We’ve Found Him – The Feast of St. Andrew


Last year I wrote a thesis on discipleship in the Gospel according to John, an early draft of which contained commentary on St. Andrew. Here it is, for your enjoyment on this Feast of this Holy Apostle:

 

Exegesis

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 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 means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter)” (John 1:35-42).

 

Probably after “remaining” (μένω) with Jesus that day, Andrew found his brother Simon.[1] Immediately upon becoming a disciple of Jesus through “believing” (πιστεύω) and “remaining” (μένω), Andrew becomes a witness to his brother. Jesus, from the very beginning of his public ministry, uses witnesses to call others to discipleship.[2] In Raymond Brown’s words, “The disciples must begin to act like apostles and bring others to Jesus.”[3] While the word “believe” (πιστεύω) is not yet used to describe the disciples, Andrew’s words and actions indicate his belief. “We have found the Messiah” (v. 41). Chrysostom comments beautifully on Andrew’s missionary drive.

 

Andrew, after having stayed with Jesus and after having learned what he did, did not keep the treasure to himself but hurries and races to his brother in order to let him know the good things Jesus has shared with him…“We have found the Messiah.”…You see how, in a short time, he demonstrates not only the persuasiveness of the wise teacher but also his own longing that he had from the beginning. For this word, “we have found,” is the expression of a soul that longs for his presence, looking for his coming from above, and is so ecstatic when what he is looking for happens that he hurries to tell others the good news. This is what brotherly affection, natural friendship, is all about when someone is eager to extend a hand to another when it comes to spiritual matters.[4]

 

With similar actions, another disciple’s belief will soon be made explicit.

In the very next pericope, Philip chooses to follow Jesus and immediately finds Nathaniel, witnessing to him about Jesus. “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth” (v.45). When Nathaniel expresses doubt, Philip simply brings him to Jesus. “Come and see” (v. 46). The testimony of others prepares for faith and even elicits its the beginnings. That faith, however, must be solidified and developed “by the encounter with Jesus himself. [This encounter] is decisive; it is only when speaking to Jesus that the disciples of John are fully convinced of the Messiahship of Jesus and the skepticism of Nathanael is broken down.”[5] With his skepticism broken down, Nathaniel confesses belief in Jesus. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” And Jesus confirms Nathaniel’s true faith. Keener interestingly suggests that two elements present around Nathaniel’s belief are required to believe—witness and sign:

 

Philip had already told Nathanael about Jesus’ identity from Scripture (1:45), so it was witness as well as a sign that enabled Nathanael to correctly interpret Jesus’ identity. Both Jesus’ epideictic response and inadequate christological models offered by others in response to signs (e.g., 6:15) suggest that a sign alone is inadequate to articulate the true character of Jesus’ person and mission.[6]

 

This contrasts with the Pharisees and the Jews of chapters five and nine who received signs but did not give credulity to Jesus’ witnesses and therefore did not believe. As Brown writes,

 

Nathanael reacts to Philip’s news about Jesus with disparaging doubt, a reaction that Jesus will encounter all too often among those who believe in the Law and the prophets (e.g., 7:15, 27, 41). But when Philip persists, Nathanael is willing to come and see; he is not, then, like “the Jews” of ch. 9 who claim to accept Moses (9:29), but reject Jesus’ challenge to see and thus sink into blindness (9:41). Because of Nathanael’s willingness to come to the light, Jesus hails him as one truly representative of Israel.[7]

 

The willingness to believe, to give credulity to those who witness to Jesus, is a consistent theme in the Gospel account. Those who do become disciples and have eternal life (cf. 2:11; 3:15; passim). Those who do not remain in darkness and in their sins (cf. 9:41; 12:46).

 

 

Pastoral Application:  “Come and See” (vv. 1:39, 46)

Notice the way Philip witnessed to Nathanael. He finds him and proclaims to him the truth about Jesus in the context of Nathanael’s current religious experience. “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (v. 45). There is a newness in his proclamation, the newness of Jesus, but this newness is not disconnected from Nathanael’s earlier beliefs. Rather, Philip shows Jesus to be the fulfillment of Nathanael’s longing. It is Jesus for whom Nathanael has been searching all along and what a great joy it is that he has been found! This lesson of Philip’s example is a lesson for evangelization today. The contemporary disciple, witnessing to others, must proclaim the newness of Christ Jesus. But, if he is to be effective, he must show how Christ is the fulfillment of the other’s longing. I am reminded of Pope Saint John Paul II’s words to the youth of the world in the Great Jubilee Year 2000.

 

It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.[8]

 

The witnessing disciple sees and loves the other person present before him and speaks as best as he or she is able in accord with the particular condition of that other. The disciple begins where the other is and tries, by God’s grace, to advance him on the path to belief in Jesus.

