This section deals with the call of disciples of Jesus. It is interesting to note that this concept has its beginning as a reaction to the testimony of John, as opposed to any sort of dramatic event. None of them had angelic messages or voices from on high; they simply reacted to the person of Jesus Christ. Why is that noteworthy? Because that is exactly how you and I are “called”. I’ve never met a man who claimed that he was a follower of Christ because he had experienced a personal audience with an angel, prophet or indeed God Himself. He simply reacted to who Jesus is.
John’s story of the calling of disciples begins in verses 35-42; taking it as a whole, we see two main components, the first being John’s testimony that Jesus was the “Lamb of God.” This is the confession that marks the difference between a world that is lost and a follower of Christ. The second aspect is the response of the two disciples of John who heard it: they followed Jesus. Notice however that their initial following of Jesus was literal in the sense that they were going to go where He went as opposed to give Him their lives. When Jesus saw them he simply asked them what they wanted, a question that He would ask many over time. The two did not give a great theological reply; they just wanted to see where He was staying, maybe to have a chance to talk with Him later. Jesus gave them a classic reply, “Come and you will see.”
In truth, this is the matrix for all personal evangelism: Someone hears about Jesus and they want to check it out. Our approach is “Come and see”. In the case of our text, they arrived at Jesus’ lodgings at around 4 in the afternoon. Time in the Gospels is reckoned more or less as a twelve hour day from roughly 6 am to 6 pm. The tenth hour would be about 4 pm. During their visit, Andrew goes off to get his brother Simon, who comes along to see Jesus. Andrew was now certain about the identity of Jesus. Jesus, in verse 42 tells Simon that he will be called Cephas. Note that the synoptics record this name change roughly in the middle of Jesus’ ministry; is this a conflict? It is not a conflict because Jesus did not change Simon’s name to Cephas; He only said that he will be called by that name: future tense, it will happen someday.
The next section, vv. 43 ff takes place on the next day as Jesus moved on, and in the process, came upon Phillip. He simply said to him, “Follow me.” Phillip’s response was immediate: He followed Jesus. When Phillip came upon Nathaniel, Nathaniel was more of a skeptic. Nazareth was a nowhere town. It isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament, nor in any surviving pagan writings. It’s kind of like Fallon, Nevada: Noplaceville! Funny, it is interesting that the Son of God should be from “Nowhereville”, and He was born in a stable on a road trip, and He died on a cross, naked and penniless. There is no worldly appeal to Him; there is only who He is to draw a person closer. Phillip’s reaction is a classic: “Come and see”.
When the skeptical Nathaniel first meets Jesus, he is surprised by what Jesus knew about him. His reaction was to believe what Phillip had told him, and he responded in faith. Jesus has an interesting reply to Nathaniel’s expression of faith: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Jesus begins His final comment in this chapter with “Truly, truly I say to you” the first of 25 times in this Gospel to introduce an important statement, and then proceeded to make a statement that reminds us of Genesis 28:12, Jacob’s ladder. “…you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This statement gives the commentators some trouble, but my take is that His disciples would see that Jesus was directly connected with heaven, speaking for heaven and being of heaven. Jesus and the Word cannot be separated. This is also His first use of the title “Son of Man”. It seems to be a favorite of His; it can refer to no one else.