the simplest of actions we can often learn much for our own time. Christ here
begins to gather disciples around himself. We can see much for our own time in
the methods and manners used.
35The next day John was there again with two
of his disciples. 36When he saw Jesus passing by, he said,
“Look, the Lamb of God!”
37When the two disciples heard him say this,
they followed Jesus. 38Turning around, Jesus saw them following
and asked, “What do you want?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which
means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
39“Come,” he replied, “and
you will see.”
So they went and saw where he
was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
40Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of
the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell
him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be
called Cephas” (which, when
translated, is Peter£).
43The next day Jesus decided to leave for
Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from
the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We
have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets
also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from
there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he
said of him, “Here is a true
Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”
48“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the
fig tree before Philip called you.”
49Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are
the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
50Jesus said, “You believe£
because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things
than that.” 51He then added, “I
tell you£ the truth, you£ shall see heaven open, and the angels of
God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
John 1:35 through John 1:51 (NIV)
Man, the social animal
With the exception of the random curmudgeon, our species
is a social animal. We have forgotten it, but our word “civilized” comes from
a Latin root which means “a city.” It is strange, therefore, that when we
speak of evangelism, we usually have in mind a powerful preacher standing
before a crowd – alone amidst a mob. But even those evangelists would tell you
that there are hundreds or even thousands of workers who make that sermon
possible. Indeed, thousands more are needed to bring those who should hear the
Gospel. The Gospel came in a time of peace for a civilized society – so that
it might better spread.
our pride, not one of us is self-sufficient. (If you think not, try refining
your own gasoline). We live in civilized societies because in so doing we can
remedy each others’ weaknesses and supply each others’ needs. This is in
accordance with God’s plan; he likewise makes it clear that there is no solo
flight in Christianity. As we become “self-sufficient” only within a
civilization, we also become complete only in the church. So it is that God
uses the normal processes of civilized behavior to gather up his people, the church.
The nature of the call
are sometimes so engrossed in the concept that all are sinners in need of
repentance that we forget the example of our Lord. Not all those who receive
Christ are drunks or prostitutes. Most of the people we meet don’t have an
overwhelming sense of shame; just a little nagging guilt. What does Christ do
and see.” Alone among the major religions of the world, Christianity invites
the inspection of its doctrines by means of fact. For some, this means apologetics
– defense of the origins of the faith by factual means. But for others, who
don’t care two cents for which ancient manuscript says what, the facts which
are apparent to them can be seen in the person who brings the call. This, as
we see, is Christ’s own method in gathering disciples.
evidently rubs off, for Philip repeats it. Perhaps the reason for this is that
Philip is one whose eyes are open for the facts. He’s discovered the truth,
and now he shares it – in the same way it was shared with him. Christ’s church
still uses the method today
“We have found…”
is a man with his priorities straight. John tells us that “the first thing” he
did was to go get Peter. He clearly understood, as we evidently do not, that
it is of first importance for us to go to those we know and bring them to
Christ, in whatever way we might know. This sense of urgency is almost
completely lacking in the church today. That lack explains much.
that simple phrase we can see much:
– Andrew’s discovery of the Christ is not his alone. He is not the sole
witness testifying. Rather, there is more than one witness, so that the
person hearing may not dismiss it as being one isolated opinion.
found” – to find implies that you were searching for something. It
also means you did not invent that which you have found. It says to
anyone who will listen that you did not invent this Jesus; you did find
him a drug haze, but that rather he has been there all along. You simply
came upon the truth.
Messiah” – the one and only. Christ is unique. He does not say that he
is one who has the answer. He says he IS the answer. The church is not a
body of ritual on Sunday; it is the body of Christ in this world.
Being Receptive to Christ
is a student of the Scriptures. When he finds Jesus, he proclaims to Nathanael
that he has found the Messiah whom Moses had prophesied. In Nathanael’s
reaction we can see what an honest man does when confronted with the Christ.
people get discouraged when the one they are trying to bring to Christ raises
objections. This should not be.
world’s greatest salesman is a short, fat, cigar smoking man named Montague
Hipple II. He’s a man who walked into my office, explained how he was going to
sell me three million dollars worth of software – and have me enjoy the
experience. (He was right, too.) Monty once told me this: “Selling does not
begin until the customer raises an objection.” If they’re not complaining,
they’re not seriously contemplating purchasing your product. So it is a good
sign when Nathanael objects. Philip’s answer suits the objection: “come and
see.” Examine the evidence God has placed before you. If you’re an honest
man, the reaction will be soon enough.
