Jesus Plus Nothing Bible Studies
Jesus Encounters: The Call of the Disciples - What do you seek?
by I Gordon
In this study series I want to focus on what we’ll call ‘Jesus encounters’. I could have called it ‘The things that happen when broken people meet Jesus and find even more than they expected.’ I could have. But as tempting as that is, I’ve gone with the less of a mouthful ‘Jesus encounters’. Actually, maybe a better name would be ‘Close encounters of the spiritual kind’. I’ll think about that! The important thing is that it is true that no one encountered Jesus and left the same. Some were healed, some found salvation, some became angry... but all were challenged and changed in some way! Not much has changed in that regard since the days that Jesus walked the roads of Israel for His claims and His life still challenge, encourage and convict our own lives today. So I want to start this series with a look at the initial meeting of Jesus and some of the men that would later become His close disciples. Let’s go right back to the start and witness again that first meeting in John chapter 1.
What do you seek?
John 1:35-38 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, (36) 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. (38) 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?"
We start with the ministry of John the Baptist
winding down and Jesus’ ministry just beginning. In fact, John’s preaching
about Jesus lost him 2 disciples! And, in contrast to the many today who
make everything about the numbers, he would have been happy! A quick initial
point that we can learn from John is that we aren’t here to draw people to
ourselves but the Lord. A second point is that we should come to Jesus
initially as ‘the Lamb of God’. We come seeking forgiveness of sin which is
the entrance way into the presence of God.
Now I’ll draw your attention to the first question of Jesus to these new potential disciples: “What do you seek?” These are actually the first words of Jesus mentioned in this entire letter and form a very important question. Many people seek many different things from Jesus – then and now. So it is good to look at our own prayer lives and see what dominates our prayers. Are you praying predominantly for yourself or others? Do you pray more for ‘things’ or Him? Do you pray more for blessing or to be a blessing? Jesus first question is ‘what really is it that you are after?’ They answered ‘Rabbi – where are you staying?’ What can we take from the disciples’ response? Just this - They wanted to be with Him. They weren’t looking for things – they were looking for Him. They simply wanted to spend time with Jesus. That too should be our heart.
(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.
We can easily see what Jesus thought of their answer by His response. Their answer warmed His heart and their desire to be with Him was granted. They got to spend time with Him because they were only seeking Him. It is also interesting that when John is writing this letter, the initial meeting with Jesus was so memorable that he remembers and notes even the exact hour it occurred! So it is with us. Do you remember the day when you first met the Lord? Maybe it was when your heart was first convicted or quickened as you heard or read the gospel? Maybe it was the day that you finally fell on your knees and asked in repentance for Jesus to forgive you and come into your life? Our experiences with the Lord are always memorable and often life changing.
What is the first reaction after meeting Jesus?
(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).
Out of the two disciples that stayed with Jesus, we learn here that one of them was Andrew. He had been a disciple of John the Baptist. The other is not mentioned but most believe it to be the author of this letter – John. He never liked to mention himself (but called himself the disciple that Jesus loved). So look at Andrew’s first reaction from having met Jesus – he wanted to tell others! It is natural to try and share good things that have happened to you with others. Why would we not? Now Andrew wasn’t a man to beat around bush… especially not when something this important was involved! He basically ran to his brother Simon Peter and said – ‘We have found the Messiah!’ What an amazing statement! Israel and the Jews had been waiting so long for the Messiah. So many generations had died without seeing the hope that they had. And yet Andrew was now declaring that the long promised Messiah was now here. Now that is one big claim… and one that Peter would have to check out for himself. So Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus. That of course is what we are called to do. We are asked to help bring people to the Lord. That doesn’t mean that we have to win people over with highly intellectual arguments. Our job is to tell people about what we have found just as Andrew did. We encourage them to pray and seek out the Lord just as Peter did. We ourselves can’t save one soul. But Jesus is pretty good at doing that once people take the time to come to Him. Notice also that when Jesus met Simon the first thing He did was give him a new name of Peter. It is Jesus that gives people a new name, makes them a new person and gives them a new start! He did that with me and I hope He has with you!
