Today is our third week in the gospel of John. And I’ll mention one more time our 2 main goals for this series: 1) that we grow in our love and affection for Jesus, and 2) that we grow in our desire for others to repent and believe in Jesus, and find life in him. Those are our goals, and today, especially, we’ll emphasize both of these goals.
In chapter 1, so far, we’ve seen John, the author, introduce Jesus as the Word, the divine self-revelation of God, and we’ve seen John the Baptist be the one who was preparing the way for the light, and also declaring of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Today we will start with John the Baptist and see a progression different people pointing others to Jesus.
So Jesus’ first disciples are being recruited, and it all happens with followers of Jesus pointing others to Jesus! John points his disciples to Jesus, then Andrew points Simon to Jesus, Philip points Nathanael to Jesus, and then Nathanael declares Jesus to be the son of God. What I’d love us to see as we walk through this text, is the parallel between correctly understanding who Jesus is, and pointing others to Jesus. I want us to see the connection between each of these men seeing and savoring who Jesus is, and what that compels them to do! Namely, pointing others to Jesus. We will see four reasons followers of Jesus point others to Jesus. So, let’s start with John the Baptist. Verses 35-37, let me read that again:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
What’s the connection for John the Baptist? What do we learn from John as to why followers of Jesus point others to Jesus?
- We point people to what we valuemost (35-37).
I know this part of the story is only three verses long, and it may seem like just a quick description of what happened. John called Jesus the Lamb of God, and so John’s two disciples followed Jesus. But, it’s easy to miss how big of a deal this is for John the Baptist. Try for a moment to put yourself in John’s shoes.
These were two of his disciples. Likely, men who had been following John the Baptist for years. A man like John would consider his disciples to be part of his own legacy. And so, this moment where John saw his two disciples leave—it required a lot of sacrifice. John had to give up something he valued, for something he valued even more. John valued and cherished Jesus, the Lamb of God, far more than his own reputation and his own influence over these men. He willingly gave up influence over these two disciples because he valued Jesus more! And guess what? We, too, will point people to the things that we value most.
As a pastor, in particular, John is a great example. Here at Raintree, we want to be a sending church. We talk about this in every Raintree 101 class, in detail. If you haven’t been to Raintree 101, join us starting June 3rd. We’d love to have you! Even if you’re a long-time member, but haven’t taken the class, come! Right now we have Judy Griffin, Sharon Richardson, and Wanda King in our class. And they make it a lot of fun.
But our goal as a church is to be a sending church, as in we are praying toward sending some of our members out in the near future, to either plant new churches or help revitalize struggling churches. That’s, truly, the heart of our elders, and what we want to aim for as a church. And, so, when it comes time to send out 20, 30, 40 or more of our people here at Raintree, I think it might be hard, for me as the pastor here, in particular. I’m sending out people who are part of what I could see as my ministry. But, the question is, what do I value most? Even us as a church. Do I value Christ and his name and reputation more than I value the size of our church, or how much we can say our church is growing? For John, he willingly sent his disciples away, because he valued Christ more.
He wanted them to follow Jesus. In fact, he was preparing them the entire time they were following him, so that they were probably aware that one day this Messiah, the Lamb of God would come, and they would follow after him. We point people to what we value most. Whether we know it or not, that’s what we do. Now, let’s read what happens after this. Verses 38-42:
Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
Ok. So, Jesus turns around and asks, “What are you seeking?” In effect, “What do you want?” Or “Can I help you?” That’s I like to think of it: “Can I help you?” And so they, ask, “Where are you staying?” Why’d they ask that? Maybe because they were suddenly put on the spot and didn’t know what to say. Uhh…Where are you staying? Like an attempt at small talk.
But I really think the main reason that asked Jesus this question is because they wanted to spend time with him! They have found the Messiah! The one who they’ve been waiting for their whole lives, the one John the Baptist told them all about, and whom they’ve read about in the Old Testament. They have questions, they want to learn, that’s what it means that they followed after Jesus. He became their Rabbi. And so, they wanted to spend time with him.
So here’s a question I want to explore for a minute: Why did Andrew, who was apparently one of these two disciples, why did he go tell his brother Simon? Right? It says in verse 41, that he went and found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” Why did Andrew tell Simon? Was it because he must have had this pastor that wouldn’t stop talking about sharing about Jesus and so he felt guilty and decided to finally share? No! He told his brother Simon because it mattered so much to him! This is where we come to the 2ndreason followers of Jesus point others to Jesus, it goes right along with the first.
- We talk about what captivates us (38-42).
We talk about the things that have our attention! Do we not? Andrew and this other disciple had spent the day with Jesus! The Messiah! They had found this treasure that they cherish, the one and only Son of God! Their minds were captivated by Jesus! So, what could they not help but do? Talk about him! They couldn’t help but share Him with others! They didn’t have to think, well, my goal this week is to share the gospel with three people, or invite three people to church. They simply talked about that which captivated their minds, and that was Jesus.
