Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #808 MP3 Audio File Video File

Follow the Rabbi

John 1:35-42

Delivered 05/08/16

We are examining the first part of the body of the Fourth Gospel, which runs from 1:19—12:50 and records Yeshua's public ministry to the multitudes in Palestine, who were primarily Judeans.

One of the themes of the first 34 verses is the concept of "witness." In either noun or verb form the word appeared seven times in the opening 34 verses. As we begin the body of the letter Lazarus' emphasis is on John the Baptist as a witness to Yeshua. Everything is focused on John's testimony of Yeshua. As we have said, John's testimony took place over three days, and is given to three groups. Day 1—John says, "He is here." He is speaking to a hostile delegation from the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leading religious council (1:19-28). Day 2—John says, "Look at Him." Speaking to the mass of people that are there (1:29-34). Day 3—which we'll look at today, John says, "Follow Him." Speaking to his own disciples (1:35-40). So for three days, there are three messages to three different groups.

As we look at verses 38 to 51, we'll split this into the natural way that John does it—it's two groups. The first really focuses on Andrew and Peter; the second focuses on Philip and Nathanael. Verses 35-36 make the transition from John the Baptist's witness to the ministry of Yeshua:

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, John 1:35 NASB

"The next day"—verses 35-42 describe the third day in the time sequence John is relating. Verses 43-51, which we'll look at next week, are placed on the fourth day.

On day three we're still at this time in the location of Bethany, beyond the Jordan, not the Bethany near Jerusalem, but another one across the Jordan out in the wilderness at the Jordan River where John had been preaching and baptizing.

"John was standing with two of his disciples"—so we see from this that John had disciples of his own. As I said previously, Yeshua was probably a disciple of John's. John's talmidim were a group set apart by his form of baptism. They had their own rules of prayer (Luke 5:33, 11:1) and fasting:

John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" Mark 2:18 NASB

Some of them continued as John's disciples after his death (Mark 6:29; Acts 19:3). So John had disciples, and here in our text he is standing with two of them.

Who are these two disciples?

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. John 1:40 NASB

Here we see that one of the disciples was Andrew. Who is the other one? The other one is never named. You soon discover in this Gospel that whenever there's an obvious attempt to withhold the identity of a key person, it's usually Lazarus refraining from naming himself. He will call himself "the other disciple" and in John 20:2, "the other disciple whom Yeshua loved" but will never identify himself by name. It seems safe to assume that when Lazarus, the writer, makes any reference to another, unnamed disciple, he has himself in mind. It is hard to believe that the writer has a number of different disciples that he is committed to keeping anonymous.

and he looked at Yeshua as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" John 1:36 NASB

Speaking privately to two of his disciples, Andrew and Lazarus, the Baptizer repeats to them what he had stated publicly the day before, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" Lazarus again identifies Yeshua as a sacrificial lamb. The word used in the Greek is amnos. The word occurs in John only here and in verse 29. It appears nowhere else except in Acts 8:32 and in 1Peter 1:19.

"Behold the Lamb of God," may not have registered with the majority of apostate Israel, they were not looking for a lamb, a sacrifice, or a savior, they were looking for a king. The religious establishment in Jerusalem was apostate. But, "Lamb of God," would have registered with those who had a true understanding of the Tanakh. They would call to mind all they knew about the substitutionary, sacrificial role of the Lamb in the Passover. They would think of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7; "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter." Whatever they thought, they followed Him:

The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Yeshua. John 1:37 NASB

This was the appointed purpose of John's ministry: to prepare the way for Yahweh (Isaiah 40:3). The point of John's ministry was to call our attention to the superiority of Yeshua. Notice what John says in chapter 3:

"You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent ahead of Him.' "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. John "He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:28-30 NASB

The increase of Yeshua is the goal of John's ministry.

The word "followed" here is the verb akoloutheo, which Thayer defines as: "to join one as a disciple, become or be His disciple." In the New Testament and especially in the Gospels this word speaks of discipleship. The reader would immediately think of them as disciples of Yeshua.

John's mission is complete, he disappears from the scene, and his followers become followers of Yeshua. There was a spiritual dynamic operating here that they were probably unaware of. Yeshua would later tell them, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16).

And Yeshua turned and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" They said to Him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?" John 1:38 NASB

Yeshua asks them, "What do you seek?"—Yeshua knows that they want to be His disciples, He is asking why, why do you want to be My disciples? We'll see as we go through this Gospel the multi-leveled meanings in some of Lazarus' language. We see people talking at the physical level, and Yeshua takes their language and leads them deeper to the spiritual level using the same language.

