How to experience greater things – John 1:43-51, Part 5

Last week my family awoke to the amazing sight of a couple dozen hot air balloons lifting off at sunrise, just across the fields near our home. As you can see in the picture above, they flew low right over our home. I took the photo from my front porch, so what you are seeing is our neighbor’s home. The sight of all those balloons was gorgeous, and it had me thinking that I’d like to ride in one of them sometime. Maybe you have goals in life, a bucket list, of experiences you’d like to have. Maybe you’d like to experience greater things, such as a job change, travel, or a relationship. In our final post on John 1:43-51, Jesus tells some of his disciples that there is a way to experience greater things.

As I mentioned in the previous post, after doubting that anything good can come out of the town of Nazareth, Nathanael meets Jesus. Jesus speaks a word of truth over Nathanael’s life, and in response Nathanael makes a confession about Jesus.  Like I said earlier, I don’t think this is a fully developed proper theological confession of Jesus.  No, it is just the true impression that Nathanael has based on the limited knowledge he has about the Messiah. 

But it is interesting that Nathanael mixes two concepts together in his confession: King of Israel and Son of God.  One is human, the other is divine, which is precisely how the writer of the Gospel of John described Jesus in his prologue in John 1, verses 1-14.  John describes Jesus as “the Word who was God,” and that Jesus is “the Word who became flesh and made his dwelling among us”?  That’s not unlike what Nathanael says.  Jesus is 100% God (“Son of God”) and 100% human (“King of Israel”).   

What Jesus says to Nathanael is awesome, “You will see greater things.”  Jesus wants Nathanael to be affirmed, but he also wants to whet Nathanael’s appetite for the soon-coming reality that will take the disciples from being fishermen to fishers of men.  It seems to me that what Jesus says in John 1, verses 50 and 51, is meant to be both encouraging and eye-opening.  It seems Jesus is saying to these men, “Hang on Nathanael.  Stay with me Andrew, Rock Johnson and Philip. Your lives are about to get wild.”

Jesus says the same to us.  “Come and See, Follow me, there will be greater things.”  Jesus also calls us to invite others just like Andrew said to Peter, “We have found the one,” and just like Philip invited Nathanael to “Come and See.” 

If you are not yet actively interacting with and trying to learn from and following Jesus, which is being his disciple, I’d love to talk with you about what that could look like in your life. 

If you are already a disciple of Jesus, who are you inviting to come and see and follow Jesus?  The mission of being a disciple-maker is the mission of every Christian. 

This is more than doing a Bible study or reading a daily devotional.  Those can be very good.  But what I am referring to when I talk about being a disciple and helping others become disciples also involves what we talked about in our recent blog series on the Fruit of the Spirit.  How are you doing with walking in step with the Spirit, so that the Spirit is growing his fruit in your life?  How are you helping others walk more in step with the Spirit, so they too can grow more of his fruit in their lives?  

Or consider the other recent blog series about relationships.  How do your various relationships demonstrate that you are a disciple of Jesus? How are you inviting the people in your life to follow Jesus?  How are you demonstrating discipleship to Jesus when life is difficult?  I encourage you to actively pursue discipleship to Jesus together.  Have you ever been discipled?  And who are you discipling right now?

That brings us back to the decline in American Christianity.  Is it possible we American Christians have done churchy things, but we have missed the core, the center, of what Jesus has called us to: be disciples who learn to follow him and make more disciples?  This must go beyond asking Jesus into your heart, praying, reading the Bible and going to church. 

What did Jesus tell us to do?  He invited people to Come and See and Follow Me.  He walked with people, investing deeply in their lives.  He employed the spiritual practice of questioning.  He taught them the way of the Kingdom.  He showed them how to reach out to people on the margins, the unlovely, the hurting, those in need.  He spent loads of time with his Father.  He gave his life for the mission of the Kingdom.

How can you be vulnerable and sacrificial with your life, including others, deeply investing in others as you follow Jesus together?

