Following Jesus (John 1:35-51)
The Gospel according to John • Sermon • Submitted
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On November 21st at 2pm, Natalie is hosting a ladies’ get-together to bake cookies—These cookies will then be bagged up with a flyer inviting people to come to our both our regular services as well as our Advent services during the month of December. The goal is to make as many cookies as possible, bag them up and send you guys out to give them to your families and neighbors during Thanksgiving week. Of course, feel free to eat some yourself, but try to make sure your neighbors get some of them.
Now, the big announcement that I have to make is this—I had a meeting this week with the pastor of our sending church and during our conversation we started talking about when we should incorporate and make this Bible Study an official church and his recommendation was that we shouldn’t wait; we should do it now. And he gave a number of great reasons as to why we should incorporate as soon as possible, which if you’re interested, we can talk about that later.
What I’m announcing now, is that with the help of a few pastors and laypeople from other churches, I’ve drawn up our Church Constitution and Bylaws under the name of Grace & Peace Bible Church.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with how churches function, let me explain that churches function through their constitution and bylaws, so essentially everything you would like to know about our doctrine, our leadership structure, and our purpose is spelled out in this document—which I would encourage you who are interested in joining us as official members to read.
For those of you that have an interest in joining us officially, let me encourage you to read this document and don’t hesitate to ask any questions that you might have. In addition, let me make you aware that membership does have three requirements: (1) you must be a believer in Jesus Christ, (2) you need to be baptized, and (3) you need to be in agreement with our doctrinal statement (Article III).
If you are interested in making your membership official, please come talk to me after the message this morning.
Prayer for Repentance and Adoration
Pray for repentance from sin
Give thanks for:
His willingness to have a relationship with us
Our ability to seek him because of his Son
The goodness of God in all situations.
Call to Worship / Scripture Reading
A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple. 1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 2 O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. 5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 7 By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 8 To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” 11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
This morning, we’re continuing in our verse-by-verse exposition of the Gospel according to John. So far, we’ve worked our way through the first 34 verses and we’ve found ourselves in a section that I honestly wish we could’ve done in conjunction with last week. So, in order to get the full image of what is happening, I do need to remind us of what we studied last week. Last week we studied through John 1:19-34, which is really about John the Baptist—who he is, what he was preaching, why he was baptizing people, and his role in being the forerunner for the Messiah.
As we worked our way through the passage, we found that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had sent people to question John the Baptist essentially to determine what John was doing. They asked him a series of questions starting with the basic, “Who are you?” And when John replied that he wasn’t the Christ, they went through a couple of other options, “Are you Elijah, are you the Prophet?” Both of which, he was not and he answers them by saying, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
He makes this great statement and then the very next day, Jesus walks towards him and he immediately says “This is him, this is the one who I said ranked before me; this is the Lamb of God.” And despite protesting, Jesus has John baptize him in the river after which John testifies that “[He saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
And this is where we enter back into the account, so what we’ve seen thus far is John making that initial statement that Jesus is truly the Messiah. Which for anyone reading this or anyone that would’ve been alive who had heard John make that statement, the next question is obvious. Well now what? We know who the Messiah is, what do we do now?
And I think as we study this passage, you’re going to figure out what it is we’re supposed to do once we determine that Jesus is the Messiah, its quite simple, we are to follow him.
But first, let’s read the passage.
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 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). 43 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!” 50 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.”
Now as we study through this passage, we’re going to break it into three parts: (1) we’ll hear the same proclamation that we’ve heard John make about Jesus again, with the change that this time when John says this proclamation people start to follow Jesus in Vs. 35-37, (2) from 37-46, we’ll see Jesus actually calling these people as his disciples and we’ll take some time to really dig into what it means to be a disciple, and (3) from 47-51 we’ll explore a little bit about the statement that Jesus makes that, “they will see greater things than these” and then we’ll see the hope that Jesus offers all of us.
Prayer of Illumination.
Give thanks for the Word of God.
