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John’s own life was profoundly changed when he met the Savior. As we read his words, it is easy to see how much he wants to have others experience this drastically wonderful change as well. He possesses the unusual gift of clothing the profoundest ideas in language of childlike simplicity.
A little background on the Gospel of John: In his book, John was writing to committed Church members. He was not trying to convert investigators. He was trying to teach fellow members what the gospel meant in their lives. All of the writings of John were written after the writing of the book of Revelation (95 A.D.) It appears that John assumed his audience was already familiar with the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
In the first verse of chapter 1, John speaks about “the beginning.” We might ask, “The beginning of what?” Obviously, it is someplace other than here on earth. Genesis also speaks of a beginning. How is this beginning different than the one spoken of by Moses? Genesis clearly speaks about the creation of the earth upon which we reside. John’s beginning is about something else – the very beginning of all things.
We might ask ourselves how this is a beginning for John. How does beginning a relationship with the “Word” mark a beginning for all of us? John writes in layers, theological as well as personal, and he invites his readers to peel the layers back and put themselves into the story.
Hymn of the Logos
The opening verses are written in poetic style. Scholarship on these verses has suggested that they were originally a Christian hymn to Christ that has been adapted by the author of the Gospel of John. (Thomas A. Wayment, The New Testament – A Translation for Latter-day Saints,163)
John 1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word – “Logos” in Greek. Logos is a fancy philosophical word packed with many meanings and nuances – a powerful word. Among those listed in the lexicon are word, council, intelligence, gospel, logic, and reasoning. The Savior of the world encompasses all these meanings and more
President Russell M. Nelson explained the meaning of the Savior’s title the Word: “In the Greek language of the New Testament, that Word was Logos, or ‘expression.’ It was another name for the Master. That terminology may seem strange, but it is appropriate. We use words to convey our expression to others. So Jesus was the Word, or expression, of His Father to the world” Jesus Christ: Our Master and More, Ensign, April 2000, 4).
The use of the imperfect tense of the word was defines that which is an ongoing continuous state; here, that which lies beyond time. Was is a declaration of existence with God. In what sense was Christ with God? Did they hang out together? Eat together? What does with mean? As we ponder, we sense that it is more of a mother with child relationship. It is a symbiotic relationship. How many times in his gospel does John emphasize that He and the Father are One? He says this over and over and over so that we cannot misunderstand.
Rare Teachings about the Premortal Existence
While all four gospels testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, John’s gospel is the only one that teaches about Jesus’s premortal life. There are many examples in latter-day scripture that teach about the premortal existence and stature of Jesus Christ. The Savior told Joseph Smith, “I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn” (D&C 93:21).
John testified that “all things were made by the Savior” (John 1:3, 10). What was the extent of his created works? The Son was not a novice at creation.
He had created “worlds without number” (Moses 1:33), “millions of earths like this” (Moses 7:30), and “all things from the beginning” (Mosiah 3:8).
There are, however, two “creative events” that God the Father reserves for Himself. Bruce R. McConkie: “First, he is the Father of All spirits, Christ’s included. . . . Second, he is the Creator of the physical body of man [see Moses 2:27] (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith , 63).
Section 93 is a commentary on John 1 and contains the words of John the Baptist which no one else has. From latter-day revelation, we learn that the material in the first part of John’s gospel (the Apostle) was written originally by John the Baptist. By revelation, the Lord restored to Joseph Smith, part of what John the Baptist had written and promised to reveal the balance when men became sufficiently faithful to warrant receiving it. D&C 93:18 promises that “it shall come to pass that if you are faithful, you shall receive the fulness of the record of John. Verse 15 of John 1 is the key to the identity of the particular John spoken of.
Diamonds on Black Velvet
John 1:4-5 John is very much a dualist. He likes contrasts. Darkness against light. Things easily distinguished. By contrasting things, they become even more clear. For example, if you hold up a piece of white paper and a place a piece of gray paper next to it, the gray paper appears dark. But when a black piece of paper is placed next to the gray paper, the gray paper appears light. What is the lesson here? Perhaps it is – be careful who you compare yourself with!
