Week of July 2, 2017
The Point: We have a responsibility to introduce our friends to Jesus.
Jesus Calls His Disciples: John 1:35-49.
 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples,  and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).  He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).  The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”  Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”  Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” [ESV]
“John’s Disciples [35-39] John’s Gospel takes great care to record the seven days that began Jesus’ ministry. These verses deal with the third day, which saw the transfer of disciples from John the Baptist to Jesus. Here at the start we find that to be a Christian is to follow Christ, to witness to Him, and to become new men and women in Him. As John the Evangelist relates the third day of Jesus’ ministry, we see the climactic handoff from John to Jesus [35-37]. Right from the beginning, we see that to be a Christian is to follow Jesus Christ. There is no Christianity apart from a personal relationship with Jesus in which we become His disciples. Christianity is that simple: it is seeing Jesus as the Savior that God has sent and going to follow after Him. So concerned is Jesus with our kind of relationship to Him that when the first disciples came, Jesus demanded, What are you seeking . This is a question that needs to be asked today of would-be Christians. What are you seeking by coming to Jesus Christ? The message of the Bible is that the only way to be happy is to be made right with God – we refer to this as being justified – because only then will God receive us into His love and work new life within us. We can be justified before God only by coming to Jesus as the Lamb of God, finding forgiveness through His sacrificial blood and receiving His spotless perfection as our own righteousness before God. This is the Christian message: we must first be justified through faith in Christ as the Lamb of God, and then by following Jesus we will be blessed. What are you seeking? Jesus asks. Do you merely want benefits that come from dabbling with religion, or do you want to follow Him? To follow Jesus, we must confess our sin and believe on Christ for our own salvation. But once we have done that, Jesus broadens the scope of His ministry to include our every spiritual need. When we come to Jesus and begin truly to follow Him, we enter into a second aspect of Christian discipleship. First, we come seeking forgiveness of sin and salvation with God. But then we begin a lifelong course of study under Jesus’ teaching: Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi (which means Teacher) . In ancient Israel, religious teachers gathered disciples who would follow them about serving them and listening to their teaching. Likewise, if we are followers of Christ, then Jesus will be our Teacher and we will learn from Him. From the very start of our lives as Christians, it is absolutely essential that we be taught by the Lord. For the first disciples, this meant traveling with Jesus and listening to what He said. For us, it means the study of God’s Word. Jesus said, For this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth [John 18:37], and we must learn that truth. The importance of this principle cannot be overemphasized. Christians today are as much disciples of Christ as were His first followers. The most important things that Jesus has to teach have to do with Himself – who He is and what He has done for our salvation. Thus the most important thing for us to learn is who Jesus is, what He does for us, and what it means to trust and follow Him. Jesus also teaches us how to live. He presents His own example of humility, faith, mercy, truth, and love for us to follow. By Jesus’ own estimate, it is essential that Christians devote themselves to the study of the Bible. When we learn and apply the teachings of the Bible, the results are astounding. Every Christian can be taught by Jesus through the believing and prayerful study of God’s Word. And we are all called to be disciples – students – of Jesus Himself. The weakness of Christians today can be directly attributed to our ignorance of the Bible. Many churches today are famed for their music or their cultural arts or their service ministries – but none of these things can substitute for the vigorous teaching of God’s Word, which alone God has promised to bless for our growth in grace and faith. That is why we are told that the early church devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching [Acts 2:42], and so must we. We must individually and together call Jesus Rabbi and follow after Him as we are taught by His Word. A third aspect to following Jesus appears in this account. John 1:39 says that the two disciples encountered Jesus about the tenth hour, which was 4:00 p.m. So they came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day [1:39]. The point is that following Jesus involves an intimate personal relationship. John uses here another of his many key terms in this Gospel, saying literally that they “abided” with Jesus. All through John’s Gospel we encounter this word “abide”. Surely the chief way in which we abide in Christ – spending time with Him and nurturing our relationship – is through prayer. This is how we relate to God through Christ: He speaks to us through His Word, and we speak to Him in prayer. If there is an urgent need among Christians today, after our need to be taught by God’s Word, it is our need to abide in Christ’s presence through prayer. It is practically impossible to separate true Christian discipleship from prayer. Do you want to be strong in faith? Do you want to know the love of God more deeply? Do you want power for peace and godliness and joy? There are no shortcuts and there is no secret formula, only a life of discipleship with Jesus, trusting His blood for your salvation, learning from His Word, and abiding in His presence through prayer. If Christianity consists in this kind of discipleship to Christ, then the best remaining question has to do with the result of such a life. What is the result of following Jesus Christ? The answer is found in the encounter that concludes this passage. Andrew, having spent the night in fellowship with Jesus, immediately went out the next morning to bring his brother Simon to Jesus [41-42]. It is extremely significant that Jesus changed Simon’s name. One thing it shows is that Jesus had special plans for Simon Peter, namely, that his preaching of the gospel would be the rock on which Jesus would start building the church [Matt. 16:18]. It also shows Jesus’ lordly authority over those who come to follow Him, since only a lord has the authority to change someone’s name. Most importantly, it shows that Jesus intends to make His disciples into new men and women. When we come to Jesus, we see Him as our Lamb of God, our Teacher, and our loving Lord. In return, Jesus sees us in terms of what His salvation is going to do in our lives. He sees us as those redeemed by His blood, those who, because of His Word and the power of our fellowship with Him, are being made new into the likeness of His glory.