Think about it: Why is it so easy for parents to talk about their kids? Or grandparents to talk about their grandkids? Because parents LOVE their kids. Grandparents LOVE their grandkids. And because they love them, they think about them a lot. And it is easy to talk about the things that are on our minds all the time. That just makes sense!
So, let’s imagine that we do think about Jesus often. Let’s imagine that we have our minds set on Christ, even though I know that’s a constant struggle for all of us, right? But let’s say that’s true. What keeps us from pointing people to Jesus even though our minds are set on Jesus?
I think a lot of times it’s fear of rejection or fear of offending people. That’s very common. Very few people don’t have any struggle with that all. We fear rejection and we fear offending people. I have two things I want to say in response to that. 1st, I’d like to bring up a recent study by Lifeway Research. According to this study, 79% of non-church-goers agreed with this statement: “If a friend of mine really values their faith, I don’t mind them talking about it.” 79% of those that responded, non-church-going people, said they do not mind their friends talking about their faith if they really value their faith! Hopefully that dispels some of the myth of no one liking talking about spiritual things. And my 2ndresponse to this is to play a short video of Drew Erickson sharing about a recent opportunity he had to point a coworker to Jesus. He brings this up, this thought that no one wants to talk about spiritual things. So, check it out.
He said, “It’s very hard not to love people when we’re focused on Jesus and how much he loves them.” Even the family connection he made, I love that. If the gospel, Jesus himself, our King and Substitute, is a regular part of our diet in the Word and just something we enjoy and talk about with our families, we will also bring it up in our other spheres of influence. It is not your public speaking abilities nor extroverted giftedness that will impact people for the kingdom. It is God’s grace in Jesus that will impact people. Your job is not to present something perfectly; your job is simply to know Christ fully, and let that overflow! I love Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians chapter 2, the first 2 verses:
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
It’s not your abilities that will impact people, it’s the truth about Jesus Christ that will impact people. “We have found the Messiah” is what Andrew told Simon, and Simon was certainly impacted. Right then and there, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter, literally changed his identity, specifying a special call on Peter’s life, that we will see come to fruition later in this gospel. If we are captivated by Jesus, if he has our attention, we will talk about Jesus, because we talk about what captivates us. We talk about the things that have our attention and focus.
The next part of our story is Jesus simply going out and finding someone new to follow him, and then yet again that person pointing others to Jesus. Look with me at verses 43-49:
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
The 3rdreason followers of Jesus point others to Jesus:
- If we’re not pointing people to Jesus, we’re not followingJesus (43-49).
This is something I’ve thought a lot about as your pastor, especially in the last 6 months. What is the ultimate sign that someone is truly following Jesus? What is the ultimate sign of spiritual maturity? Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t narrow it down to one thing, because different people mature at different speeds, and people struggle with different things. But, no doubt, one thing that would reveal that someone is truly following Jesus is whether or not we’re taking seriously the task of pointing others to Jesus. Why? Because, it is literally true that if we’re not pointing people to Jesus, we’re not doing what Jesus did! Verse 43: “He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
Jesus pointed people to himself! That was the thrust of his entire ministry! In Luke 4, we see Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth, where he stood up to read a messianic text from Isaiah 61. And he had the boldness to say, in Luke 4:21- “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” They all marveled at him then, because it was just the beginning of his ministry. By the end, though, as he kept saying those kinds of things, that’s why the Jews wanted him dead! Because he was claiming to be the son of God, God himself! Jesus pointed people to himself, because he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Because he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). For us to follow Jesus means we too must point people to Jesus, just like he did.
And I love that we see just that with Philip. Immediately after Jesus said, “Follow me,” he goes to Nathanael and tells him about Jesus. There’s no delay; it just makes sense! The one that all of Israel has been waiting for is here! The Messiah has been found!
Now, obviously, we don’t have the exact same culture today, in that everyone is waiting for a Christ to take away their sin. That was true for the people of Israel in the first century, but it’s not really true of our culture, at least not quite like that. But, then again, does not everyone desire to be truly fulfilled and happy? To experience true and lasting joy? And is not everyone often disappointed by what the world has to offer in that regard? It’s pretty much true that people are seeking after something that they cannot truly find without Christ. And guess what? We have found Him, haven’t we? The Messiah, the Christ, the one who has brought peace and reconciled us to our Creator. Philip couldn’t help but just go and tell Nathanael.