The importance of imitation to discipleship – John 1:43-51, Part 4

As we learned in the previous post, a man named Philip gives his friend Nathanael news that he, Philip, has found the Messiah, the promised deliverer of Israel, in the person of Jesus from the town of Nazareth. Nathanael rolls his eyes and says sarcastically, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip, who had only just met Jesus, makes a fascinating response to Nathanael.  Philip could have gotten into an argument with Nathanael.  He could have been offended by Nathanael. He could have ignored him.  He could have responded in many ways, especially negative ways, to counteract Nathanael’s negativity.  Instead Philip says something familiar, “Come and see.” (See John 1, verse 46.)

That is on purpose.  Jesus said “Come and see” the day before to Andrew.  Now Philip is saying “Come and see” to Nathanael.  The Gospel writer is very purposefully inviting us to make a connection about discipleship.  The disciples start to sound like their teacher.  They start to do what he does, say what he says. 

If you’ve been following the story, you might be thinking, “Wait, Jesus said ‘Come and see’ to Andrew, not to Philip.”  And you are right.  My response is that we don’t know all that Jesus said to Philip, and we don’t know if it might be possible that Andrew was there with Jesus in verse 43 when Jesus invited Philip to follow him.  Andrew could have told Philip “Yeah, Philip, Jesus told us to come and see also.  Join us. Come and see!”  And Philip repeats it to Nathanael. I’m speculating, of course. But the repetition of this phrase stands out. Why?

What we see here is an important element of the task of discipleship: Imitation.  Do what Jesus does.  Say what he says.  Paul would go on to write in 1 Corinthians 4:16, “I urge you to imitate me.”  And later in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.”  Discipleship to Jesus involves being an example.  Helping others to follow Jesus.  Helping others to follow the way of Jesus in the other 167 hours of the week that they are not in church.  And this imitation was already happening on Days 1 and 2 of Jesus’ relationship with his disciples.

Thankfully, Nathanael goes with Philip to come and see this Messiah.  What he saw blew his mind.  Look at verses 47-51. Jesus sees into Nathanael’s heart and declares a word over him, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false.” Perhaps through the power of the Spirit, Jesus knows the character of Nathanael, and this amazes Nathanael.  Nathanael says, “How?”  And Jesus says, “I saw you over there under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 

First of all, Jesus said Philip called Nathanael.  Another small indication that Philip on Day 1 had learned an important discipleship practice.  Call people.  Invite them.  They don’t need to believe just yet.  Just invite them.   Don’t worry about what they believe yet or how they act. 

Second, Jesus saw Nathanael.  Jesus sees people.  Over and over we will observe Jesus’ paying careful attention. He is not wrapped up in himself.  He is aware of others.  He sees them. Yes, he had spiritual discernment to know Nathanael’s inner life.  We usually don’t have that advantage. But we can see people.  We can lift our eyes beyond ourselves and observe people, especially people in need, people hurting, people struggling.  Look to see beyond the outward.

When Jesus sees Nathanael and then declares truth over him, it hits Nathanael at the core.  Jesus in a simple manner has breathed new life into Nathanael.  I’m not saying Nathanael, at this point, is fully believing and understanding Jesus.  This is, after all, Day 1 of their relationship.  Nathanael, like all the disciples, has a lot yet to learn.  But Jesus’ simple, but powerful, encouraging investment in Nathanael has lifted Nathanael up.  And in verse 49, Nathanael responds by making a confession about Jesus. We’ll see what Nathanael has to say in the next post.

Photo by Jess Zoerb on Unsplash

What Jesus sees when he sees you – John 1:43-51, Part 3

If someone said, “I see potential in you,” would you believe them? Do you have a positive view of yourself? Or a negative one? Maybe you are just feeling that blase feeling so many of us have being feeling since the Covid pandemic and amid the turmoil in our world. Do you feel stuck? Read on…I think there is a solution!