Andrew and Peter [40-42] John the Baptist is a great example to us in evangelism. Being a prophet, John gave his testimony in public, calling all people to repent and believe that the Savior had come. John is also outstanding in that he was not interested in acquiring followers for himself; his chief desire was to direct others to follow Jesus Christ. Moreover, John is a strong example of using biblical proclamation in our witness. When Jesus walked by John and two of his disciples, John proclaimed, Behold, the Lamb of God . Many Christians wonder what to say to others about Jesus. John shows that we should always be ready to state what the Bible says about Him. We should always emphasize the actual teaching of the Bible in our witness, since it is the Word of God that brings people to faith. Peter wrote to believers, You have been born again … through the living and abiding word of God [1 Peter 1:23], so we need to witness to Jesus by presenting the Bible’s teaching about Him. Andrew is usually listed as one of the first four disciples, but he is much less known than the other three: Peter, James, and John. He is best known for bringing people to Jesus. In the three times he is singled out in John’s Gospel, it is always for this reason. In our passage, he brings his brother Simon to Jesus. Later, when Jesus wanted to feed the five thousand, it was Andrew who brought the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus [John 6:8-9]; and shortly before Jesus’ death, Andrew and Philip together brought a group of Greeks who wanted to meet the Lord [John 12:20-22]. Andrew’s example is instructive for the topic of evangelism. First, we note his willingness to take a backseat if only he could bring others to the Lord. Those who are greatly concerned about their own place and the importance of their own ministry are seldom effective evangelists. Like Andrew, we must most of all desire simply for people to come in faith to Jesus Christ. Next, we note Andrew’s zeal to share what he had found in Christ. John 1:41 says, He first found his own brother Simon. This indicates that the first thing Andrew did was to witness to his brother. Many of us find it hard to speak about our relationship with Jesus to those who are closest to us. It is a sad reality that many Christians do not witness to their family and closest friends. But Andrew was too zealous for that to be true of him. It was the very first thing he did after he left Jesus’ presence. Our excitement about the Lord should inspire a zeal to share what we have found. Andrew’s witness to Peter took the form of a personal testimony: We have found the Messiah . Our witness should always include a biblical explanation about Jesus, but it is also important for us to speak of our own experience with the Lord. What kinds of things should we tell others about Jesus? We should tell them what caused us to believe. We should tell them what we have experienced in our hearts: the joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven, the peace that comes through the Holy Spirit, the love we feel as children of God, and the excitement of seeing the truth with new eyes. Tell people what it has meant to you to turn away from sins that had dragged you down for so long, and to have a power within you that enables you to walk in faith with God. Our personal testimony does not replace a biblical proclamation about Jesus, but it is an important complement. And it requires that we have a close relationship with the Lord. If we are not excited about God’s Word, if we are not warmed by close fellowship with God, and if we are not humbled by Christ’s suffering on the cross for our sins, we will not be very effective witnesses. Between these two brothers – Peter and Andrew – we see the two main kinds of witnesses that God provides in the church: the public preaching of the Word and the personal testimony of individual Christians. Every church needs a Peter who will publicly preach the gospel, and God greatly uses faithful preaching. Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, when three thousand people believed on Christ, is one such example. But as important as preaching is, something at least as important is that a church have a whole legion of Andrews: those who bring people one by one to Jesus through their heartfelt testimony and biblical witness to Christ.
