John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God, and Jesus receives his first followers.
Although the liturgical season of Ordinary Time begins this week, this week’s reading continues with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which concludes the Christmas season. This week’s reading from the Gospel according to John immediately follows John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus and his identification of Jesus as the Lamb of God. Having been baptized by John, Jesus begins to gather followers. The first followers sought out Jesus because of the testimony and witness of John the Baptist.
We are familiar with the title that John the Baptist uses for Jesus—the Lamb of God. We hear it weekly at the fraction rite during Mass. For those who heard John the Baptist, however, this title recalled key themes from the Old Testament. It alludes to the paschal lamb offered as a sacrifice when God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the event that is commemorated by the Jewish Passover celebration. The designation also recalls the prophet Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant of Israel. In using this name for Jesus, John the Baptist predicts Jesus’ passion and death and the new interpretation of Passover that will begin with Jesus’ Last Supper.
We learn in this week’s reading how Jesus’ first followers were gathered. The first two, Andrew and another man, were followers of John the Baptist. After hearing John’s testimony, they became followers of Jesus. During their time with Jesus, the details of which are not specified, Andrew and the other follower came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Andrew then brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus. Immediately, Jesus gave Simon a new name, calling him Peter, which means “rock” in Greek. The renaming of Simon to Peter is reported in all four of the Gospels.
In the exchange between Andrew, the other disciple, and Jesus, we see an example of the usual pattern for first-century Jewish rabbinical schools. Jews sought out rabbis and established themselves as disciples of a particular rabbi. Jesus appears to have been unique in that he sought out individuals, inviting them to be his followers. In the passage that follows, John’s Gospel tells us how Jesus took the initiative in calling Philip and Nathanael.
Jesus asks Andrew and the other disciple, “What are you looking for?” This is a telling question, and one that we might often ask of ourselves. John the Baptist testified to Jesus’ identity, the Lamb of God, using the framework of the Old Testament. Andrew, Simon, and the other first disciples were looking for the Messiah, whom they also came to know as the Son of God. What do we look for and what do we find in Jesus?BACK TO LIST