Pray for God to illuminate his word through the working of his Holy Spirit
Pray that we understand his word, apply his word, and live his word
The Proclamation of John (1:35-37)
The Proclamation of John (1:35-37)
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
Because we spent last week talking about the testimony of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus Christ, I’m not going to spend an entirely long amount of time discussing these two verses. I will say two things about these verses though:
That Vs. 35, alerts us to the fact that what is about to happen happened almost immediately after John sees the Holy Spirit as a dove descending on Jesus during Jesus’ baptism. Remember in Vs. 33-34, “And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
So what we see is John the Baptist understanding that Jesus is the Son of God and that Jesus is the Messiah
And then in the very next day, in Vs. 35, as John stands with two of his (John’s) disciples, he saw Jesus walking by and said again, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” There is no hesitancy in John’s proclamation of Jesus Christ. Now that John knows for sure that Jesus is the Messiah, he has no hesitation to proclaim that truth in front of other people.
John makes the proclamation that Jesus is the Lamb of God and two of his very own disciples heard him say this and they followed Jesus. This statement, that they heard the proclamation and followed Jesus teach us about John the Baptist as well as the disciples who left John to Follow Jesus Christ.
Again, and I’ve mentioned this multiple times, John apparently understood his role that he was a forerunner for Jesus Christ. So, when the people who followed him left and started following Jesus, he didn’t complain about it and he didn’t fight about it.
While the passage doesn’t say this, it does seem as if John somewhat expected some of his followers to then follow Jesus.
This teaches us that John had a mindset that the coming Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God was far more important than his own little kingdom—he was more concerned with his followers following Jesus than following himself.
As for the disciples who followed Jesus, this teaches us that they recognized following Jesus was more important than being with John.
Now, I do want to take a moment to discuss what the word disciple means. Its a term that we throw around, but we don’t usually have a good definition for it, but because the bible calls us to be disciples and to make disciples, it is vital in our Christian walk to understand what it means.
The word disciple is utilized in the Bible 261 times—all in the New Testament, particularly in the four gospels and the book of Acts. It comes from the Greek word μαθητής and it is always translated as a noun as disciple.
The root of the word μαθητής comes from μανθανο which literally means “I learn” or “to learn.” So a disciple is literally someone who learns and so when the Bible calls these two men John’s disciples, it literally means that they are students of John
And those students of John, when they recognize who Jesus is, “The Lamb of God,” they then become students of Jesus Christ.
Now, I would make mention that a disciple in the sense that the Bible utilizes the term, is more than just a student—in other words, as disciples we do more than just learn from Jesus. In the Bible, whenever the word disciple is used, it’s more than just about learning; it reflects a person who models their lives after someone. Who not only has learned about Jesus Christ, but one who actually follows those teachings.
Thus, a true disciple of Jesus is a follower of Jesus—someone who through learning about Jesus molds his life in the way Jesus has taught us to live. A true disciple of Jesus would be one who takes to heart Galatians 2:20, “20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
So in this context, in John 1:36, the two followers of John as soon as they learn who Jesus is, stop following John and follow Jesus. They become Jesus’ disciples. There are two primary lessons to learn from this:
From the perspective of John the Baptist—He had no difficulty allowing these disciples to follow Jesus. We can extend that in our time period, for those involved in ministry or involved in some capacity of ministry—our primary concern is for the individual to grow. We cannot allow our personal wants to get in the way of someone following Jesus—whether that means they move to another state, find a new church, start a new church, or stop participating in one aspect of ministry to assist in another. The goal is to disciple people in the Kingdom of God, not to force them into our own little kingdoms.
From the perspective of the disciples—many times when truth is presented to us, particularly if we don’t like that truth or we don’t think God would say something like that, or we personally don’t want to accept it—we typically just reject that truth. Now while I argue for discernment all the time, that you as an individual need to confirm what is being taught just like the Bereans in Acts 17 who “received the word with all eagerness, [and examined] the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” there is a point when you need to believe the truth.
And let me help you with that: Every man that you hear preach and teach can err. Every commentary or book that you can pick up can be wrong. Because they are manmade books, you can expect some level of error. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t read those books or you shouldn’t listen to someone preach or teach, but you need to check everything that you listen to, watch, or read against the Scriptures. If the Bible doesn’t confirm what you’re hearing, watching, or reading; then it isn’t truth and you need to reject it.
On the other end, if what you’re hearing, watching, and reading is confirmed in the Word of God, you need to be like the disciples of John who became disciples of Jesus. If the Bible has confirmed it, then the proper response is to follow it.
