The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God! The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said tho them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “Where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (Which means Peter).

This passage marks the transfer of disciples from John to Jesus. Not much explanation is given for it. John proclaims Jesus’ identity again and immediately two of his disciples abandon him for Jesus. One of the disciples is Andrew and it is generally thought that the other, not named, was the writer of the Gospel, John. This realignment seems rather disloyal. Why doesn’t Jesus get his own disciples instead of taking John’s?

We will get a better sense of the dynamics later in John (3.30) when the Baptist says, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” referring to Jesus as the one to increase. John was not in a popularity contest. He was not seeking political power or influence. His life was in service to the Lord God and his concern was to do his part in the establishment of the Kingdom of God. The last thing he wanted was to get in the way of the Messiah who had come. If he felt any jealousy he dutifully suppressed it. In all likelihood he had already spoken with his disciples about Jesus and had given them the option, or even encouraged them to follow Jesus as his disciples. Since John is loyal to Jesus, the switch in loyalty by his disciples is not, in fact, a change in loyalty. 

When Jesus saw John’s disciples walk away from John and walk toward him, he asked, “What are you seeking?” Jesus often asked this question, or one like it, of those he encountered. “What do you want?” “What are you really searching after?” It’s a question all of us should think carefully about, and re-visit from time-to-time just to get our bearings. What do we want out of life? Is it to be rich and powerful and beautiful and popular? For some people, that is their answer. Those are not evil desires—those are all good desires. The problem is that they are all small desires. Jesus said that we are to first seek the Kingdom. 

What is the Kingdom? Well, first of all, it is a society ruled by the King. Those who seek first the Kingdom seek to serve the King. We are to love the Lord God, and we do that most measurably by obeying him. We obey in order to understand, and when we understand God we will love him. And we are to love one another. We cannot love God if we do not love one another. This means that we often have to forgive one another. Our hearts need to be filled with grace. Compassion. Gentleness. Peace. We also need to love ourselves. In some ways I am hesitant to raise this point because most people are pretty good at loving themselves. At least they are pretty good at putting themselves in the center of the universe. Good at looking out for old number one. 

The truth is, though, that the way for us to love ourselves is to love God first, and to love our neighbors, that is, seek their good, in the same way we seek our own good. It bears mentioning that many people are in despair. There are many causes. Perhaps they feel unloved by others. Perhaps their lives have been filled with disappointment. Perhaps they struggle with serious physical and/or mental illnesses. Perhaps they have fallen into the clutches of chemical addiction. Perhaps they have effectively become slaves to abusive people. Perhaps all of us experience these horrors at one level or another. This is where it’s important for individuals to love themselves. They must, to the extent possible, become free from the afflictions. 

Some afflictions we simply cannot flee. One affliction common to all of us is the corruption of our bodies that leads to death. The odds of us dying are 100%. In one sense there is no escaping this horror. In a more important sense, escape and triumph is absolutely possible. Jesus has promised to raise to everlasting life those who trust him and follow him. If he can overcome death in us, he can overcome all other afflictions. 

When Jesus asked the two disciples what they wanted, they answered by asking him, “Where are you staying?” This seems like a non-sensical response. But the context suggests that their meaning was they wanted to be with Jesus. “We want to spend time with you and find out what you are all about.” This makes all kinds of sense. This is what anyone who is considering becoming a disciple of Jesus would do. This is also the portal to having all of one’s deepest desires shaped and fulfilled. When Jesus asks, “What are you seeking?” what we need to learn is that the true answer—the answer we are in the process of discovering, is, “You”.

The Tenth Hour

Timekeeping in first century Israel was determined by sunrise. Once the sun rose they would start counting. So if the sun rose at 6:00, the way we think of it, noon for us would be six o’clock for them. (Perhaps “o’clock” is an anachronism. “The sixth hour” would be a better of way of saying it.) Thus, when this passage refers to the “tenth hour” is means four o’clock in the afternoon. 


