John 1:35-51 – The Calling!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 12, 2004
Tom T. Hall, an old country western singer, wrote a song that went, “If you love somebody enough, you’ll follow wherever they go. That’s how I got to Memphis.” The sentiment of the song is quite true because if you truly do love someone enough you will follow wherever they go. This is why Jesus would later relate to his followers, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37-38 NIV)” When Jesus calls us we are to leave everything and follow him.
A young man went to the same work he did every night with the same crew and the same duties he always did, but this evening he would be called. He never suspected that his friend would introduce him to the one who calls us eternally. Just as those who thought they were following a good and righteous man named John the Baptizer so long ago never realized that the one they followed would point them to the one they truly needed to follow. Let’s discover this morning what that calling means for each of us…
In this section of John’s gospel we find Jesus calling his first disciples. When we are called by God we are to follow him wherever he leads us. The call of Christ calls us from our sin into his wonderful grace, from our normal way of life into his marvelous way, and from the darkness into his light; but first and foremost…
I. The call of Christ asks us to go with him! (Vv. 35-39)
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
1. The following day after John had given Jesus that wonderful name as the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind we find him with two of his own disciples. He now turns to them and “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” This is more than a pronouncement it is a benediction, a sanction or a kind of an approval of who Jesus is. John is encouraging them to go with Jesus! How would it be if you were asked to devote the next 3 years of your life to one who would ultimately die? That you would be called to devote the rest of your life to proclaiming his gospel message! We discover that John fixes his gaze on Jesus and he knows that his ministry is about over and this is the one whom he has been preparing the way for. It is time for his disciples to be with Jesus. “When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” It is interesting to note that when John points them to Christ, they do not ask him why nor debate the issue, they “followed Jesus.” Of course this was in the sense that he was walking by and now they are following after him, but it would lead to much more. “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’” It is a natural thing to ask when strangers begin to tail after you. They heard John’s words, realized what they meant, and it reached into their souls whereby they had to choose and choose they did. Now, Jesus addresses them. I believe that Jesus perhaps overheard John and he knew these men had a choice to make. Perhaps God the Father whispered to his Son’s ear, “These are the first of many.” Whatever the case; “Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’” And then they immediately respond, “‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’” They become Jesus’ disciples in that moment. Called to follow Christ, they now go with him. “‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.” The call of Christ asks us to go with him!
EXAMPLE: The “tenth hour” was about 4 PM in our time frame since it was around ten hours after sunrise. So it was quite natural for them to go with Jesus after being invited to do so to see where he was staying. They spent the rest of the day with him, and probably shared the evening meal as well. While we are not implicitly told they did, the timing and the structure of the events suggests this is true. I wonder what they talked about, what the food they shared was, and how they made their introductions. In fact we learn from the other Gospels that “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. (Matthew 4:17 NIV)’” What I find truly fascinating is the fact that when John told them who Jesus was, they immediately curious and wanted to find out for themselves what that meant. Too few folks are curious about Jesus in our day and age. Perhaps we need to induce curiosity in others concerning Christ so that they will want to see for themselves? Remember, the call of Christ asks us to go with him!
It is easy to secretly follow someone. You do not have to put yourself out, risk embarrassment, or stand out in the crowd. However, following Jesus does not work that way. It becomes a matter of public record no matter how hard you try to be a secret saint. There simply is no such thing in the kingdom of God. And afterwards, we soon discover that…
II. The call of Christ asks us to invite others! (Vv. 40-44)
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
1. Here begins a delightful tale of one disciple. We find “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John said and followed Jesus.” He realizes the one he has been introduced to requires that we share him. That is the very nature of discipleship. The disciple shares his teacher, his rabbi, with others. Andrew appears two more times in John’s Gospel (John 6:4-9; John 12:20-22); and both times he is bringing someone to Jesus. The unnamed disciple is thought to be John the son of Zebedee, brother of James and author of this Gospel. Andrew is about telling others who he has found. “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.” Interestingly we learn from the other Gospels that Peter and John return to their father’s business of fishing. And it isn’t until later when “Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20 NIV)” Curious of what Jesus is teaching, later they would have to decide to go and completely follow after him. Jesus takes them from their fisher nets and makes them fishers of men instead. After meeting Peter, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” Names often depicted one’s character and Jesus knowing these men are to be chosen, gives Simon (he who hears) the Aramaic name Cephas (stone). Peter would become the stone the disciples would depend upon after Jesus’ ascension. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus asks the disciples who they people say he is and then he asks who they think he is. Peter submits that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah the Son of the Living God. Jesus responds to Peter that while he is petros (a small pebble), it would be upon the truth Peter just exclaimed the petra (large stone) that Jesus would build his church! “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” Philip was a fisherman as well, Bethsaida means fish house. And, interestingly, we discover “Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.” It begins with Andrew and John and they in turn go tell others. The call of Christ asks us to invite others!
