John 1:35-51 | ‘Come and See’

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“Come and See”

By Nonso Ukeka

John 1:35-51

Key verse 39a:

 

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

 

This is a story about a group of men who lived ordinary, mundane lives. They worked for a living; they lived thinking about how they would survive until the next day to take care of their precious families. Then Jesus showed up. He brought them into the God’s family. He taught them how to live by faith, trusting in God. He taught them to live for the glory of God. Eventually, this ordinary group of nobodies became the famous apostles we all now know and love. Their lives of faith have impacted so many for over 2,000 years and even to this day God uses their testimony to draw people from all over the world into his kingdom.

 

You see, I was deeply moved by this when I first heard the message Danny preached during the summer conference because I saw myself in the disciples. I terribly feared living an ordinary, mundane, day-to-day type of existence. But one question haunted me. The question that bothered me was ‘How?’ How could they make such a life-changing commitment to follow Jesus? What I mean is that they knew the dread of the life they lived. They knew their sins, they knew their faults, and they were much familiarized with their weaknesses. They even knew the cruelty of life in this world. How were they ever able to imagine anything more? How could they even dream of being workers of the gospel, serving a much greater purpose, and living for the glory of God? I’ll tell you. When the disciples met Jesus, they saw a glimpse of who God had created them to be. We need to understand that not only did the disciples see their true identity in Jesus, but they also found hope, they saw a vision of the future once they met Christ. This to me is the reason we must look at this passage once more. My prayer is that we can all come to a deeper relationship with Jesus so that we too can know and grow in the hope that God has for us.

 

Let us read verses 35-37 together, “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!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.” The story begins with John the Baptist. Although John the Baptist was not part of the 12 disciples, we must not overlook him because John the Baptist was such a great man, yet incredibly humble. He was a wild man who lived in the dessert, eating locust and wild honey. If you don’t understand what that is, it means he lived in a scorching hot region, living mainly on a diet of bugs and processed sugar. Can you imagine how disgusting that must be? Why did he do this? Well the bible tells us he did this so that he can teach people the word of God.  The whole nation of Israel flocked to him at the River Jordan to learn from him. He not only taught the truth of God to those who came, but also served as a shepherd for many growing disciples, setting a good example for them. Yet he never became conceited nor was he proud. John was a great man of God who dedicated his life to a single cause—pointing the way to Jesus, through repentance. He worked only to lead others to Jesus. One day, as Jesus was walking by, John saw him and yelled out, “There he is boys, The Lamb of God!”

 

When two of John’s most loyal disciples heard him call Jesus the Lamb of God, they knew that he was saying “This is the man you should follow.” These two disciples really understood their master’s heart and his desire for them to take an incredible step of faith; to leave their cradle with John, and launch into the mysteries—the life of faith, following Jesus. Days before, talking about Jesus, they had heard John say, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” (Vs. 29-30). Even so, it must’ve been tough for John to see them leave. After all, he raised them, he trained them, and he taught them. These were his boys, and they were growing too quick. But he was glad to make any sacrifice to the Lord of Glory, of whom he testified about saying, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30). It must’ve been equally heart-wrenching for his two disciples to leave the man they had known and loved. You see, master and disciple relationships were common in those days. But to them, John was more. He was their dearest friend and mentor. He was the man who poured out his life for them. And they were trading it all for a complete stranger. But it was God’s will for them, and as they soon would learn, was the best decision they ever made in life. And for each and every one of us, it is God’s will that we take many difficult steps of faith in order to reach our destiny in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Now take a look at verse 38a. “Turning around, Jesus saw them following an asked, “What do you want?” The two disciples just left the nest and began following Jesus. They made no plans; they had no ideas as to what their future would be like. In a sense, it was like they were completely vulnerable. Then Jesus turns around and sees them following him. They were probably expecting to hear a big “Welcome!” or “Congratulations!” Instead they were greeted with a question, “What do you want?” What an odd question. It was very sharp and pointed. They probably froze, gave a look at one another and thought to themselves, “What do we want? Isn’t it obvious Jesus?” But no, Jesus insisted with this question because it was a question of motive— a question of desire. Jesus had to challenge them this way because they needed to examine their hearts. So let’s all pause a moment now to think, “What do I want?”…

