Today’s reading is John 1:29-51 (NABRE):
John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 30 He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me. 31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. 33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ 34 Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
The First Disciples.
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, 36and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” 37 The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. 38 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?” 39 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. 40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
43 The next day he decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” 46 But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The second half of the first chapter of the Gospel of John introduces us to a “cast” of “characters” that will have prominent roles in the rest of the Gospel. The first character, John the Baptist, was already introduced to us in the first half of the first chapter. His role, though, is extended in this part of the chapter when he beholds Jesus. Indeed, in this passage, we are introduced to Jesus, the true lead character of the cast.
The “character” of Jesus is known by many names, even in this passage alone: the Lamb of God, the Son of God, Rabbi, the Messiah, the Anointed, the King of Israel, the Son of Man. We will come to know Jesus by each of these names, in each of these roles, as we continue our Lenten journey through the Gospel of John.
After being introduced to Jesus, we are then introduced to several of his first disciples including Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. These four characters are immediately given a name. However, if we read closely, we notice that there is one more disciple mentioned but who has not been given a name. John 1:37 reads, “The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus” (NABRE, emphasis added). John 1:40 confirms that “Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.” The identity of the second disciple is still unclear to readers. Christian tradition holds that the second disciple mentioned in John 1:37 is John the son of Zebedee, John as in the Gospel of John, John as in 40 Days in John. Yes, the second disciple is the author of the very Gospel that we are reading and blogging about this Lent.
While he attempts to keep his identity anonymous, at least in this first chapter of the Gospel, the author of the Gospel of John is very much a “character” alongside the rest of the “cast.” As we will see, later chapters of the Gospel, refer to the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Again, according to tradition, this disciple, still nameless, is John. It is not until the twenty-first chapter, in the penultimate verse of the entire Gospel, following another mention of the “disciple…whom Jesus loved,” that we will be made privy to the identity, the name, of this anonymous disciple: “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them…” (John 21:24).
Similarly to the disciple John, you may prefer that your role, as a reader of the Gospel of John this Lent, be anonymous. However, I encourage you to take a more active and public role this Lent, however you can and however you feel you are being called to. Maybe you are being called to devote an extra hour of your time to a ministry at your church. Maybe you are being called to casually discuss what you have read in 40 Days in John with your blockmates in the dining hall. Maybe you are being called to reach out to a senior friend stressing over his thesis deadline. Whatever specific role God is calling you to this Lent, I am sure that He is calling you to join the cast of characters presented to us in this first chapter of the Gospel of John. Lent is an open casting call! And Jesus wants you!
Marina Spinelli ’18 is a Junior in Eliot House studying Human Evolutionary Biology.