Description / Transcription
Let’s pray. Gracious God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we ask, we ask, that you pour out on us the same Holy Spirit that inspired the words we are about to read. Open our eyes, unfold your word, give us light, grant us the wisdom that is from on high. We need your help, oh, Lord, we do not want to waste our time. We come here and heaven and hell hang in the balance, so help me that what I speak would be only and entirely true, according to your word, and that you would give to these dear people ears to hear and that we might meet again, or for the first time, the living Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
We’ll be reading this morning from the Gospel according to John, chapter 1, verses 35 through 42, page 886 in the pew Bibles. John, chapter 1, beginning at verse 35.
“The next day again John (the Baptist) was standing with two of his disciples and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).”
One of the things we easily miss when we read through the gospels is just how careful the gospel writers are in putting together the story. Now when I say “careful” and “putting together the story,” I don’t mean for a moment that they’re making things up, but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, still using their human intellect, in putting together things they had heard, things that they had seen, and like any good writer, they were very careful and thoughtful about how they did it. It’s easy to think, and I think for years, especially as a kid hearing sermons and the gospels, I just thought of, you know, sort of thought what we have here in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are disconnected theories of stories that sort of end in holy week with the cross and then the resurrection. The rest is sort of just a blur, you know, there are some parables that Jesus does and there’s some miracles that happened, and there’s some other dangerous spots, and it’s just sort of haphazard collection of stories, as if we imagined that the gospel writers, here’s John, just sort of gathering before his audience and saying, “Hey, I have a really, I want to direct your attention to the Power Point presentation, life and times of Jesus Christ,” and just sort of going through and “Okay, let me stop right there. This is the baptism, crazy story here. Dove comes down; it’s just amazing.” And then next, “Oh, oh, here’s the walking on the water. So it was, we were out at the Sea of Galilee,” and he’s just kind of clicking through his Power Point, I used to say a slide projector, but nobody uses those anymore, so a Power Point presentation and everyone is just sort of watching, saying “Oh, isn’t that interesting.” And the gospel writers are just sort of going on, just telling some stories. “Here, glad you’re with us. I got some stories about Jesus.”
So you need to know that much more than that is going on here. John is very deliberate, strategic, careful. He’s not just throwing up slides or just pulling off some pictures from his phone and telling some stories. It should be obvious, even from just a cursory examination of John’s gospel, that he is very deliberate in how he puts things together. You may have noticed he is tracking here with this first week of Jesus’ ministry, we have in verse 19 the testimony of John and then we have verse 29, the next day, and then verse 35, the next day again, and then we’ll get to verse 43, the next day after that, and then chapter 2, on the third day he is tracking very carefully, day by day, what’s happening here.
If you’ve studied John’s gospel, you know that as we move into chapter 2 we come into this book of signs, and there are seven of them, the other half is sometimes called the Book of Glory, and in addition to the seven signs, the seven miracles, and the first of which is the water into wine, the wedding at Cana and Galilee, then we are going to have seven “I am” statements–I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world; I am the way, the truth, and the life; I am the resurrection…, seven “I am” statements, so clearly, John is very deliberate. He’s organizing these things—seven signs, seven “I am” statements, he’s tracking in chapter 1 day by day. We’ve already seen when he gets to the end of the book in chapter 20, he’s going to lay out a very explicit purpose to his gospel: “Many more things could be written, but these things were written down that you may believe and that by believing, you would have life in his name.”
All of that is to remind you and convince you that John is very strategic in what he does and how he does it in organizing his gospel. Like a good author, he puts the material together with care and intentionality.
So all of that is preface to bring you to this passage, that you would be aware that surely something significant is going on when we have here the first recorded words of Jesus in the gospel of John. With as careful as John is with everything else, surely he has put these here as the first words of Jesus in his story and done so for a reason.
I had a nice note from someone a few weeks ago that said “I’m liking this series on John, Pastor, and we’re hearing a lot of nice things about Jesus. It would be nice, at some point, could you talk about what Jesus says.” I’m ready to deliver this morning. Here we go. Once we get there, and now we’re here, to what Jesus says. Surely John is laying out for us something not only of what Jesus said, but he’s presenting it in this way because it is going to be paradigmatic for followers of Jesus at all times and in all places. In other words, he may be talking to Andrew, but John the evangelist puts this first because it’s also a picture of Jesus through John’s gospel talking to all of us.
