Today’s reading John 1:24-51
Two interesting things in today reading. First, we see Jesus coming to the area where John the Baptist is preaching. Twice, John the Baptist says this,
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Again the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God! John 1:35-36
Thus, Jesus is identified as “the Lamb of God”. This will have important Passover implications throughout John’s gospel. We know that at the last supper, no mention is made of the traditional Passover lamb. Rather, it is Jesus who offers his body and blood. From the outset of his Gospel, John is establishing that Jesus is the Lamb to be offered.
Second, we see three instances where John translates Hebrew words for his audience. Here is the section:
And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own 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, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
This is a strong sign that John knew he was writing for a larger audience. He knew is Gospel would be disseminated among people who did not speak the native Jewish tounges. In preserving the original words he shows that he is motivated to record the words of Jesus literally and accurately. However, in translating them he is also showing that he wants the meaning of the words to be understood by all.
The defining of the name “Cephas” is also important. In discussions regarding the biblical basis for the papacy, Catholics will often refer to the passages in Matthew 16 where Simon’s name is changed to Peter and he is called “the rock”. Sometimes, the argument is made that the Greek word for Peter, which is “Petros”, means “small stone or pebble” and therefore Jesus was not founding the Church on a “small stone”. Here in John, we see one reason why that argument fails. Jesus didn’t rename Simon to the Greek version of “Petros”. Jesus renamed him to the Aramaic word “Cephas”. There is no distinction is Aramaic, the word Cephas means “rock”. John preserves the original literal words for us.
Tomorrow: John 2