While not the gospel reading in today’s lectionary, there is a short passage in the Gospel of John (1:38-39) that I find heartwarming and particularly engaging. It imagines a more personal invitation to those who became the first disciples of Jesus than what we read in Matthew’s account when we picture Jesus walking along by the Sea of Galilee, calling to two sets of brothers with the command, “Follow me.” (4:18-22)
The set-up of the story is the same. Jesus is walking by the fishermen and something in them knows to follow him. As they do, Jesus turns around and asks, “What are you looking for?” They counter with the question, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” to which he responds, “Come and you will see.” And so they do. It was Andrew, brother of John, who is credited with that interchange and today the Church celebrates his willingness.
Had Andrew and “and another disciple” not been alert when Jesus walked by, they might have missed the opportunity of a lifetime, or perhaps it was just a little “test” of their fitness for the job. Some of us are probably more comfortable with Matthew’s remembrance of that moment. It’s sometimes easier to be told what to do rather than asking questions that might seem a bit invasive. The last line of the passage from John says, “So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day.” Their decision. A much more mature encounter, wouldn’t you say?