Now just as a side note, this includes the parts of Scripture that we don’t particularly like to hear. In particular, when the Bible calls out sins—we cannot pick and choose which sins we’re going to call sins and which sins are current cultural climate has caused us to think that we should accept when the Bible has condemned them for thousands of years. If the Bible condemns a sin, we follow what the Bible teaches, not what culture and society wants us to believe.
Learn to be discerning when it comes to listening, reading, and watching what people say about the Bible or in general; but when the Bible says something, listen to it, obey it, and follow it. Be a disciple of Jesus through obedience to his word.
The Calling of the Disciples (1:37-46)
The Calling of the Disciples (1:37-46)
37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 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). 43 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.”
Now obviously, this is a longer piece of Scripture here, but because its so cut-and-dry, I actually don’t have a lot to say about these verses. What we read is essentially what we get—the two disciples are following Jesus and this is confirmed in 37. in which we’re told “the two disciples heard [John} say this,” and that would be John’s statement in 36, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And after hearing this statement they followed Jesus. Jesus asks them what are you seeking?
Now, some translations render this question as, “what do you want,” but I think that’s a simplistic way of understanding that question, because of the deeper meaning that the author is trying to portray throughout his book. Jesus isn’t simply asking them what they want, but rather asking them what the seek in life or what they desire in life.
And this way of understanding that question makes more sense of the conversation that they have. Jesus asks them what they’re seeking in life, Vs. 37, “And they said to him, ‘Rabbi” where are you staying?”
And to us that seems like an odd question, but remember—these men are walking along the road, there’s only so much you can talk about while standing on the side of the road. By asking where Jesus was staying, they were essentially asking to follow him somewhere more comfortable to continue the conversation.
It is of note, that before they really even get to known Jesus, they’re already calling him “Rabbi.” And because the author is writing to a universal audience including non-Jewish people, he takes the effort to translate the word Rabbi for us, it means teacher. They follow Jesus with the express purpose of learning from him.
And Jesus responds in a way that epitomizes how God has responded to people seeking him since the beginning of the Bible. He responds with this sentence, “Come and you will see.”
By saying that sentence, he isn’t saying, “come and you will see where I’m staying.” Jesus isn’t concerned with them seeing where he sleeps.
No, what Jesus is saying is, “come with me and see the things only I can show you.” Come with me to learn what can only be learned with me. And part of this, is seen later in Vs. 51, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
I say this epitomizes how God has responded to people seeking him since the beginning of the Bible and I truly mean that:
Sometimes, we forget that Jesus himself says that, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” We often forget that the only reason that we started seeking after God is because God has placed eternity in our hearts. Or in other words, innate to the human experience is the idea that there is something more to life than our earthly existence.
And according to Ecclesiastes 3:11, that was intentionally placed in the heart of man to make us acutely aware that there is more to life. And that by making us aware of eternity, we would start to seek out the one who made all things.
When we actually start to seek God, the Bible tells us, we will find him.
Deuteronomy 4:29, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for him with all your heart and all your soul.” (NASB)
Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me.” (NASB)
Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” (NASB)
Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9, Acts 17:24-28 all claim that we can find God if we look for him.
Or in other words, when we ask ourselves, “what do we seek in this life?” If our response is, Rabbi, where are you staying? We will find God. And as we diligently seek him, he will teach us even things that we otherwise wouldn’t know.
These two disciples spend the evening with Jesus (the tenth hour is about 4pm) and one of the disciples, Andrew then went to find his brother and he makes this statement, “We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ).” And this disciple then brings his brother to Jesus and Jesus calls Simon Cephas, which means Peter. This pattern then continues in Vs. 43-46. Let’s re-read those verses, “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.’”
This pattern that we keep seeing, where people gain knowledge of who Jesus is, they choose to follow Jesus, and then they tell other people about Jesus is a pattern that repeats over and over throughout the Gospels as well as Acts. The idea is that when we’ve truly experienced the grace of God through Jesus Christ, we ought to feel compelled to internalize that truth and then to teach others that truth.
