Putnam Church Message – 02/13/2022
The Gospel of John – Part 2 Presentation Of The Word – Five Guys Who Followed In Faith
Today we continue our series, the Good News according to John the Apostle. This message focuses on the first five of Jesus’s twelve disciples.
Before we examine these five guys, let’s read John 1:35-51. Please follow along on Page 1647-1648 in the pew Bible. I would recommend keeping this passage open as we go throughout the message today:
The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.
Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.
They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
“Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. (author John was the other one) Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).
Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.
Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.
As they approached,/ Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”
“How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!” Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.”
Most of us can remember what was referred to as the Cold War, which was never more frigid than during the 1970s. It seemed that nothing would stop the creeping spread of communism. One by one, capitalist nations in Europe, Asia, and Africa either crumbled before the Soviet military or fell under the spell of socialism. Few in the United States feared a military assault from the East. Instead, the genuine threat of communism would come from within. Fortunately, the Soviet Union gradually fell, and some falsehoods were exposed. We have seen, though, in recent years, that there is still a strong influence in many democratic nations, including our country. These ideologies have infiltrated much of academia, media, and politics, which continue to promote them, but more in more subtle ways. As Christ-followers, we must also realize that there is much corruption and thirst for power and wealth among many who actively fight against the false promises of communism and socialism. Neither ideology (socialism or capitalism) will bring about world peace or utopia. Only when the Good News of Jesus Christ changes hearts will we see true and lasting change in the world. It does not require the rich and powerful, or ruthless dictators, for this change to happen. As citizens of God’s kingdom, we should have great expectations that the world can and will change as we diligently build His kingdom.
As we see in today’s passage, Jesus set out to change the world, beginning with a handful of unremarkable men. And from the beginning, He had great expectations.
Last week and this week, our focus is on John 1:19–51, one might think the apostle John had torn four pages out of his personal journal as he wrote his account about John the Baptizer and Jesus (Red Journal)
- 1:19—“This was John’s testimony …”
- 1:29—“The next day John saw Jesus coming ...”
- 1:35—“The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. …” (one of which was John the Apostle)
- 1:43—“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee…”
He presents four consecutive days in simple, chronological order based on his personal observation of the events. On the first day, John the Baptizer announced the imminent revelation of the Messiah. On the second day, the Baptizer identified Jesus as the Messiah. On the third and fourth days, Jesus called His first five disciples, which the Gospel writer describes in quick, rapid-fire succession.
With each encounter, there is the presentation of truth. Then an initial response from the hearer and a decision to believe and follow. The pattern is set for all who follow Christ. Each response to the truth is as individual as the man, and the Lord engages each man individually. It is a 1:1 engagement.
In this first encounter, Andrew and another disciple, not mentioned, but by inference, was the apostle John who had been following the wilderness preacher, John the Baptizer. When they saw their mentor (JB) point to Jesus and then declare Him to be the long-anticipated Hebrew Messiah, the man who would save the world from sin. Immediately, they moved toward Jesus to learn more.
The phrase “they followed Jesus” is both literal and figurative. Jesus was walking somewhere, and the two men trailed after Him. In the ancient world, disciples literally “walked after” a teacher to observe His life as well as listen to His teaching. When Jesus noticed the two men, He asked, “What do you want?” which was to ask, “What are your intentions?” In other words, “Are you here to ask a question, or are you indicating a desire to become my disciples?” When they asked Jesus where are you staying?, they confirmed their intention to follow Him from then on.
I love His response: “Come, and you will see.” Such simple words would have lifelong meaning.
In 1:38–39, John uses one of his favorite terms three times. The Greek word menō means “to stay, live, remain still, and endure.” Later, Jesus commanded His disciples (probably in Aramaic) to “abide in Me,” which John renders in Greek using menō.
Andrew and John remained with Jesus the rest of the day because they would arrive at where he was staying at 4 p.m. Because the hour was late, they very likely reclined at Jesus’ table for a meal, talked into the night, and lodged with Him until the following day. It must have been magnificent for them to spend those hours alone with the God-man Himself!
After leaving the home of Jesus, Andrew’s first act was to find his brother, Simon. Although Simon was a principle owner of a fishing enterprise in Galilee, more than 70 miles north of Jerusalem, he was undoubtedly nearby, perhaps visiting the temple. Andrew announced that he had found the Messiah and brought his brother to see Jesus. (Andrew had a habit of introducing others to Jesus; see 6:8–9 and 12:20–22.).
