I’m struck by the characters of the three men who are named in John 1.35-42.
John the Baptist – Notice what he does when he sees Jesus. He says: Behold! The Lamb of God. What did that particular statement get him? Two less disciples—the two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus—which obviously would have flunked John out of any modern church planting programs. John wasn’t here to collect disciples and/or make a name for himself. Why was he here? He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3.30). Questions? One commentator (Bible Speaks Today) writes: “John here is portrayed as evidencing quite the opposite pattern from the usual human tendency to be an empire builder.” [Do tell, sir].
Andrew – The undoubted hero of the passage. He follows Jesus at the behest of John the Baptizer; hears Jesus out; realizes that Jesus is the Messiah, and immediately goes and tells his brother, Simon. Indeed, every time we see Andrew in John’s gospel he is introducing someone to Christ (Jn 6.8; 12.22), a record that any follower of Christ must envy. C. H. Spurgeon: To bring people to Jesus—let this be your aim and mine! Not to bring them to baptism nor to the church building nor to adopt our form of worship, but to bring them to his dear feet who alone can say, “Your many sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”
Simon Peter – Peter has this startling introduction to Jesus (we don’t know if they had met before or not) in which Christ, without waiting, launches in with: You are Simon, son of John, you shall be called Cephas (which means Peter) [which means rock]. Why, pray tell, does Jesus say this? It is rather an odd way to greet a person, isn’t it? I like the way the Preacher’s Commentary puts it: “Jesus looked at Simon—searchingly and penetratingly—and saw what no one else could see. He saw not only what Peter could become, but who he would become. This big, blustering, erratic fisherman would become a leader among men, the first among the apostles, and finally, a martyr because of his love for Jesus.”
The cool thing about characters? When they come to Jesus, they retain their characters. Sure, they are fundamentally changed by following Christ, but they are still the same individuals that they were before coming to Christ, and they reflect those characters as they faithfully follow him.
Which means that Jesus can redeem your character. If he could do it with Peter, he can certainly do it with you…and me.