As we journey through the central story of the Bible, the Gospel account, we find ourselves at this juncture where John the Baptizer publicly declares Jesus to be the Christ, or Messiah. This event was a lifetime in the making for John and it signified the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
At age 30, Jesus steps out of the crowd to publicly declare His identity and role as Messiah to the people. John baptizes Jesus. The Father says from heaven to Jesus “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.” The Holy Spirit descends like a dove upon Him. The Trinity – in all His glory – Father, Son & Spirit – Three, but One. This is it.
The account continues to the day after the baptism.
35The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38Jesus 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?” 39He 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. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42He 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).
Some things become very clear in this portion of the story.
Pointing Others to Jesus is the Point of John’s Ministry
We discussed this at length last Sunday, but it bears repeating. John had a purpose in his ministry, and his life, and it was to point others to Jesus. That’s it. Simple. John was not about John. He was all about Jesus.
When Jesus was revealed to John as the Messiah, the Christ, he immediately knew his role was diminishing.
He declared, when asked by the religious leaders of the day, that his role was that of “one crying in the wilderness. . . making way for the Lord”
This seems to be a risky endeavor, and one that many would not be able to take. John developed a following, had a name, and drew a crowd.
Simply put, John was a star.
Yet, the day after the baptism of Christ, after days of preaching of repentance and baptizing followers seeking new starts, he’s still overwhelmed.
Apparently, after the baptism of Christ, Jesus did not leave. It seems that everyone just stayed around to hear more about this “Lamb of God.” So, the next day, while John is standing over to the side with two of his disciples, he echoes what he declared the day before “Behold, the Lamb of God” and at that moment the two disciples left John to follow Jesus.
The normal reaction to this would be jealousy or hurt, but not here. John was pleased. This was the point of his ministry, from the very beginning, to point people to God. In this case, he did not lose two disciples. Rather, these two disciples were called up. They graduated.
Think about minor league baseball players. Think about the Jacksonville Suns. There are hundreds of men who have come through Jacksonville hoping for the chance to be called up to the major leagues. Most never make it, but a few do. The minor league baseball manager realizes his job is to prepare and equip his players for the hopefully eventual call up to the majors. A manager can claim honor for how many men he sends up. That’s what John was doing – preparing the way.
When Jesus saw the two disciples coming after him, he stopped and asked them a question. “What are you seeking?”
They answered Jesus’ question with a question – “Where are you staying?”
A selfless answer from disciples of a selfless leader (John) coming to Jesus. Just as Jesus was declared the Word made flesh who had come to dwell with humanity, these humans affirmed their desire to dwell with Him.
Jesus Is Contagious
Not in the sense of germs or disease, but of attractiveness. Once you spend some time – some real, intimate time with Jesus, you want to share Him. God is not a secret. One of the two men who left John to be with Jesus was Andrew.
Andrew is a great character study in the Gospels. Every time we see him, he’s bringing someone to Jesus.
In this case, he goes to find his brother Simon. When he finds Simon he declares “We’ve found Him!”
This implies that they were looking for Him. They didn’t know his name was Jesus, but they were looking for Him, regardless. They were looking for the Christ, the Messiah. They believed without seeing. They believed God was truthful and that his promises and prophecies were to come true. They believed. Andrew believed.
After a day with Jesus, can you picture this scene? Hanging out with Jesus for a day – Jesus, God the Son, Son of God, spoken Word of God, Creator – and you say “Jesus, I need to leave for a little while. May I be excused.” What? Why would anyone leave Jesus? Because Jesus is not a secret. He had to tell others, especially his brother.
Simon is brought to Jesus and immediately Jesus looks up (you can almost see him smile here) and says “So you’re Simon? From now on I’m calling you Cephas (Peter) – meaning rock.”
Jesus Changes Who We Are
It’s more than a name change, but it begins there. Names mean things. We name things we love. We name our children. People name their boats. Names matter.
Your name matters.
When you come to Jesus – you get a new name. Your new name signifies your new identity.
Now, for most of us, we won’t know that name until we get to heaven, but you have it nonetheless.
17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers. . .
(1 John 5:4(ESV)
4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.)
. . . I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’
In Simon’s case, the name was given right then, publicly, so that all would hear. No longer would Simon be around. At that moment, Peter was born. It was a born again experience. The past is erased. No condemnation for past sins. A new name – a new life – a new man.
Jesus was building his team. He was drawing to Himself the men he would choose to use to turn the world upside down.
43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45Philip 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.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael 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.” 49Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
We all have histories. There are parts of our individual stories that we’re proud of – accomplishments, awards, good things. There are chapters in our stories that are worth re-reading. They bring back good memories. It’s like looking through a photo album of family vacations and special events.
Then, there are parts of our stories that we don’t like to re-visit. They’re painful. They’re embarrassing. They’re secrets (we think.) Sometimes, though we do revisit those and it’s not good.
In this part of God’s story, another day has passed. Jesus has some disciples now. Yet, he’s not finished calling and building his team. He goes seeking some specific men. These men had no idea he was coming that day, but Jesus had a plan.
He finds Philip and says “Follow me.”
Philip apparently knew Andrew and Peter and when seeing them with Jesus must have thought “This must be the one we’ve been waiting for.”
Philip pulls an Andrew and goes to get another, a man named Nathanael.
I love his statement here: “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Even better is Nathanael’s response “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Do you think Nathanael wishes he could have taken back that statement? Do you think that maybe a couple of years in the future after walking with Jesus and hearing him teach, watching him heal and do miracles he ever had this moment come back to mind?
When Jesus sees Nathanael coming he says “Look at this – an Israelite with integrity.” Nathanael then questions how Jesus knew anything about him and then Jesus begins to tell how he knew everything about him. He even brought up the very scenario before Philip arrived. I think he’s saying, without saying it, “I even heard what you said about Nazareth,” with a smile, of course.
Nathanael believes. Jesus knows. He knows the good times. He knows the bad and painful times. He even knows the embarrassing, sin-filled times. . . and yet, still calls you to Himself.
Where are you in this story?
Are you John the Baptizer? Are you comfortable in your skin? Do you understand your role? Do you understand your purpose in life as a believer is to point others to Christ? Are you doing this?
Are you Andrew? Are you so enamored with Jesus you want to dwell with him? Have you discovered him to be the one you’ve been waiting for? Are you bringing family to him?
Are you Peter? Have you been introduced to Jesus? Has He changed your name and given you new life? Has the past disappeared?
Are you Philip? When Jesus says “Follow me” do you? Or, do you say “Later” or “In a minute”? Like Philip, are you bringing your friends to Jesus?
Are you Nathanael? Do you have that cynical nature? Are you a glass half-empty person? Pretty negative? Do you have chapters in your story you’d just assume not exist? Do you realize that He knows your past. . .and still loves you?
In truth – you’re not really any of these men, but you may have some similarities. You are you! Yet, the same Jesus who called these men to follow Him says the same to you today – Follow me!