When Jesus looked at Simon, He immediately looked intently at him. We can only guess what He saw or why He said what He did. Jesus changed the man’s name from Simon, derived from the Hebrew word shama, “to hear.” His name would be changed to Kepha, the Aramaic word for “stone.” (John transliterated the name as “Cephas” for Greek readers). However, Greeks would know him by their word for “stone,” Petros, or Peter.
John’s narrative never thoroughly explains the significance of this encounter or the reason for the changed name. However, it is certain: Jesus saw people not as who they were, but as who they would ultimately become. And the same is true today … for you and me.
After meeting Peter, we are told, The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee,” which was a journey of about three days of difficult walking. John, Andrew, and Simon were all residents of the same fishing village in Galilee in a town called Bethsaida. (See Picture) This town was also the home of Philip, who was probably in Jerusalem for the same reason as Peter. John doesn’t tell us how Jesus knew Philip. All we know is that Jesus looked for him with the express purpose of calling him to be a disciple. He apparently followed without hesitation or reservation.
Philip’s first act as a disciple was to find his friend Nathanael. Philip identified Jesus in three ways:
- “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about!”
- “His name is Jesus.”
- “The son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
Of course, Jesus was not the physical son of Joseph, and the Gospel writer knew this. Philip either spoke in ignorance at the time, or he meant “a member of the Joseph household.” Surnames (last names) were not common in the ancient world. People were most commonly identified by their family association (even enslaved people) and their place of origin. Jesus was from Nazareth and was reared in the household of Joseph.
Earlier that day, Nathanael had sought solitude in the shade of a fig tree. (See Picture) The Talmud (the collected writings of Jewish scholars on practical living) encouraged men to meditate under a large tree, reading and reflecting on the Scriptures, at least once each day. Nathanael was likely doing just that. Philip’s description of Jesus would only influence a man who had studied “the Law and the Prophets” and was looking for the Messiah.
Nathanael’s response seemed incredulous: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth was considered a no-account town, not far from Bethsaida. (It would be like what many DC politicians think of WVa). Recent archaeological discoveries suggest the town housed a garrison of Roman soldiers. Where you find a town full of bored soldiers, you find a nesting ground for vice and immorality. In addition, many Jews believed that contact with Gentiles rendered them ritually unclean. Philip said, “Come and see for yourself.”
Jesus didn’t rebuke Nathanael. Instead, He peered into the man’s soul, and As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.” Then, to help Nathanael overcome his sincere skepticism, Jesus offered a small measure of supernatural evidence. The dialog continues: “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”
The response was both immediate and enthusiastic. Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!” Nathanael’s confession reveals a remarkable depth of understanding and an impressive breadth of scope. He understood both the theological and practical implications of Jesus’ identity. He is both the Son of God and the King of Israel.
|So now we have introduced the first five of twelve disciples, Andrew, John, Simon, Philip, and Nathaniel
JOHN 1:45–50 – Let me rabbit trail a bit, then we will get back to the dialog between Jesus and Nathaniel
Throughout history, the disciples have been presented as saints, which creates a particular holier-than-us image that can leave us feeling inferior. As a result, we have churches named after St Andrew or St. John. We see statues of St. Peter and St. Philip. They seem larger than life. How can we ever measure up to that?
As we learn the biblical account of these ‘saints,’ we find out that they are pretty ordinary folks with their share of problems, just like we have. They were far from the flawless specimens of perfection we tend to imagine. Instead, they were like us. Confused, called to fulfill roles far beyond their abilities, weighed down by all sorts of flaws and hindered by individual quirks. But, they were saints just like you and me!
In time, the disciples became great men of God. The Lord chose them, transformed them, equipped them, trained them, and then empowered them to make disciples of all nations. All they did was believe and follow. Even we can do that!
Nathanael’s heart was thoroughly prepared to receive the truth because he had been earnestly studying the Scriptures and searching for the Messiah. So, once Jesus removed a legitimate obstacle to belief, (Nazareth), Nathanael believed at once. Others will prove to be quite the opposite; the most astounding displays of supernatural power will not move some people to believe because they stubbornly choose to reject the truth standing before them.