So I want you to notice three things that Jesus says. Just 22 words in English all told, but these three things, these 22 words, say a lot. Look first at verse 38. So there’s a lot going on here in the background, and we tend to overlook it. You need to realize that before Jesus had a following, John the Baptist had a following. And so John has these followers with him and now for the second time he gives this declaration, verse 36: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Remember, last week we saw in verse 29 he said it already: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” There, perhaps, a public pronouncement for everyone to hear, now very deliberately he’s saying this in the hearing of his two disciples. Verse 37, he wants them to get this, okay? Nudge, nudge, listening? “My two disciples here that are with me? I’m saying this for your benefit. There he is? Behold, the Lamb of God. It’s his way of saying “Look, disciples. There he is. He’s the one you’ve been looking for. I want you to go now and follow him.” He’s said it now for a second time, to indicate to them “I’ve been teaching you, I’ve been instructing you, but now I’m telling you, the one that you want to follow is that one right there, the Lamb of God.”
It was the practice in the ancient world that you would follow, literally walking alongside, perhaps living with, doing life with, for a time. It would be for years, it could be for a season, it could be for weeks a at a time. But when he says “Come, follow me,” it is literally “Come, walk where I’m walking.” They would do this with a teacher, prophet, rabbi. And so they’ve been with John, sort of huddling around John the Baptist. What do you have to teach us? And how he says “There’s the Lamb of God.” And you think about it, as he says this, he means to direct his two disciples. You see verse 38: “Jesus turned and saw them following him.” This is what John the Baptist had in mind. “There he is, there’s the Lamb of God. I’m a voice, there’s the Word.” And they go, and they leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus.
Now just pause there. We’ll get to what Jesus says in just a moment. But, that is amazing humility. Amazing humility. To send your followers off to another. To have all these people, all this attention, and all these folks are here, and you say, “No, I’m not the one. I want you to go and follow him.” Putting his money where his mouth is, willingly decreasing so that Christ might increase.
Now some of us just fall into that. We may have occasions to be sort of embarrassed that nobody is following us anymore, but he does it of his own volition, his own accord. From time to time, people will say, “Kevin, we want you to do,” you know, at a conference or something, “do a book signing,” which I loathe to do. Now you may say because I’m really humble, maybe, or maybe because I don’t want the embarrassing occurrence of sitting at a table with nobody coming with their books up. So I had this one time, I was at a table and David Platt was at a table. And people would just come up to me, and they’d say, “Well, can you sign David’s book? He’s busy.” And it was a good lesson in humility as I just sat at my table and now, to be fair, we were at Southern Baptist, so it was a pro-Baptist crowd, but, still, just seeing the lines and, you know, a few people trickled over and I said “You want me to sign something?” And he said “No, he’s just got a long line. So how are you doing? Nice to meet you.”
So, that’s one kind of humility, just sort of forced upon you to be humble. But this is John saying, “No, everyone waiting in the John the Baptist book signing line, it’s not worth it. Go. Go. There is the Lamb of God.” And we all need this, no matter what we think we are, especially, especially younger folks, any of us who are all on social media, building our brand, building our platform, counting our retweets, checking our followers. Look, John the Baptist did not use his platform to build up his brand or his name, but to point to someone else. To point to someone else more important and more impressive. So each of you, whether it’s power that you have by virtue of money or your position or your influence, or simply your godly character, how are you using your power and influence to lift up another? And to do so, perhaps, at the expense of yourself. Because it’s one thing to say “I have influence and I’m going to use this influence to help the little people in life” and you can feel sort of good. But what if, when you use that influence for someone else, you lose some of that? That’s what John the Baptist does.
Would you, and let me ask myself the question, would I gladly fade into obscurity if it meant more attention for Jesus? Do you realize Jesus’ first disciples came from John? They were here, following John. How did Jesus get his initial following? Because John the Baptist, in all of his humility, said “Enough already, I’m not the point. I’m glad you learned something, I’m glad you could… But go, follow him.”
