The first encounter between Jesus and Peter seems to have been brokered by Simon’s brother Andrew. He was intrigued with another itinerant teacher, the rogue prophet named John. Some called him “the baptizer” for his controversial practice of calling Jewish people to a new level of repentance and cleansing, beyond the cold rituals. John was unlike the staid rabbis in the synagogue. A wild-eyed nomad who declared the kingdom of heaven had come near, John insisted the people of God must prepare themselves. While many shrugged off John’s message, Andrew listened. And the words cut straight to his heart. John didn’t speak of himself, but of another whom God was sending, with a winnowing fork, dividing true believers from pretenders.
Galileans were ready for messages about God’s coming kingdom, especially at a time when Israel keenly felt the burden of being a subject people. But hope for a better future was shadowed by a palpable sense of despair, a cynicism hardened by crushing Roman rule and failed revolutions. In their lifetime, Galileans had been massacred in an ugly confrontation with the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate.
And yet Andrew was still listening that one day, during a trip to Jerusalem with John, when the prophet pointed at a fellow Galilean, the son of Joseph, and declared of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Andrew went to the place where Jesus was staying and was captivated by this rabbi’s teaching. So he returned to Capernaum and ran toward his brother Simon and urged him to check out this Jesus.
You can almost picture the scene in your mind, can’t you? I see him shouting, breathless and grabbing Simon by his fishing vest. This is the one! I know it sounds crazy. But trust me, you’ve got to come hear Him and see Him. I’ve never seen anything like this.
Messiah, anointed one, meant a lot of things; and while the two brothers were catechized in the Torah, they were not scholars who pored over texts. And yet, unlike those who did, they knew enough to follow. They didn’t and wouldn’t understand then that the Christ would not just swoop in and conquer Israel’s enemies. They couldn’t see an unjust trial, a bloody cross, and the sending of the Spirit. But they knew just enough to follow.