John 1:38 MEANING

John 1:38
(38) Jesus turned, and saw them following.--They follow wishing, and yet not daring, to question Him. He sees this, and seeks to draw them forth by Himself asking the first question. They are not prepared for this question, and wish for more than a passing interview. They inquire, "Where dost thou sojourn?" "Where are you staying for the night?" They will visit Him and ask the many things they seek. They address Him as "Rabbi," placing themselves in the position of His scholars; but they have not yet learnt all that John had taught them of His office. The title is natural from them, for it was the then current title of a revered teacher, and one that John's disciples applied to him (John 3:26); but the writer remembers it was a modern word (comp. Matthew 23:7-8), known to Jews only since the days of Hillel (president of the Sanhedrin about B.C. 30), not likely to be known to Greeks at all, and he therefore translates it, as he does Messias and Cephas in this same section.

Verse 38. - Then Jesus turned - hearing their footfall, he welcomed their sincere approach, attentive as he ever was to the faintest indication of genuine faith and desire for his best gifts - and beheld them following (θεαόμαι is used of intense gaze at that which is august and wonderful, vers. 14, 32; 1 John 1:1; but used also of special and interested contemplation, Matthew 6:1; John 6:5), and he saith to them, What seek ye? The first words of Jesus, as recorded in this Gospel, reveal the incarnate Logos, anointed of the Holy Spirit, beginning to search the heart and anticipate the unuttered questions of humanity. He assumes their desire for that which he alone can supply. They, on seeing their Christ, the Son of God, all humanly before them, do not fall at his feet, but approach him as a human teacher, and give him the ordinary honorific title of a wise, competent instructor. They said unto him, Rabbi (which is, being interpreted, Teacher). The parenthetic clause reveals the fact that the Gospel was written for Gentile readers. The title "Rabbi" was a modern one, only dating from the days of Hillel, about B.C. 30, and therefore needing interpretation. Where abidest thou? Renan founds on this phrase "Rabbi" the supposition that, when John and Jesus meet, they are both surrounded by groups of followers. The narrative is written to convey a precisely opposite conception. Christ did not refuse this "courtesy title" (Matthew 23:8; John 13:13), and we can gather nothing else from the narrative. The question itself reveals the mind of the evangelist. In the opinion of all writers (favourable and hostile), the writer, according to a deliberate method adopted by him, wished to imply that he was one of the two disciples who first left the Baptist to attach themselves to Jesus. The very form of the question adds to the probability. It is a characteristic longing of the disciple, whom Jesus loved so well, to be near and with his Master. He craved no laconic phrase, no solitary word, but some more prolonged fellowship, some undisturbed communion and instruction. The varied emotions of that day, moreover, were conspicuously reproduced in the solemn title which the son of Zebedee most persistently applied to his glorified Lord in the Apocalypse. More than thirty times he refers to him as "the Lamb."

1:37-42 The strongest and most prevailing argument with an awakened soul to follow Christ, is, that it is he only who takes away sin. Whatever communion there is between our souls and Christ, it is he who begins the discourse. He asked, What seek ye? The question Jesus put to them, we should all put to ourselves when we begin to follow Him, What do we design and desire? In following Christ, do we seek the favour of God and eternal life? He invites them to come without delay. Now is the accepted time, 2Co 6:2. It is good for us to be where Christ is, wherever it be. We ought to labour for the spiritual welfare of those related to us, and seek to bring them to Him. Those who come to Christ, must come with a fixed resolution to be firm and constant to him, like a stone, solid and stedfast; and it is by his grace that they are so.Then Jesus turned, and saw them following,.... That is, "him", as the Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions add: he saw by their walk, and by their countenances, that they were following him; and which he knew before he turned himself: he knew what John had said, and what an effect it had upon these disciples, and what was working in their hearts, and how desirous they were of coming up to him, and conversing with him; and therefore he turned himself, that they might have an opportunity of speaking to him; or rather, in order to speak to them first, as he did:

and saith unto them, what seek ye? This he said, not as ignorant of whom, and what they were seeking, and desirous; but to encourage them to speak to him, which, through fear and bashfulness, they might be backward to do; and therefore, he who will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, but cherishes and encourages the first motions of grace, begins first with them, and treats them in a free and familiar manner; thereby to animate and engage them to use freedom with him, and which end was answered:

they said unto him, Rabbi; a title which now began to be in much use with the Jews, and which they gave to their celebrated doctors; and these disciples of John, observing how magnificently their master spoke of Jesus, in great reverence to him, addressed him under this character; See Gill on Matthew 23:7,

which is to say, being interpreted, master. These are the words of the evangelist, interpreting the word "Rabbi", and not of the disciples, and are left out in the Syriac and Persic versions, who, for "Rabbi", read "our master", or our "Rabbi"; being said by both the disciples, or by one in the name of both, putting the following question:

where dwellest thou? signifying, that that was not a proper place, in the public way, to enter into a conversation with him, and acquaint him with what they were desirous of; but should be glad to know where he lodged, that they might wait upon him there, either then, or on the morrow, or at any convenient time.

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