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Come and See

John 1:35-51

In 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.

Despite 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

We 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 about this?

“Come 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.

It 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…”

Andrew 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.

In that simple phrase we can see much:

  • “We” – 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.
  • “have 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.
  • the 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

Philip 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.


Some people get discouraged when the one they are trying to bring to Christ raises objections. This should not be.

The 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…”

Nathanael 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).

This 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.

Christ convinces

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 them.

How? 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”

It 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.

Nathanael acknowledges him as King of Israel and Son of God. It is an amazing leap – but it comes because he has studied the Scriptures.


It 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:

  • First, 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!
  • Likewise, he does not begin to tell Nathanael everything about the faith all at once. An honest man can tolerate “I don’t know – yet.”

Name Change

In 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.

Jesus 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.

Often 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

Do you not know that when you accepted Christ you were given a series of “new names?”

  • We are called “Christians” – little Christs. We are to be, in our own human way, a model of the real thing.
  • We 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.
  • We 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.
  • Finally, 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

This 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.

  • We will receive the “white stone” (representing purity and permanence) with a new name on it.[1] This is promised to those who overcome the world.
  • We will be given Jesus’ new name[2], This also is a sign of overcoming, but it also unites us with Jesus forever.
  • Finally – and most mysteriously – we will be given a new name known but to Jesus when he returns.[3]

The 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 see.”

[1] Revelation 2:17

[2] Revelation 3:12

[3] Revelation 19:12

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