What does “the darkness ‘comprehended’ it not” mean? In Greek, “comprehended” might be better translated as “overcame, seized with hostile intent, or overtook.” “The darkness did not OVERCOME the Light.” The relationship of darkness to light is one of essential antagonism.
Another interesting contrast is offered in this verse. The verb shineth is in the timeless present tense, while the verb comprehended is in a tense (aorist) that is used for a given point in time. The impact is the enduring quality of light and of the One who is personified as light. On the other hand, there was a time when the darkness, or the one of whom it is a personification, attempted to seize and overcome the light. It refers to a specific attempt, a single occurrence, not an ongoing, timeless quality.
John was foreshadowing a main theme of his Gospel: a record of the specific time when, as the light shone in the darkness that had come upon this world, the Prince of Darkness attempted and failed to overcome and extinguish that light.
Life abounds, all things exist, and the planets move in their courses because of the light of Christ. Could this be the very power by which atoms are held together? Paul speaks of this power as the power by which “all things consist” (Col 1:17). That is, all things are HELD TOGETHER by this power. WOW! Do we ever mention that in our nightly prayers? Maybe we should!
The Light of Christ
When God says, “Let there be light,” he might have been saying, “Let there be life. Let there be law.” Or, “let the governing power of the universe be upon this new planet we are creating.”
Latter-day scripture illuminates the nature of this light. D&C 88:7-13
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
Besides governing all things, this is the same force which enlightens men, and quickens their understandings.
John 1:6-10 Is this John the Revelator, the author of this gospel? No, this John is John the Baptist. Latter-day revelation gives us this information. (D&C 93:6-18) Verse 15 especially indicates that this John heard the heavens open and the voice of the Father say, “This is my beloved Son.” John the Baptist was sent to bear witness of the LIGHT. Witness in Greek is “martyrian.” We are familiar with the word martyr in speaking of those who give their lives as witnesses for a cause.
Some are troubled by John 1:31, which says “I knew him not.” This makes no sense, since they were cousins and we know that Mary and his mother Elizabeth were dear to each other. The JST of this verse clears up the error. The “not” is omitted twice, clarifying that John “knew that Jesus was the Messiah and that he should be made manifest to Israel.”
John 1:9 John’s writings also include the only New Testament teachings about the Light of Christ. (See the Bible Dictionary entry on this subject.) Jesus shows us the way, and helps us be sensitive to the light. He also places within each of us our own little light, so that we can always see in the darkness. But we must be sensitive to that light. “He that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received” (D&C 1:33). Use it or lose it, it seems.
Every person born into this world automatically and instinctively knows right and wrong because of the universally bestowed “conscience.” D&C 84:46-47 “Every one that hearkeneth to unto the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.” If we follow the light, where will we eventually end up? The light pulls us to the Father. D&C 84:50 Because we are integrally attracted to goodness. We have to really try to reject our natural inclination to do the right thing.
Native Americans have a tradition that portrays the conscience as a spinning triangle inside your heart. When you do things wrong, the points of the triangle prick the sides of your heart. When you harden your heart, the points of the triangle break off and the triangle becomes a spinning disc, and “pricks” of conscience are no longer felt. The person is “beyond feeling.”
The ultimate irony of this chapter is found in John 1:10-11. Christ, who made the world and all that is in it, is rejected by it! He came unto his own, and his own received him not! What do we, as members of the Church today, think about this statement? Is this happening today? Is this happening to ME on occasion? We need to be filled with gratitude so that our hearts will not be hard and reject the light. The scriptures also use the words “their hearts waxed cold.” It is easy to picture soft wax hardening into something that is brittle and unpliable. A powerful image to consider!
Power to Become Sons of God
Having grown up singing I Am a Child of God, we might have another question while reading this chapter. If we are all sons and daughters of God, why do we need “power to become the sons of God?” John 1:11-13 In the footnote to verse 12a, “power,” exousian in Greek, means resources as well as authority, right, privilege. In one Greek lexicon, the primary meaning is given as “freedom of choice.” Numerous scriptures speak of the need to be born again and enter into gospel covenants with God. (See Mosiah 5:7) While we are all children of God, those who make gospel covenants such as baptism and temple covenants also become God’s covenant children – members of the household of God in eternity.
