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(031) The Gospel of John III: Come & See

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The Gospel of John III: Come & See

John 1:35-51

May 18, 2008


·         Sermon on evangelism

·         Screwtape Letters: the new friends, hanging out is not enough.

·         Bible: Jacob’s ladder, Ezekiel 1, Dan 7


·         Sermon on drinking, thanks for responses (fill out card if not on mailing list).

Today’s passage (John 1:35-51) tells of the modest beginnings of movement that now covers the entire globe and is the largest religion with about 2.1 billion followers (33%).

·         It started with 2, up to 5 by the end of the passage.

Ä  This passage is a little different a lot of passages we study.

Some passages are prescriptive (tells us what to do and not do), this is descriptive (shows us good and bad examples): There are lessons for us to learn about the spread of the Gospel here, and how it spreads relationally and socially.

Ä  First, I want us to look at each of relational universes.

Relational universe

Draw a circle with your name in it, then outside every group that you are attached to: Family, neighborhood, friends, church, Facebook, SYP, work, Skagit Co-op, Haggen, gym, His Place, classmates, Kid’s school, Chamber of Commerce.

This maps your “Relational Universe.” A couple of observations:

1. It is amazing how connected we really are, and not just in numbers, but in spheres.

·         Six degrees of separation (in Skagit, probably three).

·         In this church, between us and the people we know, we probably know ½ the valley.

2. These relationships could be divided into three categories

1. Acquaintances (casual)

2. Family (no choice)

3. Friends (by choice)

·         Acquaintances probably most underappreciated: Most jobs are gotten through acquaintances. They are outside usual circle.

Ä  In today’s passage, it appears the Gospel first spread through all three of these categories, and that it was relational.

Relational advertizing

This is good news for us, because we cannot afford any of the cool things, like ad campaigns, flyers, or commercials. Plus, going door to door terrifies me.

All of these things may have their place, but because we are a church that is about community, we will spread the Gospel through community and connection.

·         I frequently ask visitors how they heard about us. Usually relationally, and if not, they stay because of relationships.

In an age of informational overload, personal connections and references become more important.

Because we are bombarded, we become skeptical of the professional pitch, and use our social networks to filter out what is important and true.

Ä  John the Baptist used his network connect to Jesus.


  35 ¶ The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 

There were tons of teachers with followings, and false messiahs as well. Jesus had not yet done any miracles to make him stand out. It was John’s testimony that made the difference.

·         These three words, “They followed Jesus” is the most basic explanation of Christianity

They had no idea where he would lead them, and no clue what all of this meant. This was only the beginning, but everything starts at the beginning.

·         “John says we should follow Jesus, and we trust John.”

38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

Interestingly, this is Jesus first speaking part in this Gospel. In this question lies the quintessential question to all who would follow Jesus: Why? What do you want?

·         Throughout the Gospels, Jesus challenges people like this: What is it that you really want?

·         Some wanted a favor, some a show.

They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 

They just want to hang out, get to know him, have coffee.

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. 

Apparently Jesus made quite an impression, because of what happened next.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.  41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

·         Andrew himself never became a well known disciple; he would always be in his brother Peter’s shadow.

There are only two stories specifically about him: When Jesus fed the 5,000, Andrew brought the kid with the five loaves and 2 fishes, and Andrew also brought some Greeks to meet Jesus.

·         Andrew seems to have found great joy in bringing people to Jesus, regardless of what attention he got.

·         In later years, what satisfaction must Andrew derived from bring Peter to Jesus.

  43 ¶ The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”  44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 

Remember friends, family, and acquaintances? In John’s recommendation we see Friends, in Andrew and Peter we see Family, and here we see Acquaintances.

45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote-- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. 

·         Nazareth seems to be the “Concrete” of the day, back water, spoke with accents.

I like that in John’s Gospel, honest skepticism is welcome and rewarded. He doesn’t want a blind faith, not believing in nonsense.  

Q   Why did Nathaniel go to Jesus in spite of this skepticism?

·         Because of the testimony of his friend.

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” 

Jesus is making something of a joke that requires some OT background. “Here is a guy who is allIsrael,” but no “Jacob”!”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 

·         Jesus supernatural knowledge is highlighted in John.

·         The fig tree may be significant as rabbis were known to study under fig trees.

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 

·         These terms together are a reference to Psalm 2.

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One....Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,  6 “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Psalm 2:2, 5-7 NIV

·         Perhaps this is what Nathanael had been reading.

50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.”  51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  John 1:35-51 NIV

Heaven opened

Jesus emphatically declares that they all will see “heaven open, and the angles ascending and descending.”

Q   So when does this happen? Which miracle is this?

Again, OT is required to understand what they would have understood:

·         Opening of the heavens indicates a major revelation (Ezekiel).

·         “Ascending and descending” refers to Jacob’s dream of the ladder between heaven and earth.

In that story, Jacob recognizes that place to be God’s house, where the Almighty dwells with man. Now Jesus has become the new way between heaven and earth on whom angels ascend and descend.

·         Jesus he is the point of contact between heaven and earth, the “traffic” that brings heaven’s blessings to mankind.

This would not be fulfilled in a one-time event, but a series of miracle demonstrating Jesus’ divinity, culminating in his death and resurrection, though they could not yet understand this.

·         This is the end goal, and the one the passage began with: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

When the first disciples proclaimed him Messiah and King, they had no idea of what that really meant. Jesus knew that, but he didn’t rebuke them.

·         They followed him, and that was enough, for now.


Now back to us: The Gospel spread from 2 to 2 billion, predominantly through personal contact. We are God’s plan A for reaching the world with the Good News of his love.

·         Take a look now at your “relational universe”:

Q   What do you think is the most effective way to reach each of those groups?

Q   Individuals in each of those groups?

You may have a different type of impact on different groups, from providing a favorable impression to bringing them to church, to leading them to Jesus.

·         It might be becoming the most reliable employee.

·         It might be occasionally disagreeing with friends.

The most effective strategy I can think of: Watch and pray so you can know when to say “Come and See.”

·         We usually hesitate out of fear, but God can set things up to make it a joy.




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