Now, I know there is some hesitancy from people who aren’t leaders in the church to tell other people about Jesus Christ. There are a number of reasons why people are timid about it and it typically revolves around personal insecurity (e.g., they’re shy) or a thought that they might not know enough to teach others about Jesus Christ
My encouragement is for those that are hesitant about proclaiming the Gospel because of personal insecurity to remember that the message of the cross really isn’t about them. You aren’t proclaiming yourself (or at least you shouldn’t be), you’re proclaiming who Jesus is and what he has done. And while your personality might make it difficult for you to be open about those things, hopefully you’ve experienced the grace of God to the extent that you would want others to experience that same grace of God and you can push through some of your shyness.
For those of your that are hesitant about proclaiming the Gospel because of a perceived lack of knowledge, let me point out that these people who we’re reading about today, only knew Jesus for a day. And while we could have hours of conversations and they could all be seriously, spiritual conversations that help us to grow in our faith, how much could they really have known in one day? Let alone, how much of it could they have internalized in one day?
You might point out, that these men had more training than one day’s worth of conversations with Jesus. And that is actually a valid point, because Vs. 45 tells us that “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote.”
Do you know what that tells us? That tells us that Philip and Nathanael had studied the Scriptures (the Old Testament) Scriptures enough to know that a Messiah was coming. And through their knowledge of Scripture, they were able to determine that Jesus truly was and is the Messiah.
Well, here’s the thing....knowledge of Scripture is something that anyone can have if they just take the time to read and study the Bible. The Bible is written in a manner that anyone can understand it if they actually take the time to try to understand it.
And I do realize that there are sections of the Bible that are complicated—Revelation is a difficult book to understand, Ezekiel and Daniel contain prophecies that might be hard to wrap your mind around, even Peter states in 2 Peter 3, that some of Scripture can be difficult to understand, 2 Peter 3:15-16, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in [the letters] that are hard to understand.” And yet, Peter also makes this statement in 2 Peter 3:17-18, “Therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Despite the difficulty that some of Scripture presents, we need to be discerning and still learn and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We can all learn what the Bible says, and when you come to difficult passages that you might not understand, seek help from those that are spiritually more mature than you. Seek help from pastors, elders, commentaries, or whatever you need. Just be sure that whoever you turn to for help is seeking to accurately teach you what the Bible says.
It doesn’t take a college diploma to proclaim Jesus Christ, it just takes a basic knowledge of Scripture that anyone can have by reading the Bible, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and the willingness to be utilized by God to proclaim his Word to all people.
Or put another way, like Matthew 28 commands us to do, all of Jesus’ disciples are to go and make [more] disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
We all as disciples of Jesus Christ need to be actively making more disciples of Jesus Christ. And if we aren’t actively trying to make more disciples of Jesus Christ; we are actively disobeying this command from Jesus.
And let me point out one more thing before we move to the last section of this paragraph. Nathanael responds to Philip by asking this questions, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
And that warrants a little bit of an explanation, because it seems like he’s insulting the town of Nazareth. Let me assure you that he is—he is insulting the town of Nazareth and the people who resides there. During that time period, Nazareth was a small town in which people from other towns and cities talked down on.
To the majority of people living around Nazareth, living in Nazareth or being from Nazareth was like being from the “wrong side of the tracks” and that’s exactly how people outside of the town treated.
The point that I’m driving at isn’t so much about that town though clearly other people thought lowly about Nazareth and I’m not making any point about how such a great thing can come out of such lowly backgrounds—that isn’t my point and I don’t think its the point of the passage.
I think the reason why John recorded this conversation is for Philip’s response. Come and see.
Or in other words, Philip doesn’t try to convince Nathanael that the Messiah could have come through fanciful rhetoric or great oratorical speech, he just tells Nathanael to come and see for himself.
Which we as modern-day disciple-making disciples need to take a page from. We don’t need to flatter someone with fancy words or great speaking or any number of different things
We simply have to convince them to come and see Jesus for themselves—and the best ways to do that are to live lives worthy of our calling as believers, learn enough of Scripture to be able to articulate the truth, and to actually obey what Jesus has commanded us all to do.
Now we have one more section before closing out this paragraph, and it might seem a little out of place, but in reality it does two things in particular (1) it shows us how Nathanael came to realize that Jesus is the Messiah and (2) it gives us a glimpse of this hope that we have for the future that only comes through knowing Jesus Christ.
