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The First Disciples

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Jesus Year One sermon series, as can tell by bookmark. Again bookmark is to give away!

Some question as to how passage fits in with other gospels. They tell much different story of how Simon and Andrew began follow Jesus. Well helps know that in those times some disciples would follow their teacher seasonally. Would study with their teacher but go back at certain times of year to take care of different things, like run a fishing business for example.

This help explains then passages in other gospels. In beginning, for some of disciples, following Jesus more of seasonal kind of thing. Eventually though Jesus says, “Alright. This is full time thing.” So they leave it all behind to follow Jesus full-time.

That’s what will happen later. For now, what we see in this passage is how some of the disciples first began to learn about Jesus and begin their association with him. Broke this down for us into two episodes, if you will. Episode 1 is v.35-42. Episode 2 is v.43-51. Allow me read passage, then lead us in prayer………………….

Many of you familiar with Willow Creek Church? Megachurch up in Chicago suburbs. One of biggest and most influential in country. While in seminary me and my friend Elmer got free tickets go to one of their conferences. After one of sessions Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek, told us we going take short break, but make sure didn’t delay in getting back to our seats. Special guest not want miss. Really pumped this up. Definitely curious and eager find out who guest would be.

Break ends. Bill Hybels up on stage beaming. Totally excited. Says, “This guy needs no introduction.” Guy walks out wearing jeans, holding guitar. Bunch of people in audience started cheering. Looked at Elmer, same confused look. No idea who guy was. Finally name came up on screen said “Randy Travis.” Started singing some really twangy country song. Began make some sense. Was country singer, pretty popular one learned later. And of course everybody knows that black people don’t listen to country music, that’s why Elmer and I no idea who he was. Been told that you get your ghetto pass revoked if ever admit you like some country music.

So yeah, kind of like, “Eh,” when heard first song. Then they did short interview with him on stage. Talked about his new faith in Christ, how influenced his music. And as he sang few more songs, have to say that began appreciate more what he was doing.  

His statements about what stood for gave meaning and significance to his performance, and shaped my reaction to him.

Of course, don’t imagine everyone reacted in this way. No doubt that some still dismissed him and were annoyed that conference got interrupted by this. Of course, on other hand, certainly many others who deeply affected. For some it was right with the first song. Others, like me must admit, impacted as heard more, especially as heard him explain his songs and his faith.

Reading our passage this morning dealing with lot of different reactions to Jesus. And it builds towards end when we finally hear from Jesus himself. Get little tidbits about what he about along the way. And we see different initial reactions. Most positive. At least one negative. But all along way we as readers, along with the participants in this story, are invited to “Come and see” for ourselves. That’s what we want to do today. Come and see Jesus, and to in the end have the man personally present himself. Then in the end must ask, “What does this mean for us? How should we begin to interact with Jesus?”

[CLICK] Episode 1 - John 1:35-42. Begins with John the Baptist hanging out one day with two of his disciples. Jesus walks by and immediately John points at him and says, v.35, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

I think two disciples probably looked at each other kind of shocked, and then immediately started running to catch up with Jesus before walks away. Haven’t been told much. But heard enough make them want learn more about this guy.  

So they go hustling after Jesus. Jesus looks, sees them following, and asks them, v.38, “What are you seeking?” The two disciples ask Jesus where he staying. Want spend some time with him. Jesus very hospitable. He says “Come and see.” Come and see where he lives, yes. But double meaning here certainly. Come and see who I am, what I am about. So they go back to Jesus’ home and spend rest of day there with him.

Next day one of John the Baptist’s disciples, guy named Andrew, first thing he does is go find his brother tell him about what’s happened. v.41-42 - He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). [42] He brought him to Jesus.

Andrew convinced that this Jesus is the Messiah, literally “the Anointed One,” the one promised to come in the Old Testament. So immediately he goes and tells his brother Simon and then brings him directly to Jesus so that he can personally encounter him. This is pattern we will notice with Andrew. Every time we read about him he is bringing someone to Jesus.

