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Jesus Choosing His Disciples

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John 1:38 - 51

If you have ever been to one of those massive Cathedrals in Europe, you might be tempted to think the Apostles were stained glass saints with shinning halos that were larger than life.  You might even be tempted to think the Apostles were from birth endowed with an extra measure of spirituality. 

It’s a shame that the Apostles have been so immortalized as almost Greek gods.  This only tends to dehumanize them for the rest of us.  In truth they were as ordinary as you and I. 

Not one of them were known for their scholarship abilities or even for any oratory speaking skills.  In Acts 4:13 when the religious leaders were examining Peter and John they “perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men…”

The point to be made; is that these men were not chosen for their natural talents or intellectual abilities.  God didn’t look down from heaven one day and say, “O my, I better grab up these guys before some one else does.”

Like you and I today, the disciples were given to their own set of mistakes, they spoke rashly, they held to faulty beliefs, and lacked the faith needed to please the Lord.

Yet each of the Apostles was chosen by Jesus, who says in John 15:19, “I have chosen you out of the world…”  And it works the same way today, whether God calls us to salvation or into His service.

There must be the balance between God choosing us and you and I choosing Him.  At work is the sovereignty of God’s hand and human responsibility.

It’s the left hand and the right hand working together.  In our text, we see this joint effort at work.

I.                   Jesus Seeking out His Disciples (1:37-39; 43-44)


A.    Andrew and John  vv.37-39

It was John the Baptist’s testimony about Jesus in v.36 “Behold the Lamb of God…” that moved two of His disciples to leave His side and start to follow the Lamb of God.

It’s God who puts within our hearts the initial desire to come to Him; it’s called faith.  Initially they are just following the Lord out of curiosity, but at some point Jesus turns to seek them out, asking, “What seek ye?”

This question was not so much to solve Jesus’ interest as to why they were following Him.  Remember, Jesus has no need of man to tell Him what’s inside the heart of man.

Jesus knew what they wanted; He only wanted them to verbalize what was in their heart.

In as much as they were the disciples of John the Baptist, they had become conscience of their sin.  They certainly would have been baptized by John in anticipation of the coming Kingdom of God.

They would also have heard John’s testimony about Jesus as this is the one that taketh away sin.  So Jesus’ question is intended to help them process in their thinking, their need of a Savior.

Very possibly they felt uncomfortable with being confront with the subject, in that they just met Jesus.  So they side step the issue, by asking where Jesus was staying.

For Jesus it is always about an invitation to come unto Him.  Jesus did not do any arm twisting or coaxing to gain followers.  God puts within us a desire to come, but it’s our responsibility to put shoe leather to actually follow the Lord.

It’s a choice of will, called free will, by which the two men followed and stayed with Jesus.

B.   Philip  vv. 43,44

We next see Jesus seeking out another disciple on the following day.  As Jesus heads into Galilee, He spots Philip and invites him to “follow me.”

Again Jesus knew what was in Philip’s heart that caused Jesus to invite him to follow.  Mind you, Philip was not introduced to Jesus as was Andrew and John earlier.

It’s certainly possible that Philip had heard John the Baptist preach and was even baptized by John.  But Philip did not know who Jesus was to look at Him.

Still God had placed into Philip’s heart a desire of the coming Messiah.  It’s what Jesus said in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…”

In each case, you have God’s hand at work in the hearts and minds of men; and you have a willing heart in men to follow the Lord.

II.                Souls Seeking the Savior  (1:40-42; 45-51)

A.   Peter  vv.40-42

It’s here in v.40 that we learn Andrew was one of John’s disciples that followed Jesus.  He has a brother named Simon, so immediately Andrew goes to him, to share how they have found the Messiah.

They may have only just met Jesus, but immediately Andrew and John are convinced that Jesus is the Messiah.  Now, that is not to say they understood all the implications or the specifics of what this meant.

All in due time, their own questions would be answered.  For now, Andrew needed to tell someone else, so he turns to his brother.