In the previous post, in our study this week of John 1:43-51, we jumped over to Matthew 4 to learn more about the story of Jesus’ earliest interaction with his disciples. After the events of John 1, it seems Jesus and the five men (who are not yet disciples at this point), travel from the place they first met (near Bethany by the Jordan River where John the Baptist’s ministry took place), walking 80 miles north to their home region of Galilee. After they arrive in Galilee, the men return to their fishing jobs and Jesus, led by the Spirit, spends 40 days in the wilderness where he is tempted by the devil. When Jesus returns from his 40 days away, he seeks out the men he already met.  Walking by the Sea of Galilee, he finds them at their job, and he now formally invites them to follow him, as told in Matthew 4:

“’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

To these fishers of fish he is saying, “I have an opportunity that will transform you into fishers of men, if you follow me.”  So far, we have heard Jesus utter the first and second words of discipleship: “Come and see,” (read the post about this phrase here) and then “Follow me.” (Read the post about this second phrase here.) 

Following implies something more significant than simply observing.  Following is entering into the pathway and life of another.  Jewish rabbis had followers.  John the Baptist had followers.  What Jesus was asking of these men was not abnormal for Jewish society.  But what was abnormal was that he would ask men like them.  Typically a rabbi would gain followers from the elite rabbinical schools.  A rabbi would not look for followers among the working class, like fishermen.  A rabbi would not look for peasants who had little hope of a future beyond their meager existence.  Why? A rabbi wanted people who were on an impact trajectory, and those fishermen were not living a life that seemed like it could matter.

Jesus, however, was not your typical messiah or rabbi.  He sees the impact trajectory in everyone.  He says, “Come and see, follow me.  Learn from me.”  You might not think you have potential.  You might think you are stuck in a dead-end job, an empty life.  You might think you are not worthy to really serve Jesus.   Jesus says, “Come and see, follow me, let me show you how I see you.”

That invitation is for you and me.  Follow him and learn who he says you are, and then learn from him how to live in line with who he says you are.  What patterns of life does Jesus teach and model for us?  Those are the habits and practices that are not just for his era, but for life in 2022.  What are they? Not sure?  Learn from him how to live.

So often we are learning from lesser things.  We are often disciples of TV preachers or TV shows or sports figures, movie stars, artists, singers.  We are too often disciples of celebrity.  We are all disciples of something.  A disciple is one who is following and learning from another.  An apprentice.  But are we following lesser things?  Jesus breaks through all that and says to us “Come and see, follow me, I will teach you how to live, how to really live, and how to help others really live.”  Make yourself an apprentice of Jesus.

Return in your Bibles to the story we are following this week, John 1:43-51. In John 1:43, Philip responds to Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me.” Apparently Philip says, “Yes, I will.”  We know this because of what we read in John 1, verses 44-45: Philip goes to another guy from their town, Nathanael, and says the same thing Andrew said to Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” Peter is intrigued and goes to meet Jesus. (See John 1:41 and this post where I talk about this part of the story)  But Nathanael has a different reaction than Peter’s reaction.  Look at verse 46. 

Nathanael says, “Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  I guess Nazareth didn’t have such a great reputation.  Jesus’ hometown was small, backwards.  It was so small, modern archaeologists for centuries wondered if it was a made-up town because they couldn’t find archaeological evidence for it.  One scholar notes that “The earliest archaeological discoveries were made…in the 1880s, but despite over 80 years of subsequent excavation, the site was almost entirely unpublished until 2006.”[1]  There really was a town called Nazareth.  But Jesus’ first few years were not in Nazareth.

After Jesus was born, the family lived as refugees fleeing persecution in Egypt.  When the threat was gone, they moved back to their hometown Nazareth.  They could have relocated to a city or town much more fitting for the Messiah, like the city of Jerusalem.  But they chose to go back to small town Nazareth, perhaps to keep Jesus out of the eyes of any other power-hungry leader who might want to knock off contenders to the throne.  Nazareth was a good place to hide.

