John 1:35-51 - The Messiah's Invitation

Overview

In John 1:35-51, the Messiah issued a powerful invitation to potential disciples. The words of Jesus in this passage are: (1) "What do you seek?" (2) "Come, and you will see." (3) "Follow Me." (4) "You shall see greater things."

The Messiah's invitation is for all believers. As we respond to Him, we, too, shall see greater things! Let us follow Him today!

Introduction

The title of my message today is "The Messiah's Invitation." Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the Son of God. He is interested in our lives; He loves us; He has given His life for us; He was raised from the dead in power; He will rule over the universe with us; and He invites us to become His disciples. Let us listen to His invitation.

When Jesus was ready to begin His ministry, John the Baptist baptized Him in water. Just after the baptism, a voice from heaven declared (Mt. 3:17), "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." Thereupon, the Spirit immediately led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Satan tempted Jesus three times. Two of those temptations began with the phrase (Mt. 4:3, 5), "If you are the Son of God." Satan was trying to cast doubt on the Sonship of Jesus. Jesus did not yield to the temptation. When the temptation was over, He was victorious.

The day before the events of our text begin, John the Baptist saw Jesus walking toward him. He declared (Jn. 1:29), "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." With this declaration, he sets the framework of the ministry of Christ. Christ came to set men free from sin. He would lead men into abundant life.

In our text, John the Baptist sees Jesus walking and declares again (v. 36), "Behold the Lamb of God." Then begins the fascinating story of Jesus calling His first disciples. His approach and His invitation apply to you today. He is calling you in the same way--to follow Him. We read Jn. 1:35-51:

35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples,
36 And he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"
37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to Him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?"
39 He said to them, "Come, and you will see." They came therefore 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 Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
41 He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated 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 is translated Peter).
43 The next day He purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me."
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of 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 And Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him," Come and see."
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"
48 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."
50 Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these."
51 And He said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (NAS)

We will deal with the words of Jesus in this passage. These are: (1) "What do you seek?" (2) "Come, and you will see." (3) "Follow Me." (4) "You shall see greater things." Our emphasis will be on Jesus' invitation to us to become disciples.

1. What Do You Seek?

First, let us consider the question Jesus asked in verses 37-38. The disciples responded with a question of their own. Concerning this fascinating exchange, John writes:

37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to Him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?"

The Setting

Two of the disciples heard John the Baptist's declaration, Behold the Lamb of God, and followed Jesus. They probably had been disciples of John the Baptist. Now, they would be followers of Jesus. John was the forerunner of Jesus, and this is what John wanted.

John proclaimed a powerful message and called for repentance. The disciples responded. Today, as then, when our Lord's servants powerfully proclaim the Word of God, it has a powerful impact in winning men and women to Jesus. Multitudes have come to Christ when they have been confronted with the Word of God.

Jesus

Jesus turned to the men following Him and asked (v. 38), "What do you seek?" These are the first words Jesus utters to potential disciples. The words came in the form of a question and demonstrated His interest in them. He engaged them right away at the point of their interest. He wanted to know what they wanted.

Jesus was asking so that He could meet their real needs within the framework of what He came to do, which was to deliver them from sin. This mission would become very clear in the days and years ahead. It was not an open ended, "I'll give you whatever you want" approach. He would give them what they really needed to meet their real underlying needs.

Today, marketers would seize on this question. We have often heard it said, "Find out what people want and give it to them." Politicians would seize on this question. They would form a focus group and learn what the people want, develop some overnight convictions, and take a stand in harmony with the polls. Sometimes, we preachers take a similar stand. We find out what interests the people and give that to them. Within limits, this is fine, but taken too far, it can be self-destructive for the gospel.

Response

The response of the disciples was to express further interest. They asked (v. 38), "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?" They were not just interested in where He was lodging. They were interested in where He stayed so that they could meet with him and find out more. Thus, their response to Jesus was positive. They wanted to hear the rest of the story.

Application

Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is interested in you today. He is asking you, What do you seek? He sees the emptiness of your heart, the brokenness of your spirit, and the sense of despair. He sees that life has lost its meaning. He sees that you have worked yourself to the bone and come up bankrupt--perhaps financially as well as spiritually.

Jesus invites you to respond to His question, "What do you seek?" Will you respond? Will you, like the two disciples ask, "Jesus, tell me more." Will you open your mind and heart to His message and words? He is here today to talk with you!

2. Come, and You Will See

Jesus did not turn away the interest of the prospective disciples. Instead, He invited them to come with him. Simon immediately became a recruiter for the Messiah. We read about it in verses 39-42

39 He said to them, "Come, and you will see." They came therefore 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 Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
41 He found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated 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 is translated Peter).

The Setting

Jesus welcomed the response of the disciples. He invited them to visit with Him where He was staying. He said (v. 39), " Come, and you will see." There was no reluctance here. He was not hiding away in some inaccessible quarters.

The disciples went with Jesus and stayed for the day. It was about the "tenth" hour. According to Roman reckoning, it would have been 10 o'clock in the morning. By Jewish reckoning, it was 4 o'clock in the afternoon. In any case, Jesus met with them and gave them time.

Response

We are not told what Jesus said to them in this meeting. However, we do know that it had a powerful impact. One of the two who followed Jesus was Andrew. The other is not named, but it may have been John himself, the author of the gospel.

