The divine provocateur Jesus to the Apostles: «What are you looking for??»

Homiletics of the Fathers of The Island of Patmos


This first meeting of Jesus with his first disciples is a mix of glances and testimonies that converge towards the Lord. The profound mystery of his person begins to reveal itself, as well as the names of the first followers. This moment must have been so significant that they even kept the timetable: four in the afternoon, the tenth hour.










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In the Gospel of this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time let's read: «At that time John was with two of his disciples and, fixing his gaze on Jesus as he passed by, he said: «Behold the lamb of God!». And his two disciples, hearing him talk like that, they followed Jesus. Jesus then turned and, observing that they followed him, he told them: «What are you looking for??». They answered: «Rabbi – what, translated, means teacher –, where you live?». He told them: «Come and see». So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day; it was around four in the afternoon. One of the two who had heard John's words and followed him, it was Andrea, brother of Simon Pietro. He met his brother Simon first and told him: “We have found the Messiah” – which translates as Christ – and led him to Jesus. Staring at him, Jesus said: «You are Simone, the son of John; you will be called Cephas" – which means Peter». (GV 1,35-42).

The Church has understood the unity of the three mysteries that relate to the revelation of Jesus, and he already linked them in the ancient antiphon of the Second Vespers of the day of the Epiphany:

«Three wonders we celebrate on this holy day: today the star guided the magi to the nativity scene, today the water changed into wine at the wedding, today Christ is baptized by John in the Jordan for our salvation, alleluia».

This year the third mystery relating to the manifestation of Jesus it is always announced through the Gospel according to Saint John, but instead of the episode at Cana, the liturgy proposes that of the first manifestation of Jesus to the disciples, following the indication of John the Baptist who defines him as "Lamb of God".

The evangelical episode takes place on the third day of the inaugural week of Jesus' ministry, week that will culminate in the manifestation of his glory in Cana before his disciples who "believed in him" (GV 2,11). The text offers the Johannine version of the call of the first disciples narrated by the synoptic tradition, but with notable differences. John presents a scheme in which the mediation of a witness who confesses faith in Jesus and leads others to encounter him is fundamental: it is like this for John the Baptist with regard to two of his disciples (1,35-39), for Andrea towards Simon Pietro (1,40-41), for Philip who turns to Nathanael. In particular John the Baptist who, after a negative testimony about himself ("I am not the Christ") and a positive one about Jesus («Behold the Lamb of God»), he reveals in front of two of his disciples the identity of the one of whom he was the precursor and leads them to become disciples of Jesus. He who was sent by God as a witness of the Word "so that all might believe through him" (1,7) He thus fulfills his mandate by letting his disciples become Jesus', asking them to join him.

That we are faced with the manifestation of a mystery is also signaled by the “revelation scheme”, often used by the evangelist in his work and which can be summarized in the three phases of seeing, say and pronounce the adverb: «Ecco». The evangelical passage opens, like this, with John who "fixes his gaze" (1,36) about Jesus and says: «Behold the Lamb of God» and ends with Jesus who «gazes his gaze» (1,42) about Simon Peter tells him: «You are Simone, the son of John, you will be called Cephas – which means Peter". It deals with, in both cases, of an intense gaze, a seeing in depth, a discernment of a person's identity. Vocation is not just a calling as in the synoptics, but also a look like here in Giovanni. The look, like and perhaps more than the voice it is communication and revelation. In John the most neutral verb is to perceive, they see (Blepein). We find it for the initial scene of the baptism in the Jordan. John the Baptist sees Jesus coming to him and says: «Behold the lamb of God». But we can already see in this episode a transition from seeing to contemplating (GV 1,32) and then to the "I saw" of GV 1,34, come in GV 14,9.