Nathanael is thinking, “Really? The Messiah? From Nazareth?  You’re out of your mind.”  We do the same thing. I grew up in Lititz, PA, one of the coolest small towns in America.  When you drive through Lititz, any other town in Lancaster seems, well, not so cool.  Or compare Lancaster City to Lebanon or York or Harrisburg.  When I was in the Clergy Leadership Program, early on we pastors in the program were getting to know each other.  A woman from Harrisburg asked me “Where are you from?” and I said, “Lancaster.”  And she shocked me saying, “Oh, Lancaster is so cosmopolitan.”  I knew Lancaster was very nice, but never thought of it using that word, but I said, “Yes, yes it is.”  I don’t think I said anything about Harrisburg, which I have only very rarely visited, so she piped up and basically said, “Harrisburg?  Nothing good comes from Harrisburg.”  In Nathanael’s mind, the Messiah certainly would not come from Nazareth. 

Then his friend Philip, who had only just met Jesus, makes a fascinating response to Nathanael. We’ll learn about that in the next post.


Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash

The second words of discipleship – John 1:43-51, Part 2

In our blog series last week, we learned the first important phrase Jesus demonstrates in the process of helping men become his disciples. That first phrase was “Come and see.” You can read about it in this post. Today we learn the second important phrase Jesus uses.

In verse 43, we read that Jesus decides to leave for Galilee.  He had traveled to south to be baptized by John the Baptist.  Now Jesus decides to head back north, to Galilee, the region of the country where he was from, and where most of his ministry would take place. 

But before leaving, we read that Jesus met another man, Philip.  We learn nothing other than that “Jesus found Philip.” But that word “found” doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus was actively searching for him.  It could be that Jesus and Philip bumped into each other, or that Jesus happened upon him.  The key point is not how they came together, but Jesus’ invitation to Philip, “Follow me.”

This invitation is quite similar to the method Jesus used the day before.  Remember that? Jesus invited Andrew to, “Come and see”.  Like “come and see,” “Follow me” is simple; it is not filled with all kinds of laws and regulations.  We tend to want so much more information, “Follow you where?  When?  How far?  How long?”  “What do you mean, Jesus, when you say, ‘Follow me’?” 

What did Philip think about this invitation?  Did he know that he was being invited to have his life turned upside down?  I don’t think so.  He might have simply thought, “Sure, I’ll follow you down the road a ways.” 

We learn in the next verse that Philip, Andrew and Peter are all from the same town, Bethsaida.  Bethsaida was a town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.  That means those guys are all from northern Palestine, just like Jesus was.  So it could be that Jesus is heading home, and it could be that the unnamed disciple, Andrew, and Peter are all walking with Jesus.  They run into Philip who is also headed that way.  Being from the same town, and all being fishermen, these guys almost certainly knew each other.  One says to the other, “Hey man, are you heading back to Galilee too?” When they realize they’re all going back home, Jesus says, “Follow me.”  Kind of like a “We’re all walking home, let’s go together.”  By the way, this was no short walk.  80+ miles.  So they were going to be walking for days, and it was wise to travel in packs.   

Or maybe Philip knew that Jesus was a teacher, and thus Philip could learn something from him.  Maybe Philip had that hard-to-define sense that Jesus was special and he wanted to hear what he had to say that day.  It’s hard to know what was going through Philip’s mind. Either way, Jesus knows he’ll have probably 3-4 days walking with these guys.  That’s a lot of time to invest in their lives, and knowing Jesus, he makes the most of it. 

But turn to Matthew 4:17, because there is a parallel account where Jesus said nearly the same thing to some others, including guys we’ve already met in John chapter 1.  In Matthew 4:17, we read what happened after Jesus’ baptism and temptation,

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” As 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.”

Let’s try to piece together the chronology of the story so far.  In John 1, Jesus meets some of the disciples immediately after his baptism.  They travel together back to Galilee, and then Jesus goes off on his own for 40 days where he is tempted by Satan.  What do Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael do during Jesus’ time away?  They’re fishermen who go back to fishing.  They have families to provide for.  When Jesus returns from his 40 days away, however, he goes to find the men he already met.  Walking by the Sea of Galilee, he finds them at their job, and he now formally invites them to follow him.