The Hope from Jesus Christ (1:47-51)
The Hope from Jesus Christ (1:47-51)
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!” 50 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.”
The first two verses show us the omniscience of God.
Omniscience is a theological term that we utilize to define God’s ability to know all things.
omni- is Latin and it means all
science- also is latin and it means knowledge.
Thus, Omniscience literally means, “All Knowledge”
In this instance Jesus reveals three things in particular that shows his omniscience or that he knows more than what an average person would have known:
“Behold, an Israelite” tells us that Jesus recognized that Nathanael was a Jew before actually getting to know Nathanael and before you think, “well he probably looks like a Jewish person,” let me remind you that this is the middle east and even in our modern-day context, the Israelites look very similar to the Palestinians and the Samaritans look like Israelites. It is not something that you would be able to know just by looking at someone.
“in whom there is no deceit” tells us that Jesus knew more than just a surface level statement. Even if he could tell that Nathanael was Jewish just by his looks, he then says something that only Nathanael and God would know. There is no way for me to know if you’re being deceitful just like there is no way for you to know if I was being covetous or if I held any other sin in my heart. The only way that you could know is if I told you
And yet, in Jesus’ omniscience, he knows that Nathanael is an Israelite in which there is no deceit. Now just like we would be if someone came up to us and said, “Behold, an American, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael responds to Jesus by asking, Vs. 48, “How do you know me?”
And this is how Jesus responds, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Jesus essentially says, I know your family history—your ethnicity, I know your past—what you were doing prior to now, and I know your heart—that your heart is authentic. And all of those statements in and of themselves show the divinity of Jesus, but the passage doesn’t end there.
Nathanael responds with, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50, 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.”
Vs. 49, shows us the moment that Nathanael understood that Jesus is God. And by calling Jesus Rabbi he places himself in a position subordinate to Jesus—as in Nathanael understands he needs to learn from Jesus. And at the moment of understanding he immediately begins to follow the teachings of Jesus just like the other disciples mentioned in this passage.
And then in Vs. 50, Jesus says, “Because I said I saw you under the fig tree, do you believE? You will see greater things than these.” And then Jesus gives an example of these greater things. Vs 51, “Truly truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man.”
And we need to spend just a moment on this passage because it is such an odd statement. “You will see the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” If we don’t bother to research this a little bit, we won’t have a clue what Jesus means here. This same idea happens one other time in the Bible and Jesus makes this statement to tie what is happening in the Gospels to what happened in the Old Testament.
In Genesis 28:10-22, we find ourselves in the midst of a passage talking about Jacob going to Haran. The Bible says, “Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, The Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. . . 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ 16 Then Jacob awoke form his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’ 17 And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God.”
When Jesus utilizes the same idea in John 1:51, he’s literally making the statement that just like Jacob recognized that God was in that place, so will you. You will recognize that God is in this place.
And the beauty of this, is that when he makes this statement in Vs. 51, he isn’t just speaking to Nathanael. When he says, you will see, the you in that sentence in Greek is plural. Which means, not only Nathanael will see these greater things, but all of the disciples will see these greater things and by extension, we all will see the greater things.
Particularly the fact that Jesus is God.
This ought to provide hope for us, the fact that our all-knowing God has plans the we will all be witness to one day should provide an overwhelming sense of hope in our lives.
Now before I run out of time, let’s look at some specific application for our lives today:
The Proclamation of John (1:35-37)
The Proclamation of John (1:35-37)
In John 1:35-37, we see John the baptist standing with two of his disciples and when Jesus walks by, John declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” When he makes this statement, his two disciples leave him and follow Jesus.
We discussed a little bit of what it means to be a disciple. I mentioned that disciple is a word that is frequently utilized in churches and yet, many of us don’t actually know what it means. I summed up that a disciple in a biblical sense is not only someone who learns from someone else, but someone who models their lives after another person. Thus, John’s two disciples were not only learning from him, but modeling their own lives and ministries after him and then when they started to follow Jesus and they became disciples of Jesus, they began to learn from Jesus and model themselves after Jesus.
Now we can start by making a simple statement--if you are not a believer in Jesus, if you’ve never come to know Jesus as your Savior, then the question of whether or not you’re a disciple of Jesus is a little silly because in all reality to be a disciple of Jesus you have to believe in Jesus and call on Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. So for those of you who are not believers, your first step in being a disciple of Jesus Christ, would be to believe in him and call on his name. Just like the disciples of John turned disciples of Jesus in John 1, you have to come to the realization that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and then you need to follow him.