Yet words are not enough. Although Philip presents Jesus as the fulfillment of Nathanael’s current belief, Nathanael still responds with incredulity. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth” (v. 46a)? Philip’s response is incredibly instructive in its simplicity. He responds with the very same words with which Jesus had earlier addressed Andrew and the other disciple. “Come and See” (vv. 39, 46b). Rather than find himself embroiled in an intellectual disputation, Philip invites his friend to encounter Jesus. “[A]n encounter with Jesus accomplishes more than an extended debate would (the Johannine debates produce no explicit conversions).”[9] Surely Philip had reason for his hope in Jesus and surely every Christian must “[a]lways be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you…with gentleness and reverence” (1Pet 13:15b). But maybe the best reason for the disciple’s hope is simply the encounter with Jesus and maybe the best account for the Christian’s hope is simply “Come and see,” an invitation to be complemented but never replaced by intellectual rigor.

It is for this reason that I am quite impressed by Blaise Paschal’s famous wager, no more than an invitation to “come and see” (John 1:39, 46) phrased in the context of Enlightenment presuppositions. In light of today’s post-Enlightenment milieu which remains greatly influenced by Enlightenment thought, I find Paschal’s wager a quite appropriate contemporary formulation of Philip’s invitation to “come and see” and will thus give a brief discussion upon it here.

 

Either “God is or He is not,” muses Paschal. And each human being must choose to live either as if He is or He is not. “It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then?… Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.” Wager everything. No bet is too great, for the risk is so small. If one bets that God exists and begins to live as such, he stands to gain eternal happiness. Any temporal loss pales in comparison to this chance. Not only that, but he also gains immense reward in this present life, reward not lessened but, in fact, augmented by suffering. “You will be faithful, honest, humble, grateful, generous, a sincere friend, truthful. Certainly you will not have those poisonous pleasures, glory and luxury,” but do those ever actually lead to your happiness and contentment?[10] “Perhaps you must give up autonomy or illicit pleasures, but you will gain infinite happiness in eternity, and ‘I tell you that you will gain even in this life’ –purpose, peace, joy, the things that put smiles on the lips of martyrs.”[11]

 

Therefore, Pascal prescribes, “Follow the way by which [others] began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc.  Even this will naturally make you believe…”[12]  You would soon have faith and joy, peace and happiness, were you to renounce pleasure to “come and see” Jesus.[13] Taking his inspiration from Paschal’s wager, one preacher said this at Mass on Christmas Morning:

 

There are probably some people in church today who don’t come to church a whole lot. Welcome! God is delighted that you are here. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of your relationship with God—wherever I fall on that spectrum—I want to encourage all of us to let the light of Christ shine in our hearts this Christmas. I want to challenge each one of us to let God becoming man make a difference for us. So, if you don’t come to Mass too often, I want to challenge you to start coming to Mass every week. Maybe, I don’t know, for six months. Come to Mass every Sunday for six months, go to Confession at least once, and just try to pray every day. Do that for six months. And if your life isn’t better, if you don’t experience the light shining in the darkness of your hearts, well then don’t come back. But I guarantee you, if you do it, your life will be changed. For those of us who come to church a lot but maybe who don’t sit down and try to pray every day or who don’t come to Confession regular, I want to challenge you. For six months, go to Confession once a month and try to pray every day. If you do that and your life isn’t changed in six moths, if something isn’t different in your heart, don’t come. I guarantee you. God’s going to move. And for those of us who are here every week and who are in Confession and who try to pray every day, I want to challenge us. Because there are still places in our lives where God wants to shine his light. There are still places in my heart and in yours where God wants to dwell. So I challenge us to take that to prayer and say, “Lord, how do you want to love me now. Lord, how do you want to shine your light deeper in me.”[14]

 

From Philip, himself taking the example of Jesus, we see an example of witness and of invitation to discipleship. Whether through formulations like Paschal’s wager or through other means more appropriate to the particular situation in which the witnessing disciple finds himself or herself, may we always keep in mind the particularities of the receiver, proclaim the unadulterated Truth of Jesus Christ (John 14:6), and invite those we encounter to “come and see” (1:39, 46).

 

St. Andrew, pray for us!

 

[1] For a brief sketch of various readings and translations, see Brown, John I-XII, 75.

[2] C.K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1978), 179.

[3] Brown, John I-XII, 79.

[4] Chrysostom, Homilies on John, 19.1, ACCS, John 1-11, 80-81, emphasis added.

[5] Schnackenburg, John, I:569-70.

[6] Craig Keener, The Gospel of John:  A Commentary, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 488.

[7] Brown, John I-XII, 86.

[8] John Paul II, Address at the Prayer Vigil for the Fifteenth World Youth Day, Rome, (19 August 2000), Vatican Web Site, http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/2000/jul-sep/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20000819_gmg-veglia.html (accessed 31 December 2016).

[9] Keener, John, 485.

[10] Blaise Paschal, “Pensées,” 233, in Modern Philosophy, 5th ed, W.F. Trotter, trans. Vol.3 of Philosophic Classics, Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann eds. (New York: Prentice Hall, 1996).

[11] Peter Kreeft, “The Argument from Pascal’s Wager,” http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/pascals-wager.htm (accessed September 28, 2011).

[12] Paschal, Pensées, 233.

[13] Paschal, Pensées, 240.

[14] The preacher would rather remain anonymous.