What happens next? We’ll find out in tomorrow’s post.

Photo by Free Walking Tour Salzburg on Unsplash

Did Jesus really tell you to do that? – John 1:43-51, Part 1

This past week a Pew Research released research data suggesting that if trends which began in the 1990s continue, by the year 2070 Christians will only be about 40% of the American population.  Obviously, it is very hard to make good predictions about what will happen in 50 years.  Things can change. Our nation could experience a revival, maybe a Third Great Awakening.  But if that doesn’t happen, and if the current decline of Christianity keeps pace, we could see Christianity dip below 50%. 

Why?  Why has there been such a decline? From 1972 to 2020, the percentage of Americans who are Christians has fallen from 90% to 64%.  There are many reasons for such a decline.  Often we Christians tend to blame others for our failures.  We say the decline is due to a “culture of death” in our society.  Or it’s the fault of secular education.  We blame Hollywood and the media; it’s television, internet, celebrity, and cell phones.  It’s consumerism and wealth and sports.  Probably all of the above factor into the reason at least somewhat.  But I want us to turn the lens on American Christianity itself. 

Is it possible that we American Christians, as Christianity is typically practiced in our country, need revival, just as much as the culture does?  I think it is possible.  It reminds me of the book Jim & Casper Go To Church. Jim is an evangelical Christian.  Casper is an atheist.  Together they visits churches across the country.  15 churches or so. A variety of shapes and sizes.  Famous megachurches, middle size churches, no-name tiny churches.  Independent churches and denominational.  Informal worship and formal worship.  At nearly every church, Casper, the atheist, asks Jim the Christian a question that haunts me, “Did Jesus really ask you to do this?” 

The answer is almost always “No.”  So much of what we call church and religion has been added on over the centuries.  Buildings, produced worship services, Sunday School, events, paid staff like me, and on and on it goes.  We have poured massive amounts of time, energy and money on Sunday-focused, church building-focused worship events.  All the while, from 1972 to 2020 faith in Christ has fallen through the floor, and that decline is showing no signs of slowing down.  Is it possible that Casper’s question is pointing us to another question, “What did Jesus actually tell us to do?”       

This week on the blog, we’re going try to at least begin to answer that question by studying John 1:43-51. So keep that question in mind.

What did Jesus tell us to do?  In Matthew 28:16-20, Jesus teaches his disciples, and therefore us as well, not that our mission is to make church buildings in which to hold Sunday services. Instead, Jesus says our mission is to make disciples who are able to obey what he taught.  We look to Jesus, then, as both our teacher and our model in the mission of being and making disciples.  What did Jesus do to help his disciples become disciples who could obey him and make more disciples?

What methods, practices or habits did Jesus employ on Minute 1, Hour 1, and Day 1 with his disciples?  In meeting those three men, we observed in the previous week’s blog posts how Jesus made disciples, as described in John 1:35-42, starting here. We saw Jesus doing three things: 1. using the spiritual practice of questioning, 2. inviting the men to “come and see,” and 3. giving Simon the nickname to lift his heart and mind to greater things.

This week on the blog, as we study John 1:43-51 we will continue observing how Jesus interacts with his disciples.  Observing Jesus is so instructive for us because he will help us understand and practice how we can help other people become Jesus’ disciples. 

Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

The important words Jesus says to his disciples on Day 2 – John 1:43-51, Preview

This past Sunday, I had a situation occur that has been quite rare in all my years of preaching.  I only made it halfway through my sermon.  As I did some final tweaking to the sermon early Sunday morning, I knew it was on the longer side, but I still thought there was going to be enough time in the service to fit it all in.  There wasn’t.  Not even close.  When the clock on the back wall of the sanctuary displayed 10:10, I knew I had probably 15-20 minutes of material yet to cover, and our service is intended to conclude at 10:15.  We also planned for communion after the sermon and the closing song. So I decided to stop the sermon, admittedly kind of awkwardly.  Still the service went long past 10:15. 

