01.35-51 What Do You Want -- Sermon

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March 1, 1998


John 1.35-51

                    AWhat Do You Want?  Come and See.@

The passage before us describes one of the earliest scenes in the ministry of Jesus. Here we see the crossing of the boundary between Old and New Testament.  Here we see the great divided in redemptive history with the passing of John=s disciples to Jesus.  If John the Baptist represents the culmination of the OT in pointing to Jesus, now we find John=s disciples leaving him for another -- for the one whom John was sent to point out -- Jesus the Christ. God will be doing a new thing in the midst of Israel.  Through his Son Jesus, he will gather to himself a new community, a new people of God, with whom he will make a new covenant. 

Now we should also not forget that these disciples were not just any disciples.  They would become the apostles -- those men whom God would specially choose to be eyewitnesses to the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.  Upon their testimony would come to rest the New Testament. Upon their eyewitness testimony would rest all that we know about this Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God.       

Let=s read then and learn. [John 1.35-51]

For our purposes today, I would like to focus your attention on the way in which Jesus called his disciples.  Four key ideas present themselves to us:






1.      Jesus= Method: Web of Relationships, v.35-36, 41, 45

Did you ever notice how amazingly Aordinary@ was the method in which the disciples were introduced to Jesus? Look at v.35

35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ALook, the Lamb of God!@




41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, AWe have found the Messiah@ (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.


And again,


45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, AWe have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wroteCJesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.@

What is method here?  Isn=t it simply that one disciple tells another?  And notice this: What is the relationship between them all? Isn=t it that the disciples invite others to Jesus along the lines of relationships?  Andrew and the other disciple, are students of John. And it is at the suggestion of John, their teacher, that they follow after Christ.  Simon Peter follows Jesus at the encouragement of his brother, Andrew.  Nathaniel follows Jesus at the invitation of his friend, Philip.             There is another common thread in all of this?  Can you find it?  It is that Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathaniel are all from the same town.  There is strong likelihood they knew of one another.

Those who have studied the evangelism of the early church have noted this phenomenon in Scripture -- evangelism largely was conducted not with strangers but along what scholars call Aone=s web of relationships.@ 

No less amazingly, so common is this method that 90 percent of those who come to have an active walk with God in his church come by way of a known relation: friend or family.

A few years back, research was conducted on why people come to Christ and become active in the Body of Christ.  Over 14,000 people have been asked the question: "What or who was responsible for your coming to Christ and your Church?  The results were amazing:

1.  Some said a SPECIAL NEED brought them                           1-2%

2.  Some responded they just WALKED IN                                 2-3%

3.  Others listed the PASTOR                                                       5-6%

4.  Some indicated they were VISITED                                        1-2%

5.  Others mentioned the SUNDAY SCHOOL                             4-5%

6.  A few listed an EVANGELISTIC CRUSADE                      2 - 1%

7.  Some recalled a SPECIAL CHURCH PROGRAM                 2-3%

8.  Most cited a FRIEND or RELATIVE                                 75-90%

as the reason they are now in Christ and active in His Church.

So what is the point?  Simply this: God typically calls people to Christ through the honest, open, and winsome invitation of his disciples to those in their web of relationships.  Students, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family.

What ought that mean for your witness? So often we think that we have to be mini-Billy Grahams if we are to bring people to Christ when the primary way God does use is through our simply invitation to others.

Apply: Have you someone in your own web of relationships (family, friend, coworker) whom you can invite to ACome and See@?  Plan now to invite someone to worship with you at church.  Easter service is always a good opportunity. 

2]      Jesus= Invitation: Come and See., v.37-39, 46

If that was the method of the early church, let=s look now at Jesus= invitation. Look at v.37ff.

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, AWhat do you want?@ They said, ARabbi@ (which means Teacher), Awhere are you staying?@  39 ACome,@ he replied, Aand you will see.@  So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.