Philip and Nathanael [43-49]. In John 1:43, Philip is added to the number of those following Jesus. Philips’ calling was a bit different from those before him. Andrew and John learned about Jesus from John the Baptist’s biblical proclamation. Simon was led to Christ by his brother’s personal testimony. This shows that we should not expect every conversion to look the same, and that our evangelism will be greatly helped if we get to know people. It is clear that Jesus ministers to every soul based on His intimate, divine knowledge and that each of His disciples can expect from Him the personal ministry we need. His Word will speak to you according to your real and personal need, and by God’s Spirit, Christ will give individual attention to you. We must also point out the similarities in these conversions. While it is true that every individual’s experience with Jesus is unique, it is also true that every salvation is the same in many respects. Jesus said to Philip, Follow me, and He says the same to every one of us. There is no Christianity without personal discipleship with Jesus. Far too many people today who give no evidence of following Jesus believe that they are Christians because they had an intense experience or responded to an altar call long ago. But to be a Christian is to follow Jesus Christ; if you are not following Jesus, then you should not consider yourself a Christian. All these men became disciples this way: by following Jesus. They called Jesus Rabbi and committed themselves to learn from Him. We must do the same, and when we gather for worship, we must be taught by God’s Word. Too many professing Christians make little or no attempt to increase their biblical understanding, and resist having their worldly ideas challenged by Christ’s teaching. The result is a weak and ineffective church. Moreover, to be a Christian is to follow Jesus’ example. When He says, Follow me, Jesus means that we are to follow His manner of life, His attitude toward others, and His submission to the will of the Father. Are you willing to have your lifestyle changed and your priorities turned upside down? If not, then you cannot be a Christian. Most of all, following Jesus means relying on Him for our salvation. We rely on His blood to wash away our sins and on His righteousness to clothe us for glory. We rely on His Word for truth and His Spirit for power. We rely on His favor with the Father to make us beloved children. Just as Jesus found Philip, Philip found Nathanael. When Philip told him that Jesus was from Nazareth, Nathanael replied with scorn: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? . All Philip could say in reply was, Come and see . That was good advice. As Nathanael approached Jesus, the Lord said, Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit . Jesus was commenting on his sincerity and lack of guile. By saying this, Jesus was opening up Nathanael to a better realization of the One he was dealing with. Nathanael took the bait: How do you know me, he asked. Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you’. Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ [48-49]. It is hard for us, in reading this account, to see how Jesus’ words could lead to so strong a faith. But remember that Nathanael was in the presence of Christ; the impact of this encounter would have involved more than the mere words. And Jesus revealed a superhuman knowledge to Nathanael. Jesus’ words to Nathanael show that when we think we have found Jesus, it really is Jesus who has found us. This word found shapes the action in this portion of John’s Gospel. Andrew found his brother Simon, and said, We have found the Messiah . Jesus found Philip and then Philip found Nathanael, saying, We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote . But through all these various means, it really was Jesus who was finding His disciples. He later explained, You did not choose me, but I chose you [John 15:16]. The same is true of every other believer. Every Christian who finds and follows Jesus can have the comfort of knowing that he or she was first personally found and chosen by Jesus.” [Phillips, pp. 94-120].
Questions for Discussion:
- According to Phillips, what is the Christian message? What does it mean to follow Jesus? How do you personally answer Jesus’ question: What are you seeking? Why is it important for every would-be Christian to answer this question truthfully?
- What are the three aspects of Christian discipleship, according to Phillips?
- What do we learn about being effective witnesses to Jesus Christ from John the Baptist, Andrew, and Philip? What kinds of things should we tell others about Jesus?
The Gospel According to John, Leon Morris, Eerdmans.
John, vol. 1, Richard Phillips, REC, P&R Publishing.
The Gospel of John, Herman Ridderbos, Eerdmans.