Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: All
From: Su Min
Subject: The First Disciples

Dear Children,
Let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth. This then is how we know we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he know everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his command live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the spirit he gave us. (1John 3:18-24)

We read in Matt 4:18 that as Jesus was walking beside the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. The verse goes on to say that Jesus found them in action, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. A parallel verse is found in Mark 1:16. "Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men" . At once they left their nets and followed him (Matt 4:19-20, Mark 1:17-18.)

Going on from there, Jesus sees two other brothers (He has already seen and recruited Simon Peter and Andrew) James and John, sons of Zebedee. Jesus called them and they immediately left the boat and their father and followed him.

The gospel according to St Luke gives us a little more about the induction of Simon Peter, James and John,( Luke 5:1-12), where Jesus shows his authority by commanding Simon Peter to put his net into the deep water (Like 5:4) even though they team has been working all night and caught nothing (Luke 5:5). They catch so much fish that the nets begin to break and the boats begin to sink (Luke 5:8). Simon Peter recognising the miracle and holiness of Jesus admits to his own sinfulness. With this confession Jesus is able to recruit him as a fisher of men Luke 5:11).

John's gospel records that Andrew was John's disciple at first, but went to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40). The first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him "We have found the Messiah" John 1:41. Simon is brought to Jesus. Jesus looked at Simon and says "you will be called Cephas", which is Aramaic for rock, and has been Hellenised to Petros (Anglicised to Peter). We note that the KJV records the name in the Aramaic form Cephas.

I am grateful to Rev Robert Hunt who has sent me the following which helps to co-ordinate the different bits of information: Robert's gems are found between the two star studded bars:


John is anxious to make the point (at a time long after Jesus death, but when disciples of John the B. are still around) that those who followed John the B. should now follow Jesus. John thus gives a lot of attention to the witness of John the B. to Jesus. And part of that witness was the witness of John the B to Andrew telling him to follow Jesus. The other gospel writers aren't interested in this story because its not relevant to their intention, which is to emphasise how disciples move from their daily lives to being "fishers of men".

At the same time John isn't planning to tell the story of Peter's confession of faith. His gospel stresses rather the way in which Jesus' glory is manifest in different ways.

But John recognises that Peter is a special disciple.

So John emphasises the first meeting of Peter and Jesus, introduced through Andrew, and tells us that immediately Jesus recognises the special significance of Peter and gives him his name. He doesn't tell us that these men have become followers of Jesus. To the contrary they disappear from the story and it is Phillip and Nathaniel who go with Jesus into Galilee. And from that point on John has no interest in the calling of the disciples.

I think the best historical reconstruction is this:

background: Andrew is a follower of John the B. who has come down for the Baptisms at the Jordan. His brother Peter is also there.

  1. John the B. introduces Andrew to Jesus.
  2. Andrew introduces Jesus to Simon. Jesus gives him a new name, Peter, but its importance isn't clear to Peter or the others.
  3. Jesus takes Phillip, and then Nathanial, to Galilee.
  4. At the Sea of Galilee he finds Peter and Andrew, now back at their daily work, and calls them to follow him, as he calls James and John.
  5. When Peter makes his declaration of faith in Christ Jesus again emphasises his new identity as "Peter", an identity the full meaning of which is now clear.


(thanks Robert!)

The main message from today's text, seen in perspective of the other 3 gospels, tells us how Jesus went about selecting his disciples, ordinary hardworking simple people who were in touch with the other commoners: He picked pairs of brothers. Andrew had already shown interest in John's message of repentance, interested enough to be amongst those numbered as disciples of John, yet moved by Jesus authority to follow Jesus (Luke 35-40).

Let us close for today by looking a little more at Simon, son of Jonah, also called Cephas or Peter.

Peter makes his declaration of faith in Christ Jesus at Caesaria Phillipi (Matt 16:13-20). This declaration is recorded in each of the other synoptic gospels. Mark 8:27, Luke 9:20.

This declaration is followed by a pronouncement by Jesus as recorded in Matt 16: 17-19 that the church would be founded on a rock. Whether or not the rock on which the church was to be founded was Peter or the truth revealed to Peter which was Jesus, is a topic of theological debate: the way I read it Jesus is the rock.

To get the final absolute answer, you may ask the people involved yourself, when you stand before the great white throne.

But before you have a chance to ask a question, Jesus asks you "Who do you say I am?"

Nathanael declared The centurion who witnessed the crucifixion seeing what happened praised God and said "Surely this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47)

Jesus asks "Who do you say I am?"

For it is with your heart that you believe and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Rom 10:10).

Let us pray

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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