Faithlife Sermons

Who Are You Following?

The Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  43:16
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What would it take for you to follow a stranger?
We are naturally suspicious of people we don’t know, right?
Think about all the phone scams going around. If someone calls you, and they pretend to be the IRS or the FBI or Amazon, you don’t just give them your bank account number or your Social Security number, because you don’t know who is on the other end of the line, right?
We talk to our kids about “stranger danger,” don’t we? We tell them that they are never to go off with a stranger, no matter what they say they want to give you or show you or who they know, right? The only exceptions we make are police officers or firefighters in uniform who are trying to keep us safe, or possibly there is a password we use as a family that any adult who comes to pick them up would have to know.
We don’t want them going off with just anyone.
So, what would it take for you to follow a stranger?
What are you looking for them to give you as proof of who they are? What assurances do you need that this is all legit and above board?
It is absolutely essential that you know who it is that is asking before you invest, before you give them information, or before you follow.
That’s important when we think about not giving our information to scammers or following the guy who says he has a puppy.
Let’s take it a step further: What would it take for you to commit your entire life to someone? To even stake your eternal destiny on them?
As we look at the first disciples who left everything to follow him, we see that these men were following someone very specific.
In fact, they use at several different titles for Jesus in this passage, and each one gives us a different view into who he is.
As we look at some of these titles, my prayer is that God will use them to help us answer the question this morning: who are you following?
If you are here this morning, and you are not following Jesus—the one the Bible describes here, not what you have heard about from someone on TV—I hope the picture you get of him today will help you see just who Jesus is and why he is worth following.
If, however, you know Jesus and are following him, let these categories remind you of exactly who it is that you committed to following. Ask yourself if there are areas where you have stopped looking to Jesus and ignored parts of who he is? How does God need to expand your understanding of Jesus today?
By the way, this is the last section of the introduction to Jesus in the gospel of John. Starting next week, we will see more about what Jesus did and taught. For this week, though, we are still looking at who Jesus is before we dive into all of that.
With that in mind, let’s go ahead and read John 1:35-42...
John the Baptist again points his disciples to Jesus, and they begin to follow him.
As they do, they refer to him by an important title that needs a little explanation, so the first answer to who we are following is that we are following a...

1) Rabbi

Look back at verse 38...
Here, John says that Andrew and the other disciple of John called Jesus, “Rabbi,” which means “Teacher.”
I almost called this first category “teacher”, but there were two main reasons why I stuck with “rabbi.”
The primary reason is because following a rabbi isn’t like we think of in following a teacher today.
The second is because it starts with ‘r’, which alliterates my points and makes them a little easier to remember.
Before we really get into talking about what it means for Jesus to be the rabbi we follow, look at the question he poses to Andrew and the other disciple: “What are you looking for?”
He is asking them, “What do you seek,” or, “What do you want?”
That’s a great question for us to ask, isn’t it?
Maybe this was a simple question, but it seems that Jesus is asking a deeper question than it first appears to be, just like we will see him do with the woman at the well in chapter 4.
Ask yourself that same question: What do you want, especially from Jesus? What is the main thing you want out of life? Success? Wealth? Health? Happiness? Purpose? Comfort?
What are you looking for?
Whether we are aware of it or not, we all want something out of life, and we all have reasons why we are interested in following Jesus.
At the core of all of the things we seek are desires like the desire to escape death and pain, to mean something to the world, to know that it is all worth something in the end.
Ultimately, the one asking Andrew this question is the one who holds the deepest answers that our souls seek.
They came to the right person when they came to ask Jesus this question.
Andrew acknowledged that Jesus was a Rabbi, a teacher.
We don’t really have a good concept in our world of what a rabbi did in those days.
Here’s the closest I can think of: have you ever had a friend, or maybe a boss or co-worker, who read every single book ever put out by a given author? I am thinking of a business author like John Maxwell or a motivational speaker type like Tony Robbins.
Sometimes, you will run across an individual who has read everything a person has ever written. They have gone to his conferences, they listen to his podcasts and read his blogs, and they even begin to talk and dress and act like the person.
Have you ever known anyone like that?
That is the closest I can come up with to the modern equivalent of a rabbi in Jesus’ day.
He wasn’t just a teacher you went to for instruction in a particular field, like leadership or fitness or even science and math.
Instead, following a rabbi was a commitment of your entire life to learn everything this man taught and pattern your life after him.
Andrew and the other disciple are ready to commit their lives to following Jesus, which is demonstrated by the fact that they asked where he was staying and then went with him to stay.
They weren’t just looking for a spiritual nugget that would get them through the day; instead, they were searching for a Teacher, one who would lead them and guide them and shape them.
What was Jesus’s response to their question? “Come, and you’ll see.”
That’s exactly what Jesus is calling you and me to do today: to follow after him and find what we are ultimately seeking in life.
Come to him, and you’ll see what gives life meaning and purpose, even in the middle of difficulty and pain.
Come to him, and be drawn into a relationship with God that brings peace and hope, especially as we look toward an eternity with him.
It’s like the psalmist said:
Psalm 34:8 CSB
Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!
Come, and you’ll see!
I am not saying that you will find your version of success or live your easiest or best life.
I am saying that you can find rest and peace in the middle of it, and hope for the rest that is to come:
Matthew 11:28–29 CSB
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
This is what the Rabbi, the Teacher, Jesus is calling us to do: come to him, learn from him, and find the rest we really need.
This commitment to follow Jesus is more than just reading a quick verse and a thirty-second devotional thought in the morning before you go out and live your life your way, hoping that the warm fuzzy you got will carry you through the rest of the day.
It is a commitment to pray, read, study, think about, and learn from Jesus, because he is the rabbi who calls us to follow him.
Not only that, but he is also the...

