Is there somebody in your life that you admire so much that you can remember the day the two of you met? People often asked that of married couples. The story is then related with lots of smiles and interjections in the detailed description of the circumstances that worked together for the meeting of two people that made a life long commitment to each other. The whole audience to this narrative listens attentively with smiling satisfaction.
Just think of the massive historical implications of the meeting described below.
One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). (John 1:40-42)
Andrew is thrilled to have found the man he calls the Messiah and the first thing he does is share the news with his brother, Simon Peter. It is a momentous occasion – this meeting of Jesus and Peter. Just think on their relationship in the luxury of hindsight. It all started this day at the shores of a lake somewhere in the middle of the world.
These verses mention Messiah and Christ, which are the Hebrew and Greek words that mean God’s anointed King. All through the ancient world kings were anointed.
Andrew is identified as Simon Peter’s brother and plays an important role in bringing people together. He brought the boy with the fishes and loaves to Jesus in the narrative of the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:8-9). He is prepared to take second place in the greater story. He also brings the inquiring Greeks into the presence of Jesus. He could not keep Jesus to himself. He has the heart of a missionary.
Andrew takes centre stage in the meeting of Peter with Jesus.
Jesus looked at Peter. The word used for look means intent gaze, seeing into the heart. He gives Peter a new name, there and then. You are going to be called Cephas, which means rock.
Two names were common in those days. People often had an Aramaic name and a Greek name, like Thomas and Didymus (Greek for twin). Tabitha was Aramaic and Dorcas was Greek for gazelle. Peter and Cephas was the same name in different languages.
In the Old Testament a changed name denoted a new relationship with God. Jacob became Israel in Genesis 32:28 and Abram becomes Abraham in Genesis 17:5. A new man needs a new name.
Jesus sees with purpose and potential. He sees what he is, but also what he can become. In that moment Jesus saw with Holy Spirit insight a Galilean fisherman. He see that in every person committing his life to God. He saw it in Gideon and David and so many other Old Testament faith heroes.
It should be our way to look at people. Just think of the powerful, visionary Jesus-words over our children’s lives when we look at them with the purpose and potential of the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 16:13-20 another discussion between Jesus and His disciples is recorded. He starts with an easy question: Who do the people say I am? The disciples answer: Elijah, Moses, a prophet, John the Baptist etc. That was the easy answer. Suddenly Jesus turns it and makes it personal.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Trust the ever audacious Peter to blurt it out.
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
This inspirational, Holy Spirit-infused answer prompts Jesus to speak an everlasting blessing upon Peter, that echoes throughout the church today.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
This is the revelational-speech we desire from God. Not the things that flesh and blood reveals. We want to speak what the Father in heaven reveals to us.
He pronounces the words of Peter as the rock on which the church will be built. Note, it is not the man Peter, but his revelation that is the rock on which the church is built. The church of Jesus is not built upon a man; it is built on the revelation of who Jesus is.
The revelation of Jesus as the son of the living God is the rock on which the church is built.
This is the deep disparity between Peter and Judas. Consider their roles in the dark hours of the trial of Jesus.
Judas was a zealot. He was part of a political party that aimed to overthrow the Romans by force. He walked with Jesus for three years and many times witnessed the anger of the Jewish leaders flare up against Him to the point of stoning and violence. Many times the Gospels state that Jesus just walked away. To Judas this was a miracle. Maybe if he forced the hand of the authorities against Jesus, Jesus might overthrow the Romans in a miracle-like way. Without even giving a second thought to the warnings of Jesus that He was on a collision course with the rulers and will be put to death and rise again (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; 10:33)), Judas set his own plan in motion, “using” Jesus for his own goals.
He received the 30 shekels of silver (the price of a slave on the market at the time) from the High Priest and led the soldiers to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Very soon he saw that things were not going according to plan. He witnessed Jesus’ peaceful surrender to the soldiers to be led away to the house of the High Priest. Later that night He was taken to Pontius Pilate, and to Herod and back to Pilate. Judas panicked. He saw that the whole thing was going south. He stumbled back to the leaders and uttered the words:
I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. (Matthew 27:4)
To the very end Judas did not realize that he was a player in the life of the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed One, the One man the whole world was waiting for. He died a self-inflicted death alone in utter darkness.
Peter and John very courageously followed Jesus to the courtyard of the house of the High Priest on the night of the arrest. It was not the time to be seen as one of the supporters of this man that the leaders put on trial. When he denied knowledge of Jesus three times and heard the cock crow, he wept bitterly and fled to his fellow disciples.
That is exactly where you should be in the midst of spiritual struggle.
There he waited with desperate hope and great remorse. Jesus knew his soul struggle and specially mentioned him to Mary to bring him the good news of the resurrection.
Peter’s life ended in great victory.
In John 1:43-51, other ordinary men meet God.
Jesus leaves the south and moves north to Galilee. He calls Philip. Philip finds his brother, Nathanael with the good news. Nathanael is skeptical. He was probably following a discussion on the details of this Jesus everybody was talking about. Rivalry between villages was common. Nothing good can come out of Nazareth, he reckoned. Even more, the prophets said nothing about Nazareth – they said the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. Only by deeper investigation, the true searcher would have known that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem.
Nathanael is from Cana. He argues with Philip. Philip is wise. He says: Come and see. Arguments end well when the person is brought into the presence of Jesus. Arguments can only happen in love, never in hostility or arrogance. Jesus revealed is the goal. That often happens in testimony, rather than argument.
Jesus’ compliment would have been understood by any Jew. Psalm 32:2 and Isaiah 53:9 stated that no deceit will be in his mouth.
Sitting under the fig tree was any Jew’s idea of peace. Undisturbed under thick shade was a place to pray and meditate. Jesus was aware of the cry of his heart. He was clearly part of the remnant , who kept the vision of the expected Messiah alive. The promise still stands, even after so many years of waiting. Do not grow weary. Great is His faithfulness.
Jesus knew the cry of his heart; he knew his prayers. He can interpret the soul. He communicated with Nathanael on a deeper level, spoke prophetically into his life and stirred up his vision for greater things to come.
Nathanael does not appear in any of the other Gospels. John describes it as an encounter to illustrate Jesus’ nature in dealing with people.
It was in Jesus’ nature to satisfy expectations.
Nathanael stands symbolically for the person whose heart is cleansed of pride and prejudice and who sees in Jesus the one who satisfies the longing of his waiting, seeking heart.