Andrew immediately went and found his brother, Simon. The truth had dawned in the heart of Andrew who declared to his brother (v. 41), "We have found the Messiah." John adds parenthetically, "which translated means Christ." Moreover, the Greek word Christos, or Christ in English, means "Anointed One."

This was not a casual statement, not an idle declaration. The identity and coming of the Messiah was "the" big event in the expectations of the Jews. Nothing else compared to it. Simon might have asked, "Are you out of your mind?" Instead, Simon went with Andrew to see Jesus.

When Peter came, Jesus looked at him and gave him a nickname. He said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter)." Cephas is the Aramaic word for rock. The Greek word for rock is petros. Peter is more commonly called Petros in the New Testament.

No time for catechism classes here. No examinations. No discipleship courses. He assumed that Peter would follow Him and be devoted to His cause. Later (Mark 1:16; Mt. 4:18; and Lk 5:1-11), Andrew and Simon, James and John, would be called to be fishers of men. Here, they simply became disciples.

Midway into His ministry, Jesus would bring Peter's nickname into focus again. The people thought Jesus might be John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then, Jesus asked (Mt. 16:15), "But who do you say that I am." Peter replied (v. 16), "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then Jesus said (v. 18, "you are Peter, and upon this rock [petros] I will build my church."

Application

Today, Jesus is asking you, "But who do you say that I am?" Even though Peter came to Christ and Jesus gave him another name, Jesus still asked. All of us need to reaffirm the Sonship of Jesus today. If you have never accepted Him, this is your hour, your time.

3. Follow Me

In verses 43-46, we read about Christ's invitation to follow Him. He continues to sound out the invitation to us today. We should be highly honored by His invitation.

43 The next day He purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, "Follow Me."
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of 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 And Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

The Setting

Now, Jesus was ready to go back to Galilee. He had been away for some time. He had been baptized in water. He had spent forty days in the wilderness. How much longer he was in Judea we do not know, but it was time to return to Galilee.

As Jesus prepared to return, he found Philip. We are not told what transpired between them. We simply know that Jesus said (v. 43), "Follow me." No doubt Jesus saw a receptive heart. He understood what was in man. Right away, he handed the pen to Philip. In effect, He said, "Sign the deal. Become a disciple. Take part in the movement that I am now starting."

Response

Jesus' invitation was well received. Philip not only followed Jesus, he immediately sought out Nathanael. Philip became a witness. He said to Nathanael (v. 45), "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and {also} the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Right away, Philip turns to the Scripture. Moses and the prophets spoke of this man.

At first, Nathanael was skeptical. He asked (v. 46), "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Philip did not argue. He simply replied (v. 46), "Come and see." With this invitation, Nathanael went to see Jesus.

Application

The invitation to you is always, "Come and see." Come and verify this for yourself. Jesus is not here physically now. However, He is here in Spirit. And He is here in the Word and in the lives of the believers. You can get acquainted with Jesus. His arms are open to you. He invites you to "Come and see." You will never regret it!

4. You Shall See Greater Things

All who respond to Jesus and follow Him will see great and wonderful things. Jesus, the Son of God, has all power and will lead us into great things. John writes about this in verses 47-50.

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"
48 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."
50 Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these."

The Setting

Throughout our text, Jesus demonstrates his special "knowledge" about people. Jesus changed the name of Peter. He immediately invited Philip to follow Him. One has to feel that Jesus knew and understood these men in a special way. With regard to Nathanael, His knowledge was more openly expressed. Jesus compliments Nathanael, saying (v. 47) "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" This knowledge was evidence of the authenticity of Jesus' claims.

Response

Nathanel's response was very natural. He asked (v. 48), "How do You know me?" We might join Nathanael in asking this question. How did Jesus know this? Nathanael saw no human explanation. Did someone else tell Jesus? Was this knowledge from the Spirit? Was it a part of His divine nature? We do not have to resolve this question fully to know that Jesus had special knowledge and insight.

At this point, Jesus reveals His special knowledge in a greater way. Jesus answered (v. 48), "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Now, Nathanael knows that He is talking with someone who had a specially revealed knowledge. It brought him immediately to faith. He answered Jesus (v. ), "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Here was his confession of faith.

Reply

Jesus replied (v. 50), "Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these." The ministry of Jesus was underway. He would perform many mighty deeds. The world would see the power of the Son of God in action. Nathanael would be a witness to these things.

Application

We are very fortunate. We have the story of the powerful deeds wrought by Christ while He was on the earth. In addition we have the history of the church and Christ at work. But most important, you can be sure that Christ knows you. He understands you. He has knowledge of who you are, what your needs are, and what you can become. Come and see!

Conclusion

The words of Jesus in this passage constitute a powerful invitation to us. What do you seek? Come, and you will see. Follow me. You shall see greater things! Jesus concludes His conversation with Nathanael with these words (v. 51), "Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." We who are believers are going to see this too. We will see Christ in His glorious state when He returns. He will come in power and glory to rule the universe. We, as believers, will rule with Him. Let us come to Him today!

Your comments on this message are welcome. You may wish to ask a question, tell what was helpful to you, discuss a point further, or comment in some other way. If this message has led you to accept Christ as Savior, please let us know. We welcome the opportunity to interact with you.