On hearing John the Baptist=s witness, two of his disciples took off and began to follow Jesus.  Jesus detected someone was following him and so turned and asked: AWhat do you want?@ Oh, what a question.  On the surface it fits the simple narrative.  But we know that as the gospel unfolds, the simple question AWhat do you want?@ will take on eternal dimensions -- AWhat do you really want?@

The disciples answer Jesus by asking a simple question: AWhere are you staying?@  They want to spend time with him where he lives.

And notice Jesus= answer: ACome and see.@

Do you find Jesus questions provoking?  Intriguing?  He doesn=t launch into a two-hour monologue right then.  Oh, he would do plenty of teaching.  But the first thing he does is invites them home.  He entices them home: ACome and see.@

Jesus will take aim at the heart, he will challenge them what do you really want, but the first thing he does is invites them home to spend time with them. He is in not no hurry to save.  Rather, he says: ACome and see.@

I was thinking about this the other day and contrasting Jesus= manner with the Ablitzkrieg@ mentality of 20th century populist evangelicalism.  How many programs have come and gone --Phone everyone up in the USA ask them ten leading questions and get them to sign on the dotted line and chalk it up AA zillion decisions.@ Of course, the next year, the name of the program changes, the questions come through the mail, and another zillion are said to make decisions.

I remember many years ago a friend who stands outside the evangelical realm wonder aloud: A>I found it.= Jesus is an it and we find him. Hmmmm.@

How different it all is to the simple: AWhat do you want?@  Come and see.@ 

Notice that Philip imitates Jesus= approach.  In v.45 we see Philip seek out his friend Nathaniel.  He tells him he and others have found what they=ve been looking for.  Jesus of Nazareth.  Well, Nathaniel responses quite negatively and says: ACan anything good come from there?@  And instead of getting upset, or discouraged, or jumping to Jesus= defense, how does Philip respond?  --With three simple words: ACome and see.@

Apply: What about yourself?  What are your own practices?  Are you inviting others into your home? Into your life? Are you inviting and enticing -- ACome and see@?

3.  Jesus= Offered Hope: A New Name, v.42, 48

The third thing we are reminded of as to why we invite others to Jesus Christ is the Hope he alone can offer them. And this he does because he alone knows man thoroughly.  Look at how Jesus speaks to Simon and Nathaniel.  In both cases, the focus that John the apostle wants to bring out is how Jesus knows us thoroughly and offers us hope to change of truly.

In v.42 Andrew brings his brother Simon to Christ.  He not only said come, he brought him.  He accompanied him to Christ.  Jesus looks at Simon and says something amazing: AYou are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.@  Now the apostle translates that for his Greek readers (and us) and tells us that Cephas means Rock (in Aramaic).  The word Peter would have been understood by his Greek readers not as a name but as a description -- Rock.

This is not a prediction of what Peter will become but what Jesus will make of him.  Jesus will make this Simon into that Peter. Jesus will give this impetuous, businessman a new identity.  He will take this fearer of man and make him a fearer of God.  And Peter will become a pillar leader of the new church.

Yet, who of us reading about this encounter can=t help but believe that Jesus does the same for all who follow him? Simon=s encounter with Jesus reveals something powerful and glorious about Jesus.  It is no wonder why we come to him and invite others to Jesus.  Jesus changes men.

If there is one thing you hear too often in every age it is: AI can=t change.@  AThat is just the way I am@ AYou can=t teach a dog new tricks.@  And they are all true.  We cannot change ourselves no matter how desperately we desire. We cannot remove from our own hearts the sin that indwells it.  We cannot turn our hearts away from ourselves and toward God.  Yes, it is true: AWe are just the way we are.@

But God can and does change men, and women, and children.  Just as he changed Simon to Peter. And that is the hope, the promise, Jesus holds out to everyone who comes to him.

Now with Nathaniel, we find the same.  Jesus knows him.  Yes, Jesus knows Nathaniel before he sees him.  The apostle wants us to see that.  Jesus, in keeping with his father=s will, was allowed to see and know and do things only God can do.  v.48 AHow do you know me,@ Nathaniel asked.  AI saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you,@ answered Jesus.