For example: Nicodemus is talking about physical birth, and Yeshua is talking about spiritual birth (John 3:3-8). The woman at the well is talking about water from the physical well, and Yeshua is talking about spiritual water that He will give (John 4:7-14). The crowds asked for physical bread, but Yeshua meant that He was the living bread (John 6:30-51). The Pharisees deal with a man who was given physical sight in John 9, and Yeshua speaks of spiritual sight.

The question that Yeshua asks these two disciples is a good question for us to ask ourselves, "What do we seek?" What are your purposes in life? What are your goals? To make a living, to be a success in your business, to have a nice family, to have children and to have them grow up as good citizens, to enjoy life, to be rich, to have fun? What is your purpose in life? It is possible that as long as you've lived you still do not have a concept of what it is we should be seeking as Christians. What does that Westminster Confession of Faith say, "What is the chief end of man?" To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

What we should be seeking as believers is:

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 NASB

If we are truly seeking His kingdom and His righteousness then our circumstances won't matter, because we know that He controls the circumstances.

Notice what these two call Yeshua, "Rabbi" (which translated means Teacher). Why does John Eleazar translate Yeshua as Rabbi? He is most likely writing this Gospel for a late 1st century congregation in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) that is largely he composed of Gentile, Greek/Roman culture converts. They are not familiar with Jewish customs and so he explains the meaning of the word "Rabbi." The fact that he interpreted the word "Rabbi" for his readers is clear evidence that he wrote primarily for Gentiles.

The word "teacher" does not communicate the depth of respect in the Hebrew word "Rabbi." Rabbi literally means: "My great one," in Hebrew. The Jews' respect for knowledge was so great that the teachers were the great people of their culture. There is really no higher compliment the two disciples could have paid another human being than to call him, Rabbi.

Why did they call Yeshua a Rabbi?

Because Yeshua functioned in first century Israel as a man who was a Jewish Rabbi. If you want to understand Yeshua and His teaching, you need to understand something of the Jewish Rabbis.

Our Savior's name when He walked this earth was Yeshua. Matthew 1:1-16 makes it clear that He came from Hebrew decent through the tribe of Judah. In other words, He was Jewish. He was born to and raised by Jewish parents who raised Him under Jewish culture. He spoke Hebrew. The name Yeshua is literally a transliteration of the Messiah's name. When one says, "Yeshua," he is speaking Hebrew. This is the name that all the apostles would have known Him by and what His mother would have called Him. The name, Yeshua, literally means: "Yahweh's Salvation, or Salvation from Yahweh."

From accounts found in Jewish sources, one can form a reasonably accurate picture of what Yeshua was doing in His childhood and adolescence. He was studying, committing to memory large amounts of material—Scripture and commentary on Scripture—all the available sacred literature of the day.

This was exactly what most of the other Jewish boys of Yeshua's day were doing. The memorization of written and oral Torah was such a large part of Jewish education that most contemporaries of Yeshua had large portions of this material—at least almost all of the Scriptures—firmly committed to memory.

Professor and Rabbi Shmuel Safrai, who was professor emeritus of Jewish History of the Mishnaic and Talmudic Period at the Hebrew University, writes this:

The Scriptures were known almost by heart by everyone. From quite early in the Second Temple period, one could hardly find a little boy in the street who didn't know the Scriptures. According to Jerome (A.D.342-420) who lived in Bethlehem and learned Hebrew from local Jewish residents in order to translate the Scriptures into Latin (producing the Vulgate Bibl): "There doesn't exist any Jewish child who doesn't know by heart the history from Adam to Zerubbabel (i.e., from the beginning to the end of the Bible)." Perhaps this was a bit of an exaggeration on Jerome's part, but in most cases his reports have proved reliable. ("Safrai," lecture on June 5, 1985)

Yeshua was born, grew up, and spent His ministry among people who knew the Scripture by memory, who debated its application with enthusiasm, and who loved God with all their hearts, all their souls, and all their might (Deut. 6:5). God prepared this environment carefully so that Yeshua would have exactly the context He needed to present His message of "the Kingdom of Heaven." He fit His world perfectly. Understanding this helps to understand the great faith and courage of His followers who left Galilee and went to the whole world to bring the Good News. Their courage, their message, the methods they used, and their complete devotion to God and His Word were born in the religious communities in Galilee.