The truly great man or woman will give up his most valuable assets and possessions for the sake of the kingdom. And you know what often our most valuable assets are? People. I said earlier one of the best and hardest things a church can do is to send away its own people. It’s easier to send away money. Now, if it’s the people you don’t like, you know, well, we’d love to send them out. “We’ve got a great church plant of misfits. Go. The Lord bless you and keep you far away from us.” But you send out your best people, you send out the people you say, “Oh, I would love for this person to be here forever,” that’s hard.
Parents, what’s the hardest thing to let go of? Your money? No. Your house, your car? Mmm. Your kids? Yeah. Your kids. I remember when we had just our one little newborn and my wife crying as we moved him out of the room next to our bed, down the hallway to a crib in another room. And it was opening our eyes, this is the rest of parenting. Letting go. Letting go. And you send out your very best, your prize possession, the people you love so dearly. And say “Go make a difference for Christ. Go serve him. Go to hard places.”
I understand it as a parent, and yet it does, it’s understandable and it’s sad at the same time how many times, you know, young people, who have Christian parents, say “I want to go and I want to do something hard for the Lord Jesus” or “I want to go to some place where nobody knows Christ and it’s dangerous, and my parents, who have been at church their whole life, say no, no, no, don’t go, don’t go.” I get that. That’s what I want to say as a parent.
But as a Christian it supersedes even that love as a parent, to say the most valuable thing we have, we send it. Isn’t that what God did? My son, I send him to you. And we let go.
So John the Baptist here is such a model for us, letting go, of his attention, of his followers, of the people that he invested in. He said, “Now, go, you’re ready, and follow him. I’m not the point. He’s the point.” John the Baptist is a model of humility.
And so they start to follow Jesus. Literally, they walk behind him. Verse 38: “He turns to them,” and now we come to the first recorded words in the gospel from Jesus, and here’s what he says: “What do you want?” What are you seeking? Because they were searching for something. They had been followers of John the Baptist, so we can surmise they were hungry for a prophetic word perhaps. Maybe they’re looking for deliverance from Rome. Later they will confess “We found the Messiah.” So they’re looking for the Christ. Jesus turns and says, “What are you after?”
Have you ever noticed in the gospels Jesus is always making it harder for people to follow him? He’s making it harder. He’s always turning and saying, “Um, then let the dead bury their dead. If you’ve gotta go do that, then, go. Have you counted the cost? Do you know what it is to have an army? Do you know what it is to build a tower? Do you really want to be here? Are you sure you want to be here? Have you counted the cost?”
It’s so different from the way most churches operate and, you know, and my own instincts as a pastor. “You’ve visiting? You’re here? Do you like us? Would you stay? Do you need offering envelopes? So glad that you’re here. What can we do? How can we make…” and of course we want to be welcoming, we want to do all of that, but Jesus also wants to make clear, look, Jesus says “I don’t need your followership. You need a messiah. You need a savior.” And Jesus said “I’m not here looking to get popular. I’m not here looking to just draw a crowd. I want disciples.”
And so he’s constantly turning around. “Are you sure?” And he says the same thing to us. “What are you searching for? Why are you here? What are you really after? What do you want?” We think Jesus should turn around and say, “Hey, my first disciples. Streamers, congratulations, I’m so glad you’re here. Nice to meet you. What can I do for you?” But he’s constantly saying, “Um, are you going to leave everything? Do you know what you’re getting into?”
Turn just a moment to Matthew’s gospel, chapter 11. These messengers come from John the Baptist. John’s in prison, so some of his followers are thinking, “Okay, this is confusing us because John said that you’re the Christ, but we seem to recall from Isaiah that the Christ sets prisoners free, and here our boss, John the Baptist, is in prison, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on here.” And you read in verse 3, Matthew 11, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus answered, “Go and tell John what you hear and see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Blessed is the one who is not offended by me. As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? Why were you following John the Baptist? Did you want a reed shaken by the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Is that why followed John? He was just a prince of a man and he was so beautiful. Is that why you went out to the wilderness? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arising no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Even John’s messengers were wondering “Who are you?”
