Home Homilies Michael Whelan SM, PhD Gospel for Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (18 January 2015)

Gospel for Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (18 January 2015)

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called  Cephas” (which is translated Peter). (John 1:35-42 – NRSV)

Introductory notes

See notes to Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent for a brief discussion of Mark’s Gospel.

John the Baptist’s declaration that “here is the Lamb of God!” links Jesus and all that God is to do through him, with the Exodus Event – see Exodus 12:1-13 and Numbers 9:1–14; Deuteronomy 16:1–8; Ezekiel 45:21–25. A New Exodus Event is unfolding!

John introduces two of the major themes of his Gospel here: seeing and staying:

    · “What are you looking for?” “Come and see”. “They came and saw ….”

    · “where are you staying?” “They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained (stayed) with him that day.” The Greek verb meno (μένω) can be translated as “to stay”, “to remain”, “to abide”, “to dwell” and
so on. It comes to typify the intimacy of relationship between Jesus and his disciples. See especially John 15:1-17.

The designation “Messiah” is a title of long usage. The word “is a transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word, substantivized to mean ‘anointed one’. In the Old Testament it denotes the king of Israel (in the expression ‘the LORD’s anointed’, e.g. 1 Sa. 16:6; 2 Sa. 1:14), the high priest (e.g. Lv. 4:3), and, in one passage, the patriarchs, ‘my anointed ones’ (Ps. 105:15), probably in their role as prophets. Quite apart from the verbal adjective, the act of anointing was instrumental in the ‘consecration’, the setting apart, of Aaron the priest (Ex. 29:7), David the king (1 Sa. 16:1–13), and Elisha the prophet (1 Ki. 19:16)—to mention no others. While much early Christian preaching stressed the royal motif, presenting Jesus as the messianic (i.e. ‘anointed’) king of Israel, the New Testament documents cumulatively present Jesus as the Messiah, i.e. the Anointed One, par excellence—the anointed prophet, priest and king. At this stage Andrew cannot have understood so much, and probably saw in the term ‘Messiah’ a (perhaps royal) designation of the Coming One. The Evangelist translates the term for his Greek readers, rendering it by the corresponding Greek verbal adjective christos (from chriō, ‘to anoint’); hence our ‘the Christ’, understood in the first instance as a title, not a name.” (D A Carson, The Gospel according to John, W.B. Eerdmans, 1991, 155-56.)

Carson also comments on the name change for Simon: “When Peter is brought to him, Jesus assigns a new name as a declaration of what Peter will become. This is not so much a merely predictive utterance as a declaration of what Jesus will make of him. His name up to this time has been Simon son of John (or ‘son of Jonah’ in Mt. 16:17, ‘Jonah’ in Aramaic being an abbreviated form of ‘John’; the name recurs in Jn. 21:15–17). But, says Jesus, You will be called Cephas: doubtless in Aramaic the expression was kêp̱ā’, a word meaning ‘rock’. The terminal ‘s’ in ‘Cephas’ reflects an attempt to give the Aramaic word a Greek spelling (a pattern also adopted by Paul, e.g. 1 Cor. 9:5; Gal. 1:18). Because most of his readers cannot be expected to know any semitic language, John provides the translation, ‘Peter’. The Evangelist thus makes it clear that the assignation of the name ‘Peter’ to John occurred at the very outset of Jesus’ ministry, a fact not contradicted by either Mark 3:16 or Matthew 16:18. Whether this change of name is meant to reflect a change in
character or, as in Matthew 16, to grant Peter a certain foundational role in the establishment of the church (cf. Carson, Matt, pp. 363–375) is unclear. The Epilogue (Jn. 21:18–19) tells us a little of what would happen to Peter. Here in John 1, however, the focus is much less on what this name change means for Peter, than on the Jesus who knows people thoroughly (cf. vv. 43–51), and not only ‘sees into’ them (cf. 47–48) but so calls them that he makes them what he calls them to be.” (D A Carson, op cit, 156.)


“They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.” This is a rich sentence combining the two great themes of “seeing” and “staying”. These themes together tell us much about discipleship.

Jesus does not rely on analytical, logical argumentation to convince people that he is God’s Anointed One. He relies rather on his presence and the grace of God working through him, with him and in him.

Those who seek to be his disciples must spend a lifetime “seeing” and “staying”.

This must also be the basis of witness and ministry. These too are about presence rather than arguments. Thomas Merton reminds us in a comment he made while giving a retreat in 1967:

“Presence is what counts. It’s important to realise that the Church itself is presence and so is the contemplative life. Community is presence, not an institution. We’ve been banking on the ability to substitute institution for the reality of presence, and it simply won’t work.” (Thomas Merton – The Springs of Contemplation: A Retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Ave Maria Press, 1992, 17)