Andrew is one of the lesser known Apostles. We see here that he was Peter’s brother. Peter was the most dynamic of the Apostles, and seemingly the leader of the original twelve. Andrew is often cited, not for what he accomplished directly, but for quickly bringing Peter to Jesus. His role is seen as one of crucial support. As such, he stands as an inspiration to all who see little of the limelight. God has important work for all of us to do. The lack of broad recognition in human society does not make good works unimportant. 

Simon Peter

In John’s account, Jesus names Simon “Cephas” or “Peter” when they first meet. John provides no explanation for the renaming. However, a passage found in Matthew provides us with a better, though controversial, understanding. 

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hellshall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16.13-19).

The most obvious thing to point out is that Jesus renames Simon. John says that Jesus calls him “Cephas”, which is Aramaic. The Greek word would be “Petras”, from which we get the name “Peter” in English. John does not make the point that Matthew does, which is that Peter means “rock”. So Jesus makes a play on words when Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus says, “You are the rock and on this rock I will build my church. To make a long argument short, Protestants tend to interpret the statement so that it is Peter’s profession, i.e., that Jesus is the Christ, upon which the Church will be built. In other words, the Church will be made up of all people who make the same profession. Roman Catholics have interpreted the passage so that Jesus is saying the Church will be built on Peter. This means for them that Peter was the first Pope and that all the Popes who follow, follow in succession to Peter and possess his authority over the Church. 

These two interpretations make up one of the key differences between Catholics and Protestants. It’s just as important to note, however, that Protestants do regard Peter highly, recognizing him as the leader of the Apostles, specifically called by Jesus, who installed all of them as Fathers of the Christian Church. Furthermore, Protestants recognize that Peter continued as the head of the church in Jerusalem and recognize him as the writer of the the New Testament books known as 1& 2 Peter. Catholics, likewise, recognize that the Faithful are generally made up of those who recognize Jesus as the Christ. 

What Jesus meant

It’s not always clear what Jesus means when he says something. Sometimes that can be frustrating. But perhaps it’s valuable for us to let questions percolate. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that we don’t have all the answers and that we need to temper our dogmatism with a recognition of our limited and damaged intellects. Which is to say, we need to be humble about what we know.

But looking at Peter for a moment, it’s worth considering just how much of a “rock” he was. Peter’s character did seem rather rock-like, always smashing into things. In some ways this seemed to work out well. The Apostles, on the whole, seemed to be a rather timid group. I think they looked to Peter to ask the questions they were afraid to ask. It’s clear that Jesus was pleased with Peter’s bold profession, as noted above. But it’s also true that shortly after Peter made this famous profession, he contradicted Jesus when Jesus said he had to suffer and die. Jesus’ response to Peter at that moment was, “Get behind me, Satan!” Talk about an emotional roller coaster ride. Hero-to-goat. It was also Peter who brashly claimed he would never be disloyal to Jesus. Jesus responded by telling him that he would deny knowing Jesus three times before the cock crowed. This prophecy was fulfilled, and the experience shook Peter to his core. 

Peter was restored to Christ after Jesus rose from the dead, and Jesus commissioned him to care for the Church. Even so, Peter did not perfectly represent the Christian faith. Paul had to admonish him, as is recorded in Galatians 2.11-14. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Peter’s profession and Jesus renaming him is that Peter, in many ways, stands in for the Church as a whole. Serious Christians are zealous for Jesus as God. Christians want to stand up for the Kingdom and see the spread of the Kingdom. Serious Christians are also fully capable of stumbling badly, of speaking wrongly, of meanness, of foolishness, of being obnoxiously prideful. Christians mess up a lot, and it’s not okay. Christians need to be humble and conscientious, lovingly righteous, not self-righteous. But in spite of Peter’s bumbling about, Jesus still loved him. And Jesus gave Peter a position of great authority. And Jesus absolutely did use Peter to bless and nourish the Church. Peter did feed Jesus’ sheep.

And so it is with the Church as a whole and with Christians as individuals. God grants that we flourish in important ways, often in spite of ourselves. This is a great comfort, of course, that our lives are used for good by God in spite of the many ways we get in the way. It is this knowledge that can give us the will to get back up, even after stumbling for the hundredth time over the same root in the path. God’s mercy saves us every day.