1:48     The fig tree was almost a symbol of home (isa 36:16; Mic 4:4; Zec 3:10); its shade was used as a place for prayer and meditation and study. It probably refers to Nathanael having some experience of communion whith God in the privacy of his own home.

Whatever it was, Nathanael immediately recognized the allusion and knew that Jesus had some miraculous knowledge.

1:49     Nathanael’s response was to salute Jesus in terms implying divinity. “King of Israel” means the Messiah. He acknowledged Jesus to be his own King; he was submitting to Him.

1:50     “You believe” can be taken as “Do you believe?”

This is the first person explicitly said to believe.

Jesus promised His new disciple that he will see greater things.

1:51     “I tell you the truth”, original Aramaic or Hebrew word “Amen”, meaning to confirm, to give one’s assent. It was the way the people made whatever is said (by someone else) their own, thus used at the end of a prayer.

In the Gospels, it is used only by Jesus, and always as a prefix to significant statements, to mark them out as solemn and true and important.

In the Synoptic Gospels, the word always occurs singly (Mt 31, Mk 13, Lk 6), whereas in John (25 times), it is always doubled.

“you” here is plural, a change from singular in v.50, indicating this saying is meant for a wider circle.

The ascent and descent of angels seem to be a reference to the vision of Jacob (Gen 28:10ff). But in Jacob’s dream, there is nothing about the heavens being opened. In both passages, however, there is the thought of communication between heaven and earth. The angels are said to ascend first, implying their presence on earth already. Jesus Himself is the link between heaven and earth as “the Son of Man” substitutes the ladder in Jacob’s story.

It is a figurative expression of saying that Jesus will reval heavenly things.

“open” is in perfect tense, indicating that they would see the heavens opened and remaining opened.

 

While Jesus only called Himself “Son of Man”, many titles (17) are given to Him in this chapter: the Logos (v.1), God (v.1), the light of men (v.4), the true light (v.9), the only Son from the Father (v.14), a greater than John the Baptist (v.15, 26-27, 30), Christ (v.17), the one and only God (v.18), the Lord (v.23), the Lamb of God (v.29, 36), he that baptizes with the Holy Spirit (v.33), God’s Chosen One (v.34), the Son of God (v.49), Rabbi (v.38, 49), the Messiah (v.41), he of whom Moses and the prophets wrote (v.45), and the King of Israel (v.49).