Why is becoming a son so important? [By the way, tekna, translated as sons, means children, not limited only to sons.] How do you feel about your father? How does your father feel about you? How does knowing Christ is your father, the father or your baptismal covenant make you feel about him?
After making sacred covenants, you are then adopted into the family of Jesus Christ, become joint-heirs with him, and consequently receive, inherit, and possess equally with him in glorious exaltation in the kingdom of his Father. Hallelujah!
A God Empties Himself
John 1:14 could very well be THE MOST IMPORTANT VERSE in the New Testament! This verse epitomizes the whole message of the New Testament – that the Creator God was made human and dwelt among us. In Greek, the word translated as dwelt means “to pitch one’s tent.” That is, the Creator God pitched his tent among us, His creations.
Many people struggle with the idea of a God condescending to become a mere mortal. I admit, it does make one wonder why this was necessary. It seems so DRASTIC! A parable as to why Christ had to come to the earth and become one of us is told by Paul Harvey – “The Man and the Birds.”
Now the man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge. He was a kind and decent, mostly good man, generous to his family and upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story – about God coming to earth as a man.
“I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite – that he’d much rather stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so, he stayed, and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound – then another – then another. Sort of a thump or a thud. At first, he thought that someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window.
But when he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds, huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm, and, in a desperate search for shelter, tried to fly through his large, landscaped window. Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze. He remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.
Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So, he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the yellow-lighted, wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow.
He tried catching them. He tried shooing them in the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead they scattered in every direction – except into the warm, lighted barn. And then he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I’m not trying to hurt them but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten and confuse them. They just would not follow – they would not be led or shooed, because they feared him.
If only I could be a bird, he thought to himself, and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid, then I could show them the way to the safe, warm . . . to the safe, warm barn, but . . . I would have to be one of them, so they could see and hear and understand.
At that moment, the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sound of the wind, and he stood there listening to the bells – – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.
This doctrine is taught in Philippians 2:5-12. It has a fancy name – the Doctrine of Kenotic Christology, because in Greek kenos means “to empty.” In 2:7 “made himself of no reputation” is mistranslated. It should read “emptied himself.” Christ in his pre-mortal existent state was a god, and he “emptied himself” of his divine prerogatives. Verse 2:6 says that Christ was in the “form of God,” but he thought it not robbery to be equal to God. This is a very confusing translation! The word “robbery” is Greek harpagmos, which is a thing to be seized or greatly desired, a prize, a piece of good fortune, something to hold on to. Jesus did not count his divine status something to be held on to. He “emptied himself” of his glory and came to earth. This is the great condescension of God – to be made into a human.
When the angel asks Nephi, “Do you understand the condescension of God?” he is really asking is, “Do you understand that Jehovah became a mortal man?”
Verses 14, 16, and 17 speak of Christ being “full of grace and truth.” This is the only time in the New Testament where these words are used to describe the Savior. This phrase is used an additional seven times in Latter-day scripture. What exactly does this mean to us?
Here are some thoughts. The law of Moses was a very strict law, almost impossible to live perfectly. And yet, here the Savior shares with us his “fulness,” including His grace, which he freely gives us. The Greek word is charis, which carries the idea of “loving-kindness, good will, or favor.” The Bible Dictionary expands on this definition. “The main idea of this word is divine means of help or strength, . . . an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation.” In other words, Jesus Christ wants you to succeed! He is sharing his power with us to help us gain what He has! Who could ask for more than that? Another hallelujah! And, this “truth” does not change, as the Lord does not change. He is there for us – always, no matter the circumstances. Hallelujah yet again.
In verse 15, John bears witness of this “truth.” That the Savior “that cometh after me if preferred before me: for he was before me.” Again reinforcing the idea that “in the beginning was the Word,” and “the Word was with God.” Jesus Christ was divinely foreordained for His mission.
No Man Has Seen God at Any Time?