Instead of starting John chapter 2 this coming week on the blog, I’ll talk about the rest of John chapter 1.  I didn’t try this, but when I stopped preaching mid-sermon this past Sunday, I had just finished talking about John 1, verse 42.  In verse 43, a new day in the life of Jesus begins, which means that I inadvertently ended at a natural break point.  In last week’s sermon I was originally planning on covering the events of the next day, as told in John 1:43-51, because in those verses John continues the story of Jesus’ interaction with his first disciples.  In other words, there is thematic unity between the two sections.

As we learn in our blog post this past week, starting here, in John chapter 1, verses 35-42, on day 1, Jesus meets Andrew, Peter and the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist (who might have been the Apostle John), and his words to them are “Come and see.” 

In verses 43-51, on day 2, Jesus meets two more men, but he has a new phrase, and someone else says “Come and see.” Something is happening between Jesus and these men, even at this early stage in their relationship.  What is happening between them?  It has everything to do with Jesus’ new phrase and the fact that someone else says “Come and see.” Join us on the blog next week, as we’ll talk about the fascinating and important discipleship principle that is happening between Jesus and these men.

Photo by Henry Xu on Unsplash

How to learn Jesus’ nickname for you – John 1:35-42, Part 5

Do you have a nickname? Did you have one growing up? Often nicknames are just variations of our actual name. Sometimes they are very…well…odd. “Bear.” “Peanut.” I used to call my daughter, “Girl Head Bean,” which was the weirdest of about ten other nicknames I’ve called her over the years. Like most nicknames, hers are all terms of endearment. What nickname do you think Jesus might have for you. I ask that because in our continuing study of John 1:35-42, Jesus reprises his role as a nickname-giver.

There they are on Day 1 of meeting Jesus. Look at John 1:41, which tells the story of Andrew and his brother meeting Jesus for the first time.  Andrew tells his brother Simon, “We have found the Messiah,” meaning, “We have found the one who will free our nation from the oppression of the Romans.”  Did they get it wrong? Probably yes (as we discussed in the previous post), but they are very excited nonetheless. 

Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, and Jesus’ first words to Simon are to give him a nickname.  This is now the second nickname that we have learned about in our study of the Gospel of John.  The first was not in the text of the Gospel of John, but it was about the author of the Gospel of John, who, along with his brother James, Jesus nicknamed, the Sons of Thunder.  Read what I wrote about that story here.

When Jesus sees Simon, he first says his name real name, “Simon son of John,” which is now the third person named John in our study of the Gospel of John, all different people.  John the Apostle (who we believe is the writer of the Gospel), John the Baptist, and John the father of Simon and Andrew. 

So Simon is “Simon, son of John,” or as we would more typically say English, “Simon Johnson.”  The implication of this phrase is that Jesus knew his name without being told it.  How?  We don’t know.  Maybe Andrew told him ahead of time (“Hold on Jesus, let me go get my brother Simon…I really want him to meet you!”), or maybe it was a miracle.  This gets to the discussion of how much of the power of God Jesus had access to.  Clearly, he had access to miraculous power.  Was it through the filling of the Spirit?  Was it because he didn’t fully empty himself of God’s power?  We don’t know.  All we know is that this is a potential miracle, Jesus knowing Simon’s name. 

Then he right away gives Simon the nickname, “Cephas,” which is the Aramaic word that is the equivalent of the Greek word “Peter,” both of which mean “Rock.”  Put together all of Peter’s names and what do you get?  He is not just “Simon son of John,” or “Simon Johnson,” or “Simon Cephas Johnson,” or “Simon Peter Johnson,” he is, believe it or not, “Simon the Rock Johnson.”  And for those of you who don’t know what I did there, you might have heard of the movie star and former WWE wrestler, Dwayne Johnson, whose nickname is also “The Rock” Johnson. 

