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Jesus Encounters Andrew and Simon

by Brant Pitre February 12, 2021 0 Comments

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with one addition.  After Andrew and this other disciple accept Jesus’ invitation, he immediately then goes and calls his brother Simon and tells him that we have found the Messiah.  Note this, this is fascinating.  All he did was meet Jesus, but because John the Baptist told him this was the Lamb of God, he recognizes Jesus is the Messiah.  The Greek word there is Messias, it’s just a Hebrew word that has been transliterated, but it’s a translation of the Greek word Christos, that means anointed one, the long-awaited king of Israel.  So notice Andrew here, this is important; he has faith in Jesus as the Messiah even before Peter has faith in Jesus as the Messiah.  This is kind of cool, because, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, Andrew, the apostle, is the great apostolic patriarch of the Eastern churches of the Orthodox churches; they trace their apostolicity back to Andrew, the brother, the younger brother, so to speak, of Peter, who was the head of the Western church.  So it's interesting that the father of Eastern Christians, Andrew, believes before the father of the Western Christians.  Just like the Eastern Christians themselves brought the faith to the West.  That’s just kind of an interesting spiritual meaning there, but Andrew brings Peter to Christ.  And Jesus looks at Peter and says “so you are Simon, son of John”, which was, by the way, his birth name.  He’s a Jew.  Peter's Jewish.  So his name is Simeon, which is one of the patriarchs of Israel.  It’s one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  He’s named after Simeon, which comes over from the Greek as Simon, and Jesus says “oh so you’re Simon, son John, you shall be called Cephas”, which means Peter.

Now pause there, what’s going on?  Well language, language, language, it matters.  The word Cephas is the Aramaic expression for “rock”.  Aramaic was an ancient Semitic tongue.  It’s very similar to Hebrew, but not identical, and Cephas was the word for rock.   So at this moment, Jesus, in a sense, prophesies that this man that he's just met is going to be the rock, he's going to be Peter, and John makes sure you get that because he translates the Aramaic for any of his readers that might not understand it, by saying “which means Peter” or Petros in Greek, also just the Greek word for rock.  So it is fascinating that already on his first encounter with Jesus, Jesus is renaming Peter, or he's stating that he's going to have a new name, it's going to be Cephas.  Now, you might be thinking hold on, I thought Jesus renamed Peter after Peter made a profession of faith at Caesarea Philippi, after he had been his disciple for a while.  And that's true, in the Gospel of Matthew 16, Peter does make that profession of faith.  But what John tells us is that Jesus already knew who Peter was and what his role was going to be from the very first time they encountered one another.  We don't actually get to hear what Peter thinks or what he says here because John just brings the story to an end, but it's important because it does actually correct the statement that people sometimes have.  You might hear a non-Catholic Christian say, for example, that when Jesus says to Peter in Matthew's Gospel “you are rock, and upon this rock I will build my church” that Jesus is actually pointing to himself.  That he is the rock, but not Peter.  Well John 1 shows that’s just not true.  Jesus is very clearly here identifying Simon as the one whose name will now be rock; this is all about Peter becoming the rock. 

All right, so that’s the Gospel.  One last point, before I forget.  Remember, Andrew and Peter are brothers, but it's fascinating that Peter has a Jewish name, Simon, but Andrew has a Greek name; his name is Andreas.  Andreas, to this day, is a Greek name, it’s not a Jewish name.  So we see that Peter and his brother probably come from a family that is devoutly Jewish, but also has been influenced by the Gentile culture of Galilee, to where he takes a Greek name like Andreas.  And we’ll see later in the Gospel of John when the Greeks, in chapter 12, when they want to talk to Jesus they go to Andrew because not only does he have a Greek name, but he probably speaks Greek, and so they go to him as a kind of connector, conduit to Jesus.  In any case, that’s probably too much information, but I love the Gospel of John and I can't help myself, there is so much in this book, it’s just so rich.  Alright, but that's the Gospel for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, and you can see here that what the Church is doing in giving us this Gospel at the beginning of Ordinary Time, is starting off the public ministry of Jesus, in a sense giving us the back story to Jesus’ call of the disciples, which we’re going to actually see next week for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time.

For now though, let's go back to the Old Testament.

Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


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