THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE #7

With Dale Ratzlaff

 

John 1:35-51

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” 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. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah “ (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas “ (which is translated Peter). The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.  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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Here we have the record of the first encounter between Jesus and His first two disciples: Andrew and “the other disciple” who was John, the author of this Gospel. Both were, up to this point, disciples of John the Baptist. Apparently they were honest in heart and had responded to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and were seeking truth. At the time there was a wide-spread interest in the coming of the Messiah that was initiated, at least partly, by the ministry of the Baptist. Many people at the time had heightened Messianic expectations and were open to study and observe.

On this first encounter Jesus does not call these two men to be His disciples, neither does John the Baptist tell them to leave him and go to Jesus. The Baptist, looking at Jesus, just says, “Behold the Lamb of God”. That was all these two disciples needed to make a decision.

The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

Both “heard” and “speak” are in the aorist tense. For them this “Lamb of God” was more than a casual interest. They left the Baptist, and they followed Jesus. Following the prompting of the Holy Spirit based upon reasonable evidence is enough information to make a decision.

I can imagine that there was an awkward moment when Jesus asked them, “What do you seek”? Rather than answer, “Are you the Messiah? They blurted out, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

In those days people interested in knowledge, and especially so in Jewish education, often sought out a Rabbi, or teacher, to follow and from whom to learn. They had followed the Baptist, now they had decided to follow Jesus.

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.

Here is evidence of an eyewitness account. The Apostle, writing many years later, has a vivid memory of this encounter, even to the time of day. Important events are etched deeply into our memory

When asked, “Where were you when the Twin Towers were attacked and came down on 9-11?” Most people will be able to tell you. For those who are older, when asked “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” will tell you of their vivid memories. When Jesus said, “Come, and you will see.” He meant more than “I will show you where I am staying”. Rather, it was understood that the three of them would have time to visit. These two men searching for truth would have an opportunity of a lifetime—to discover if this “Lamb of God” was truly the Messiah.

John mentions it was about the tenth hour. That hour would be either 10:00 o’clock in the morning or 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, depending on whether John used Roman or Jewish time. Some believe that it is implied that these two men spent the rest of the day as well as the night with Jesus. (see Leon Morris, p. 157.)

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

John, who had learned humility as he followed John the Baptist, never mentions his own name. Throughout his gospel he is either “the other disciple” or “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Realizing this pattern, it would imply that the disciple John was the first to suggest that they follow Jesus. If it had been Andrew who had the idea first, John would have mentioned it.

He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus.

The Baptist’s designation of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” and their spending the afternoon and perhaps overnight with Jesus confirmed to John and Andrew that Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah. Immediately, Andrew finds his own brother, Simon, and brings him to Jesus. Throughout the gospels Andrew seems to be the one who brings people to Christ. These early meetings with Jesus and His first followers should not be confused with later encounters where Jesus calls them to be His disciples and later Apostles.

There is some discussion regarding “first”. Should we understand that the first thing Andrew did was to find his own brother, as most translations render it, or was Andrew the first to find his own brother, implying John also immediately found his own brother, James? In any event, they had to immediately share the exciting news.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Jesus first recognizes who Peter is: he is Simon the son of John. Next He states, “you shall be called Cephas,” which means “rock”. Here is a subtle yet vitally important truth. When we accept Christ, He not only sees us as we now are, weak and wavering as was Peter, but also what we will become by His grace. Throughout the Gospel records Peter was often vacillating and unstable. However, after his denial of Christ and his subsequent deep and true repentance after the resurrection, Peter stood solid as a Rock and he was one of the Apostles who was a stone in the building of the church.

…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone (Eph. 2:20).

The next day He (Jesus) purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.

Here, at least in the Gospel of John, we have the first incidence of Jesus calling someone to be His disciple.

