The true nature of Christianity is to follow Jesus. It is literally translated “little Christs.” The term “Christian” was originally derogatory – “Oh, look at the little Christs, trying to be all they can be…” But that is exactly what Christians should strive for. When people see me, hear me, or work with me, whenever someone comes in contact with me, I want for them to recognize Christ. I have to ask myself, “When I speak, do people follow me or Jesus?”
The Relationships Start
Andrew and John were baptized by John the Baptist, they followed him for a time, but they were not satisfied hearing about their Savior by another. They desired a direct relationship with the Christ. In Ecclesiastes 3:11, Solomon tells us that each man has a God-shaped hole in his heart. Each man desires to know God, to know about eternity, but really each of us needs to experience Christ for ourselves.
For example, listening to me tell you all about what’s in the Bible does not give you a relationship with Christ – it gives you a relationship with me. You need to take what I say, talk to God about it, chew it over in your mind while you’re walking or doing laundry or whatever. Talk with God. Your relationship with God is your own – you cannot live vicariously through my relationship. I cannot get you into Heaven.
It seems Andrew and John were too shy to speak directly to Jesus, so they just followed respectfully behind Him. They trusted that Jesus would somehow make the next move. In verse 38, He did. Jesus always meets us halfway when our honest desires force us to act. We can talk to Him without fear and know that He will turn and speak to us.
The most interesting part about Jesus’ response to them is that He made them think. He meets us where we are because He knows we are nervous and unsure, but He also does not let us stay that way. He essentially says, “I’ve met you where you are, now what do you want?”
In response to Jesus, John & Andrew said they wanted more than just some religion in their lives. They wanted to enter his House, talk to Him and learn from Him. They wanted Jesus so they said, “Where are you staying? (We want to come with you).”
Verse 41 - Every time Andrew is singled out in the four gospels, he is bringing someone to meet Jesus. He isn’t pushy; he says, “Just come, check Him out.” And people do.
Verse 42 - Jesus looked at Simon. The original Greek word describes a special, very concentrated and penetrating gaze that would pierce the core of Simon’s soul. “You are Simon.” This statement by Jesus points to present, natural personality and character. In New Testament, we often see Peter as violent, temperamental and erratic. Whenever his weaknesses were evident Jesus calls him “Simon”. Peter was unstable, but Jesus saw the finished product. (See also Philippians 1:6.)
Simon’s relationship to God through Christ would eventually change his whole personality. Jesus knew this, so He changed his name to Peter – Rock. Name change often signifies a relationship change with God. (Abrahm to Abraham, Jacob to Israel and Saul to Paul are the most famous name changes.)
Not in the Book of John, but in Acts and both of Peter’s epistles, we see the changed man. He became bold, patient and faithful. God doesn’t always add goodness. Sometimes, He takes away sin to simply uncover the good. Like a woodcarver, He can see the chunk of wood as it will appear when extra wood is carved away.
Simon’s experience is quite common today. We come to God as we are. He knows the best and the worst. He accepts us as we are. He then slowly but continually molds us to be “little Christs.” I was once was Leslie Galster. When God saw it fit to make a change, He changed my name, and I have never been Leslie Galster since.
In verse 43, Jesus invited Phillip to follow Him. Then Phillip shared his experience with Nathanael – whose name eventually became Bartholomew.
The first 5 disciples begin their relationships with Jesus in various ways:
• John and Andrew followed at witness of John the Baptist. “This is He.”
• Simon Peter found Jesus through his brother, Andrew’s, witness. “Come see.”
• Phillip was invited by God Himself.
• Nathanael found Jesus through his friend, Phillip’s, witness. “He fulfills the prophecy.”
There is no specific formula to becoming a Christian. Some try to create one, like baptism or a specific 10-word prayer, but there is none. It’s all God’s plan, God’s timing and truthfully, it’s all God’s judgment.
In Verse 45, Phillip refers to an Old Testament prophecy regarding the coming Messiah. He must have figured that the best way to interest his friend was through OT prophecy. Gen 3:15, Gen 22:18, 49:10, Numbers 24:17, Deut 18:15 were some of the ones Moses wrote.
There is debate about why Nazareth has a negative image. Some say it is from lackluster morals, other say it is because there was a Roman army fort there. Either way, it was no great city, and obviously it would seem that a man who was going to save the world would come from someplace much better.
Nathanael also was probably focusing on the prophecy that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (See Micah 5:2)
And yet, with all his Biblical knowledge, Nathanael was open to being convinced if sufficient proof was shown to him. Phillip did not abandon his faith when his friend started asking questions. And Nathanael didn’t allow stereotypes to keep him from the truth.
Nathanael was definitely a man of questions and even doubts, but he did not use those as an excuse for rebellion and hatred for God. Nathanael used his questions and doubts as motivation to seek the truth – not hid from it.
Verse 48 talks about fig trees. Fig trees were very shady. Jewish men would often sit under them and meditate. Jesus’ demonstration of omniscience was all Nathanael needed to confirm that Jesus was no mere man. The Lord loves us so much; He always knows where we are, and exactly what we need.
And then out of the blue, Nathanael, the skeptic, leapt to a higher level of faith than any had been before – “You are the Son of God.” He concluded that Jesus is at least partially from God. If Jesus is partially from God, we must be able to trust the things He says.
Jesus responds by saying that He is the Son of Man. So, not only does he accept Nathanael’s claim to be the Son of God, or partially godly, Jesus adds to that by saying He is also partially man. Here, in the first chapter of this book, Jesus makes us decide – Is Jesus half God and half man? If we choose not to believe that, then anything else Jesus says is a lie.
As the men got to know Jesus, their appreciation for Him grew. The more time we spend getting to know Christ, the more we will be able to appreciate and relate to Him. The more we will be able to see that He really does understand where we are coming from, what we are talking about, what we are struggling through. One of my favorite activities with my Bible is to recognize and meditate on all the names there are for God.
Names for Jesus in Chapter 1:
The Only Begotten Son
The Lamb of God
The Son of God
The King of Israel
The Son of Man
I challenge you, also, to consider this week the name of God that relates to you.
Next: John 2 Jesus turns water into Wine