Continuing on, we read something in verse 18 that is very troubling – “no man has seen God at any time.” Thankfully, the Joseph Smith Translation of this verse clarifies this scripture.
“No man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved” JSTJohn1:19
The whole body of revealed truths bears record that Deity has been seen by man. What John actually taught was that the Father had never appeared to any except for the purpose of introducing and bearing record of the Son. (Example: the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith.)
Even without this clarification in the JST, this idea is reflected in the writings of the early church fathers. Early Christian author Irenaeus wrote in A.D. 180 that the scripture should be read, “For no man hath seen God at any time unless the only-begotten Son of God, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared [Him].” (Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” in Chapter 6 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886) 1:427.) Irenaeus’ “unless” (or Joseph’s “except”) makes all the difference.
Irenaeus knew that righteous men had seen God in the past. (See Acts 7:55-56, Genesis 32:30, Gen. 17:1, Gen. 18:1, Acts 7:2, Exodus 3:6, Ex. 19:11, Ex. 33:11, Numbers 12:7-8, 1 Kings 9:2, 11:9, Isaiah 6:1,5, Ex. 24:10-11, Deut. 34:10, 5:4, Judges 13:22, Genesis 3, Hebrews 11:27, Job 42:5, 33:26, 19:26, Ezek. 1:1,8:1-4, Joshua 5:12-15, Rev. 22:4) As these many Biblical references demonstrate, the idea of seeing God is hardly foreign to Hebrew or early Christian thought. There are extra-canonical references as well. Philo the Jew taught that the name Israel was compounded of three words, “ish” man, “rah” see, and “EL” God – which means “man seeing God. Clearly, the earliest Christian understanding aligns of this verse with Joseph Smith’s translation. (FAIR Mormon Gospel Study Aids)
The Witness of John the Baptist
Now we encounter a shift in subject. John 1:19-28 records the testimony of John the Baptist in his encounter with the people who sought him out in the Judean wilderness as he performed baptisms at Bethabara. We are told these were “Jews.” What does this mean exactly? We should be careful when we examine these verses, because John has used this term in various ways, and readers should be aware of its specific context. Here, “Jews” probably refers to members of the Jewish nation who felt hostility toward the Savior – including leaders of the Sanhedrin, including the chief priests and scribes.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that when John the Baptist began his ministry, “the whole Jewish nation was stirred up with anxious expectation, awaiting the momentary appearance of the Messiah and his Elias. With great hosts from Jerusalem and all Judea flocking to John and accepting him as a prophet, and with the banks of the Jordan crowded with his baptized converts, it was natural for the leading Jews – members of the great Sanhedrin, whose obligation it was to test prophetic claims – to send priests and Levites to make detailed investigation” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:129).
These Jewish leaders asked John if he was “Elias” (the Greek name for the Hebrew “Elijah”), who was prophesied to return by Malachi. He says that he is NOT Elias, but we all know he was exactly that! Something is wrong with this picture! We see red flags all around us… In the JST of these verses, the Lord reveals a more complete account of John’s response to these Jewish leaders. To their queries, John “confessed, and denied not that he was Elias; but confessedsaying; I am not the Christ” (JST John1:21 [in the Bible Appendix]).
John understood, as the priests and Levites apparently did not, that there are various meanings for the name-title Elias. John was an Elias, which means a forerunner of the Messiah, but he was notthe Elias, who is the Messiah, nor Elijah the prophet, whose name in Greek is Elias. John says he is the one fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah or one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” In other words, “The Lord is coming soon. Let’s get all the twists and turns out of the road so that he can come quickly!” We see this often, as orange cones on the freeway signal that the road is being made straight. “Even if we have to dig a tunnel through a mountain, let’s make this freeway straight!” John’s testimony left no doubt that he knew of his own divinely appointed preparatory mission and the of the divinely “preferred” one who would come after him.
After John denied that he was Elijah, the leaders of the Jews asked him, “Art thou that prophet?” (John 1:21) This reference likely had reference to the prophecy of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15:“The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken.” If these men had understood that “that prophet” referred to the Messiah, they would not have asked John this redundant question. Many of the Jews in Jesus’s day anticipated the coming of a prophet who would be like Moses, but who was not the Messiah. They definitely were “looking beyond the mark.” This is borne out by Acts 3:20,22: “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which was preached unto you: For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” (It might be wise to add these two references to your footnotes to verse 21 so that you remember the identity of “that Prophet.”)
