The Disciple Who Quit and Changed the World (John 1:35–42)

Read John 1:35–42.

One after another, strange but beautiful looking bits of raw fish wrapped in rice were placed in front of me. I had left the ordering up to my housemate, who just happened to be of Japanese descent and knew what he was doing.

All these years later, I can’t remember what brought us to that sushi joint that day. I only recall my friend politely placing his menu down and asking our server if he could speak directly to the sushi chef. Then he asked for several things with Japanese names that weren’t on the menu. All the while, he kept turning to me with a smile on his face and saying things like, “Trust me—this is good. You’re going to like it.”

He was right. Every last bite was delicious, and when he later told me what some of it was, I realized I never would have ordered any of it on my own. I wouldn’t have even known how. I trusted my housemate to help me. I leaned on his experience and was better off for it.

A friend’s recommendation is a powerful thing. It can have us eating urchin and octopus, and even finding a new identity. That’s what happened when Andrew brought Peter to meet Jesus (the new identity part, not the urchin thing).

Andrew was a fisherman by trade, but at some point he had become a disciple of John the Baptist. Being one of John’s disciples had to be a strange experience. Not only was there the man’s odd appearance—the camel’s hair clothing and leather belt that made him look an awful lot like Elijah the prophet (Matthew 3:4; compare with 2 Kings 1:8)—but there was also the weird diet, consisting of locusts and wild honey. I wonder if John’s disciples ate off the same menu or if they were permitted to bring their own snacks.

And there’s another reason being a disciple of John was different than most discipleship opportunities. In his own words, John’s ministry was one of preparation. His calling was to tell others to “make straight the way for the Lord” (John 1:23; compare with Isaiah 40:3). He proclaimed a baptism of repentance so that people might be ready to meet the Messiah. John’s ministry was never about John. By design, his ministry would become somewhat obsolete when Jesus showed up. The sinful heart’s need for repentance wouldn’t go away, but why look to the hair-covered man with locust breath shouting about the coming Messiah when Jesus Himself has arrived?

Leaving John to follow Jesus, Andrew and another unnamed disciple show that they actually understand their master’s teaching. By quitting John, they prove themselves to be his truest and most committed disciples.

We don’t know what took place during their time with Jesus, only that Andrew and the other disciple went with Jesus to the home where he was staying and that it was four o’clock in the afternoon (v. 39). That note about the time may be there to indicate the three shared the evening meal together and that it was late enough that the two disciples had to stay the night. We only know that after spending time with Jesus, Andrew is so convinced He’s the real deal—God’s Chosen One, the Messiah, and the true King of Israel—he does the most natural thing: he shares his joy by going and getting his brother.

When Simon got there, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter)” (v. 42). Cephas and its Greek counterpart Petros both mean “rock.” So what Jesus says here is strange, and many readers will immediately jump in their minds to Matthew 16, where Jesus says something similar to Peter in response to his good confession that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). But here in John, Peter has not said any such thing. He hasn’t yet begun to follow Jesus or give himself in faith. He’s simply a fisherman meeting Jesus for the first time.

In the ancient world, rocks were part of a strong foundation. (Do you remember Jesus’ parable about the man who built his house on sand and the other who built on the rock? See Matthew 7:24–27.) It seems Jesus is getting ready to build something, and seeing Peter, He knows He can begin. Here’s the rock. Now it begins.

Of course, we know what Jesus was getting ready to build—a kingdom here on earth that reflects the goodness of heaven, a community of sinners-turned-saints who love one another like their Father loves them, and a new creation fashioned out of the old one, where there is no more crying or grief or pain. It’s still a build in progress, of course, but we live today in the hope of its completion.

Peter became an apostle. People were healed of their physical ailments and their spiritual blindness through his ministry. He preached the good news at Pentecost and was the first to bring the gospel to Gentiles. He traveled near and far telling others about Jesus, penned two New Testament letters, and was apparently the primary source for Mark’s Gospel. Seeing how God worked through Peter, I wonder if Andrew ever looked back and smiled, knowing that it all started because he took the small step of bringing his brother to Jesus.

You and I can never tell how God will shape a life. We never know how the Lord might use someone for the kingdom. All we can do is bring them to Jesus and watch.

What’s this all about?

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