Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » John » Chapter 1 » Verses 37–42

Verses 37–42

We have here the turning over of two disciples from John to Jesus, and one of them fetching in a third, and these are the first-fruits of Christ’s disciples; see how small the church was in its beginnings, and what the dawning of the day of its great things was.

I. Andrew and another with him were the two that John Baptist had directed to Christ, John 1:37. Who the other was we are not told; some think that it was Thomas, comparing John 21:2; others that it was John himself, the penman of this gospel, whose manner it is industriously to conceal his name, John 13:23; 20:3.

1. Here is their readiness to go over to Christ: They heard John speak of Christ as the Lamb of God, and they followed Jesus. Probably they had heard John say the same thing the day before, and then it had not the effect upon them which now it had; see the benefit of repetition, and of private personal converse. They heard him speak of Christ as the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world, and this made them follow him. The strongest and most prevailing argument with a sensible awakened soul to follow Christ is that it is he, and he only, that takes away sin.

2. The kind notice Christ took of them, John 1:38. They came behind him; but, though he had his back towards them, he was soon aware of them, and turned, and saw them following. Note, Christ takes early cognizance of the first motions of a soul towards him, and the first step taken in the way to heaven; see Isa. 64:5; Luke 15:20. He did not stay till they begged leave to speak with him, but spoke first. What communion there is between a soul and Christ, it is he that begins the discourse. He saith unto them, What seek ye? This was not a reprimand for their boldness in intruding into his company: he that came to seek us never checked any for seeking him; but, on the contrary, it is a kind invitation of them into his acquaintance whom he saw bashful and modest: “Come, what have you to say to me? What is your petition? What is your request.” Note, Those whose business it is to instruct people in the affairs of their souls should be humble, and mild, and easy of access, and should encourage those that apply to them. The question Christ put to them is what we should all put to ourselves when we begin to follow Christ, and take upon us the profession of his holy religion: “What seek ye? What do we design and desire?” Those that follow Christ, and yet seek the world, or themselves, or the praise of men, deceive themselves. “What seek we in seeking Christ? Do we seek a teacher, ruler, and reconciler? In following Christ, do we seek the favour of God and eternal life?” If our eye be single in this, we are full of light.

3. Their modest enquiry concerning the place of his abode: Rabbi, where dwellest thou? (1.) In calling him Rabbi, they intimated that their design in coming to him was to be taught by him; rabbi signifies a master, a teaching master; the Jews called their doctors, or learned men, rabbies. The word comes from rab, multus or magnus, a rabbi, a great man, and one that, as we say, has much in him. Never was there such a rabbi as our Lord Jesus, such a great one, in whom were hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. These came to Christ to be his scholars, so must all those that apply themselves to him. John had told them that he was the Lamb of God; now this Lamb is worthy to take the book and open the seals as a rabbi, Rev. 5:9. And, unless we give up ourselves to be ruled and taught by him, he will not take away our sins. (2.) In asking where he dwelt, they intimate a desire to be better acquainted with him. Christ was a stranger in this country, so that they meant where was his inn where he lodged; for there they would attend him at some seasonable time, when he should appoint, to receive instruction from him; they would not press rudely upon him, when it was not proper. Civility and good manners well become those who follow Christ. And, besides, they hoped to have more from him than they could have in a short conference now by the way. They resolved to make a business, not a by-business of conversing with Christ. Those that have had some communion with Christ cannot but desire, [1.] A further communion with him; they follow on to know more of him. [2.] A fixed communion with him; where they may sit down at his feet, and abide by his instructions. It is not enough to take a turn with Christ now and then, but we must lodge with him.

4. The courteous invitation Christ gave them to his lodgings: He saith unto them, Come and see. Thus should good desires towards Christ and communion with him be countenanced. (1.) He invites them to come to his lodgings: the nearer we approach to Christ, the more we see of his beauty and excellency. Deceivers maintain their interest in their followers by keeping them at a distance, but that which Christ desired to recommend him to the esteem and affections of his followers was that they would come and see: “Come and see what a mean lodging I have, what poor accommodations I take up with, that you may not expect any worldly advantage by following me, as they did who made their court to the scribes and Pharisees, and called them rabbin. Come and see what you must count upon if you follow me.” See Matt. 8:20. (2.) He invites them to come immediately and without delay. They asked where he lodged, that they might wait upon him at a more convenient season; but Christ invites them immediately to come and see; never in better time than now. Hence learn, [1.] As to others, that it is best taking people when they are in a good mind; strike while the iron is hot. [2.] As to ourselves, that it is wisdom to embrace the present opportunities: Now is the accepted time, 2 Cor. 6:2.

