30 November 2016

John 1:35-42

“[Andrew] first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed).” (v. 41)

Psalm: Psalm 27


Writing this in Scotland, it feels particularly important to remember and celebrate St Andrew, the patron saint of this land who in these verses, as in other places in John's Gospel (John 6:8), is discovered bringing people to Jesus. Perhaps you are reading these notes in Russia, Greece, Barbados or one of the many other lands which have Andrew as patron saint too? It is not surprising to find that Andrew is the patron saint of fishermen and fishmongers, but maybe a little less obvious to discover that he is also considered to watch over pregnant women and butchers and to provide protection against sore throats and whooping cough!

In The Gospel according to St John, C K Barrett describes this passage as a bridge in which we see the first disciples moving over from John the Baptist and Judaism to Jesus and the new fulfilment he brings. In these early stages they are questioning, wondering, pondering. Jesus responds to their enquiring minds as he invites them to "Come and see" (v. 39). "Nothing is more important," says Barrett, "than to know where Jesus abides and may be found."

There are several uses in the passage of the Greek verb "menein" - meaning to stay, remain or, perhaps, abide (see verses 38 and 39). This too is notable in Scotland, where the question "Where are you staying?" (v. 38) would mean "Where do you live?" not "What is your temporary abode?", so we wonder exactly what these two disciples did want to know of Jesus. There is further wordplay on the verb 'to follow'. On the surface this is used here to mean the simple physical act of going behind someone else (verses 37-38); for the writer, however, there may have been a deeper meaning implied, that of choosing the path of discipleship and becoming followers of Jesus.

In John's narrative, Andrew meets Jesus before Simon Peter does, yet he is described in relation to Peter. No doubt this reflects the fact that, by the time the Gospel was written and circulated, Simon Peter would be much better known than the brother who first introduced him to Jesus. But Andrew is given the first announcement of Jesus as Messiah and he rightly holds a significant place in the story of discipleship. The identity of his companion is not given, but has traditionally been thought to be John, the 'beloved disciple' who, in turn, is traditionally considered to be the author of the fourth Gospel. Although beyond the realms of proof, all this is plausible; we see that the writer clearly has detailed knowledge of this encounter, down to the time of day and the words spoken.

At the end of the story, the focus is on Simon as Jesus looks at him (one senses there is a deeper meaning to that verb as well - looking and seeing is always a theme in John) and then gives him a new name, Cephas, or Peter, the rock (verse 42). In this way Jesus declares what Simon Peter will later become.

To Ponder

  • Do you have any plans to mark St Andrew's Day today? Appropriately it is the day when the Methodist Church in Scotland is prayed for in the Methodist Prayer Handbook, so that's a good place to start.
  • Ponder the words of C K Barrett today; "Nothing is more important than to know where Jesus abides and may be found". See how this impacts on your day.
  • Here, and in almost every other scenario, Andrew is eclipsed by his brother Simon Peter. How do you react when others appear to receive more attention or glory? Today may be a day to rejoice in being an Andrew!

Bible notes author

Jill Baker

Jill Baker lives in Glasgow and is glad to be part of the small but distinctive Methodist Church in Scotland. She is a local preacher and local preachers’ tutor in the Strathclyde Circuit, where her husband Andrew is superintendent minister. For Jill, the past 20 years have included all sorts of roles within Methodism – further afield (as a mission partner in the South Caribbean) and closer to home (with WFMUCW, MWiB, leading pilgrimages and as part of various committees and groups) and is currently the Vice-President of the Conference 2017/2018. When not engaged in these ways, Jill enjoys walking in the beautiful mountains of Scotland, gardening and writing; she blogs at and "Thanks, Peter God", her book about the life of her son, Peter, who died in 2012, was published in 2016.