EXAMPLE: When I was four years old I received an invitation to a birthday party for the little girl down the street. Being shy, I did not want to go. My mother dressed me in my best clothes, handed me a wrapped present with a card, and sent me off in the direction of the little girl’s house. After receiving a phone call wondering where I was, my mom came looking for me. She found me hiding in the bushes next door. She dragged me out, brushed me off, and marched me down to the birthday party. Invitations can be wonderful to receive. I stayed long enough to shove the gift at the girl, grab a piece of cake, and flee out the backdoor. I think the other kids had a great time. Birthdays, weddings, or parties but what if the invitation was to follow the Lamb of God? To follow the one who can save you from your sin and give you eternal life? Jesus tells us, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 NIV)” Jesus invites us. The call of Christ asks us to invite others!
Some folks have a struggle with predestination, the notion God knows who will come to him and that it is he who calls us, frankly I do not. If God created all things, sent himself as Jesus to redeem us, and now lives in us through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, I find it quite reasonable and comforting to know God knew beforehand I was his. However, in the calling we do not know who is chosen and here we learn that…
III. The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith! (Vv. 45-51)
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
1. Like Andrew Philip does not let moss grown under his feet. We find that “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” At this point in time Philip does not know of Jesus extraordinary birth, but he does understand a few vital truths concerning Jesus. God told Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NIV)” Daniel, Micah, and Zechariah were just some of the prophets who spoke of the coming Messiah and now Philip had seen him, he tells his friend Nathanael! Incredulous that such a small smelly fishing village could produce the Messiah to come, Nathanael asks, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nazareth was the backwoods; it was full of backwards folks who would not understand the intricacies of spiritual truth concerning the Messiah. Philip’s response is simple, “Come and see.” Nathanael does not expect to experience what he does next, “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’” Skeptical, Philip asks, “How do you know me?” Jesus responds to Philip with just the information this skeptic needs to hear, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” How did this man know when and where Philip had asked him to “come and see” for himself? For this skeptic it was enough, only the Messiah could have the foreknowledge Jesus had concerning Nathanael. He exclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” I honestly believe Jesus had a wonderful sense of humor and we see it displayed here with Nathanael. I believe that with a twinkle in his eye, Jesus smiles and responds to Nathanael, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that! I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man!” Nathanael believed Jesus was the Messiah simply because Jesus had seen him under a fig tree, well Nathanael – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Nathanael would see far greater things than he could understand and hear greater things than he had ever heard. The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!
EXAMPLE: God takes us where we are and then begins to build us in him. He never asks us to understand all there is and then come to faith. It is impossible to do because we are to respond in faith, not by sight! Besides we cannot fully understand spiritual truth without the Spirit of God living within us! This is what Jesus is referring to when he responds to Nathanael the way he does. Jesus is basically congratulating Nathanael on his simple faith! There is a beautiful story that takes place at the verify end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Another skeptic, Thomas, tells the other disciples who claim they saw the resurrected Jesus, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it. (John 20:25 NIV)” Thomas wanted all the answers to what he could not grasp. Jesus then appears to him and the rest and Thomas learns that faith is more than seeing and believing. Jesus tells him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29 NIV)” The writer of Hebrews would state “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)” The folks who lived before Christ were applauded for their faith, not what they fully understood! While they knew God created the universe, they did not know exactly how he did it so and they follow God by their willingness to trust in him and who he is! We do not need to clean up our lives nor understand the Bible; the call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!
The call of Christ asks us to go with him! The call of Christ asks us to invite others! The call of Christ asks us to respond by faith!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.