5. Their cheerful and (no doubt) thankful acceptance of his invitation: They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day. It had been greater modesty and manners than had done them good if they had refused this offer. (2.) They readily went along with him: They came and saw where he dwelt. Gracious souls cheerfully accept Christ’s gracious invitations; as David, Ps. 27:8. They enquired not how they might be accommodated with him, but would put that to the venture, and make the best of what they found. It is good being where Christ is, wherever it be. (2.) They were so well pleased with what they found that they abode with him that day (“Master, it is good to be here”); and he bade them welcome. It was about the tenth hour. Some think that John reckons according to the Roman computation, and that it was about ten o’clock in the morning, and they staid with him till night; others think that John reckons as the other evangelists did, according to the Jewish computation, and that it was four o’clock in the afternoon, and they abode with him that night and the next day. Dr. Lightfoot conjectures that this next day that they spent with Christ was a sabbath-day, and, it being late, they could not get home before the sabbath. As it is our duty, wherever we are, to contrive to spend the sabbath as much as may be to our spiritual benefit and advantage, so they are blessed who, by the lively exercises of faith, love, and devotion, spend their sabbaths in communion with Christ. These are Lord’s days indeed, days of the Son of man.

II. Andrew brought his brother Peter to Christ. If Peter had been the first-born of Christ’s disciples, the papists would have made a noise with it: he did indeed afterwards come to be more eminent in gifts, but Andrew had the honour first to be acquainted with Christ, and to be the instrument of bringing Peter to him. Observe,

1. The information which Andrew gave to Peter, with an intimation to come to Christ.

(1.) He found him: He first finds his own brother Simon; his finding implies his seeking him. Simon came along with Andrew to attend John’s ministry and baptism, and Andrew knew where to look for him. Perhaps the other disciple that was with him went out to seek some friend of his at the same time, but Andrew sped first: He first findeth Simon, who came only to attend on John, but has his expectations out-done; he meets with Jesus.

(2.) He told him whom they had found: We have found the Messias. Observe, [1.] he speaks humbly; not, “I have found,” assuming the honour of the discovery to himself, but “We have,” rejoicing that he had shared with others in it. [2.] He speaks exultingly, and with triumph: We have found that pearl of great price, that true treasure; and, having found it, he proclaims it as those lepers, 2 Kgs. 7:9; for he knows that he shall have never the less in Christ for others sharing. [3.] He speaks intelligently: We have found the Messias, which was more than had yet been said. John had said, He is the Lamb of God, and the Son of God, which Andrew compares with the scriptures of the Old Testament, and, comparing them together, concludes that he is the Messiah promised to the fathers, for it is now that the fulness of time is come. Thus, by making God’s testimonies his meditation, he speaks more clearly concerning Christ than ever his teacher had done, Ps. 119:99.

(3.) He brought him to Jesus; would not undertake to instruct him himself, but brought him to the fountain-head, persuaded him to come to Christ and introduced him. Now this was, [1.] An instance of true love to his brother, his own brother, so he is called here, because he was very dear to him. Note, We ought with a particular concern and application to seek the spiritual welfare of those that are related to us; for their relation to us adds both to the obligation and to the opportunity of doing good to their souls. [2.] It was an effect of his day’s conversation with Christ. Note, the best evidence of our profiting by the means of grace is the piety and usefulness of our conversation afterwards. Hereby it appeared that Andrew had been with Jesus that he was so full of him, that he had been in the mount, for his face shone. He knew there was enough in Christ for all; and, having tasted that he is gracious, he could not rest till those he loved had tasted it too. Note, True grace hates monopolies, and loves not to eat its morsels alone.

2. The entertainment which Jesus Christ gave to Peter, who was never the less welcome for his being influenced by his brother to come, John 1:42. Observe,

(1.) Christ called him by his name: When Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon, the son of Jona. It should seem that Peter was utterly a stranger to Christ, and if so, [1.] It was a proof of Christ’s omniscience that upon the first sight, without any enquiry, he could tell the name both of him and of his father. The Lord knows them that are his, and their whole case. However, [2.] It was an instance of his condescending grace and favour, that he did thus freely and affably call him by his name, though he was of mean extraction, and vir mullius nominis—a man of no name. It was an instance of God’s favour to Moses that he knew him by name, Exod. 33:17. Some observe the signification of these names: Simonobedient, Jonaa dove. An obedient dove-like spirit qualifies us to be the disciples of Christ.

(2.) He gave him a new name: Cephas. [1.] His giving him a name intimates Christ’s favour to him. A new name denotes some great dignity, Rev. 2:17; Isa. 62:2. By this Christ not only wiped off the reproach of his mean and obscure parentage, but adopted him into his family as one of his own. [2.] The name which he gave him bespeaks his fidelity to Christ: Thou shalt be called Cephas (that is Hebrew for a stone), which is by interpretation Peter; so it should be rendered, as Acts 9:36. Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas; the former Hebrew, the latter Greek, for a young roe. Peter’s natural temper was stiff, and hardy, and resolute, which I take to be the principal reason why Christ called him Cephas—a stone. When Christ afterwards prayed for him, that his faith might not fail, that so he might be firm to Christ himself, and at the same time bade him strengthen his brethren, and lay out himself for the support of others, then he made him what he here called him, Cephas—a stone. Those that come to Christ must come with a fixed resolution to be firm and constant to him, like a stone, solid and stedfast; and it is by his grace that they are so. His saying, Be thou steady, makes them so. Now this does no more prove that Peter was the singular or only rock upon which the church is built than the calling of James and John Boanerges proves them the only sons of thunder, or the calling of Joses Barnabas proves him the only son of consolation.