If one thinks of conversion superficially, there is a tendency to see it as solitary at first and with an emphasis that it stays that way. But what if ones conversion experience is meant to start with someone else’s take on Jesus? There is the message of the good news of Jesus Christ but messages typically come through messengers.
In western society we have a common phrase, just tune into the right channel, that one can accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Can that be valid as the central point of ones Christian faith? A decent scan of the Bible and Church history will show that Christianity is communal or relational as well. The evangelism and ongoing conversion of the experience is meant to be in both a communal context and ones personal decision. This effects the person and the world can be effected by God through such a person. Taking this fact in one way, this is what it can mean to be an evangelical Christian which can apply to Christians of any community.
In Protestant Christianity a common term is “led to the Lord” where someone makes a personal decision for Christ to be Lord and Savior but some mortal person was greatly involved in proposing Jesus (hopefully not imposing). Often converts of the last 2,000 years have converted through someone being an instrument of the grace of conversion. But to give way to the idea that someone else knows more than you on an eternal subject takes humility.
Such was the case for a fisherman named Simon from the town of Capernaum who would one day be a fisher of men. This is the beginning of the story of Jesus lived through his life.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter (John 1:40-42).
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother- At the moment that this story takes place, Simon is just Simon. The narrative throws in the full title with the hindsight of who Simon becomes, is better known as, and the irony that Andrew seeks him out. Again, to have the gospel proclaimed to us at any level will have some level of humility inherently tied to it. Before Jesus, like any of us, was indeed lost without Jesus and needed to be found by Jesus vicariously through Andrew. In away, Simon had to be found by the Church; albeit loaded with only two people.
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon– What can be lost on the reader is that the conversion experience of Andrew is expressed too. Andrew’s expression of conversion was in part to share the extent of Jesus that he knew by that time. Andrew had seen Jesus pointed to in the foundations of faith, be favored by the Father, and had been able to “come and see” where Jesus lived. Those beautiful experiences of “in-reach” should inevitably being expressed in outreach. Jesus impressed something on Andrew that had to be shared and soon.
You will be called Cephas – Many Christians of good conscience see Cephas and see a verse that Simon Peter is the first pope. Others see the title as symbolic. I must confess, I have a bias. For a moment, I would like to step back from that controversy and point out that Jesus calls all of us to be on mission of some kind. To be converted to Jesus is not to have a mental assent or a goose bump. We are to express that grace according to the individual calling of God on our lives and at some point we should see in our decision for Jesus his specific calling for us. Jesus leaves a deposit into the heart of this man as a point of reference. Weeks later, Jesus returned to this man while he is working on his boat and adds to the foundation of this moment.
which, when translated- This may seem like a peripheral detail but not with more thought. The conversation from an objective perspective was three men chatting in Aramaic on an average 1st century day in Roman-ruled Palestine. But in a spiritual hindsight when one reflects on conversion stories there is a beauty in extrapolating the relational dynamics and apply it to more than one place or culture. That said, the disciple John departs from the Greek so the reader can be especially in the feel of how personal Jesus was and give a reminder how down to earth the background of the gospel must be read. Jesus is applicable to every scene because his presence is always practical to each culture and through each culture.
In review of this encounter of the three men, one can draw out the profoundness of a properly composed Christian community. This is not a matter of social conjuring of excitement or group think. Any called out community that is centered on Jesus Christ has a distinctive of thinking of the other, proclaiming the person of Jesus, humility, knowing his call on our lives and echoing that relational aspect through the world and through the ages. That is the Church that Jesus builds one person at a time and one pair at a time. Such are the followers of the Way.