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Two things we need to note in the above paragraph. First, Philip indicates that Nathanael had been studying the Old Testament looking for prophecies of the Messiah. Second, we again have a wonderful pattern to follow in evangelism. In answer to an objection about any good thing coming out of Nazareth, instead of arguing with him, Philip just said, “Come and see.” This is a good way to invite people to church or a home Bible study. Next we have the interesting and insightful encounter between Jesus and Nathanael:

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

First, what is “an Israelite indeed”? We discover the answer to this question in the Old Testament record. In fact, I encourage you to read the whole chapter of Genesis 32.

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved” (Gen. 32:24-30).

Three events in the above record help to define “an Israelite indeed”. First, a true Israelite is not one who can trace his ancestry back to Jacob or Abraham, he is one who has had a personal encounter with God. Second, the encounter demonstrates one’s own weakness. Jacob’s assailant won the wrestling match when he just touched Jacob’s thigh and put it out of joint. There is no way we have the righteousness to prevail in God’s sight. Note, however, that the text says, “You have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” The “prevailing” was not winning the wrestling encounter; rather, it was, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” In summary a true Israelite is one who: (1) has had a personal encounter with God, (2) understands his own sinfulness and weakness; and (3) is one who clings to nothing but the grace, mercy, and promises of God. Jacob had previously received a promise of God (Gen. 28), and it is this promise to which he clings. That promise was alluded to in Jesus next words.

You will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

This entence is is a clear reference to Jacob’s dream recorded in Genesis 28.

It appears, and this is an assumption, that Philip and Nathanael were studying these Old Testament prophecies. Perhaps Nathaniel was praying under the fig tree (a symbol of Israel). When Jesus called Nathaniel “an Israelite indeed” he realized that Jesus could read his heart—he was one seeking to know about and find the Messiah. Suddenly he realized that he had found Him in whom Moses and the Prophets wrote.

Before we dive into chapter two, I would like to point out the number of titles found for Jesus in only the first chapter of John.

  1. The Word, Jn. 1:1
  2. God, Jn. 1:1
  3. The Life, Jn. 1:4
  4. The true Light, Jn. 1:9
  5. The only begotten God (Some MSS read “Son”), Jn. 1:18
  6. The LORD, Jn. 1:23
  7. The One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit, Jn. 1:33
  8. The Son of God, Jn. 1:34
  9. Rabbi, or Teacher, Jn. 1:38
  10. The Messiah, Christ, Jn. 1:41
  11. Jesus of Nazareth, Jn. 1:45
  12. The King of Israel, Jn. 1:49

The multitude of titles tells us the theme of this gospel is about Jesus and how all His various attributes work together to provide a way of salvation that is available to whomever believes.

 

Application

First, when we discover the truth, truth that is evidenced by the word of God and the testimony of His Holy Spirit, we need, like the early followers of Jesus, to make a decision at that point in time.

Second, spending time with the Word, as the disciples spent time with Christ, is how we come to understand, appreciate, and experience personal fellowship with God.

Third, if we really understand the good news of the gospel, we will share it. We must do this, not so much because we are commanded to do so, but because we have experienced its saving power and desire others to experience what we have received.

Fourth, inviting our friends, family, and neighbors to “come and see” and to experience the fellowship of home Bible studies, church gatherings, women’s and men’s groups is an approved way to spread the gospel.

Fifth, knowing, memorizing and clinging to the promises of God’s word will give us assurance during the times we wrestle with all sorts of adversaries.

Sixth, knowing the truth that God considers us not as we now are, but as what we will become by His grace and accepting that we are now accounted perfectly righteous as we journey through this life with its problems, sicknesses, and shortcomings will see us through to the glorious future God has prepared for us.

 

Prayer

Father, today I recommit myself to you. You have shown me once again in this study the truth of your word. The more I study, the more I come to see the harmony of your word and your desire to save all the people of the world. Guide me today and every day that I might see ways to tell others the good news of Christ, who died for me and whoever will accept of your grace.

In Jesus name.

DaleRatzlaff
DaleRatzlaff

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