 

The question, “what do you want,” speaks to who we really are, our goals, our hopes, our dreams and aspirations. We can rephrase this question as such: “What do you really want from me? What do you want from life? What is your deepest heart’s desire? You can tell much about who a man is by knowing what his greatest desire is. Some people desire wealth and riches above everything. Some desperately desire to be famous and well known. Others desire power, security in life, and happiness. Some only desire a nice big house, a loving family, with kids; a cute puppy named “Fetch”. But in this world filled with a thousand different desires, we should desire Jesus above all else. This is what differentiates us, from the rest of the world, as children of God. God is challenging each and every one of us every moment, “what do you want?” Search your hearts very carefully. When you come before the presence of Christ, are you able to confess, “I only want you, Jesus”?

 

There are many people in the world who follow Jesus for impure motives. Judas, one of the twelve disciples began following Jesus because he thought he could get rich from the disciples’ treasury. At one point, hundreds of Jesus’ disciples followed him because he was a miracle worker, and he can fill their stomachs. But when Jesus offered them himself and told them, “I’m better than bread”, they were sorely disappointed and abandoned him. Jesus is still asking. What do you want? Let us purify our hearts from all kinds of worldly desires and confess from our heart, “Lord I only want you, more than anything else in the world.”

 

Let’s look back at the passage to see how the disciples answer. Let’s read verse 38b. “They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’” It’s amazing that they were able to recognized Jesus, as their “Rabbi.” Then they proceeded to ask him, “Where are you staying.” Even though they were still spiritually young, these two, from the bottom of their hearts wanted to be taught by Jesus. They wanted to learn from Jesus. They wanted to be with Jesus where ever he stayed. What a great confession of faith. We can tell they learned humility from John. They were men of truth, and now ready to begin a new life with Jesus.

 

Let’s read Jesus’ response in verse 39a, “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” What a merciful and gracious master Jesus is. He did not turn them away, but instead invited them saying, “Come and see.” Understand this: Jesus’ invitation was not only for those disciples, but for his disciples of all time. The Lord invites us all to come to him, just as we are and learn from him. We are invited to learn to live the life of faith and mission to God, who calls each person. Jesus invites those who are sick and tired of their sinful and meaningless life. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11:28) He invites us all to come and find rest in his arms – come and find grace and truth – come to him and learn the way God wants us to live. And just as he promised his disciples, “come and you will see.” Jesus promises that if we come, we too will see life; we will see his Kingdom when we come to him.

 

Now when we take a look at the disciples, we see major changes in their lives as well: Now, although the Bible doesn’t say much about Andrew, in particular, but we do know that he is a simple fisherman; and since he was a follower of John the Baptist we can tell he was a man with some godly desires. Unlike his loudmouth brother Peter, he seems more reserved and quiet. If I were to guess, I would imagine Andrew must’ve been the older brother because younger siblings tend to be the more vocal… loudmouth-y people of the family. But after meeting Jesus, even Andrew could not contained his excitement. Take a look at verses 39b-42. “So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And 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).” He immediately looked for someone to share his joy with. Already God was using him in the gospel work, because it was Andrew who brought Simon, his brother, to Jesus. Read verse 42. “And 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).”  At the time, Simon was an unstable and emotional man. He led a mundane life of fishing and did no more in life than to provide his family with three square meals a day. Maybe Simon felt hopeless in this world, caught in the rut of life. He could see no way out! He could see no hope for himself or for his family. But Jesus, the Savior, saw him differently. Jesus did not see the man Simon as he was that day. He saw Peter; the man God would mold him into through life with Jesus. He saw him as Peter, a rock, the foundation and leader of the early church. Jesus looked past all of Simon’s weaknesses and planted hope in his heart—hope that, when God was done with him, would make him into a great man of God. For this, he gave him a new name to embrace the future hope of God for himself. Peter found salvation in Jesus. He found his identity in Christ. He also found the hope he longed for in life.