As his dialog continues with Nathaniel, Jesus’ final words in this episode reveal His ultimate purpose for coming into the world. Jesus asked him, (Nathaniel) “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth. (Use Ladder)
(Led Zepplin may have sung about the stairway to heaven, but Jesus Christ is that stairway)
Jesus bridges the great schism that sin created between heaven and earth. Verse 51 references Genesis 28:12, in which Jacob dreamt of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven and angels using it to move between the separated realms. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
Jesus announced that He is that ladder. What had been a dream is now a reality. Undoubtedly, this held special significance for Nathanael, as a son of Jacob, as a sinful man, and as an earnest student of “the Law and the Prophets.”
Throughout this segment of John’s narrative (1:35–51), the Greek word heuriskō, “to locate by searching,” appears five times:
- Andrew found Simon, claiming to have found the Messiah (1:41).
- Jesus found Philip (1:43).
- Philip found Nathanael, claiming to have found the Messiah (1:45).
Ironically, it’s unclear who found whom. From a human perspective, the men found one another. However, the heart of each man had been providentially prepared for the moment that Jesus met him.
The overall application of John 1:35-51 is Evangelism Illustrated.
The Gospel writer’s primary purpose was not to outline different models of evangelism; however, it is worth noting the various means by which the first five disciples were found and brought to faith in Christ. Their stories highlight an important truth: no one method of evangelism will be effective for all because we are different. This passage illustrates four popular means of calling individuals to follow Jesus Christ.
- Mass Evangelism (1:35–39)
“Mass evangelism” refers to one gifted person proclaiming the good news to audiences who have not yet received the gift of eternal life. John the Baptizer was the evangelist of the first century. And he pointed to Jesus Christ and proclaimed, “Look! There is the Lamb of God! – follow Him.” More recent examples would be John Knox, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham. They preached to large gatherings of nonbelievers, and multitudes were converted and became disciples of Jesus Christ.
- Personal Evangelism (1:40–42)
Personal evangelism takes place when a person shares the good news of Jesus Christ with a friend or loved one. It is perhaps the most common and effective means people come to know the Lord, because they hear the gospel from someone they already know and trust and respect. Unfortunately, personal evangelism is dreadfully underutilized. Many believers fear the dreaded question, “How can I be saved?” So they would instead invite others to church, or better, hire someone else to do evangelism. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable; just live your life as a citizen of God’s kingdom with the fruit of the Spirit evident (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), and others will notice. All we need to do is be prepared to answer for the hope that is in us.
- Contact Evangelism (1:43–44)
Contact evangelism, like personal evangelism, occurs when one individual shares the gospel with another. Only in this case, the two may not have established a rapport. We have no record of contact between the two men before Jesus “found” Philip. It is quite possible the Lord had been talking to Philip for several days or weeks and then called him to become a formal disciple. However, it is equally likely that “found” is John’s shorthand for a first-time conversation that resulted in Philip’s immediate decision to believe. Upon his belief, Jesus called him to follow as a disciple.
I wholeheartedly believe in “divine appointments” in which a person’s heart is prepared and the Lord places a willing messenger in their path. Contact evangelism doesn’t seek to convince another to believe; contact evangelism merely assists a willing heart to receive the gift of eternal life. However, belief may not occur right away. Many people who became Christians later in life admit to hearing the gospel many times before believing. (back to the previous point)
- Word Evangelism (1:45–51)
The power of God’s Word dare not be underestimated. So many people have come to know the Lord merely from reading Scripture, recognizing their need, and then kneeling in prayer all alone, even before setting foot in a church. In 1898, two traveling business people recognized the power of the Bible to penetrate the hearts of nonbelievers. They then founded an organization best known for its effective use of Word evangelism. We know them and have supported them. They are The Gideons International. Their program of placing Bibles in hotels, hospitals, and schools has been the means of many people trusting Jesus Christ and becoming His disciples.
I am constantly amazed by the variety of means used by the Lord to bring His own to faith. Sharing your testimony with others can be a powerful tool for evangelism. How did you come to trust in the Savior? How has it influenced your preferred method of evangelism? Let us be building God’s kingdom through our daily lives.
Next week we begin exploring the miracles of Jesus Christ as we look at Wine…Coins…and Signs. Please read John 2:1-25 in preparation for next week’s message.