Now Jesus turns the tables on these would-be disciples, and he asks them, “What are you looking for?” It was a fair question to ask them, and it’s a fair question to ask you. You’re here, in church, on Sunday morning, you could be somewhere else. So you probably have some familiarity with Jesus. Some acquaintance with him. Many of you have followed him for years and years, or maybe somebody who likes Jesus told you you had to come, or invited you. But you’re here. So what are you hoping to find? What are you really seeking? Jesus asked the question. That’s why I said at the beginning, John, the evangelist, remember, John the writer of the gospel is different than John the Baptist. John the evangelist put this together for a reason. This is not just a throw-away question. There is certainly a reason that the first words we have from Jesus in the gospel are “What are you seeking?” because it’s the question that he continues to ask everyone who’s following him. What are you looking for?
There’s a lot of people and a lot of churches. What they’re really wanting is, you know, just a little religious inoculation. Or they come back because they have kids now and they think, “Oh, I really want my kids to get some good moral training.” Or maybe you think it will give you some cultural cachet. That’s good, it’s good to be seen in the community as a good, upstanding citizen. Or maybe you want to feel justified with the kind of life that you’re living and so you want to go to church and hope that somebody, a pastor, or someone, will tell you you’re okay and continue to do what you’re doing.
What are you looking for? Do you know what you’re looking for? Some of us know. Some of us are a bit confused. It’s the difference between walking into a bookstore or walking into an auto parts store, at least for me. I go into a bookstore, I feel good, I feel confident. I know books. I can ask people, you know, “Excuse me, sir, may I help you?” “Yeah, I’m looking for books. You got any books?” “Yeah, we got books.” And I can start talking about books. I feel like I’m with my people, book-people. Go to an auto parts store, God bless you people who fix my car, because I don’t know anything. “Can I buy a muffler here, or something? Or a steering wheel cover, or a light bulb that goes somewhere?” And they ask you questions, and I don’t know where anything is, and I say “Can I have wipers?” “What size?” “Ooh, well, about this big, kinda. One of ’ems really like big and then one of them’s real little. Do you have like a big one and a little one? ‘Cause if I get two big ones, they start hitting each other.” So, I don’t know what I’m looking for in there, I just know that my wife told me to go there and figure it out.
You show up at church, and some of you know exactly why you’re here. You know what you’re looking for. You love Jesus, you want to hear about Jesus, you know you’re a sinner, you want to hear about the cross and salvation, you want to hear the word. And some of us, if we’re honest, “Why am I here? That’s just what I do. Just what I’ve done forever. It’s what mom told me to do, it’s what my grandma and grandpa did, and it’s what we do. We go to church.”
“What are you seeking?” Jesus says. He asks the question of his first followers and he asks it today. Because Jesus knows how to look right into your heart. What are you hoping to find here? What are you looking for? That’s the first thing Jesus says.
Here’s the second thing Jesus says. It comes in the next verse. “So they turned to Jesus and say, ‘Rabbi, teacher, where are you staying?'” They call him rabbi, teacher. Notice there are all these titles; we’ve had word, light, life, Lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, Messiah, Christ, they are piling up, who this person is. Jesus gives a simple yet provocative reply to their question. They ask “Where are you staying?” Jesus, never one to give simple responses, says “Come and you will see.” You had to be thinking “Jesus, couldn’t you just say ‘I’m just around the corner, take a left and then a right, and then you go past, um, you know, the McPherson’s place, and then you go just a little bit farther, and that’s where I’m staying.” Or “You know the place on Broad Street? Yeah, I’m right there.”
But he says, somewhat enigmatically, “Come, see.” We’ll find the same language used elsewhere. You see in verse 46, Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip said to him, “Come and see.” So there it’s Philip saying it. Here it’s Jesus saying it.
Some of you know that this is the CDS verse of the year, the version in verse 46, “Come and see.” Mark Davis asked me earlier in the summer, said “Kevin, do you have any idea for a verse of the year for CDS?” So I knew I was going to go through John and I’ve always like that and I thought that’d be good for students to think about, an invitation to look at Jesus, so I said “Come and see.” And you would be amazed. I don’t want to brag, but I have been a bit of a hero with the kids for picking such a short verse to memorize. My kids, they say “Dad,” now they get a little greedy, they say “Dad, next year, Jesus wept? Okay?” Let’s just cut it down from three words to two.
