I always get tripped up, this being the year of Mark’s gospel, when John sticks his nose in like today. Just as I’m beginning to get my head round Mark’s Jesus, John’s version pops up—and they could hardly be more different.
Next Sunday we’ll have Mark’s version of today’s events—the calling of disciples—and it’s all peremptory demand and prompt response. He says ‘follow’—right out of the blue—and, God help them, they do. And we wonder what kind of a person could command that kind of response, what kind of charisma he must have had? And what kind of a person could leave all behind on an instant’s command?
But John, John tells a different tale, equally enigmatic but altogether different. A tale of courtship not command. Subtler human interactions: looks and gazes, an often silent language of desire and hope, things heard and unheard. Oblique questions and offbeat answers. And all the little details that tie the scene to time and place—to this road, this home, just then at 4 o’clock.
John’s Jesus make’s no demands; he offers only an invitation—come and see, come and see where I live, where I linger. And they go, and they linger with him for the rest of the day … and the day turns into two, into a week, a month. Discipleship seems to just rub off on Andrew and co. And it seems to be catching too—Andrew to Simon; the next day, their neighbour Philip and Philip’s friend Nathaniel. Discipleship is almost caught by contact, by kinship, by relationship—and by time wasted, lingering.
John seems to be saying – linger, stay, abide, just stay with Jesus. Look at him and listen and you’ll catch it too, something will happen to you. And it’ll be something you’ve been looking for all your life, all your life.
But it’s not just looking at Jesus that does the trick of transformation—you could do that behind a barricade or from a telescope’s eye. It’s letting Jesus look at you, too. Andrew brings along Simon, his brother, and Jesus looks hard at him, gazes, beholds him … and sees him with a truth that changes him. Simon you are a Rock. You might not know it yet or for many years but Rock you are, Peter.
There’s the promise of these days of retreat. Look at Jesus—watch him, touch him, listen to him—and let him look at you—gaze at you, touch you, hear you—and he will tell you your truest name.