(43) The next day He purposed to go 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."
It is interesting that even in this initial meeting of the disciples and Jesus, some are lead to the Lord by others and some are sovereignly chosen and drawn by the Lord Himself. Peter was an example of the former and Philip was an example of the later. When Jesus meets Philip He says ‘come and follow me.’ So simple and Philip doesn’t even question it! He doesn’t ask ‘well, where are you going?’ ‘Why should I follow?’ ‘How long for?’ ‘Um, who are you?’ Do you know much about Philip? He became one of the disciples obviously but it seems he was a quiet man. He is only mentioned a few times in the scriptures (John 6:5-7, John 12:21-22, John 14:8) yet the Lord wanted Him. I like the fact that Jesus chose all types of people to follow Him! Now Philip does what Andrew did when he first met Jesus – he goes and finds someone else that he can tell about Jesus! This time it is Nathanael that Philip goes to and tells him that he has found the One that is written in the Law and the Prophets… Again, put in the context of how long Israel had longed and waited for the Messiah this is one huge claim! It is also interesting that even the common Israelites at the time had an understanding of what to look for, or whom to look for, from both the writings of Moses and the prophets. They had an understanding of God’s word in general and His prophetic word specifically. We should know and declare Bible prophecy as well. We should know what to look for in terms of the return of the Messiah! Let us know and study God's word so that we can tell others how Jesus fulfills the scriptures written hundreds of years before hand and can even show how the Bible declares what is still to come.
I knew you from the foundation of the world!
(46) 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 there is no deceit!" (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 is initially skeptical. ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ he asks. Philip doesn’t get into a theological discussion or argument with him… He just says ‘come and see’. You see, it is the person of Jesus and the experience of Jesus that convinces people. Our job is just to help bring people to Him! Jesus, upon seeing Nathanael, spoke straight to what his heart was like saying ‘Behold an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’ What would Jesus say about you if He was to give a one sentence sum up? This probably freaked Nathanael out quite a bit. ‘I… I don’t know you… How do you know me?’ Jesus reply to this is slightly odd initially - He says 'I saw you under the fig tree'. Jacob Prasch helps us understand this. He writes 'In John chapter one, when Nathaniel asks Jesus how He knows so much about him, Jesus answers, "Because I saw you under the fig tree." What Jesus was saying to Nathaniel with these words was not simply that he saw him under a literal fig tree, although that was a part of it. What He was really saying in midrash, or Jewish metaphor, is this: "I saw you from the garden, from the Creation, from the foundation of the world." What an amazing thought this is. The Bible declares that we were known and chosen even before the foundation of the Earth. That is when Jesus knew us!
Ephesians 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (5) he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will...
From skeptic to believer in one easy step!
(49) 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 will see greater things than these." (51) 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."
Nathanael went from a skeptic to a believer! He’s
thinking – ‘Ok this guy seems to know me inside out! He really knows me and
I’ve only just met Him! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!’ What
instant revelation he had in that moment! Revelation that can only come from
the Spirit of God. Notice what Nathanael declares - 'You are the Son of God.
You are the King of Israel!' Wow! Nathanael not only recognises that the One
before Him is the promised Messiah, the King, but also that He is God's Son
- He is divine! It is the Spirit of God alone that can show a man this. In
all of our endeavors to bring people to Christ we cannot and must not fail
to remember than it is only through God's Spirit that such revelation can
come. This should draw us to prayer.
In closing, note also that none of the men Jesus chose are the same. Nathanael isn’t like Peter who isn’t like Philip or Andrew. Jesus uses all types. But they were all just ordinary men – they weren’t kings or trained fighters or experts in the law. They started off as ordinary men going about their business trying to get by. You may identify with that! Yet Jesus promised them here that they would see some amazing things to come and it is fair to say that these ‘ordinary’ men would be changed and would live lives that were extraordinary! Here was the beginning, with just a few average fishermen from around Galilee, of a movement that would sweep the whole world.