Rich Symbolism Prophetically Explained
“These things were done in Bethabara” John 1:22-28. Nephi prophesied that John would baptize “in Bethabaa, beyond Jordan; . . . even he should baptize the Messiah” 1 Nephi 10:9). In Hebrewbeth means “house” and abar means “cross.” This area is approximately where Joshua miraculously led the Israelites out of the exile in the desert across the River Jordan into the promised land. This is the lowest freshwater location on the earth. God must love symbolism, because we have a lot of repeating scenarios here. “Joshua” in Hebrew is Yeshua and “Jesus” in Hebrew is also Yeshua. Yeshua in Hebrew means “salvation.” President Nelson wrote about all of this symbolism in an Ensign article in December 1989. He doesn’t miss a beat.
“The River Jordan was the site Jesus chose for His baptism by John. … Is it significant that this sacred ordinance was performed in virtually the lowest body of fresh water on the planet? Could He have selected a better place to symbolize the humble depths to which He went and from which He rose? By example, He taught us that He literally descended beneath all things to rise above all things. Surely, being baptized after the manner of His baptism signifies that through our obedience and effort, we too, can come from the depths to ascend to lofty heights of our own destiny.
“To us, the River Jordan is a sacred stream. The Jordan marked the termination of the wandering of the children of Israel. They had journeyed there from the banks of the Nile. Joshua had led some 600,000 Israelite warriors and their families across that roiling river during flood season, when the waters were suddenly stopped and heaped up to allow the faithful Israelites, carrying the ark of the covenant, to cross an empty river bed. (See Joshua 3.)
“… Bethabara in Hebrew means ‘house of the crossing.’ … Could it be that Christ chose this location for His baptism in the River Jordan as a silent commemoration of the crossing of those faithful Israelites under Joshua’s direction so many years before, as well as a symbol that baptism is a spiritual crossing into the kingdom of God?” (“Why This Holy Land?” Ensign, Dec. 1989, 15).
John 1 reveals some of the titles by which the premortal Jesus was known. We have already discussed some of these – the Word, true light, “that prophet,” Lord, Only Begotten. He also uses the titles – Son of God, Rabbi, King of Israel, and Son of Man. In John 1:29 he introduces the name “Lamb of God.” He is the only gospel writer to use “Lamb” and he calls Jesus the “Lamb of God” twice in the Gospel of John and over twenty times in the book of Revelation, also authored by John.
President Russell M. Nelson taught that as the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ fulfilled the Mosaic law of sacrifice through His Atonement:
“The Old Testament has many references to atonement, which called for animal sacrifice. Not any animal would do. Special considerations included:
- “the selection of a firstling of the flock, without blemish [see Leviticus 5:18; 27:26],
- “the sacrifice of the animal’s life by the shedding of its blood [see Leviticus 9:18],
- “death of the animal without breaking a bone [see Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12], and
- “one animal could be sacrificed as a vicarious act for another [see Leviticus 16:10].
“The Atonement of Christ fulfilled these prototypes of the Old Testament. He was the firstborn Lamb of God, without blemish. His sacrifice occurred by the shedding of blood. No bones of His body were broken—noteworthy in that both malefactors crucified with the Lord had their legs broken [see John 19:31–33]. And His was a vicarious sacrifice for others” (“The Atonement,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 34–35).
Jesus called disciples to follow Him early in his ministry – Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel. (See John 1:35-37) At least two of these men – Andrew and another disciple, probably John – had been disciples of John the Baptist, but when they heard the Savior speak, they followed Him. At John the Baptist’s own urging, many of his disciples left him and followed Jesus.
