READ John 1:35-51
Five people are mentioned in that passage besides Jesus and John the Baptist. There were two disciples of John the Baptist. One of them was Andrew. Surprisingly, we don’t know who the other was. Andrew went and got Peter. Jesus found Philip. Philip went and got Nathanael.
Who was the mystery person? We don’t know but it might have been John, the writer of this gospel, who characteristically doesn’t refer to himself. If so, four out the five later were chosen by Jesus to be members of His inner circle: the twelve disciples.
We don’t know anything else about Nathanael. There are reasons for believing that he might be the same person as the disciple named Bartholomew. If that is true then all five of the people in this passage become disciples of Jesus. The term “disciple” is much broader than just the Twelve. Many people are described as disciples of Jesus. Indeed, in this passage, at least some of these men are described as disciples of John the Baptist. “Disciple” was a fairly general term but my point is that most, if not all, of these men were later part of that group of twelve. This was the first step in their relationship with Jesus.
Earlier in the chapter, a deputation of Jewish leaders had come to John the Baptist to find out who he was. Was he the Messiah? No. Was he Elijah? No. Was he The Prophet? No. Well then who was he? In v.23 John answered using words from Isaiah: I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.” John’s ministry was to prepare the way for Jesus – to prepare people for Jesus’ coming – and he constantly pointed away from himself and to Jesus. He who comes after me will surpass me because he was before me… grace and truth come through Jesus Christ… He is the only Son of God… He is the One who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.
The previous day John had pointed Jesus out: Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…I baptise with water; He will baptise with the Holy Spirit… This is God’s Chosen One. (v.29-34)
At least two – and maybe all of these five men – were disciples of John and so they knew that the Messiah was coming. They knew that John the Baptist was merely pointing to someone who would come who was greater than he. They knew that, when the time came, they would leave John and follow this greater person.
John had been commissioned to call people to repentance. He was preparing people for Jesus by calling them to turn back to God – to be baptised as a sign of their repentance. As disciples of John, these men had heard and responded to that call to repent. Already their lives were changing. They knew that they had sinned and needed to be right with God. They had already heard God convicting them and calling them. And they knew about the coming Messiah. But they didn’t know Him.
These first steps are reflected in the lives of many Christians. First there is a sense that all is not well; that we are far from God and that we need to be forgiven. The Holy Spirit is working in our lives even before we are really interested in God. There is just a sense that things need to be different.
Then we learn some things about Jesus. We do some reading or talk to a Christian friend. We might learn that Jesus is different from any other man. We might hear that He is the Saviour. But we don’t know Him and we are not yet forgiven.
The next day, Jesus passed by again and John again said, “Look, the Lamb of God.”
Two of his disciples followed Jesus. This is another step forward. They clearly wanted to meet this man. They made an effort to make contact with Him. Now they are actively seeking Jesus.
Jesus turned around and asked them what they wanted. It seems that they were a bit flustered or nervous and just said the first thing that came into their heads: “Rabbi (teacher), where are you staying?”
“Come and see,” Jesus said. Notice what is happening here. Remember, Jesus later said that if anyone comes to Him He will never turn them away. Andrew and his companion had made an effort to meet Jesus. How did Jesus respond? He invited them to spend some time with Him. More than that, He promised them they would see something. On the surface it was only that they would see where He was staying but, actually, they spent a whole day with Him.
What do you imagine they saw? What would it have been like spending a day with Jesus?
John 1:40-41 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ).
There are two remarkable things in those verses. The first is that Andrew already believed that Jesus was the Messiah – on the first day! We often think that the disciples took a long time to come to this understanding. Peter’s confession on the road to Caesarea Philippi, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” came long after this. So, isn’t it surprising that Andrew was already calling Jesus ‘The Christ, the Messiah”?
He didn’t have a good understanding. He didn’t know what that would mean for Jesus or for himself. He had a lot to learn and sometimes the disciples were very thick. This initial confession was not filled with understanding but Andrew believed that Jesus was the Messiah. John the Baptist had prepared them. He had said that this person was the Messiah but Andrew’s experience of Jesus had also confirmed it.
We know that because of the second remarkable thing: Andrew immediately told someone else. Notice the wording here: the first thing Andrew did was find his brother Simon.
Let’s review the process.
