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.