As we read the first chapter of John, we can learn much about what it means to be a disciple of Christ. When Andrew and his fellow disciple first heard Christ speak, they were so moved the left to follow Him as He left the crowd. Sensing this, Christ turned and asked the two men, “What seek ye?” [John 1:38]. What a profound question! We might do well to ask ourselves the same question. “What do we seek?” When they asked, “Where dwellest thou?” Christ said simply, “Come and see” (John 1:39). Two action words. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland commented on the significance of these two statements:
“It seems that the essence of our mortal journey and the answers to the most significant questions in life are distilled down to these two very brief elements in the opening scenes of the Savior’s earthly ministry. One element is the question put to every one of us on this earth: ‘What seek ye? What do you want?’ The second is His response to our answer, whatever that answer is. Whoever we are and whatever we reply, His response is always the same: ‘Come,’ He says lovingly. ‘Come, follow me.’ Wherever you are going, first come and see what I do, see where and how I spend my time. Learn of me, walk with me, talk with me, believe. Listen to me pray. In turn you will find answers to your own prayers. God will bring rest to your souls. Come, follow me” (“He Hath Filled the Hungry with Good Things,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 65).
This phrase – “Come and see” could very well be the theme of John’s gospel. Couldn’t we all learn to use this phrase a little more in our lives? People can’t help but notice that Saints who go about their everyday lives have a certain glow… When they ask, could we not reply, “Come and see.” A director of students at the BYU Jerusalem Center once commented on a statement from a government official there. He said, “Your students have been very compliant in heeding our wishes not to discuss their religion with any of our citizens. We really appreciate that. But what can we do about the light in their eyes?” “Come and see.”
Elder David B. Haight writes about what happens next in our narrative.
“John and Andrew were with the Savior for several hours. Just imagine being in His presence or being able to sit and look into His eyes or to hear Him explain who He was and why He had come to earth and to hear that inflection in His voice in describing what He would have told those young men. They would have shaken His hand. They would have felt of that precious, wonderful personality as they listened to Him.
“And following that encounter, the account says that Andrew went to find his brother Simon because he had to share it with someone. …
“When Andrew found his brother Simon, he said to him, ‘We have found the [Messiah]’ (John 1:41). He probably said: ‘We’ve been in His presence. We’ve felt of His personality. We know that what He is telling us is true.’ Yes, Andrew had to share it with someone.
“That is what we do in sharing what we know and what we understand” (“Gratitude and Service,” Ensign, May 2001, 71).
President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency spoke about why those with testimonies of divine truths should share their testimonies with others:
“Those who have a testimony of the restored gospel also have a duty to share it. The Book of Mormon teaches that we should ‘stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in’ (Mosiah 18:9).
“One of the most impressive teachings on the relationship between the gift of a testimony and the duty to bear it is in the 46th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. In describing different kinds of spiritual gifts, this revelation states:
“‘To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.“ ‘To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful’ (vv. 13–14; see also John 20:29).
“Those who have the gift to know have an obvious duty to bear their witness so that those who have the gift to believe on their words might also have eternal life.
“There has never been a greater need for us to profess our faith, privately and publicly (see D&C 60:2). Though some profess atheism, there are many who are open to additional truths about God. To these sincere seekers, we need to affirm the existence of God the Eternal Father, the divine mission of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the reality of the Restoration. We must be valiant in our testimony of Jesus” (“Testimony,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 27).
Simon Peter as the Rock
When Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, he said, “Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a seer, or a stone” (JST John 1:42).
This little verse has earthshaking consequences when trying to understand the meaning of Matthew 16! In this chapter, Jesus and his disciples are in Caesarea Philippi, a beautiful location surrounded by great rock formations. In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asks them, “whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” They give various answers – John the Baptist, Jeremias, Elias, one of the prophets.
In verse 15, He asks, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter voices his testimony, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This was undoubtedly representative of the other apostles. Peter’s utterance is borne of knowledge, not of opinion or guesswork. It was revealed from the Father himself and is called testimony. Paul wrote that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Cor. 12:3).