Now for those of us that are believers in Jesus Christ and claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ, my question is, are you truly being discipled?
What exactly do I mean by being discipled? Are you actually being transformed by knowing Jesus Christ and by learning from Jesus Christ? Are you growing in your daily walk with Jesus?
I had a professor in college who used to make the statement that true Christians grow—that doesn’t always mean that we grow by leaps and bounds, but it means that even if the increment of growth is small, we’re still growing.
That growth only occurs when we actively pursue or actively follow Jesus Christ. If you want to be discipled, you need to follow the ultimate discipler. And usually that means seeking the help of a fellow believer to help you be discipled through teaching, through mentorship, and through ministry.
My second question then for those who are saved who are being discipled, are you discipling someone else?
Just like John was discipling those two men in John 1:35-36, we need to be discipling other people.
Many times, that will look like some sort of mentorship where you purposefully bring someone under your wing and help them to understand what the Bible says and how to apply that to their lives.
Sometimes, that just looks like friendship in which both parties feel like they can help to keep each other accountable. Both types of relationships, mentorship and friendship are vital for Christian growth.
Are you being discipled and are you discipling?
The Calling of the Disciples (1:37-46)
The Calling of the Disciples (1:37-46)
Now in Vs. 37-46, we read as the new disciple of Christ proclaimed the truth to their brother, which in turn led to their brother coming to know Jesus as the Messiah.
Believers, are you telling other people about Jesus Christ?
Are you intentionally reaching out to people around you in a hope of making more disciples of Jesus?
I understand that there is apprehension, particularly if you are new to the faith, but let me remind you that these disciples of Jesus in John 1 were new to the faith and the moment they understood the truth, they proclaimed the truth to other people. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of every aspect of theology to tell people about Jesus Christ and Jesus never commands you to. All he commands is that once you become his disciple, you go and make more disciples.
Are you reaching out to people with the purpose of reaching them for Jesus Christ?
If you’re still apprehensive, let me encourage you to do just what Jesus does and then what Philip does with Nathanael. Don’t feel you have to have an eloquent presentation of the Gospel, just invite people to come and see Jesus.
The Hope from Jesus Christ (1:47-51)
The Hope from Jesus Christ (1:47-51)
The last few verses talk about this amazing event in which it is evident that by knowing Jesus we are in the presence of Almighty God. And by being in the presence of Almighty God through the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, we have hope for the future.
In the context of what is happening in John 1, the disciples have just come to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah—so arguably, in their spiritual journey and life at this time, they’re having a rather high mountaintop experience so when they’re told that they will see greater things, they’re looking ahead with excitement at what is to come.
So for us, today: we actually know how all things are to come to an end—we don’t know all the details, but we know that in the end Jesus will set up a new heaven and and new earth for all believers to enjoy for eternity in his presence. That is an exciting prophecy that we will one day experience and we can have hope in Jesus Christ because he has promised for us a place in the future. We will be in his presence face to face.
But how should we see things when life is difficult for us now? When we find ourselves in pain and in struggle? Here’s where the hope really kicks in, the pain and the struggle and difficulty that we experience now does not effect the truth that Jesus has prepared a place for us in eternity.
In other words, we live in a world that’s filled with hurt and destruction as a consequence of sin, but Jesus has assured us a greater future in which we can have hope. Let that be an encouragement to you as you face life’s struggles to continue in this path of discipleship with Jesus Christ.
Put simply, Jesus has called us to follow him—following Jesus implies that we are disciples of him and that we are learning from him and modeling our lives after him and his teachings. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be actively trying to make more disciples of Jesus Christ, not with great words of eloquence, but simply by showing people Jesus Christ. And as we live this life, whether we’re going through great mountaintop experiences or we’re struggling through great difficulties in life, we can have hope that we will all see greater things than these because our God has promised us greater things than these if we follow him.
Pray for those that are unbelievers
Pray that believers will actively pursue Jesus Christ
Pray that believers will actively make disciples
Pray that believers will remain faithful and hopeful in good times and in difficult seasons of life.