They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but apparently Jesus could and did. He demonstrated that in today’s Gospel. Here we see Andrew and his brother Simon, who were originally disciples and followers of John the Baptist, in their very first encounter with Jesus. John already knew who Jesus was, not just his cousin, but having baptized him and hearing the Father say, “This is my beloved Son.” John knew he was the Christ, the Messiah. So we hear him exclaim today, as Jesus walked by, “Behold the lamb of God.”
Andrew and Simon were probably aware from John’s preaching that the Messiah had come and was somewhere in their midst. But still, we see them captivated. They probably never thought they’d actually meet the Lord, no more than you and I might think we’ll meet some famous celebrity. Even more remote, we wouldn’t expect a knock on our door only to find that celebrity asking to come in for a cup of coffee. But that’s essentially what happened here: the two brothers have what they think is a chance meeting with Jesus, and overcome with him, they invite him to their place for a visit, to talk, and to share whatever might have substituted for coffee in those ancient days.
Why were they so captivated? Because John told them that the long-awaited Messiah had come, and meeting him, they wanted to not only learn from him but more essentially, they wanted now to always be with him. And for the three years of Jesus’ public ministry, these two brothers, and the other ten apostles, had one job only: to be with Jesus, to follow him, to learn from him, and to love Him as their teacher and Master. It would take time to fully understand that Jesus was also their God, but that’s why Jesus prepared them for three years before His death by having them follow Him. Such things take time.
But on this first remarkable encounter, after John spontaneously called Jesus the “Lamb of God,” Andrew and Simon leave their old mentor, John, and follow Jesus, their new teacher. John wasn’t upset; unselfishly, he knew he didn’t lose two friends, he knew he had gained two new disciples for the Lord. And then Jesus says something remarkable to Simon: ““You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” which scripture says is translated “Peter.” Petras, actually, which means’ rock.’ Rock? Really? Jesus hardly knew the guy. But of course he did. For all of Peter’s faults, Jesus was able to look into Peter’s heart and found his ability to love the Lord as solid as, well, a rock. On their very first encounter. Amazing. We know that the Rock would waver a time or two; maybe even develop a crack when he denied Christ three times in His hour of need. It might be easy for us in our armchairs to judge, but I ask you, what would you have done? If you knew that you’d be executed for giving witness to Christ, what would you do? Yes, Peter did waver, but when he snapped back by God’s grace, accepting the enormity of what he had done and begging Jesus’ forgiveness, he came back even stronger in his witness than before. Jesus was clearly playing the long game when he asked Andrew and Simon to follow Him. He knew what he had in Peter, and he knew how solid Peter’s heart would be for Him all the way to his own eventual crucifixion.
So my question to all of you today is, if you had that same kind of chance encounter with Jesus today, and you invited him into your home for that proverbial cup of coffee, and he got a chance to look into your heart, what do you think he would find in you? Would the word ‘rock’ apply? We are all disciples of Christ. We are called to be ‘rocks’ of witness to Jesus Christ. We must work on it very single day of our lives. Following Jesus Christ ain’t for wimps, it takes courage; it takes conviction. Pray that God gives us all the strength and perseverance to be for Jesus as solid, as, well, you know…