2) Ruler

No, Jesus isn’t a ruler that you use to draw a straight line with.
As his first disciples acknowledge, he is the one who rules over everything.
We saw this some in our first message two weeks ago when we saw that he rules over the world he has made.
We see it again in several titles that are used in this chapter. Pick up in verse 40...
Isn’t it interesting to notice that the first thing Andrew does after following Jesus himself is go and tell his brother?
Andrew is known throughout the gospels for bringing people to Jesus.
Why? Because he recognized that Jesus is the Messiah, or the Christ.
Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, that God had promised would come.
Both “Christ” and “Messiah” mean “anointed”, and the Jews were looking for a special king God would send to rule and reign over Israel who would be known by that title.
One commentator explains:
The Bible Exposition Commentary Chapter One: God Is Here! (John 1)

In the Old Testament, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed and thereby set apart for special service. Kings were especially called “God’s anointed” (1 Sam. 26:11; Ps. 89:20); so, when the Jews spoke about their Messiah, they were thinking of the king who would come to deliver them and establish the kingdom.

Andrew and the others didn’t fully understand what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah, but they used several other terms that pointed to Jesus as the person God had promised.
Pick up in verses 43-49...
Shifting away from Andrew and Peter, we now see the story of Phillip and Nathaniel coming to Jesus.
When Jesus tells Nathaniel that he knew where he was when Phillip found him, he says that Jesus is, “the Son of God,” and “the King of Israel.”
From the beginning, these men thought they were following the one who would establish his kingdom on earth and rule and reign, making Israel the dominant power in the world.
Although it looked different than they thought, they were exactly right: He is the one who rules over heaven and earth.
Have you lost sight of the fact that Jesus is the ruler over all creation?
Don’t just think about that in terms of him controlling the natural order; remember that means that he is also in charge of every single person and being, including you.
Listen to how he is described in John’s last book, the book of Revelation:
Revelation 19:11–16 CSB
Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and with justice he judges and makes war. His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God. The armies that were in heaven followed him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. A sharp sword came from his mouth, so that he might strike the nations with it. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. And he has a name written on his robe and on his thigh: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Here is another picture of what it will be like when Jesus finally sets his kingdom fully in order:
Psalm 110:5–6 CSB
The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his anger. He will judge the nations, heaping up corpses; he will crush leaders over the entire world.
How does that strike you when you hear that?
Did you realize that this is the person who is calling you to follow him?
This is what the Messiah, the King of Israel, will do: he is coming to bring in his kingdom, and he is going to destroy those who oppose him.
That may be hard for many of us to swallow, because we have never seen a perfect ruler.
That’s why we have checks and balances, or why dictators are overthrown in a coup…absolute power corrupts absolutely, right?
Absolute power does corrupt absolutely, unless it is in the nail-scarred hands of the incorruptible God.
Have you submitted to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords personally? Have you acknowledged that he is in charge, not just in a general sense, but that he is in charge of you?
You can’t simply put Jesus in some corner of your life and go to him for peace and hope, but not let him be in charge.
He is the King, he is God’s specially anointed one, the Christ—do you live to honor him as your king?
Do you bow humbly before him, or do you, in pride, determine that you are going to live your life your way?
Jesus invites you to come and see what it is like serving the only truly good ruler this world has ever had.
Have you done that, and are you still living like it?
You may have had a really bad experience with someone in authority before, so this is especially difficult for you.
Perhaps parents didn’t treat you like you should, or you had teachers or bosses or a spouse who was against you, so trusting someone as a leader seems impossible.
You may even feel that there is a power structure in this world that is oppressing you and keeping you down, so why would you want to follow another King instead of just looking out for yourself?
Let’s look at one more category about this Jesus we are called to follow, and let’s see if this helps.
In this section, we see that he is also the...

3) Reconciler.

Read verses 49-51...
Verse 51 is an odd verse if you aren’t familiar with the Old Testament, but once you see the picture Jesus is using, it is beautiful.
He is drawing imagery from Genesis 28, where a special man named Jacob is being sent away from home to find a wife and get away from his brother, who wants to kill him. God would later change Jacob’s name to Israel, and he was the one whose children would be the namesakes of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel.
On his way, to find his wife, he stops overnight, and he has an unusual dream:
Genesis 28:12–13 CSB
And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching the sky, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. The Lord was standing there beside him, saying, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying.
God used this image to explain that Jacob was the one through whom God was going to fulfill his promise to Abraham to make him a great nation.
The picture of the angels ascending and descending on a stairway was a symbol to him that God’s presence was going with him wherever he went.
Now, back to John 1:51 - Jesus presents himself as the stairway, or the ladder, between earth and heaven.
Two weeks ago, we looked in depth at the fact that Jesus, as God, took on flesh, and reconciled us to God in a way that no one else could.
He took on flesh and died on the cross, removing the barrier that separated us from God.
1 Timothy 2:5–6 CSB
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.
How can you trust this one who holds all the power in all the universe?
Because he was willing to do whatever it took to reconcile you to God.
He was the one who brought heaven to earth in a new way in his incarnation, and he is the one who opens heaven for us to go in through his sacrifice.
Andrew, Philip, Peter, and Nathanael barely understood these things when they were willing to leave everything behind and follow their rabbi, their ruler, and their reconciler.
We stand on the other side of the cross, looking back over what the Bible tells us Jesus did and taught and sacrificed and conquered.
With the information we have, then, we need to ask ourselves: who are we following?
If you have never turned to follow Christ, do it today.
If you have followed Christ, are you letting him shape your life as your rabbi? Lead your life as your ruler? Rest in his reconciliation.
[1] Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996.
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