To the most complete verb form we arrive in GV 14,9, where the verb «see» will be used in the perfect tense: I'm sorry (Euraka). Applied to Jesus, describes what the attentive and amazed gaze has discovered in him and of which the discovery is preserved in the memory. We can observe that every time John uses this verb "I saw" (and I cherish the memory of it) Jesus is recognized as the holy place where God manifests himself, the temple of divine presence, home, that is, the abode in which God himself lives. In such a context the meaning of the verse becomes clear Gv14,9: "Whoever has seen me has seen the father". Having seen Jesus and preserving his interior vision in memory means recognizing Jesus as the Father's dwelling place, present in his Son as in a dwelling. Because of this, returning to this Sunday's Gospel passage, it must be said that the renewed version of the CEI Bible in an adequate manner 2008 he translated v.38 as: «Rabbi where do you live?» and not «where you live?» as it was in the previous version, given the presence of the verb stay (Meno) which has particular importance in the fourth Gospel. The theme of dwelling runs, indeed, like a red thread through the entire fourth Gospel, progressively enriching itself. Broadening our gaze to the whole of the Gospel and trying to draw the threads of our discussion we can affirm that the same evangelist in 1,14 invites us to understand that in the man Jesus - the Word made flesh "full of the grace of truth" in which the witnesses "contemplated the glory of the only begotten" - there was a mystery, "unfathomably hidden" but which is revealed to us "symbolically" (St. Maximus the Confessor). It is the mystery of the "only begotten from the Father", who "came to pitch his tent among us". Thus he becomes the abode of the Father (GV 14,10), the new temple of God's presence (GV 2,21; cf.. GV 4,20-24). A beautiful passage by Saint Maximus the Confessor, sep­pur difficile, says the essential:

"The Sir […] he became his own precursor; he has become a type and symbol of himself. Symbolically he makes himself known through himself. That is, he leads all creation, starting from itself as it manifests itself, but to lead her to himself as it is unfathomably hidden".

Perhaps more intelligible and at the same time admirable is this phrase from William of Saint-Thierry, the friend of Saint Bernard, who interpreted the question of the first disciples in a spiritual and Trinitarian sense:

«Maestro, where you live? Come and see, He said. You do not believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? Thank you, man! […] We have found your place. Your place is the Father; it's still, the place of the Father is you. You are therefore located from this place. But this localization, which is yours, […] it is the unity of the Father and the Son"[1].

This first meeting of Jesus with his first disciples it is a mix of glances and testimonies that converge towards the Lord. The profound mystery of his person begins to reveal itself, as well as the names of the first followers. This moment must have been so significant that they even kept the timetable: four in the afternoon, the tenth hour. This is how we begin to get to know Andrea, Simon Pietro's brother, (1,42) who from Jesus receives the vocation to become a "rock" (this means «Cephas»), among his brothers. Who is the other disciple who was with Andrew? We can hypothesize that he is "the beloved disciple". He is the one who, present at the cross of Jesus, seeing Jesus die as a Lamb whose bones are not broken (GV 19,33.36) "He testifies so that you may believe" (GV 19,35), just as John the Baptist testifies of Jesus, after having seen him and indicated him as the Lamb of God so that all may believe (GV 1,34.36.37). The parallelism between GV 1,38 («Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them») e GV 21,20-21 («Turn around, Peter sees the disciple whom Jesus loved following... and says to Jesus") shows that next to Peter, at the beginning of the sequel and after Easter, there is, in all likelihood, the beloved disciple who followed the Lamb faithfully from the beginning. And Peter, while he is made shepherd of the Lord's sheep and invited again to follow Jesus as a sheep himself (cf.. GV 10,4), receives the revelation that following the Lamb and pastoral ministry find their outcome in giving one's life for the sheep, in glorifying God with martyrdom. This will be Peter's testimony: in death on the cross the apostle will find himself where his Lord was: «If anyone wants to serve me, follow me and where I am, My servant will also be there." (GV 12,26).

From the Hermitage, 13 January 2024



[1] GULLIEM OF SAINT-THIERRY, Contemplation of God. The oration of Dom Guillaume, Paris, Ed. Deer, 1959 (Coll. Christian Sources, n.61), 124-125.



Sant'Angelo Cave in Ripe (Civitella del Tronto)



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