But I’ve always loved this. Back when I was a summer counselor at a camp when I was in college and this was our verse for that summer, and every day in those cabins inviting fourth, fifth, sixth graders the simple message: Come and see. Come and see. You want to see who Jesus is?
Now on the one hand, the reply in verse 39 means, “Hey, follow me, I’ll who you where I’m staying.” Simple. But there’s more to the reply than just an open door to see Jesus’ overnight accommodations. It’s an invitation to see what might be on the other side of your searching. First question, first thing Jesus says: What are you looking for? Second thing he says, following right on the first: Take a look. See what you might find on the other side of your searching.
I remember years ago talking to a man in a church who was a very good acoustic guitar player and he had been a nightclub owner for some time, kind of had a shop or a coffee house, or something. He had all sorts of bands come in over the years, kind of folk, acoustic sort of genre, had people like the Indigo Girls and people that were popular back in the 90s, and all these sort of groups, some of whom were kind of well-known by that time. And I asked him, I said, “So, what was it like, all these sort of cool, folksy, acoustic sort of bands coming to your place, and some of them are famous now, what are these people like?” And I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said, “I’ll tell you. I’ve learned all these years with all these different sort of folks coming in that most people are much more interested in seeking that they are in finding.” And that always stuck with me. Not only as a summary of the sort of cool people who were coming in and playing music for him, but an entire generation of people, who love to ask questions and not terribly interested in actually getting any answers.
I was sharing with our staff earlier this week as we were going through a book together and I just commented that my experience with college students and young people over the last 13 years, and it’s probably true for older adults as well, the singular reason people are not interested in the gospel, behind all of their questions about, “Well, how did the canon come together? And what about the problem of evil?” and not to dismiss that some people have real intellectual quandaries, but far and away behind all of those intellectual questions and sophisticated arguments, I have found that college students simply wanted to drink, hook up, and be left alone. I think that’s probably true with most people. They read some books and they get all sorts of questions, but at the end of it, you know, they’re more interested in seeking than they are in finding. They’re more interested in questions than they are really getting answers. And they may have read a book that sort of stirred them up and said, “There you go, pastor, answer these questions for me.” But there is no real questions that will answer until you have a heart that’s genuinely interested in having some of your questions answered.
And so Jesus is amazingly wise. They ask him a simple question, “Where are you staying?” He turns around and says “Come and see. Do you really want to find out? Do you really want to see? Are you really interested? Do you really want to get to know me?”
What about you? Are you willing to find out who Jesus really is? Jesus has abundant patience for all those who come to him with eyes wide open. But he will give a stiff arm to those who have hard hearts and are merely looking to trap him or trip him up, and only you and the Lord are going to know your heart, and you may not even know it, but the Lord will. Some of ask questions and they’re good questions and they’re honest questions and God has so much patience with good, honest questions, no matter how hard the question is. The Psalms are filled of those questions.
But God can see right through, and Jesus does it all the time in the gospels, the person whose “Um, well, Jesus. Now, now, see if you can get out of this trap.” You can’t trap Jesus.
Do you really want to see who he is? Have you ever really followed Jesus? I mean, really followed him? Not just going to church, but really say, “Whatever it costs, I want to come and see.” Have you really investigated the claims of Christ? That may be some of you here this morning. Have you really sorted through for yourself is the Bible true? Did Jesus rise from the dead? Do right and wrong exist? How do you explain your conscience? What do you do with the hole in your soul that cannot be filled by your smartphone? What’s your answer for evil in the world? What’s your answer for evil in you? How do you explain 50+ people dead in Las Vegas? How do you explain the deadness in your own heart?
Jesus says “Come and see.” He could have said “Bow at my feet, worms.” He would have had a right to do so. But he simply issues an invitation. Number one, what are you looking for? Number 2, if you really want to find something, come and see. And Jesus says to you today, “Come, read your Bible. Open up.” Do you really want to see who Jesus is? Do you really want to get to know him? Or are you just throwing up smokescreens, just throwing out questions, just throwing up stuff just to push him away? He gets that. Come and see.
