John 1-37-51 - Making Disciples
When a child of God hears the Word of God His word sparks a need inside of the heart that requires action. We see in this week's passage that the Word of God flowing through the lips of John the Baptist causes this reaction in two of John's disciples. Not everyone in attendance that day went after Christ. Only two are mentioned in this passage. The same thing is true in the world today. Many hear the good news of salvation through Christ but only His sheep will hear the words of their shepherd in the message and follow Him.
We find two very important lessons here. First, the word we proclaim must be the Word of God if we are going to point God's children to their Savior. In order to proclaim His word we must be students of the Word of God and proclaim only His word. There are many self-proclaimed prophets in the world today who claim they have a new word from God yet their words often contradict the scripture. We need to be careful that we proclaim only the truth of God, for our call in this life is not to make disciples for ourselves but to lead others to God.
See Isaiah 22:15-25ff
Eliakim is an Old Testament type of a disciple. He was the steward over the house of King Hezekiah. In order to get an audience with the king you had to go through the steward of the house. When we study the life of Eliakim we see that he was a faithful servant. He loved his God, his king and his people. He fulfilled the office of steward in an exceptional way and many depended on him for leadership. Verse 24 says that the children of Judah hung their well being on his shoulders yet, something terrible happened. In time Eliakim died or was cut off and removed from that secure place and the children of Judah followed the children of Israel into captivity. Eliakim loved his Lord, his king and his people but he was unable to save them from captivity.
The same is true for us and we must take a warning from this passage of scripture. We must not make ourselves the objects of people's faith for we do not possess the ability to save them from the captivity of their sins. We may be righteous. We may love the Lord. We may love the people of the Lord. We may also have a heart for salvation but we only hold the keys to eternal life. Through our witness those around us are granted access to the King. But the King alone can give His subjects security. Christ alone is bearer of eternal life and He alone can bring salvation. So we must be careful that the object of our witness is to make disciples of Christ and not of ourselves.
Secondly, do not be discouraged when you proclaim God's Word and it seems to fall mainly on deaf ears. There will be a countless number of souls singing praise to their Savior in heaven but a far greater multitude will reject Him. Scripture always uses the term "many" to refer to those who turn from Christ and the term "few" to describe those who follow Him. Remember we have been called to sow the seed and reap the harvest. It is the work of the Spirit of God to prepare the field and germinate the seed of faith in a listener's heart and cause the tender plant to grow to maturity. Some fields are hardened and very little seed takes root but this does not negate our call to sow.
Looking at verse 38 we see that the child of God is a follower of Christ. Many in this day wish to have Christ follow them but the sincere child wishes to follow his Lord. Many of us have seen the bumper sticker "God is my co-pilot." Although it was written in good faith it shows the mindset of many believers today. They are unwilling to give control of their lives over to the Lord and only want Him on standby in case He is needed. We will never understand the blessing of full salvation until we allow God to become the pilot of our lives.
By following Christ we loose control of many things in our lives. In our own homes we make the rules. When we go to another person's home we are expected to abide by their rules. My wife and I have no problem allowing people to walk in our home with their "street" shoes as long as they wipe them at the door. When we visit others however we are sometimes asked to park our shoes at the door. This can cause an uncomfortable situation especially if your socks are worn through.
Being a follower of Christ sometimes takes us into uncomfortable situations. We are expected to be in obedience to the Head of the house and our vulnerabilities are often exposed. But we follow Him because we are His children and when our shortcomings are brought to light we do what is necessary to make them acceptable to Him.
Christ's door is always open. When we ask Him where He is staying He always says, "Come and see." His children follow, they commune with Him and then they go out to share their experience with others. If something changes your life you want to share it with those closest to you. Andrew immediately goes out, finds his brother Simon and brings Him to Christ. Note, Simon did not just casually mention that he had found the Messiah. It was the foremost thought on his mind. This is the experience of everyone who has a true relationship with Christ. When we spend time with Him, He becomes the focal point of our lives and our conversation.
When we come to Christ we are changed and adopted into His family. Simon came to Christ and a wonderful chain of events take place. First Christ knows Him. "You are Simon the son of Jonah." Christ knows all who come to Him. He knows all about our earthly lives and our family ties so nothing is hidden. Then wonder of all wonders! In spite of the fact that Christ knows all of the intricate details, the failure and sin, He then adopts us into His family.
