John tells the story of the call of the first disciples differently than the story told in the other gospels, even thought at least two of the same characters (Peter and Andrew) are in both versions. Why? (You can read the story in Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20, and Luke 5:1-11.)
The story John tells of of discipleship and vocation is one of faith as a journey. This idea of progression is reinforced through several literary elements, in particular the repetition of the temporal phrase ”The next day.” which structures the story (it’s used in verses 29, 35, 41). Following Jesus seems is lifted up as a daily progression, and movement. Underneath is the number 3, possibly referring to the three days it took for the resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus sees the disciples and asks them an existential question, at the core of what it means to be human: “ What are you looking for?” They are the very first words spoken by Jesus in the gospel of John. They express the basic need of humanity that causes him/her to come to God. We wish to stay with God, seeking to escape temporality, change and death, seeking to find something that is lasting. To that hunger, Jesus responds with the all- embracing invitation to faith “Come and see”. Both words are used to portray the idea of Christian discipleship in John.
Nathaniel finds himself in the sight of Jesus. His affirmation of Jesus as the promised leader both spiritual and political, is turned back to him. Nathaniel – and we as the readers – will see that Jesus is truly Master, the son of God, the King of Israel. It’ll will be revealed in the first miracle of Jesus in John 2:1-11 when he turns water into wine. The journey begins, a journey that is told in the gospel, a journey that we are invited to in our lives. How will do we respond, day by day? How do we see? How are we seen?
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What shimmers for you in this passage?
- What word, phrase or image touches your life today?
- How have you experienced following Jesus as a relationship?’ as a journey
- How does this story of first disciples intersect you own story of how you came to see and be seen by Jesus, to follow him on his Way of life?
- What word of grace, hope, life do you hear and receive in this story of call? How does it encourage you today?