Below we have the latest installment of Bob Dunne’s book, 909 Days that Changed the World. We will post two chapters a week for the summer months. We suggest reading it quietly and putting yourself in the scenes. You might be amazed at how closer you can get to Jesus! Should you be interested in your own copy, the book ($14.95 plus sales tax) can be bought from his publisher Leonine Press, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon. It is also available in Nook and Kindle. You may also get an autographed copy directly from Bob by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chapter 3: The First Disciples
A month and a half has passed since the day John saw Jesus cross the Jerusalem side of the Jordan River, climb up the embankment, and then disappear down the road to that city. It is early December, day forty-five of the 909 days that changed the world. Mary is staying in the little shack along the Jordan waiting for Jesus. Many times a day since that afternoon when the Holy Spirit announced Jesus as his beloved son, John has looked over to the other side of the Jordan, waiting, hoping to see Jesus again.
Then one day, the very next day after John’s meeting with the Pharisees, it happens. Jesus, coming down from the desert hills, having missed the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, has turned to the left, away from Jerusalem, and back towards the river. John’s heart leaps as he sees Jesus on the embankment on the Judean side. Jesus comes to John and, as they embrace, asks, “Where is my mother?” John smiles and points out the path to the shack where Mary was staying. As Jesus goes to find his mother, John says to all his disciples who are within earshot, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). Two of the disciples who are from Bethsaida—John, who will become “the beloved” apostle, and who will write the fourth gospel, and Andrew, Simon Peter’s older brother—decide to take action. As the Feast of Tabernacles has long passed and the traffic crossing the Jordan is lighter now, there is plenty of time for these two disciples of John to examine this man, so they begin to follow Jesus down the path.
The path is full of bushes, big trees, and lots of vegetation, all relying on the waters of the river to sustain them. Because of the vegetation, Andrew and John have to hurry in order to catch up with Jesus as he winds his way down this path. But Jesus, slowing down to let them get closer, suddenly turns around, looks them both in the eyes, and says in a warm and inviting voice, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). They are both taken aback. It is not just the tone of his voice, but the look in his eyes. Never had these two seen anyone look at them in this way. His attention, his smile, his interest, yes, even his love for them, is evident in his eyes. It is as if the world is standing still and Jesus’ only interest is in them. Nothing else seems to matter to him than their presence. And his question is one that immediately resonates in their hearts, as it does in all sincere hearts, not only in Jesus’ time but even today. “What are you looking for?” Attempting to gather themselves, John and Andrew, unsure of what to say, respond, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” (John 1:38) and much to their delight, Jesus responds the same way to them as he does to all who seek him with a truthful heart: “Come and you will see” (John 1:39).
As they walk together down the path, their conversation is light and easy, with Jesus asking them questions about themselves. Shortly, they reach the place where Mary is staying. Mary runs out to greet Jesus, her smile as big as the relief she feels in her heart. Jesus hugs his mother, and they draw such joy from looking into each others’ eyes; it is as if they were looking straight into the goodness of each others’ souls. After that deep drink of love for and from each other, Jesus turns from Mary and focuses his attention back on Andrew and John. Although John doesn’t tell us what they speak of, he does tell us “they saw where he lived and stayed with him the whole day” (John 1:39). We can only imagine their conversation, but we can be sure, as they slowly walk back down the path to cross the Jordan River again before nightfall, that the hearts of John and Andrew are burning inside them. Meeting this man has changed their lives. Little do they realize how much.
Upon returning to their camp on the Perea side of the river, Andrew, his heart on fire, finds his younger brother, Simon, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41), the one for whom the Jewish people had been waiting and pining for so many centuries. Imagine, after spending just one afternoon with him and only by looking at and talking to him, Andrew is convinced Jesus is the Messiah—no miracles, no special signs, none of that. Simon, his curiosity piqued at the intensity of his brother’s conviction, decides to see for himself. He will visit this Jesus tomorrow and make his own judgment about who this man is.
The next morning, Andrew and Simon wind their way down the same path to Jesus’ little shack. He is home and hears them coming, and even before Andrew can introduce Simon, Jesus looks at Simon with those loving eyes and says, “You are Simon, son of Jonah. You will be called Peter” (John 1:42). Simon, much like his brother Andrew when he met Jesus yesterday, is taken aback. He came to make a judgment, yet finds himself with this strange sensation that this man, Jesus, not only knows everything about him, but has a profound care and concern for him. After spending some time with Jesus, they both return to their camp. How excited they both feel as they walk back along the path from Jesus’ hut!
Right around the same time, a caravan of travelers crosses the Jordan River and, as they stop to rest, a young man from Bethsaida, Philip by name, sees John and Andrew, his fellow town mates from Bethsaida. John and Andrew tell him about Jesus, and Philip is moved to go see for himself. Shyly yet determinedly, he makes his way down the path towards Jesus’ hut. Jesus sees him coming, their eyes meet, and those same eyes captivate Philip. Jesus merely says, “Follow me” (John 1:43), and Philip is on his way to becoming one of the beloved twelve apostles. Philip and Jesus then have a long conversation, while Philip marvels at how much Jesus seems to care for him. With his heart bursting with joy, Philip returns to his caravan.
One of the people with whom Philip has become friendly on this trip is Nathaniel, who is in the same caravan but who is from Cana. Philip pours out his heart to Nathaniel about Jesus. Nathaniel, however, being from Cana, a busier, more robust town, is a little more worldly and skeptical. Nathaniel sarcastically asks Philip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip, knowing himself not to be a great debater, knowing Nathaniel to be a good man, and having just come to know Jesus, simply responds, “Come and see” (John 1:46). The simplicity of the reply piques Nathaniel’s curiosity. So Nathaniel, like Peter before him, goes to see and judge this man Jesus for himself.
As Jesus sees Nathaniel approaching, he cries out. “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile” (John 1:47). Nathaniel is confused. “How do you know me?” (John 1:48) responds Nathaniel. Jesus, looking deeply at him, replies, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48). Nathaniel is flabbergasted and wonders to himself, ‘How did Jesus see me there? And why do I feel as if this man knows everything about me…and loves me just the same?’ Nathaniel, like Peter before him, comes to judge but finds himself the one being judged. He comes to see if this man is worth his attention, and now finds Jesus’ attention is required for his own happiness. How has this happened so quickly? Overwhelmed, Nathaniel utters these words, making him the first to announce Jesus’ role: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God and the King of Israel” (John 1:49). Those words lie heavily in the air and are not lost on the others standing there. It is a moment of special revelation, and Peter and Andrew, John, Philip, and Nathaniel (who will later come to be called “Bartholomew”), without realizing it, have all taken their first steps towards becoming five of Our Lord’s twelve apostles.