- Conviction that things had to change (repentance)
- Knowledge about Jesus
- Personal seeking of Jesus
- Welcome and invitation from Jesus
- Experience of Jesus
- Inviting someone else into that same experience
See how that is repeated in each incidence. Andrew said to Peter, “We have found the Messiah. Come and see.” “Come and see” is implied because he brought Peter to Jesus. He must have said, “Come and see” – the same words that Jesus had used. Just as Jesus invited Andrew and his companion to experience Him and see what they thought, Andrew invited Peter to come and experience Jesus.
Probably Peter had also been a disciple of John the Baptist so he also had a conviction about the need for change and he also knew about the Messiah. He was invited to come and experience Jesus, obviously, Andrew hoped, that he would also come to believe.
The next day, on His way to Galilee, Jesus found Philip. “Follow me,” He said. “Follow me” is an invitation to experience and to learn from. Possibly Philip was also a disciple of John the Baptist and so had also been prepared. And Philip also believed that this man was the Messiah. He referred to him as “the one Moses wrote about in the Law”.
And Philip, like Andrew, immediately went and found someone else and told him. Nathanael was a little sceptical that any good thing could come out of Nazareth – maybe because there had been others from Nazareth who had claimed to be the Messiah; maybe because of rivalry between two small neighbouring towns. Philips’ response to Nathanael is interesting. He simply said, “Come and see.” Find out for yourself; come and experience Jesus; see what you conclude.
When Jesus saw Nathanael, He said, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Nathanael was, apparently, a genuine, straightforward person who wasn’t tricky or playing games. Nathanael’s response was: “Whoa! How do you know me?”
He had been invited to come and see. He had come and now he was seeing something of Jesus. He experienced Jesus’ supernatural knowledge. So Jesus went further. “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Maybe Jesus had actually seen him earlier but it doesn’t seem that that is what John is intending. Nathanael clearly saw this as a supernatural incident and he believed. Look at how he responded: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Remarkable!
It was a Jewish custom to sit and meditate on the scriptures in the shade of a fig tree. Maybe Nathanael had also been on a personal quest for God.
Again, Jesus invited him to come and see. “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that. Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
The process keeps repeating. Where are you in that process? Do you have a conviction that your life needs to change? Are you seeking Jesus – seeking to deepen your relationship with Jesus? Are you experiencing Jesus? Is your understanding growing?
Even for those who have been Christians a long time, the process is the same. There needs to be ongoing repentance in our lives. God will make us aware of things that are not right or areas in which He wants to grow us. So then, will we seek Him? Are you seeking to deepen your relationship with Jesus? When we do, Jesus will invite us to draw closer and to experience more of Him. God is gracious in offering us real experiences of Him. He says, “Come and see.” But experience is not the point. The experience is designed to lead us to greater faith and action. The goal is that, because of the experience, we know Jesus better and we trust Him more and that trusting Him more we obey Him more – including being involved in the mission He has commissioned us to. The goal is faith and works.
I want to suggest a challenge that you might be part of this week.
- You pray “Jesus, I want to know you better.”
- You believe that He will respond, “Come and see.”
- You keep your eyes open for what He is showing you.
I am assuming that Jesus will invite any serious seeker to discover more of Him. But we must keep our eyes open for Jesus. How might we see Him? Maybe God will speak in some very pertinent way as we read the Bible. Can you read expecting that God will show you things? Maybe we might experience circumstances that cannot be explained as mere coincidences. Can you keep your eyes open for the hand of God at work in your circumstances?
This week I watched a 60 Minutes programme about an Australian who had been attacked by two sharks. He lost his left arm and right hand and both legs were damaged. He lost a lot of blood and was close to death. On the programme they talked about how fate stepped in. A series of waves “popped up” and he was able to body-surf towards the beach. Also, whereas the beach had been deserted 15 minutes earlier, at this crucial time there were four people there with first aid training. Was that coincidence? Was that fate? Or was that God? Might you see the hand of God in your circumstances this week? God at work?
The challenge is:
- You pray “Jesus, I want to know you better.”
- You believe that He will respond, “Come and see” (in other words, that He wants to reveal Himself)
- You keep your eyes open for what He is showing you.
Then, what about a fourth step: tell someone else? Are you up for the challenge?