“Can any good thing…”
is evidently quite familiar with the prophecies concerning the Christ. He
knows that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem. Nazareth is to the North,
and considered a hick town. Rather than reject Philip on this basis, Nathanael
challenges him with it. Philip simply says, “come and see.” So the honest man
goes to take a look. “It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the
facts.” (Sherlock Holmes).
also shows you the character of Philip. Nathanael goes to find out. He does
so largely out of respect for Philip’s character. He has no reason to go and a
good one to stay, but for the fact that Philip is not the kind of man to
deceive you. We, as Christians, need to be keenly aware of this. If we are
unable to speak to those around us about Christ, perhaps it’s because we know
they wouldn’t trust us.
It is important to note that Christ is the one who does
the convincing. The key to salvation is not in us; it is Christ. Therefore,
whatever else we may do, we need to bring people to Christ and let him convince
We are his body on earth. Do we behave as he would behave? Do we feed the
hungry? Heal the sick? Teach the truth? Or are we nothing more than a Sunday
morning tea-sipping society?
“You are the Christ”
is a joy to deal with the Nathanaels of the world. Once convinced, they
act. Here he comes to the core of the faith: who Jesus is. He is the one
with the authority. If we will lift him up, he will draw all to himself.
acknowledges him as King of Israel and Son of God. It is an amazing leap – but
it comes because he has studied the Scriptures.
strikes people as curious that Christ would reward them for what they believe.
We need to remember that in that time no one would have used the word “believe”
without meaning “follow through.” Two things need be said:
Christ is not talking just to Nathanael here. The “you” in the Greek is a
plural. He is telling this to all his disciples. The day will come!
he does not begin to tell Nathanael everything about the faith all at
once. An honest man can tolerate “I don’t know – yet.”
this passage also is the name change of Simon. There is a goodly amount of
controversy over this passage; the Roman Catholic church uses this as
overwhelming evidence that they are the only church (all the rest are heathens
or heretics). But the testimony of the ancient church – before the time of
the popes – is universal on this point: Peter is not the rock. Peter’s
confession is the rock on which the church is built.
is doing something that God did in the Old Testament. He changes a person’s
name to signify a change in purpose and direction. Abram becomes Abraham, so
that God might turn him into a great nation through whom all nations will be
blessed. So it is here that Simon becomes Peter – the rock. It signifies a
change to a life in The Rock.
too – John the Baptist is one example – God will give a child a name before it
is born. It signifies that he has a purpose for that child. We don’t think of
names in that manner; perhaps we should. Perhaps then we would know the
purpose for our lives.
Our new names
you not know that when you accepted Christ you were given a series of “new
are called “Christians” – little Christs. We are to be, in our own human
way, a model of the real thing.
are called the friends of God. We are those who can ask a favor of the
Almighty; those who can talk with him without fear.
are called the sons of God. We are in his family by adoption, given the
rights that children have. The world should see a family resemblance.
More than that, we should look forward to the coming of Christ, when all
his family will be reunited.
we are called his body. We are the eyes, ears, arms and hands of Christ
on this earth. We should do his work; we should be the visible sign of
the invisible God.
New Name to Come
idea that changing the name changes the purpose of a life is extended in the
Scripture well beyond what is shown here. Revelation reveals to us that our
names will be changed again.
will receive the “white stone” (representing purity and permanence) with a
new name on it.
This is promised to those who overcome the world.
will be given Jesus’ new name,
This also is a sign of overcoming, but it also unites us with Jesus
– and most mysteriously – we will be given a new name known but to Jesus
when he returns.
past is our foundation in Christ; the present is our witness to Christ; the
future is our joining in Christ. So we should say to one and all: “Come and