It is the parent's duty to name their children. Simon was given this name by his father Jonah which gave him earthly ties to a family and people on this earth. Christ now bestows on Simon heavenly ties. He officially adopts him by giving him a new name Cephas, which is Hebrew for stone (Peter in the Greek) and makes him a building block in His kingdom the church. Revelation 2:17 tells us "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."
What is your relationship to Christ?
Are you following Him or expecting Him to follow you?
Is your relationship to Him the consuming passion of your life and conversation or is He merely a by-line to what you think is more important news?
Have you been adopted into His heavenly family or are your ties still to this earth?
Think on these things and ask Christ to heal the rift in your relationship if it exists.
Christ's call to follow Him took on a different meaning in the days of His ministry than it does in today's society. Christ was an itinerate teacher and to follow Him meant a drastic change in one's lifestyle. Fishermen had to leave the livelihood of their nets, physicians had to leave their practices and tax collectors had to leave their books in order to fulfill the command to follow their Lord. They had to place the full dependence of their lives and the lives of their families in His hands and yet they followed without a moment's hesitation. Such was the power of Christ's call to His children.
His call to them excited them in such a way that they could not contain the joy. They hurried to those they knew and loved sharing the news with them that they had found the Messiah. That message touched the hearts of other kingdom children and they too left all and followed Christ.
This new band of saints followed their Savior and listened intently to the One they loved. They may not have known it but they were storing His words in a special vault in their hearts and minds that the Spirit of God would later open, spilling forth a treasure that would lead to the salvation of all of God's children from that day forth. They questioned Christ, listened as others questioned Him and often found to their surprise that His answers went past the surface of the question where it left the lips to the heart where its true motive lay.
This is what occurred in today's passage. Christ seeks out Philip. The shepherd goes forth looking for His sheep. Philip hears the voice of his Master calling "Follow me" and without hesitation (so the passage implies) leaves what he is doing to follow Christ, joining the small band of disciples who will soon turn the world upside down. John tells us Philip is from the same city as Andrew and Peter so there is a good chance that they knew each other well.
Bethsaida was a small fishing village which rested on 20 acres of ground north of the Sea of Galilee where the Jordan River enters. In such a small community I'm the disciples knew each other as devout Jews who were awaiting the coming of promised Messiah. Philip then goes to find Nathaniel (amazing how the good news of Christ spreads as hearts are turned toward Him) and says "We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
Just glancing at this word from Philip you may be erroneously led to believe that Christ was the One who was lost and then found when in reality Philip was the sheep that was lost and found by Christ. The children of God before salvation are lost and an empty void lies in their hearts which can be filled only by the Holy Spirit. They are spiritually dead and blind and therefore do not have the ability to seek God so the emptiness remains until God comes to them. When God's Word comes to them and finds them they recognize the voice of their Master and become found yet in the same instance they find what they have been seeking.
Nathaniel then asks the question "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Historians differ on the reason for Nathaniel's query. Some say Nazareth was a place of low esteem in the eyes of the Jewish people because it lay at the foot of Mount Tabor, a main route for Gentiles passing between Asia and Egypt, and was negatively influenced by the Gentiles who passed through her daily. Others say there is no historical proof of this and tell us Nathaniel was simply surprised that the Messiah was from Nazareth when scripture declared that he was to be born in Bethlehem. Regardless of which interpretation is right, this was not the real question of Nathaniel's heart and that is the important issue in this passage.
Philip replies, "Come and see." This is the best answer that any witness can give when they are faced with the question of Christ's authenticity as the Messiah. We can debate his authority with the greatest theological arguments known to the church but the best answer is to simply show them Jesus. Philip was able to take Nathaniel to the person. We can show critics Christ through His Word and His presence in our lives. Bring them to the Savior for He alone, through His Word and the evidence of His presence in our lives, will convince them that He is Lord if they belong to Him.
Nathaniel was brought to Jesus and Jesus immediately knew him. Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathaniel had no hidden agenda. There was no ulterior motive for his desire to see Christ. Christ knows our hearts and our lives. Nothing is hidden from Him. Some may think they can fool the Lord but he sees us in our private moments before we have interaction with others. He sees us "under the fig trees" of our lives. Nathaniel was a seeker and when Christ spoke to him, he knew he had found what he had sought. The real question of Nathaniel's heart was answered, Yes, Jesus is the Messiah. Christ is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. He alone is Jacob's ladder. Only Christ can bridge the gap between fallen man and his Creator.