Nathanael has some doubts at first, in particular with where Jesus is from. When Philip tells him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” How did Nathanael respond? “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” We’re going to get into that more down the road, as far as what we can learn about the humble beginnings of the majority of the disciples, but briefly I’ll mention here that Nazareth was a humble town, less than 2,000 people, really not significant in any way by the world’s standards. So Nathanael has some doubts. But when Nathanael comes up to Jesus, Jesus recognizes him—being the omniscient God of the universe, he would do that—and he testifies of Nathanael’s integrity: “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
So Nathanael is a bit confused, asks him how he knows him, and Jesus, showing off his supernatural knowledge, says, “I saw you when you were sitting under the fig tree.” I mean, this is enough for Nathanael to respond in worship: “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Just that one sign from Jesus was enough for Nathanael to believe. But there is more to come, isn’t there? The last two verses of chapter 1. Verses 50-51:
Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Jesus knowing about Nathanael under the fig tree is pretty amazing. In fact, let’s not forget, Jesus said, “When you were under the fig tree, I sawyou.” Not just supernatural knowledge, but supernatural vision. He saw everything, and sees everything to this day. So, obviously, they were amazed, just as you and I would be. But Jesus goes on with maybe the understatement of the century: “You will see greater things than these.” Ha! Right? Yeah they will! There’s a lot more to come, Nathanael! We, especially, 2,000 years later can say, “Yeah, Jesus wasn’t kidding.
But, Jesus ends with a taste of one of these great things. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” What is Jesus talking about here? Well, this is a reference to Genesis chapter 28. In Genesis 28, Jacob falls asleep and has this dream of a ladder going all the way from heaven to the earth, and these angels were basically using the ladder to go back and forth between the two.
When he says here in John 1, that the angels of God will be ascending and descending on the Son of Man, he’s is saying that He, himself is the ladder to God! He is the only way to God, the only true connection that earthly beings can have with a divine Heavenly Father. It’s him! This summarizes our last reason followers of Jesus point people to Jesus:
- Pointing people to Jesus is pointing people to the onlywayto God (50-51).
There is no greater object in the universe to which we can bring people’s attention than Jesus Christ, the only way into God’s presence. There is no more significant thing that we can point people to!
Listen, I get it, with this whole internet phenomenon going on right now. I hear “Laurel” and it’s crazy that others hear “yanny.” I get it! That’s pretty cool. I read about it this week, because it’s an interesting phenomenon, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, ask someone afterwards. I get that there are neat things in the world that we’re going to talk about! The Greatest Showman: my favorite movie since I was in high school. I just love that movie.
But listen, people, there is no more significant object, person, event, or phenomenon than Jesus Christ and what he has done in reconciling mankind to God. His death, his resurrection, taking our place on the Cross, and offering to us his righteousness, this is it! What is it about Jesus that we’re really pointing people to? It’s that he is our connection to God. Fully God, fully man, the Word in the flesh. This is what must compel us to point people to Him.
Again, we come back to this parallel I want us to see. The parallel between truly understanding who Jesus is & pointing others to Jesus. Because my question is this: where is the disconnect? For John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael, they’re so enthralled with who Jesus is, that they can’t help but share Him with others. So what about us? Where’s the disconnect?
There’s probably lots of different reasons for this gap between what we know to be true and our obedience in sharing what we know to be true. But I’m convinced the main reason is that we’re just not all that charmed with Jesus. We love that he loves us. We love what he did for us. But it does not move us to our CORE, who Jesus is, and what he has done. Many of us may not see Jesus like these disciples saw Jesus.
Listen to the titles used for Jesus just in these verses alone: The Lamb of God. Rabbi (Teacher). The Messiah. Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. The Son of God. The King of Israel. And the last one, Jesus said this of himself: The Son of Man, again, connecting himself the Messiah in the Old Testament, specifically in Daniel 7:13.
For too many of us, listen, our Jesus is too small. He’s just not all that compelling. Maybe he used to be. If you’re a believer, you must have been moved by Jesus at some point in your life, obviously, to truly believe in him. But do you see the connection for these disciples. Absolutely enthralled with who Jesus is and, so, enthusiastically pointing others to Him.
If you struggle with sharing Jesus with others, and you want to point people to Jesus. Listen: Don’t startwith trying to force yourself to share the gospel with someone, though, honestly, that might be necessary for some of us, to break the fear of the unknown. But, even before that: start with understanding and loving Jesus as he truly is. Start with what Jesus and Philip said in this text: “Come and see.”
See Jesus for who he is. Savor Jesus for who he is. Look to him, study his life, know Him personally and thoroughly. Come and see.
If you don’t love Jesus more than anything right now, look to him, and you will love him more. Come and see Him, and you will be captivated by him more, just by looking at his life and his heart and his desires and character, by knowing him truly as he is. This the greatest possible way you can impact your children. It’s the greatest possible way you can impact other family members. It’s the greatest possible way you can impact the people around you. Your coworkers, fellow students, fellow homemakers, whatever your sphere of influence may be! Do you value him above everything? Are you amazed by him more than anything? Does he have your attention?
If he doesn’t: “Come and see.” He’ll grab your attention pretty fast. So much so that you will soon be saying to others, “Come and see. We’ve found the Messiah.”