Simon comes and we told Jesus looked at Simon (v. 47). Meant he saw deep into him. He immediately knew who he was and what his destiny would be. This why he gives him the Aramaic name “Cephas.” “Peter” is Greek translation of Cephas, name literally means “rock.” Indicative of what Jesus would eventually make Peter into. He would become like a rock for the church, especially during its early years.

So ends Episode 1. Seen some interesting things about Jesus so far. Certainly he’s someone who attracts attention. Someone who striking enough to cause people to want to follow him, and tell others so that they in turn can follow him. But still, it’s easy to be like “Eh” so far. What’s big deal here? So John the Baptist says he’s important. What is it about him that we need to experience?”

Fortunately we given more. Move on to the second main episode of this passage. [CLICK] Episode 2 - John 1:43-51. In this next episode Jesus heads into Galilee. He finds another disciple, Philip, and tells him simply, “Follow me.” Jesus very much has in mind those he wants with him.

Philip then promptly goes find his friend Nathanael and tell about Jesus. Notice again, someone meets Jesus, and is immediately compelled to tell other people so they too can meet him.  

Philip tells 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."  In other words, “We’ve found the Messiah!”

Nathanael’s reaction is negative and dismissive. Like me when comes to country music. He says, “Yeah right. Can anything good come out of Nazareth?!"

Nazareth was small, non-descript town, not a place expect anyone important to come from. Likely also that Nathanel’s comment stems from a bit of local rivalry. “Nazareth? Please. That’s a hick town. Anybody who’s anybody is from my village, Cana.” Ex. Be like someone saying “You’re from Avondale? Man don’t you need a passport to get out there? Anybody who’s anybody lives in downtown Phoenix!” (Am I right Jeff and Dannie? I’m right aren’t I Saanen and Beth?)

Also worth mentioning that guys had already popped up in Galilee claiming to be the Messiah. You can read about two of them in Acts 5:35-36. Nathanael might be thinking, “Man sounds like another fraud to me!”

Philip’s answer simple and direct. “Come and see for yourself.”. Jesus does not need to be marketed or dressed up for popular consumption. You just got to present him to people, let him speak for himself.

So Nathanael goes to meet Jesus. And as he comes up Jesus has something to say about him that startles him, v.47, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" 

Jesus knew Nathanael. In other words, he knew his character. He knew that he was an honest and genuine Israelite, a man who truly sought to be a Jew in accordance with the Jewish Scriptures.

This exactly hits the mark for Nathanael. Startles him in fact. So Nathanael says, “Okay whoa now. How is it that you know me so well?” Jesus tells him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."  Jesus knew where he was and what he was doing, even though he wasn’t anywhere near him.

Now honestly this relatively small supernatural display here, as Jesus himself soon admit. But Nathanael doesn’t dismiss. Doesn’t say, “That’s pretty good. Okay now tell me how fingers holding up behind my back?”

Nathanael heard enough for him know that Jesus isn’t another fraud. This Jesus is someone who truly knows him. Hence his response, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God and the King of Israel!”  Again, Messianic titles. The phrase “Son of God” was one often assigned to the Messiah. Same for “King of Israel.”

Jesus’ responds affirmingly in v. 49. He tells him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? That’s really good. But let me tell, this is only the beginning! You will see much greater things than these if you stick with me.”

And now finally we hear from Jesus himself. Here’s our on-stage interview. This is what he most wants to impress upon us about himself at this point. Signaled by phrase “Truly, truly…”  Emphasizes that this something important, something can really believe. [CLICK] v.51, “Truly, truly, I say to you [this is a plural “you,” it’s addressed to all disciples of Jesus], you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Two Old Testament  allusions here. First one is Dan 7:13-14. In this passage heavenly divine figure is described, “one like a son of man,” who comes before God and it says, “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Second allusion is to Gen 28. In that chapter read about guy named Jacob. He traveling and stops one night to rest. While he is sleeping he has dream where he sees a ladder going from earth to heaven, and the angels of God going up and down on it. Up at the top of the ladder stand the Lord God himself. Jacob is so overwhelmed and awed by what he experiences he names place “Bethel,” which means “house of God.”

So what is Jesus revealing? Well first that he is the Son of Man that Daniel spoke of. He is the one who has stood before God and has received from him all glory and power. He is the one who establish God’s rule over all earth.