The word for “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew; which, in the Greek is “Christ.”  The title means “Anointed One.”  This title as applied to Jesus, refers to the one God had appointed or ordained to be the Savior of the world.

Notice, Andrew does more than inform Simon, he brings him to the Lord (v.42).  Still what Simon is doing is seeking out the Lord, even if he is being brought by Andrew; Simon’s interest had to be in finding the Messiah.

And when Jesus “beheld him,” Jesus looked omnisciently within Simon’s heart to see more than the man; that everyone else saw.  Jesus calls him “Cephas,” which is an Aramaic word meaning “stone” and from the Greek it means Peter.

By renaming Simon with the name Stone, Jesus is saying what he will become over time.  One day believers will look to Peter for stability in a world tat has been turned upside down.

The early days of the church were a transitory time, shifting away from Judaism to Christianity.  People looked to Peter for direction and understanding as a foundation leader to the church.

·                        Peter led in the appointment of a new apostle to take Judas’ place.

·                        Peter preached the first message on the day of Pentecost to explain what had taken place.

·                        Peter lead in the establishment of deacons within the church.

·                        Peter was the first to reach out to the Gentiles with the Gospel.

But renaming Peter at this time, was also a challenge for Peter to rise to the occasion, as Peter was anything but a “stone” at this time.

God is looking to do the same thing within each person who comes to the Lord for salvation.  This is the molding and shaping even conforming us into the person of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Like Peter initially, we are not as we ought to be in love, faith, and hope or any other quality of character that reflects Jesus Christ in His personhood.

B.   Nathanael  vv.45-51

Like Andrew, so also Philip is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah; so he also goes out to find someone to tell and finds Nathanael.

What both Andrew and Philip are doing was the ministry of John the Baptist in pointing people to Christ.  It started with John the Baptist in lighting the torch that was to be passed from heart to heart in spreading the light.

Faith is being propagated, which is exactly how it is to work even today, by telling others about Christ in spreading the Good News.

That torch has been passed to Nathanael, who must make a decision for himself; whether to let the light shine by going to Jesus and telling others.

Or he will choose to snuff out the light by rejecting the testimony that was given to him.  Once again, it’s God reaching out to us and our response to him.

Initially Nathanael’s response is to voice his doubts, as in v.46 he asks, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

The question voices a prejudice against the town and its residents.  But there is also a rejection of the town for prophetic reasons.  Nazareth is not mentioned by the prophets with regard to the Messiah.

Notice Philip does not try to argue any kind of defense for Jesus; trying to persuade with things he himself does not understand.

Instead Philip simply says, “Come and see.”  That’s how each of us must respond.  By coming to Jesus and seeing for ourselves.  Each person must be fully convinced in their own mind that Jesus is the Savior.

Seeing no harm in checking out the situation, Nathanael pushes aside his doubts and prejudices and follows Philip to see Jesus.  There is a part of Nathanael that is willing to seek out the Savior; if He truly exists.

As they approach, Jesus’ first response in seeing Nathanael is to say, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.” Jesus is responding to Nathanael’s question concerning Him back in v.46 to Philip.

It was an honest question though a little on the blunt side.  Nathanael is a straight forward kind of person; what you see is what you can depend on, without any deception on his part.

Now Nathanael was amazed by Jesus’ evaluation of him, in as much as they never met.  In response in v.49, Jesus reveals God’s hand has been at work in reaching out to draw His disciples to Himself.

Nathanael is now convinced for himself that at least Jesus is no ordinary person, but one sent from God saying, “…thou art the son of God; thou art the King of Israel.”

And yet these disciple haven’t seen anything as of yet.  There is much to learn and experience as they commit themselves to the Lord.

But it’s the way Jesus gained His disciple that is a picture of the way a lost soul is saved.  God is busy at drawing us to Himself even giving the gift of faith; but we must also respond to that gift by seeking the Savior.

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