What do nicknames have to do with Jesus attempting to form these men into disciples?  Nicknames can be hurtful.  Nicknames be silly.  Nicknames can also be formative.  Jesus seems to creatively use nicknames to build up, to inspire, to give people a vision of something about themselves that the people didn’t realize or think was possible.  In Peter’s case, he was The Rock, and Jesus later said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock, I will build my church”. 

Many scholars believe Jesus was shaping Peter to be the leader of the church, which is especially meaningful when you consider that Peter would later do the most un-Rock-like thing by denying even knowing Jesus in Jesus’ most dire moment of need, and Jesus would then restore Peter.  Peter would go on to be the leader of the church. 

What nickname might Jesus give you? Obviously we can’t answer that question, but we can guess. Jesus’ nickname for Peter gave Peter a vision of something about himself that was beyond what Peter could have imagined. Perhaps Peter’s view of himself was stunted. Perhaps Peter had a negative or corrupted view of himself. Here comes Jesus saying, “Peter you are The Rock.” So the first step to imagining what nickname Jesus might give you is to consider how you think about yourself. Do you look down on yourself? Do you have a negative perspective about yourself?

Jesus comes to you and says, “I love you. You are made in God’s image. In me you have everything you need. Depend on me, and you will bear much fruit.” That doesn’t mean you are perfect or do not need to grow and change at all. We all need to become more like Jesus. But Jesus’ nickname for us reminds us that he is our sufficiency. Peter was not a rock who didn’t need Jesus. Peter was a rock only as he rested on the one true Rock, Jesus (see Matthew 7:24-27). When Peter showed rock-like behavior and got out of the boat to walk with Jesus on the water, in the middle of a storm, that rock-like confidence didn’t last long. Peter reached out to the Rock who was his true foundation.

So what nickname might Jesus give you?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

What it means that the disciples found the Messiah – John 1:35-42, Part 4

Jumping back into the story of Jesus’ first interaction with his disciples, in John 1:35-42, we met two men who were already disciples of John the Baptist. John the Baptist points out Jesus, and the two men start following Jesus. Jesus, it seems, catches them in the act, saying to them, “What do you want?” They appear to me to be taken aback by Jesus’ question, and they stammer out a bizarre answer in the form of a question of their own, “Where are you staying?” But as we learned, Jesus is gracious in his answer, “Come and See.” In the previous post, we learned about how “Come and See” is invitation to observe a new possibility about life. Today we learn that Jesus’ call to “Come and See” was also literal.

The two had asked him where he was staying, and he responds with a simple, “Ok, let’s go.”  In verse 39, we learn they went and saw where he was staying. 

I wonder if they were embarrassed.  I can totally see one of them whispering to the other, “Why did you ask him, ‘Where are you staying?’  He’s going to think we’re weirdos.  Now we actually have to go there with him!”  

Then when Jesus shows them where he was staying, what was there reaction?  “Uh, okay, thanks, this is awesome…”  It just sounds like a really awkward situation, but notice that Jesus indulges them.  He could have easily said, “Sorry guys, you don’t need to see my house.  There’s way more important stuff we have to talk about. So let’s talk.”  Now, of course, we don’t know that they didn’t talk.  Knowing Jesus, he was the kind of teacher who made the most of opportunities, and usually in very creative ways.  In fact, we read in verse 39 that they spent the day together, and my guess is that Jesus did talk further with them, and likely asked more questions of them, learning about them. 

Instead of those details, we read in verse 40, that the name of one of the two men was Andrew.  We also learn he had a brother named Simon Peter.  In verses 41-42, we learn that Jesus must have made quite the impression on Andrew, and perhaps that impression was boosted by John the Baptist calling Jesus “The Lamb of God, Spirit-filled, and the Son of God,” that the first thing Andrew does is get Peter and brings him to Jesus, saying, “We have found the Messiah!” 

We don’t get any reaction from Peter.  But what Andrew has claimed here is earthshaking.  The Messiah is the savior that God promised in many Old Testament prophecies.  The Jewish people were eagerly praying for, looking for, and waiting for the Messiah, especially because the Jewish land of Palestine and their holy city of Jerusalem were occupied by the Romans.  They hated the Romans and wanted freedom. 

