Matthew Henry's Commentary
on the Gospel JOHN 1:35-45
John's Testimony to Christ.
35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
II. Here is John's testimony to Christ, the next day after, v. 35, 36.
Where observe, 1. He took every opportunity that offered itself to lead
people to Christ: John stood looking upon Jesus as he walked. It should
seem, John was now retired from the multitude, and was in close conversation
with two of his disciples. Note, Ministers should not only in their public
preaching, but in their private converse, witness to Christ, and serve
his interests. He saw Jesus walking at some distance, yet did not go to
him himself, because he would shun every thing that might give the least
colour to suspect a combination. He was looking upon Jesus--emblepsas;
he looked stedfastly, and fixed his eyes upon him. Those that would lead
others to Christ must be diligent and frequent in the contemplation of
him themselves. John had seen Christ before, but now looked upon him, 1
John i. 1. 2. He repeated the same testimony which he had given to Christ
the day before, though he could have delivered some other great truth concerning
him; but thus he would show that he was uniform and constant in his testimony,
and consistent with himself. His doctrine was the same in private that
it was in public, as Paul's was, Acts xx. 20, 21. It is good to have that
repeated which we have heard, Phil. iii. 1. The doctrine of Christ's sacrifice
for the taking away of the sin of the world ought especially to be insisted
upon by all good ministers: Christ, the Lamb of God, Christ and him crucified.
3. He intended this especially for his two disciples that stood with him;
he was willing to turn them over to Christ, for to this end he bore witness
to Christ in their hearing that they might leave all to follow him, even
that they might leave him. He did not reckon that he lost those disciples
who went over from him to Christ, any more than the schoolmaster reckons
that scholar lost whom he sends to the university. John gathered disciples,
not for himself, but for Christ to prepare them for the Lord, Luke i. 17.
So far was he from being jealous of Christ's growing interest, that there
was nothing he was more desirous of. Humble generous souls will give others
their due praise without fear of diminishing themselves by it. What we
have of reputation, as well as of other things, will not be the less for
our giving every body his own.
The Call of Andrew and Peter.
37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What
seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted,
Master,) where dwellest thou? 39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They
came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about
the tenth hour. 40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed
him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first findeth his own brother
Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted,
the Christ. 42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him,
he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which
is by interpretation, A stone.
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, v. 37. Who the other was we are not told; some think that it
was Thomas, comparing ch. xxi. 2; others that it was John himself, the
penman of this gospel, whose manner it is industriously to conceal his
name, ch. xiii. 23, and xx. 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, v. 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. lxiv. 5; Luke xv. 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
3. Their modest enquiry concerning the place of his abode: Rabbi, where
(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. v. 9. And,
unless we give up ourselves to be ruled and taught by him, he will not
take away our sins. 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.
(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.
(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. viii. 20.
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
(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. vi. 2.
(1.) They readily went along with him: They came and saw where
he dwelt. Gracious souls cheerfully accept Christ's gracious invitations;
as David, Ps. xxvii. 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.
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,
(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.
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
2. The entertainment which Jesus Christ gave to Peter, who was never the
less welcome for his being influenced by his brother to come, v. 42. Observe,
(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 Kings vii. 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. cxix. 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
(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. xxxiii. 17. Some observe the signification of these names: Simon--obedient,
Jona--a dove. An obedient dove-like spirit qualifies us to be the disciples
(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. ii.
17; Isa. lxii. 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 ix. 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.
The Call of Philip and Nathanael.
43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth
Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida,
the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto
him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did
write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
We have here the call of Philip and Nathanael.
I. Philip was called immediately by Christ himself, not as Andrew, who
was directed to Christ by John, or Peter, who was invited by his brother.
God has various methods of bringing his chosen ones home to himself. But,
whatever means he uses, he is not tied to any.
1. Philip was called in a preventing was: Jesus findeth Philip. Christ
sought us, and found us, before we made any enquiries after him. The name
Philip is of Greek origin, and much used among the Gentiles, which some
make an instance of the degeneracy of the Jewish church at this time, and
their conformity to the nations; yet Christ changed not his name.
2. He was called the day following. See how closely Christ applied
himself to his business. When work is to be done for God, we must not lose
a day. Yet observe, Christ now called one or two a day; but, after the
Spirit was poured out, there were thousands a day effectually called, in
which was fulfilled ch. xiv. 12.
3. Jesus would go forth into Galilee to call him. Christ will find
out all those that are given to him, wherever they are, and none of them
shall be lost.
4. Philip was brought to be a disciple by the power of Christ going
along with that word, Follow me. See the nature of true Christianity; it
is following Christ, devoting ourselves to his converse and conduct, attending
his movements, and treading in his steps. See the efficacy of the grace
of it is the rod of his strength.
5. We are told that Philip was of Bethsaida, and Andrew and Peter were
so too, v. 44. These eminent disciples received not honour from the place
of their nativity, but reflected honour upon it. Bethsaida signifies the
house of nets, because inhabited mostly by fishermen; thence Christ chose
disciples, who were to be furnished with extraordinary gifts, and therefore
needed not the ordinary advantages of learning. Bethsaida was a wicked
place (Matt. xi. 21), yet even there was a remnant, according to the election
II. Nathanael was invited to Christ by Philip, and much is said concerning
him. In which we may observe,
1. What passed between Philip and Nathanael, in which appears an observable
mixture of pious zeal with weakness, such as is usually found in beginners,
that are yet but asking the way to Zion. Here is,
(1.) The joyful news that Philip brought to Nathanael, v. 45.
As Andrew before, so Philip here, having got some knowledge of Christ himself,
rests not till he has made manifest the savour of that knowledge. Philip,
though newly come to an acquaintance with Christ himself, yet steps aside
to seek Nathanael. Note, When we have the fairest opportunities of getting
good to our own souls, yet ever then we must seek opportunities of doing
good to the souls of others, remembering the words of Christ, It is more
blessed to give than to receive, Acts xx. 35. O, saith Philip, we have
found him of whom Moses and the prophets did write, Observe here, [1.]
What a transport of joy Philip was in, upon this new acquaintance with
Christ: "We have found him whom we have so often talked of, so long wished
and waited for; at last, he is come he is come, and we have found him!"
[2.] What an advantage it was to him that he was so well acquainted with
the scriptures of the Old Testament, which prepared his mind for the reception
of evangelical light, and made the entrance of it much the more easy: Him
of whom Moses and the prophets did write. What was written entirely and
from eternity in the book of the divine counsels was in part, at sundry
times and in divers manners, copied out into the book of the divine revelations.
Glorious things were written there concerning the Seed of the woman, the
Seed of Abraham, Shiloh, the prophet like Moses, the Son of David, Emmanuel,
the Man, the Branch, Messiah the Prince. Philip had studied these things,
and was full of them, which made him readily welcome Christ. [3.] What
mistakes and weaknesses he laboured under: he called Christ Jesus of Nazareth,
whereas he was of Bethlehem; and the Son of Joseph, whereas he as but his
supposed Son. Young beginners in religion are subject to mistakes, which
time and the grace of God will rectify. It was his weakness to say, We
have found him, for Christ found them before they found Christ. He did
not yet apprehend, as Paul did, how he was apprehended of Christ Jesus,
Phil. iii. 12.