Matt. 16:17-19 Why did Jesus say to Peter “Thou art Peter?” Peter knew who he was. Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained it this way: “That is, ‘Thou art a mortal man; Jonah is thy father. I, thy Lord, though I dwell in mortality, am the Son of God in the same sense that thou, Simon, art the son of Jonah; as thou hast testified of my parentage, so I also, by way of contrast, certify of thine. And now, though I have inherited because of my birth the powers of immortality, which sets me apart from thee, yet because of faith and obedience thou shalt receive and exercise the powers and keys which I hold, and in my name thou shalt bind and loose, seal and unseal, both on earth and in heaven.’” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 384)
The footnote to Matthew 18 cites John 1:42 which says in the JST “Thou art Cephas, which is by interpretation, a seer, or a stone.” As noted before, Peter’s utterance is borne of knowledge, not of opinion or guesswork. It was revealed from the Father himself and is called testimony.
Jesus replies that he will found his church on this revealed testimony. Obviously, it is not Peter himself. As mentioned, petros (m.) means small rock, and petra (f.) means immovable rock, such as those at Caesarea Philippi. Why would God build his church on a “pebble?” Surely, he was referring to Peter’s role as a seer.
Come and See
Jesus was recognized as the Messiah by those who had studied the law and the prophets looking for the prophecies to be fulfilled. What was the first thing they did after they found this wonderful discovery – the long-awaited Messiah? They brought their dearest brothers and friends to COME and SEE! That is the nature of mankind, is it not? We want to share our good fortune! When she finds a great sale, doesn’t a woman get on the phone and tell everyone she knows about it? The news is too good to keep to herself! Andrew brought Simon, Philip brought Nathaniel. They brought them to Jesus and let them discover the Messiah for themselves.
The Savior builds people up. He gives Simon a new name, indicating his potential to become a seer. He greets Nathaniel with, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile [deception]!” Nathaniel is astounded by this revelation, but is assured that Jesus has seen him “whence [he] was under the fig tree” – undoubtedly a time of great reflection and pondering only known to himself. From this, he testifies, “Thou art the Son of God… The King of Israel.”
What might we learn from observing what the Savior did at Bethabara? Might we also learn to more readily invite others to COME and SEE? Might we build them up and help them see the divine within themselves, as Jesus did?
How could we do this? Actually, we just have to be ourselves, and open our mouths. We don’t have to be “preachy,” just genuine and authentic. “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed… It is tiny, but will someday become a giant mustard plant. A small seed can turn into a redwood tree! In the kingdom of God things move SLOWLY – LIKE A SEED GROWING… The little things we say and do add up.
Here is an example from a friend of mine. Years ago, he knew a guy named Scott. He was rough looking, tattooed, smoked, and had been less active since his youth. His wife was very negative towards the Church. He was 6’5” tall and loved to play basketball. Since the ward team thought he would be an asset to the ward B-ball team, he was asked to play church basketball every Wednesday night. At this time, my friend was serving as the bishop in the ward. One night, he asked Scott, “On a scale of 1 to 10, what are the chances of you coming back to church?” Scott said. “About a three.” He said, “Oh really? I had you pegged as a seven or eight.” He began to think, “The bishop thinks I’m a 7 or 8 in coming back to church.” This thought started to grow from something small to something great – from the INSIDE out, quietly and invisibly. Scott took the missionary lessons, got the Priesthood, and was able to baptize his wife and children. Now they are sealed in the temple. A simple invitation and being built up by a friend became something HUGE.
Last December, I invited a friend from our apartment complex to come to the ward Christmas party. She was a visiting scholar at Cal State Long Beach from the People’s Republic of China and had been teaching me Mandarin. She asked if she could bring a newly arrived math scholar, Ida. The Relief Society sisters put on a skit acting out the nativity story – complete with angels, stars, shepherds, and a baby in a manger. Ida looked very confused. She said, “I thought Christmas was all about presents and Santa. What does a baby have to do with Christmas?” I was shocked! I told her there was much I wanted to tell her. She asked, “Do you have Sunday School? I would like to come.” Again, I was amazed!” I hadn’t even tried that hard, and someone who knew nothing about Christ or the plan of salvation was begging me to let her COME and SEE.
I think that if we will read and ponder this potent first chapter of John’s gospel we will be changed. If we listen to these words with our hearts, we will, as Jesus says in the final verses, “see greater things than these.”