Jesus uses this title, “Son of Man,” most often and deliberately uses for himself. He doesn’t use titles Messiah or Son of David or King of Israel a lot since by that time those titles being used unbiblically, become political terms unfortunately.

Jesus doesn’t want his disciples getting wrapped up in all that. He wants convey very clearly who he is. Jesus is indeed the Messiah, given power and authority by God. And yet also at same time he is God himself. The Son of Man in Daniel 7 is said to be one who comes on clouds of heaven, words that used elsewhere only of God.

So Jesus is God bursting into human reality. And in doing this he forever forms link between heaven and earth. Hence second allusion to Jacob’s ladder. Jesus saying that he now Jacob’s ladder. He is eternal permanent connection between God and mankind. This ladder road to God was a dream for Jacob. Jesus saying, “It is no longer a dream. In me this becomes reality!”

Also makes Jesus the new Bethel. Bethel means God’s house, which also implies that Jesus is new temple of God.

Jesus was not exaggerating when he talked about seeing “greater things” with him. Heaven itself is opened to us, and stays open to us, in Jesus Christ. Have unimpeded, uninterrupted communion with God. God and man meet and live together in Christ. To be in relationship with Jesus is to live in and experience heavenly realities. Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”   

This what Jesus wants to impress upon us. This is who wants all those who would follow him to realize about him, and in fact to realize by being in relationship with him. A new heavenly age ushered in for those who follow him.

So now we know something about this Jesus through the experience of these first disciples and through Jesus’ own words. No longer a stranger. No longer a complete enigma. 

So what does mean for us? First initial personal response. Specifically – we must now take to steps to know Jesus for ourselves. We’ve seen others do it in this passage. It is now the opportunity given to everyone who has heard this message. Must seek to personally know Jesus. Fully engage with him for ourselves.

Too many people today who know plenty about Jesus, but still don’t really know him. It like Andrew hearing what John the Baptist talk about Jesus but not investigating further, just sticking where he was with John the Baptist. Or Nathanael staying under the fig tree, never getting up to find out more about Jesus for himself.

Professor Gary Burge puts it this, “Conversion is not about knowledge alone; it is about coming yourself and appropriating a relationship with Jesus personally.”

Don’t be cynical, don’t come up with excuses, don’t blame why you not interested in Christianity because of how you grew up or that “Christian” kid who bullied you or that religious fundamentalist you see on TV. This is just you and Jesus. And Jesus invites you to come and see. Come with all your questions and concerns. For God means to fully reveal himself to all who honestly and humbly come to him. But you must come!

Come, and begin see heaven opened before you! Come and commune with God! Come, see, meet, experience it all when you believe in and follow Jesus Christ!

That’s initial response. What’s response after begun relationship with Jesus and begun to grow in it? Should compel you to talk more about him to others. Jesus someone worth talking about. If you’ve truly met him, then you will, you must talk about him.

I would venture to say that this is test of degree to which really understood who Jesus is. If Jesus not most important subject can imagine talking about with someone, then I would say your relationship with Jesus surface level at best. For you heaven still locked up. Not truly experienced reality of God and his heaven in our life.

When someone has witnessed something wonderful, when someone continues to experience something wonderful, they will be bursting forth to talk about it and have other people experience it. Ex. Amazing new song…great restaurant…a well-written movie or play.

If you really met with Jesus, then you’ve seen the glory of heaven, you’ve entered into communion with God himself! Don’t think of God’s kingdom as place to go to. Think of it as reality to live in now, in this world, in Jesus Christ! And when you begin to experience this divine kingdom in Christ – to enjoy and savor the love and joy and peace and hope of God in Christ – that is not something you can hold in! That’s something you must tell other people about!

If really met Jesus should compel you to tell others so that they also can meet Jesus. To be connected to Jesus inevitably means you want to connect others with Jesus.

Where are the people here who experiencing that kind of relationship with Jesus? Who even now are thinking of people to talk to about Jesus, people who may even be sitting here today? in their neighborhood? in their workplace? in their family? in their school?

Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

What a picture! What a promise! etc…

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