JOHN 1 v 35-51 part 1 The time has come for Jesus Christ to take centre stage in John's life-changing drama: it would justify the title of 'the greatest story ever told'. In all four of the Gospels the writers are gifted at setting scenes, it is easy to see in your mind's eye, Jesus walking through Galilee and, like the Pied Piper, collecting followers! We can note immediately that John the Baptist was a Rabbi, that is a Jewish teacher who had adherents, and that he demonstrated by his actions as well as his words that he was willing to become less as Jesus became greater. Interestingly, we can observe that Jesus begins His ministry as He continued it by not giving away much, by asking questions rather than give answers and by encouraging relationship rather than brushing inquirers off. In John's account these first disciples are characterised by their initiative, they are not put off by Christ's silence or seeking to break it with endless questions. They have heard a little about this man from John the Baptist or from a close friend and they are willing to be humbly receptive to what He has to say. This passage describes the calling of six disciples by Jesus. Each calling is unique. Firstly, there is the calling of Andrew and John, who had been John the Baptist’s disciples. Along with Simon Peter and James, John would be amongst His most intimate friends. They were the ones whom Jesus invited to climb a mountain with Him and witnessed His transfiguration. In Matthew’s account of the betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks these three to be witnesses to His sorrow. James was martyred as the first of the Twelve-we read that in Acts 12 v 2, Peter was crucified upside down and John, it is quite possible, died at a ripe old age! God’s call to us is unique to each individual and the way He works in our life and the way He calls us to die are chosen for us alone. We cannot take one person’s life as a template for all of us. Some die young and many of us live much older, some to an incredibly old age. It is extremely hard for us to understand, but someone wrote to me recently that a wise person had said to them that if we all saw each day as a gift then whether we live for a day, a year, or 100 years we have experienced the gift of life. Some things to know about these six men: in the world’s eyes they had not achieved much. From what we know they were working with their fathers in their businesses: nothing wrong with that, you may exclaim, it is likely that Jesus worked with His father Joseph in his carpentry business. The thing was that for Jewish men the hope was that they would be taken on by a well-known Rabbi at the age of twelve. The brightest and best would be called by the Rabbi to follow him and he would then teach them all they needed to know about his interpretation of the Law. Remember, Paul experienced this. As a child he was educated in Jerusalem by Gamaliel, we can read that in Acts 22 v 3, and Gamaliel, we are informed in Acts 5 v 34, was an expert in the Law and much respected by the Jewish council. Paul was a talented, ‘golden’ child, whereas the disciples of Jesus were a rag tag of fishermen, tax collectors and farmers. Now a few words about Nathaniel. Despite his apparent initial scepticism, he quickly declares Jesus to be the Messiah. Why this transformation? It appears to be firstly because of what Jesus says to him about his name and secondly because he is a man of complete integrity (NLT) as Jesus states. This is a man whose scepticism does not lead to rejection, but to acceptance because he is honest and clear-sighted! He is the sort who seeks God before all else. James 1 v 35-51 part two What do we learn about the calling of Jesus to His first disciples? What were they like and why did He choose them? 1. The first two-Andrew and John-were not so much called by Him as chose to follow Him once John the Baptist had told them who He was. They persevered, even when He seemed to discourage-or was annoyingly enigmatic-with them. John tells their calling differently than Matthew, Luke, or Mark, look for example in Matthew 4 v 18-22: it may have been that John recorded the first time they met and then there was a more formal calling from Jesus to them as well as the rest of the Twelve. Look at Luke 6 v 13. In other words, they were amongst the earliest disciples of Jesus, which numbered up to one hundred (John 6 v 60, 66), but they were specifically chosen out of that large group to be amongst the Twelve. 2. Notice that Jesus said to them, ‘’What do you want?’’ in verse 38, He did not say ‘’Who do you want?’’ He wanted to know what they were looking for. It was highly relevant to ask that question in that time in Palestine. Were they legalists looking to discuss the finer parts of the Law? Were they ambitious, looking for positions of power? Were they nationalists, looking for someone who would lead them to victory over the Romans? Or perhaps they were humble men of prayer-the Quiet in the land, people like Simeon and Anna at Christ’s baptism, seeking God’s will? Or were they puzzled, bewildered, sinful men looking for Light and God’s forgiveness, no longer attainable for them through obedience to the Law? 3. Why did you come to Jesus? I’ve been doing a lot of what I’ve termed ‘walks and talks’ recently, arranging to meet with individuals from this church to hear how they are getting on. One person recently told me that her relative had told her that he didn’t have any truck with followers of God as it was like they needed a crutch, they being too weak to manage without a pie-in-the-sky faith. I agreed with her that I needed a crutch, I have come to recognise that I am a weak, fallen human being and without God’s support would be doing who knows what. For me, each Christian has at some point recognised their own total inability to sort their own mess out: and that brings me great relief. None of us better or worse than the others in this fellowship, absolutely myself included, coming confidently before God, not because of anything we have done, but resting fully on His grace and righteousness. I love to see those who may once have been strutting alpha males coming humbly before their God. All of us children before Him! 4. So, what are you trying to get out of life? Security, a career, some kind of peace, a wonderful family life? All good things, but the great thing is to follow Jesus. And that does not mean accepting Christian ethics and then just following its rules. As I have said plenty of times before, the Christian faith is primarily a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God and not a list of rules we must obey in order to know God. 5. Becoming a Christian may mean a change of identity. Jesus changed Peter’s name and obviously Paul calls the believers in the churches to whom he wrote in Ephesians 4 v 28 to give up thieving if that was their job! That is perhaps an obvious challenge, but what about if you are a member of the armed forces, a professional gambler, or a prostitute? What changes have and does, and will Christ call you to as you follow Him? 6. Jesus accepts us as we are. The first disciples called Him ‘Rabbi’ in verse 38, but not Saviour or King. We will bring our own histories, prejudices, preconceptions with us and the Holy Spirit will work in us to reveal Jesus Christ as the Son of God, co-equal to the Father, to bring us to worship Him, to fall on His knees and confess that He is the only One who can save us from the mess we are in! 7. Jesus can do far more than we can ever expect because He knows us so well. He knew Nathaniel through and through and He knows us completely too. There is nowhere to hide from Him. All we can do is stand naked and exposed before Him and welcome His forgiving embrace, just as the Prodigal son was welcomed by his father in Luke 15 v 20.
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