And then he says one more thing. One more thing, we’ll come to it in verse 42. Now, this calling here of Andrew and Peter seems strange. How does this square with other synoptic accounts? The Synoptic Gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and people often ask questions and say, “Well, Matthew, Mark, and Luke seem to be tracking one kind of story, and they seem to be sort of related, and then John’s seems to be so different. How does that work?”
So go over to Mark, chapter 1, for example, and we read the calling of Andrew and Peter, and it seems so different. Mark 1, verse 16: “Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” and immediately they left their nets and followed him.’ And going on a little farther, he saw James, the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the board with the hired servants and followed him.”
That seems very different. They’re fishing, the Sea of Galilee, they’re with their nets, Jesus calls them by name, he says “Come, follow me,” they leave everything and they go. Whereas here, Andrew is one of John the Baptist’s disciples and John the Baptist says “That’s the Lamb of God,” and so Andrew now goes and follows him, and then Andrew goes back and he finds his brother Simon and brings Simon to Jesus. So which is it?
Well, we believe that all of scripture is inspired and authoritative, and when we think about it, the two accounts aren’t contradictory, they actually are quite complementary. They actually make sense one of the other. This episode in John chapter 1 is not the official calling into the apostolic office, but this is the story of initial association. How did Jesus first meet Andrew and Simon Peter? And when you think about it, this makes more historical sense, because in the other gospels, they are just in their fishing boats and Jesus just says “Hey, Andrew, come follow me.” Now it could have been a miracle, but it hardly makes sense or seems historically plausible, that they were just looking out and they say “Do you know who that guy is?” “I don’t know, I’ve never seen him before in my life.” “Who is he?” “I don’t know. He’s yelling at us.” “Okay. See you later, dad. We’re done,” and they just go.
It makes much more sense if you understand that they already had some association with Jesus, they had already followed him for some indeterminate time, or at least here they come and they spend the night in the accommodations with Jesus, so that later when the Synoptic Gospels record the official calling, okay, now, Jesus is saying, “All right, are you going to be my full-fledged disciples?” and they leave everything and they say, “Yes, we are going to follow you.” This story complements the ones we read in the gospels. This is how they establish their connection with Jesus.
And it’s a clever bit of storytelling. You notice the identity of Andrew is kept hidden until verse 40. At first we just read two disciples, verse 37, we don’t know who they are. But then we come down, verse 40, “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus, he was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” It tells you something about the audience that must have been hearing this gospel for the first time, they must have been somewhat aware of the story about Jesus because he references Andrew as Simon Peter’s brother, knowing that they would have been more familiar with Peter than they were with Andrew. But here Andrew is the first one who is brought to Jesus as John the Baptist pushes him there, and you notice no one ever mentions who the second disciple was. Two disciples, and then we hear that one of them is Andrew. Well, who’s the second?
Well, there’s been a long tradition which I think seems very plausible, though we can’t know for certain, but a long tradition in the church that the second unnamed disciple is John, who is writing this gospel. Later there will be reference to the disciple whom Jesus loved, which we also think is John referring to himself, so he’s not wanting to insert himself in the story, so he keeps his identity anonymous here. Now we don’t know that for sure, but it seems likely to me, because look at verse 41: “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah,'” so there’s somebody else who is joining in with Andrew here, Andrew and the other disciple of John the Baptist, and you also notice the detail here. Clearly, somebody writing this must either have direct access to an eyewitness or have himself been an eyewitness, because he even says in verse 39: “They stayed with him that day for it was about the tenth hour.” He knows that they went over to Jesus’ house, wherever he was staying, at 4:00 p.m. In the afternoon. That would make sense that this would be an eyewitness, the one who is writing this, John the evangelist, who was with, Andrew, the other disciple of John the Baptist who now goes and is walking with Jesus.
Jesus then meets Peter. Verse 42: “He brought him to Jesus.” And incidentally, we’re going to find whenever you see Andrew in the gospel, he’s bringing somebody, he’s bringing somebody to Jesus. It’s a great example. Here he brings his brother. And “Jesus looked at him,” and I don’t know exactly how Jesus said this, but it almost feels like he says, “Well, well, well, so you’re the brother. You’re Simon, that I’ve heard about. Simon, son of John. Have I got a new name for you.”
This happens often in the Bible. Abram to Abraham, going to be a father of many nations; Jacob becomes Israel, from trickster to striving with God. You’ve heard of rocket man? Well, this is rock man. Cephas, which means Peter.
