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Jesus’ First Disciples (John 1:14-18; 38-51) | Werner Bible Commentary

Jesus’ First Disciples (John 1:14-18; 38-51)

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-06-17 11:17.

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Aware that he was being followed, Jesus turned and asked John’s two disciples, “What are you seeking?” This question served as an invitation for them to express their wishes respecting him. They addressed him as “Rabbi” (“Teacher”) and asked, “Where are you staying?” Their question implied that they wanted to spend time with him. Jesus invited them to come with him and to see for themselves. They then remained with him that day. It was about the tenth hour when they arrived where Jesus was staying. Possibly this was Roman time or about 10:00 a.m., as roughly only two hours would have remained before the start of a new day according to Jewish reckoning. With the Jewish day (the daylight hours) starting at 6 a.m., the tenth hour would have been 4:00 p.m. (John 1:38, 39)

One of the disciples was Andrew, the brother of Simon (to whom Jesus would later give the name Peter). The other disciple likely was John the brother of James. This is suggested by the fact that John is never named in a single verse of the account to which he is linked as the writer. (John 1:40)

Upon leaving Jesus’ company, Andrew located his brother Simon and excitedly told him, “We have found the Messiah” (Christ or the Anointed). With his brother, Andrew then headed back to the place where Jesus was staying. Upon seeing Simon, Jesus said to him, “You are Simon, son of John [Jonah]. You will be called Cephas” (Peter). The name “Cephas” or “Peter” means “rock,” and this name reflected Jesus’ confidence in Simon as one who would prove to be rocklike or solid in his faith and provide strengthening aid to fellow believers. (John 1:41, 42; Mark 3:16; compare Luke 22:32.)

The next day Jesus wanted to leave Judea to go to Galilee. He personally approached Philip, doubtless also one of John’s disciples, inviting him to be a follower. Philip must have known Peter and Andrew. Before taking up residence in Capernaum, Peter and Andrew, like Philip, lived in Bethsaida, a town on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. (John 1:43, 44; compare Luke 4:31-39.)

Philip then located Nathanael, telling him, “The one of whom Moses wrote in the Law and the Prophets we have found, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” The link to Nazareth appeared puzzling to Nathanael, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” His question may suggest that Nazareth did not have a good reputation. On the other hand, Nathanael may have meant that he found it difficult to believe that the promised Messiah, the great good to which Philip had referred, would come from this city in Galilee (and not Bethlehem in Judea). Could it really be that the Messiah, of all places, would have Nazareth as his home? Philip did not try to persuade Nathanael with words but invited him to come and find out for himself. (John 1:45, 46)

As Philip and Nathanael approached, Jesus’ first words to Nathanael were, “See, a true Israelite in whom nothing is false.” Surprised by this observation from one whom he had never met, Nathanael responded, “How do you know me?” Revealing that he had knowledge about Nathanael beyond the ordinary, Jesus told him that he had seen him under the fig tree before Philip called him. An event or circumstance associated with that fig tree revealed the kind of person he was, and Nathanael immediately grasped the significance of Jesus’ words. With conviction, he replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Having believed on the basis of being told that he had been seen under the fig tree, Nathanael heard Jesus say that he would see things greater than this. In fact, he and the other disciples would see heaven opened and “the angels of God ascending and descending to the Son of Man.” Through him, the very heavens would be opened up to them. (John 1:47-51; see the Notes section for additional comments.)

From this time onward, these early disciples (and those who would join them later) came to see in Jesus, though having become flesh, a divine glory or splendor. His was the glory of an only-begotten of a father. He was the unique one, full of kindness and truth. As the one full of “kindness,” favor, or grace, Jesus manifested a gracious disposition of unparalleled love. He himself was the living truth, the one through whom all the promises of God find their fulfillment and the one who, through his attitude, words, and deeds, provided to humans the most complete disclosure possible regarding his Father. (John 1:14)

He alone, as John the Baptist had testified, already “was” prior to his arrival on the earthly scene. From the fullness of the Son of God, his disciples received kindness “upon” (literally, “instead of” [antí]) kindness, or favor upon favor. This favor or kindness was unearned and unmerited. The disciples continued to be the objects of Jesus’ care and compassionate concern as he taught them, came to their aid and defense, and, finally, in expression of his boundless love, gave his life for them. (John 1:15, 16; see additional comments in the Notes section on verse 16.)