Capernaum was a small village of about 2,500 people. We might think of it as just some small hick town. This would be wrong. It was, in its day, Harvard or Yale. If you take the Mishnah—the record of Jewish thinking from A.D. 0-100—there are more quotes from Rabbis of Capernaum than all the rest of the Rabbis of the world put together. The Synagogue School found in Capernaum is four times larger than any other Synagogue School found until the 1500's. This is the world where Yeshua ministered. A world highly educated in the Word of God.

By the time Yeshua began His public ministry, He had not only received the thorough religious training typical of the average Jewish man of His day, He had probably spent years studying with one of the outstanding Rabbis in Galilee. Yeshua thus appeared on the scene as a respected Rabbi Himself.

The term "Rabbi" in the time of Yeshua did not necessarily refer to a specific office or occupation. That would be true only after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed (A.D. 70 ). Rather, it was a word meaning: "great one; or my master," which was applied to many kinds of people in everyday speech. It clearly was used as a term of respect for one's teacher as well, even though the formal position of Rabbi would come later. Calling Yeshua, "Rabbi," by the people of His day is a measure of their great respect for Him as a person and as a teacher and not just a reference to the activity of teaching He was engaged in.

Many people in Yeshua's day referred to Him as, "Rabbi"; His disciples did:

In the meanwhile the disciples were requesting Him, saying, "Rabbi, eat." John 4:31 NASB

Peter called Him, "Rabbi":

Peter said to Yeshua, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Mark 9:5 NASB

The crowds called Him, "Rabbi":

And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?" John 6:25 NASB

Yeshua was called, "Rabbi" by a diversity of people: a lawyer, a rich man, Pharisees, Sadducees, Peter, and ordinary people. Clearly, there was a wide range of Yeshua's contemporaries who saw Him as a Rabbi.

What was it like to be a first century Rabbi? From the Gospel accounts, Yeshua clearly appears as a typical first-century Rabbi, or Jewish teacher. He traveled from place to place; He depended upon the hospitality of the people; He taught outdoors, in homes, in villages, in synagogues, and in the Temple; He had disciples who followed Him as He traveled. This is the very image of a Jewish teacher in the land of Israel at that time.

Perhaps the most convincing proof that Yeshua was a Rabbi was His style of teaching, for He used the same methods of Scripture interpretation and instruction as other Jewish teachers of His day. A simple example of this is Yeshua's use of parables to convey His teachings. Parables such as Yeshua used were extremely prevalent among ancient Jewish sages and over 4,000 of them have survived in rabbinic literature.

In Yeshua's day there were two types of Rabbis. The first were called "Torah teachers." The word Torah is used to speak of the first five books of the Bible. Torah teachers were people who were considered to be masters of the Torah, which meant they knew the first five books of the Bible by memory. Secondly, they were master teachers; they could use parables and alliteration. They were recognized by the community as teachers of God's Word. A Torah teacher could only teach what the community believed was right. They could not come up with new teachings. A Torah teacher would teach in three parts like this:

1. It is written—he would quote the text by memory.

2. And that means—he would explain using parables or stories.

3. According to—and then he would quote one of their Rabbis as authority to the meaning he had given for the text.

These men were brilliant teachers, but were limited by the authority of others. In Yeshua's world there was also a small group of what are called, "Rabbis with semikhah." We know of about a dozen of them by name that lived from 30 B.C to A.D. 70. They were not common, and they didn't exist in Judea.

The Rabbis with semikhah were masters of the Torah and the Haftorah. Haftorah is a Hebrew word that simply means: "the rest." They were masters of the whole Tanakh. Tanakh is an acronym that identifies the Hebrew Bible. The acronym is based on the initial Hebrew letters of each of the text's three parts:

  1. Torah, meaning: "Instruction"—"The five books of Moses," also called the "Pentateuch."
  2. Nevi'im, meaning: "Prophets."
  3. Ketuvim, meaning: "Writings" or "Hagiographa."

These Rabbis knew the entire Tanakh by memory. How many verses could you recite right now by memory from the Tanakh? Think of the time commitment to memorize the entire Tanakh.

Because of their unique ability to teach Torah they received what was known as semikhah. Semikhah means: "authority." They had the authority to teach new ideas. They were so close to God that He had given them new insight into His Word. Hillell, Shammai, Gamliel were all Rabbi's that had semikhah. This was their teaching method:

  1. It was written...
  2. You have heard that that means this...
  3. But I tell you it means this...

Do you recognize that form of teaching? This is how Yeshua taught:

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; 28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 NASB

Notice what the people said of Yeshua's teaching:

And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Mark 1:22 NASB

Yeshua was one of this select group that was considered teachers with authority to make new teaching.