So the Jews looked to numerous ancient prophecies and believed that God would keep his promise to send a deliverer.  For the most part, they also had quite specific ideas about the Messiah.  He would be a great military and political leader, of the line of their great King David, and this new Davidic King would lead the people to wage war against the Romans and free their land. 

Notice that John the Baptist didn’t say any of that.  Instead John the Baptist called Jesus “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and the Holy Spirit-filled Son of God.”  So what did John’s disciple Andrew understand about the Messiah?  We don’t fully know, but it seems that though the disciples over the course of the next few years with Jesus sometimes confess their belief that Jesus was the Messiah, they still likely had a military and political leader in mind.

Fast-forward to John 18:10-11, when Jesus is arrested in the Garden and Peter whips out a sword, cutting off the high priest’s servant’s ear. Peter is ready to fight.  He is ready for war.  That gives you an inside look into Peter’s understanding of the Messiah. 

And Jesus says, “Peter, put your sword away.”  Peter lowers his sword, the soldiers take Jesus away and put him on trial.  What does Peter do next?  He denies Jesus three times, totally going back on his earlier promise to Jesus that he would die for Jesus.  Why the sudden reversal, Peter? 

Could it have something to do with Peter’s misconception of what it meant that Jesus was the Messiah, and when Jesus is not going to fight, Peter’s world is rocked and he has lost his moorings?  All the disciples but John would run away and hide, fearing for their lives.  Thankfully, we know they would come around after Jesus’ resurrection, and finally understand what it meant that he was Messiah, who takes away the sins of the world. 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The first words of discipleship – John 1:35-42, Part 3

Two men, who up to this point have been disciples of John the Baptist, get caught in the act of following Jesus, and they don’t really know what to say.  I wonder if they mumbled for awhile while they figured out what to say?  “Uh…uh…umm”  Clearly they had not thought this through.  They just figured Jesus was important, based on John twice calling him the Lamb of God and saying that the Holy Spirit rested on him, so they were curious.  They might have been trying to be sneaky.  And Jesus caught them. 

In John 1, verse 38, Jesus turns to them and says, “What do you want?” Like I said in the previous post, I totally get that question, because if strangers were following me, it is the right question to ask. “What do you want?”

All the two men can come up with is the really awkward question, “Where are you staying?”  What would you ask Jesus if you got the chance?  You might be just as tongue-tied and awestruck and dumbfounded as they were.  We might say something as boring as “Uh…We really got more rain yesterday than we thought, didn’t we?” or some other nonsense. 

But Jesus is ready with what appears to be a gracious response, “Come…and you will see.”  There is so much more in that brief phrase than just, “Oh, you want to come over to my house?  OK, sure.”  Jesus is subtly inviting them into a whole new world, and it is almost certain the those two men had no idea what they were in for. 

The first words of discipleship, then, are “Come and see.”  This invitation is all it takes.  We can over-complicate the matter, thinking that people need to sign off on the 25 Articles of Faith or some other doctrinal statement.  Jesus is not very concerned about what the disciples believe at this point.  Of course, as we have seen already in our study of John’s Gospel, that word “believe” is central, and Jesus will get to talking about it with his disciples.  But not on Minute 1, Hour 1 or Day 1.  At that initial moment, he simply says, “Come and See.” 

When you are interacting with people who might not be followers of Jesus, take this cue from Jesus himself, and invite them simply to “come and see.”  Or very similarly to what the psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”  David wrote those words, found in Psalm 34 verse 8, reflecting on the time he pretended to be insane when he was in trouble in enemy territory.  Like David, there are plenty of situations in life that give us good reasons to be anxious, upset, scared, or angry.  Jesus’ calm invitation to come and see is just what we need, and it is the invitation that all people need. When we experience Jesus, we will see that he is good, or like he once said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus issues this call of discipleship to us, “Come and see” and what we will find is amazing. 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash