This year we took a trip to Yosemite. We spent several days in the park and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the majestic formations. We took lots of photographs so we could remember what it looked like. However, pictures just don’t do justice to the majesty of what we saw. A picture can’t possibly capture everything but it does give the viewer an idea or summary of what it was like. Here in this series of events in John 1:35-42, we get a picture or summary of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus. Being a follower of Jesus means we will be doing 4 things. Let’s read John 1:35-42.
I. The first aspect of discipleship or following Jesus is referring as we see in verses 35-37.
It was John the Baptist’s mission to point his listeners to the coming Messiah. He preached to the crowds a message of repentance and their need to confess their sins. He baptized them to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah. But another aspect of John’s ministry is reflected here: he trained the first disciples of Jesus. John had his own disciples who were following him. Here John intentionally sends some of his disciples to become disciples of Jesus.
Look at verses 35-36: “The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” As we saw last week, John uses the name “Lamb of God” because it was a phrase that emphasized the fact that Jesus would become a sacrifice for our sin. This name, “Lamb of God,” also fulfilled all the teachings, prophecies and stories about substitutionary sacrifice as found in the Old Testament. And once Jesus is proclaimed to be the Lamb of God, the disciples understand that they must follow a higher teacher and must follow Jesus instead of John.
And at that point, John the Baptist drops from the story. He has fulfilled his mission of pointing to the Messiah and now the focus is on Jesus. John’s witness and testimony are now passed on to the disciples. To follow means to literally follow someone down a road or path. But it also means to go after and devote one’s life to someone. And the verb tense here indicates that this is a once and for all decision. Following means a life of a complete devotion to the Lord. But this decision is based on the referral John makes that will shift loyalties from him to Jesus.
What a powerful model for us to follow as we consider what John did in pointing others to Jesus. In every part of our lives, we must direct people to the Lord. When we witness through our actions, we don’t do that so that others will be impressed by our actions; we do it so that others may be drawn to the Lord by what they see in us. When we witness in our words to others, we don’t do it so that others can become like us; we do it so that others may learn about Jesus and learn to imitate Him. Following Jesus mean that we refer or direct others to Jesus.
Sadly many churches and Christians today are pushing people away from following Jesus or being interested in following him. A church in Claxton, Tennessee was up in arms when a bar opened right next door to it, causing some problems during the church's Wednesday night meetings. The congregation is upset that a loophole in an Anderson County law allows a bar to be open next to a church. Members of The Rock Ministry Center were getting ready for their evening service Wednesday night, while next door bartenders at Silver Dollar Saloon were also getting ready for their evening service. The bar sits just 300 feet away from the church. That has the congregation angry and local officials wondering how this could happen when county law requires bars to be 810 feet away from churches. The pastor said, "We're seeking the presence of the Lord and it is not congruent and it is not acceptable to us to have that next door to us.”
On the other hand, some churches have developed a "Beer and Bibles" ministry in which Bible studies are held in the tavern, rather than the church! What will refer people to Jesus more? Our task is to refer people to Jesus.
As the two disciples approached Jesus He turned and asked, “What do you want?” Jesus penetrates deeply into their souls and seems to be asking, “What is it that your want overall in life? What are you really seeking?” Their response at first seems puzzling: “Where are you staying?” Some think the disciples are rather tongue tied and this is the best they can come up with. However, this means instead that they are wanting to spend time with Jesus and their questions will not be answered in just a brief encounter. They want to take the time to find out all about Jesus and what it means to follow Him. The disciples still call Jesus “Rabbi” because they aren’t ready to call Him Messiah yet. That will come, but for now they want to learn more from their new teacher.
Jesus then says, “Come and you will see.” Again, this is far more than just come along and I’ll show you where I’m sleeping tonight. It is an invitation to follow Him so they will see for themselves the things Jesus will do. Jesus’ answer gives them an invitation to explore with him what He is all about. Verse 39 continues by saying, “So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour,” which is likely about 4 in the afternoon. This means that these two disciples likely spent the rest of that day and the night with Jesus. This was indeed a long conversation which changed their lives.
But the real core of this scene is the question that Jesus asks them: “What do you want?” What are you really looking for? What is it that you want in your life? There are a lot of people out there who really don’t know what they want but are searching. And when they look at Christians, they are pretty sure they don’t want what Christians have. There was an Episcopal priest who was shopping for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The salesman talked about speed, acceleration, risk and how women love to climb up on the back of such a powerful machine. Then, he discovered his customer was a priest and immediately, he changed his approach. He spoke soberly about good mileage, the advantages of 360-degree visibility and how practical motorcycles are. Writing about the experience later, the priest had this to say: "Have we told the world that being a Christian is more like riding a lawnmower than a motorcycle? Is the life of faith more safe and sound or dangerous and exciting? The common image of the church is pure lawnmower -- slow, deliberate and plodding. Our task is to take the church out on the open road, give it the gas and see what this baby will do!"
Jesus’ question is what we must ask ourselves who may be searching for direction or guidance. What is it that you want? What do you really want out of life? Most people are looking for a comfortable lifestyle, good health, children who are successful, security for retirement and have some fun along the way. But if they are only looking for these things, then it won’t be exciting. But if a person is searching for meaning, a purpose in life, an exciting way to live life in a way that makes a difference to those around them, then following Jesus is the way. Each follower must honestly ask themselves: “What do I really want?”
Now finally, we are introduced to one of the two disciples: Andrew. He is introduced in a rather interesting way as the brother of Simon Peter. Simon Peter, the Apostle Peter was far better known than Andrew and so the author John introduces Andrew as Simon’s brother for all would know who Peter was. Most believe that other disciple is the disciple John, the author of this gospel. So it is likely Andrew and John who first inquired about Jesus
But what is note-worthy about Andrew is what he does the next day. John says that the first thing Andrew did the next morning was to go find his brother, Simon, and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” Notice that by the time Andrew finds Peter, Andrew knows that Jesus is the Messiah. The stay with Jesus that evening has given them the deeper insight as to who Jesus really is. At this point, the disciples likely had the wrong idea of what that would mean. They certainly didn’t understand that Jesus, as the Messiah, would have to die. They didn’t understand that Jesus’ kingdom is not to be an earthly kingdom. But at that point, they believed that Jesus was the one whom God had sent to redeem His people and Andrew knew that such news had to be shared. John’s point in relating this is to show that disciples must immediately bring others to Jesus.
That aspect of being a disciple is very important to hear this morning. It is far too easy for us to thank God for the salvation we have in Jesus and do little else. We want to learn more about our Lord and all He did to save us. And we want to try to live our lives in gratitude to our Lord for saving us. And if we do that, we often feel we have done enough. Being a disciple means that we tell others that Jesus is the One sent by God to save the world. We have to make sure that we are telling our children that every opportunity we have. We must try to share that with our other loved ones as well when we have the opportunity. Jesus tells us that we must go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all the Lord has commanded.
If we are following Christ, people will know who we are and will be intrigued. Someone has compiled a list of observations made by non-Americans of several dead giveaways that somebody is an American.
- “Americans are more confident in the way they present themselves. Most other countries tend to be more reserved. Walk into a room full of different nationalities, I guarantee the American will be the first to introduce himself, or herself. It's a confidence thing, and I admire it.”
- “Wearing sneakers with anything and have big smiles with firm handshakes.”
- “They say "great" and are not being sarcastic.”
- “Speaking as a former barman or ‘bartender,’ as American customers would say, TIPPING! No British person will ever tip a barman. Brits actually giving me money for doing a job that I was already paid for? Never happened. I would listen for American accents, and immediately serve them next.”
- “Incredibly loud, but incredibly friendly. You can hear them before you see them.”
Do people spot us as Christians in our speech and in what we do and in our motives? We have such a crucial role in sharing the good news with others. Think about what Andrew did: he brought the rock of the church, the very foundation of the church to meet Jesus. Who knows what person you may bring if you bring someone to learn more about Jesus.
After Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, something remarkable happens: “Jesus looked at him.” And then Jesus proceeds to rename Simon: “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” Now according to Matthew’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t rename Simon to Peter until later on. It may be that Jesus is saying what will eventually happen at a later date. But the point is that Jesus gives Simon a new name. When God gives a new name, it speaks of a new character that will be evident in that person in the future for a name reflects who that person is; now Simon will become a “rock.”
I wonder sometimes what name God would give us as Christians. We tend to look at ourselves and see the external person. We see the sins or the problems or the weaknesses. We see only the outside as it presents itself to us. Jesus looked at Peter and saw in him not only a Galilean fisherman but one who had it in him to become the rock on which his church would be built. Jesus sees us not only as we are, but as we can be; and he says: “Give your life to me, and I will make you what you have it in you to be.”
In the town of Athens, Georgia, there is a social service agency called The Potter's House. In this agency, drug addicts and alcoholics learn to re-enter society by fixing people's discarded appliances. There are two simultaneous processes of recycling going on: Drug addicts and alcoholics are rehabilitated as they rehabilitate cast-off appliances. There is no waste in The Potter's House as individuals collect old appliances, repair them and sell them, only to discover that they themselves are repaired in the process.
"There is no waste in the Potter's House. The potential of all humanity rests in the idea that God does not create waste, God recycles! There are people who have tough times in life and they may feel that they cannot make it any longer. But God does not create waste. Fortunately, God is ready and eager to take what is broken and fix it; what is wounded and heal it; what is defiled and cleanse it; what is bitter and sweeten it; what is impure and purify it; what is incomplete and make it whole; what is ugly and turn it into something that is beautiful."
That is what God is doing with us and can do with others we invite to follow Jesus with us. God looks at us in a completely different way. First, he sees us, who believe in Jesus, as ones who are sinless because of what Jesus has done. Second, he sees the potential that we each have to serve Him in His kingdom. That should give us hope and comfort. We know that many times we are not what we are supposed to be. We know we are far from what God would want us to be. Yet, God continues to work in us and with us, shaping us, molding us to be the persons he not only wants us to be, but knows we can become. Are we being the kind of disciples Jesus is calling us to be?