These Rabbis with semikhah had talmid or disciples. Torah teachers did not have disciples, only Rabbis with semikhah had talmidim. Yeshua was not the only Rabbi who had talmidim. What made Yeshua stand out was His age. He was only in His early thirties. Apart from Yeshua, and John the Baptizer, the youngest Rabbi that we know of with semikhah was Akiba, and he was sixty. Hillell got his when he was 70, Shammai, when he was 85.

Each of these Rabbis with semikhah had their own way of coming up with new teachings. And that method of interpretation was called their "yoke." The yoke of Torah is the way you take the burden of keeping Torah on your shoulder. You do it according to their method. Every Rabbi had a different yoke. Torah teachers would teach the accepted interpretations, or yoke, of their community.

Back to our text: So Yeshua asks them, "What do you seek" and they respond, "Where are You staying?" So were they following Him because they wanted to know what kind of house he lived in? Why would they ask this?

First of all, the Greek word translated "staying" is important in John's Gospel. It is the same word that was already used of the Holy Spirit staying, remaining, or abiding on Yeshua in John 1:32 and 33. It is the same word that is used in John 15 several times and usually translated "abide."

"Staying" is the Greek word meno (remain) and occurs three times in John 1:38,39. It can refer to a physical place or a spiritual place. The three usages seem to imply another word play, bringing both connotations together, which is so common in John. Here meno means to reside, but often it has theological connotations of continuing on, especially in an intimate relationship.

"Where are You staying?" seems to follow the traditional procedures of the establishing of the unique bond between Rabbi and talmadim. Their question implies that these two men wanted to spend more time with Yeshua than just being able to ask a few questions on the road. They want to be with Him and learn from Him.

They are leaving John the Baptist as their Rabbi, and they're attaching themselves to the Lord Yeshua on the authority of their other Rabbi, John. So they say, "Rabbi."

He said to them, "Come, and you will see." So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. John 1:39 NASB

"Come, and you will see"this expression was a conventional form of invitation in rabbinic literature, drawing attention beforehand to something new, something important or something difficult. So as the Rabbi's sought to introduce a person to something new, they would say, "Come and you shall see," or something difficult, "Come and you shall see," or something important, "Come and you shall see." And the Lord says to these two Jewish men, "Come and you shall see,"

So when Yeshua encourages John's two disciples to come and see where He is staying, He seems to be inviting them to follow Him as His disciples. "Come and you will see"—on one level, it could mean simply: "You will see where I am staying." But in the mind of Yeshua and the mind of John this meant: "If you will truly come to Me, you will see spiritual reality. You will have spiritual sight."

In Hebrew thought there is a huge difference between a student and a disciple. A student wants to know what the teacher knows for whatever reason: a grade, a degree, or even out of respect for the teacher. A talmid wants to be like the teacher, that is to become what the teacher is.

The decision to follow a Rabbi as a talmid meant total commitment in the first century, as it does today. Since a talmid was totally devoted to becoming like the Rabbi, he would have spent his entire time listening and observing the teacher to know how to understand the Scripture and how to put it into practice.

A disciple is someone who more than anything else in the world wants to be just like Yeshua.

So let me ask you a question? Are you His disciple? If we are going to be disciples, we must be focused on the Rabbi—Yeshua. We must be with Him in His Word; we must follow Him even if we are not sure of where He is taking us; we must live by His teaching (which means we must know those teachings well); and we must imitate Him whenever we can. In other words, everything becomes secondary in life to being like Him.

Lazarus ends this verse with, "It was about the tenth hour"—what time is the tenth hour? Is John using the Jewish or the Roman method of marking time?

W. Hall Harris III writes, "There is a significant problem in verse 39 with the phrase 'the tenth hour'—what system of time is the author using? Westcott thought John, unlike the Synoptics, was using Roman time, which starts at midnight.56 This would make the time 10 a.m., which fits here. But later in the Gospel's Passover account (19:42, where the 6th hour is on the 'eve of the passover') it seems clear the author is using Jewish reckoning, which began at 6 a.m. This would make the time in 1:39 to be 4 p.m. This may be significant: if the hour was late, Andrew and the unnamed disciple probably spent the night in the same house where Jesus was staying, and the events of 1:41-42 took place on the next day (the 4th day of the 'week')."

Why is Lazarus including this seemingly trivial detail about what time it was? This time was not trivial to him, this is the time that he began to follow Yeshua: "That's the hour I became a disciple of Yeshua and my whole live was changed."

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. John 1:40 NASB

John introduced Andrew as "Simon Peter's brother" because when he wrote his Gospel, Peter was the better known of the two. What's interesting here is that every time we meet Andrew in this Gospel, he is bringing someone to Yeshua (cf. 6:8; 12:22). Thus he serves as an excellent example of what a disciple of Yeshua should do.