Whereas the law had been given through Moses, through Christ came the favor and truth or the full expression of godly kindness and the complete revelation of divine truth. Unlike humans who have never seen God, Jesus had both seen him and enjoyed an intimacy with him reaching into the infinite past. That intimacy is revealed in the expressions used concerning him. He is the “only-begotten,” the unique one, the one and only. “God” (theós), if this is the original reading of John 1:18 (later manuscripts read, “only-begotten Son,” signifying unique Son), describes him as being exactly like his Father. The closeness to the Father is further shown by his being portrayed in his bosom position. This is the kind of intimacy a person would enjoy when reclining in front of another person on the same couch while eating a meal. As the intimate of his Father, Jesus could reveal him to others in a way that no one else could. (John 1:17, 18; see additional comments in the Notes section on verse 18.)

Notes:

See http://bibleplaces.com/bethsaida.htm for pictures of and comments about Bethsaida.

See http://holylandphotos.org for pictures of and comments about Cana. Enter “Cana” in the “search” box.

John’s account does not reveal what happened under the fig tree or what may have been Nathanael’s thoughts. Whatever was involved, Nathanael recognized that Jesus’ knowledge respecting him was of a miraculous nature, removing any doubt from his mind about Jesus’ true identity.

Nathanael is only mentioned in John’s account. Based on the mention of Philip and Bartholomew together in listings of the apostles, Nathanael and Bartholomew appear to be the same person. (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14) Similarly, Matthew is also called Levi. (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27-29)

The reference to the ascending and descending of angels from the Son of Man somewhat parallels what Jacob saw in his dream at Bethel. In that case, angels descended and ascended by means of a ladder-like or stair-like arrangement that reached from the land to the sky, and the Almighty was positioned at the top. Jacob then heard God’s promise that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. (Genesis 28:12-14) As the apostle Paul wrote when referring to the promise first made to Abraham, that seed proved to be Christ. (Galatians 3:16) Jesus’ statement therefore may also have served to confirm Nathanael’s expression of faith, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Not until after Jesus’ death do angels figure prominently in the biblical accounts, being seen at various times. (Matthew 28:2-7; Mark 16:5-7; Luke 24:1-7; John 20:11, 12; Acts 1:10, 11) Manuscript evidence concerning the appearance of an angel in the garden of Gethsemane to strengthen Jesus is inconclusive. The omission of this incident in early extant manuscripts suggests that it may not have been mentioned in Luke’s original account. (Luke 22:43) So it would appear that Jesus’ words about the ascending and descending of angels relate more to the disciples being able to see the free approach he had to his Father and that angels were always available to minister to him. (Compare Matthew 26:53.)

In John 1:16, the words about receiving “favor upon [anti; literally, “instead of”] favor” could be understood to mean receiving unmerited kindness followed by receiving even greater unmerited kindness.

In John 1:18, the Greek term monogenés (often rendered “only-begotten”) points to the uniqueness of the relationship of the Son to the Father. There is no other son like him. The emphasis is not to be placed on the second part of the compound (begotten), but the expression is to be regarded as a unit. This is evident from the way the term is used in the Septuagint as a rendering for the Hebrew term yahíd (only, only one, alone). Jephthah’s daughter was his only child. (Judges 11:34) The psalmist pleaded that YHWH might rescue his “only-begotten one” (Brenton), meaning the only life he possessed or his precious life. (Psalm 21:21 [22:20(21)]; 34:17 [35:17]) He also prayed for mercy because he identified himself as an “only-begotten,” that is, one of a kind (like an only child). In this case, the Hebrew often has been translated “lonely” or “alone.” (Psalm 24:16 [25:16])