Peter, as far as we can tell, was not a proper name at this point in ancient times. So, we all know Peter is very common, but Peter was a nickname. This is Jesus saying, “Simon, I’m going to call you Rocky. I’m giving you a nickname. I’m gonna tell you who you are and who you will be.”
And, of course, if you’re familiar with the gospels, we all know that Simon Peter is anything but rock steady. He is fundamentally unsteady. He’s the one who walks on water, “yay!” and then he sinks. He’s the one who says, “Jesus, you are the Christ,” and then he doesn’t understand what sort of Christ it is, and Jesus says “Get behind me, Satan.” He’s the one who says “I will stick with you no matter what…Oh, there’s a servant girl here, I’m gonna run away.” That’s Peter. Impetuous Peter. He is anything but rock steady. It could be that Jesus is predicting what he knows will happen. It says later, in chapter 2, that Jesus knew what was in man, so he certainly can see what Peter will become, but more than a prediction, it’s a calling. “Simon, let me tell you who you will be.”
When you come to Christ, you get a new name. Now for most of us it’s not a new first name, still always been “Kevin.” But you get a new name. You’re now a Christian, a little Christ. You are now a saint, a holy one. You are now a son or a daughter. When you come to Christ, he gives you a new name.
So here’s the question. What is Jesus calling you to become, that you have not yet become? Who is he calling you to be that you have not yet become? Because he says, “Simon, I’m going to call you rock,” and he was anything but a rock.
You see what John is doing in laying out these three statements from Jesus? It’s absolutely brilliant. And it’s the picture of discipleship not only then but for us now. So you’re sort of interested in Jesus, you’re sort of hanging around the edges, you’re sort of curious about this guy, and Jesus says “What are you seeking?” Let me just get to the heart of it, what are you looking for? If you’re really interested, then he says, “Well, come and see.” And then when he calls you to himself, he not only calls you, he names you.
When Jesus calls you, he wants to change you. Do you know that? Jesus calls you to save you, but he calls you to change you. And if you’re coming to Jesus and you think he is going to leave your business alone, that’s the wrong Jesus. If you want to be left alone, go find another church. Go find another savior. But this one, the one who really saves, he’s not going to leave you alone. He wants to change you. And it’s that’s threatening, let’s get the good side of it. Not only does he want to change you, he can change you.
Some of you are saying, “I don’t want him to mess around with me.” Well, he will. But others of you are saying, “Oh, Lord, please, would you do something with me,” and he can. He calls Simon, slippery, impetuous, crazy, unsteady, sinking Simon, and he says, “You’re going to be my rock, my steady one.”
What’s God calling you? Maybe you read it in the Bible, maybe you feel a sense of it welling up in you, and you think “I could never do that, I could never be that sort of person, I could never be that.” Maybe it’s, you know, pastor or missionary, maybe it’s not something, maybe it’s just “I don’t know how I can do this parenting thing, I don’t know how I can be faithful at school, I don’t know how I can be the Christian God wants me to be in the workplace, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this next test…”
What is God calling you to be that you don’t think you can become? Because that’s exactly what he did for Simon.
Isn’t it amazing? This is the beginning of the New Testament church. Here we are—look at this beautiful place. This is a big place, 1000+ people here. There’s bigger churches all over town. And all of this started, “Hey, Simon, how ’bout I call you Peter?” And John the Baptist saying, “Andrew, John (if it was John), you go follow him.” He’s got just two, three guys. He’s got two brothers, next passage he’s going to get two more, and that’s the beginning of this church, which is now on every continent, almost every country. It’s been the dominant influence in Western civilization for 1700 years. It doesn’t look like much. Your life may not look like much. Jesus finds two fisherman brothers, a disciple to be named later, but when Jesus calls, he promises to show you things you haven’t seen and to make you into things you haven’t been, for his own glory.
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we pray if there are any here wandering from you, any here who do not know you, you would speak so clearly now by your Spirit through this word, they would know unmistakably this sermon was for them. And you have something to say and they as your sheep would hear your voice, saying “Come and see. Come and see.” Show us what we have not seen. Transform us into what we have not yet become. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.