 

Look at verse 43. “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’” Philip was a calculator. He was a very intellectual/cerebral type of man. He was always thinking ten steps ahead. He could not make a decision without first thinking about the possible outcomes, and the possible outcomes of those outcomes. Philip, like the rest of Jesus’ disciples was lost in the maze of life. But Jesus found him and offered him a new life direction. He said to him, “Follow me.” From then on Philip began his journey, learning to live by faith trusting in Jesus. Philip, who is sort of a realist, found Nathanael the optimist and testified to him that Jesus was the Savior. Read verses 48-49, “’How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the son of God; you are the King of Israel’”. Nathanael was a straight-A, upright citizen of Israel. Nothing got past him. These days, we use phrases like, “he’s a genuine, no-nonsense kind of guy”. Nathanael in the same sense was a Jew of all Jews. He was also a dreamer. Very often, you’d catch him with his head high in the clouds. It’s incredible how Jesus could reach the heart of this dreamer. Jesus personally spoke to him saying, “Nathanael, I know you. I know your heart. I know your struggles. I want to be your Friend and Shepherd.” It didn’t take long for Nathanael to realize that Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God. Nathanael found in Jesus someone who knew him more than he even knew himself. He also found meaning and happiness in life– because he came to know Jesus personally. His confession, “‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel’” was the first step of faith he took as a disciple of Jesus. Then Jesus planted hope in Nathanael’s heart just as he had done with Peter.

 

Read vs. 50-51, “Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.’  He 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.’” Nathanael was only a young disciple and still had a long way to go. But Jesus promised him that he would mature enough spiritually to see the Kingdom of God and to see Jesus sitting on his throne in heaven with the angels of God. This too is our Savior’s hope for all of us. No matter who we are and what situation we find ourselves in, our Lord Jesus looks at us with the eyes of hope. And in him, we see our true identity. He also wants us to see others with the eyes of hope. It is the way of truth. It is the way of life.

 

Paul the Apostle was once a self-righteous zealot who was the youngest to quickly climbing the career ladder in the pharisaical hierarchy. Later in life, after encountering Jesus, he made this confession, “…whatever gain I [once] had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ; and be found in him…” (Philippians 3:7-9) ESV

 

I can also remember a poor and lonely soul, who was so disillusioned by the dead hopes of the world he despaired. He had no dreams, and no aspirations to achieve anything in life. Satan tried to take hold of his soul as he saw himself walking the same dreadful rut everybody else around him was walking in life. This was who I once was, not even many years ago. I was quite literally a walking dead. But Jesus came. He intervened in my life. When I met him, I was so desperate; I was ready to accept anything he had to offer. And so, through fellowshipping other believers in church I saw, and I’ve learned what the life of faith looks like. Through reading the gospels, I was privileged a glimpse of the kingdom of God and through Bible study, I received hope for the future; knowing who God has called me to be. Although I still stumble here and there, my Lord is never too far to help me. Like Paul and all the other disciples, I also have a heart confession. It comes from a bible verse that I hold on to in life which says, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:10-11).

 

Jesus’ disciples each met the Savior personally and made confessions of faith. Each of these confessions is precious and life giving. They came from the heart. They came from their personal experience with Jesus. Because of their simple faith and their hearts’ confession, they were no longer ordinary men with dead hopes, but new men with living hopes—Great men who became part of gospel history, forever changing the world. We too need to examine our hearts’ motives in following Jesus and find ourselves in his hope and vision for each one of us. We too need to continuously search our hearts and come to him. We need to ask him to cleanse our hearts from our worldly desires. We must personally meet Jesus, the Lamb of God, our Savior, and from deep in our hearts confess, “I only want you, Lord.” Amen.

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