He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ). John 1:41 NASB

"He found first his own brother Simon"—there is a manuscript variant that affects this translation. The options are, 1) the first thing Andrew did. 2) the first person he found. 3) Andrew was the first to go and tell.

So the first thing Andrew did was find his own brothe,r Simon, which meant that he must have been around, which meant that he may have been a follower of John the Baptist as well; because, remember, they're not in Galilee where they live, they're down in the south, across the Jordan River, east of Jerusalem.

"We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ)—Obviously both of them wanted to discover the Messiah, whom the Old Covenant prophets had predicted, and whom Daniel's timetable encouraged them to believe would appear soon:

"So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. "Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. Daniel 9:25-26 NASB

They knew these Scriptures, and they knew that Messiah was to arrive in their time. The term, "Messiah," became one of the names by which the promised Savior was known. The word, "Messiah," occurs only four times in the Scriptures: Daniel 9:25-26; John 1:41; and 4:25. Because "Messiah" is a Hebrew word meaning: "Anointed One," and because John's readers spoke only Greek, he translated it into the Greek word for "Anointed One"—"Christ."

Anointing, in the Jewish culture, represented consecration to Yahweh's service in some particular office. Aaron was anointed as a priest (Ex 29:7). David was anointed as a king (1 Sam. 16:13). Elisha was anointed as a prophet (1 Kn 19:16). So the anointed one in Israel was originally any anointed priest or king who led the people. As time passed, Yahweh gave prophecies of a coming Davidic king who would liberate the

Israelites and establish Yahwah's rule over the whole earth (e.g., 2 Sam. 7; Ps.2; 110). Thus the idea of a coming Anointed One crystallized into the title "Messiah." This was the One they had awaited for so long and the One to whom they attached all their hopes as a nation.

As a result of John's testimony, and of Yeshua's teaching, Andrew is convinced that Yeshua is "the Messiah." And the first thing he does is to tell others.

Remember that Lazarus' purpose in writing this Gospel is to convince his readers that Yeshua of Nazareth is "the Christ":

but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31 NASB

We have very little information in Scripture about Andrew, one thing we do know is that he brought his brother, Peter, to Christ. Andrew would never display the same

leadership as Peter, nor do any remarkable deeds like him, such as walking on water. But he brought Peter to Yeshua, and Peter brought 1000's of people to faith in Christ, 3,000 on the Day of Pentecost alone. So in that sense Andrew was very influential in the cause of Christ.

He brought him to Yeshua. Yeshua looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter). John 1:42 NASB

"Simon"—was a common Jewish name, probably derived from "Simeon." Yeshua said, "You shall be called Cephas"—"Cephas" is Aramaic, and means: "Rock." "Peter" is the Greek translation of Cephas. As the record of Peter unfolds in the Gospels, he appears as anything but a rock; he was impulsive, volatile, and unreliable. Yet Yeshua named Peter in view of what he would become by the power of God, not what he then was. This is the only text in the Gospels that tells us how Peter got his name. This is one of the many original things we find in the Fourth Gospel.

In the Old Covenant one's name revealed one's character or nature. A change of name thus indicated a change of nature. The Old Covenant stories of changed names also involved a changed relationship with God.

"Simon the son of John"—in John's Gospel he identifies Simon-Peter as the son of John four times (here and in chapter 21 verses 15-17, three times), but in the Gospel of Matthew 16:17 Simon is identified as the "son of Jonah." Scholars usually offer one of two explanations: Either John and Jonah were the same name, or John's Gospel account is in error and there is an unresolved discrepancy in the Gospel accounts.

Michael Magill, The New Testament TransLine, p. 303, says, "'Jonah' and 'John' may be alternate Greek spellings of the same Hebrew name, like 'Simon' and 'Simeon.'"

"Cephas (which is translated Peter)"—Lazarus is the only one of the Gospel writers that gives us the Greek transliteration of Simon's new name.

Verses 40-42 provide an interesting and significant sequence. Andrew first speaks to Peter declaring that Yeshua is the Messiah. Secondly, Andrew brought Peter to Yeshua. Finally, Yeshua spoke a life-changing word to Peter. It is a fact that most people who trust Christ do so because of someone they know and respect. Mass evangelism, cold-turkey calling, and witnessing to strangers on airplanes all produce converts. However, the most productive form of evangelism occurs when a significant person models Christianity and then invites their friend or relative to Christ. Believers, we are all called to be "Andrews."

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