It is that thoroughly knowledge of ourselves, yes, the fore-knowledge, that amazes Nathaniel.  It is said elsewhere that none of us really know what is in our heart. We do not really know ourselves as we should.  But Jesus does.  And his eye not only pierces to the depths of our soul, but shines upon all who respond to him in faith and trust with an offer to change lives, an offer of real Hope.

Apply: What about you?  Do you come and worship, read the Bible, fellowship with other Christians because in all of these you want to come to Jesus and see him change your life?  And isn=t that why we ought to invite others?  For doesn=t Jesus offer those who come to him not only new life, but a new direction in life?  Doesn=t he offer a new hope, new purpose, new loyalties, and new desires? And best of all, a new relationship with God himself?

4.      Jesus Promise: To Meet God, v.50-51

If you have been listening well you=ll have noticed that there is a Aseeing@= motif that runs throughout this passage and climaxes in v.50-51.

v.36 John saw Jesus passing by.  v.38 Jesus saw the two disciples following him.  And in v.39 Jesus beckons: ACome and See.@

v.40 So they went and saw where he was staying.  v.42 Jesus looked at Simon and named him Peter.  v.46 Philip inviting Nathaniel says, ACome and see.@  v.47 Jesus saw Nathaniel. v.48 Jesus tells Nathaniel that he saw him before Philip called him.  And now, with Nathaniel=s declaration: v.49  ARabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.@ What do we hear Jesus say? v.50 AYou believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree.  You shall see greater things than that.@  And then he adds: v.51 AI tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.@

We have heard the disciples make great claims of Jesus: John the Baptist, v.36 ALook, the Lamb of God.@  The two disciples, v.38 ARabbi (which means Teacher).@  Andrew to his brother Simon, v.41 AWe have found the Messiah (that is, the Christ.@  And Philip to Nathaniel, v.45 AWe have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.@  And finally, Nathaniel=s claim in v.49 ARabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.@

Last week we saw that they all spoke better than they knew. But Jesus invited his disciples to know more, to see more.  AYou shall see greater things than that.@  AYou shall see the heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.@

Now to us it is a cryptic remark.  What does he means Ayou will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man@?  But to Nathaniel, a Jew likely well-versed in the story of Israel, he would have had his memory turned back to Genesis 28, the story of the Father of the Jewish nation -- Jacob, also called, Israel.   Do you remember the story?  Jacob is on his way to his uncle=s home and reaching a certain place he put up camp, takes a stone for his head, and lays down to sleep. 

While asleep, Jacob sees the heavens opened and a ladder reaching from him to the heavens and angels ascending and descending upon it.  And at the top of the ladder he sees the LORD.  And the LORD promises Jacob that he will accomplish all his purposes for them.  When Jacob awakes he calls the place Beth-el, the House of God -- the meeting place of God. Where God meets man.

Do you understand now what Jesus is promising to Nathaniel and to all of his disciples?  First he asks: AWhat do you want?@  Then he tells us ACome and see.@  Next, he shows us who we really are and how he can truly change us.  Yet, it all comes down to this last promise -- who Jesus is.  And in v.50-51 Jesus is saying in effect: AYou will see the house of God is me.  You will see that heaven and earth meet here, in my person, in my work. You will see that I am the ladder that reaches from earth to heaven.  I am where God meets man and where you can meet God.

Wow!  What a beginning!  What a door of hope for all who are listening today.   This first chapter has taken us on a great adventure -- Meeting Jesus.  And in meeting Jesus, we find we meet God. Moreover, we see afresh how people are made disciples of Christ.

Jesus= Method: The Invite is along the Web of Our Relationships.  Invite your friends and family.

Jesus= Initiation: Come and See.  Entice your friends and family.

Jesus= Offered Hope: A New Name.  Hold out the real purpose of inviting -- a changed life, eternal life, a new hope and purpose for living.

Jesus= Promise: To Meet God .  Hold out that riches of your invitation.  God meets man in Jesus.  Come to Jesus and you=ll meet God.

Brothers and sisters, that is what Jesus promises us today, again, in the preaching of his word and confirmed in the sacrament of the Lord=s supper.  He will reveal himself to you.  The question is: AWhat do you want?@  The question is AWill you come and see?@

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