Monday, May 7, 2012

Daniel Returns: John 1:35-51

Good morning! It is my pleasure again to proclaim the Word of God to you from the Gospel of John. In our previous times together, we have looked at the prologue to John’s gospel which introduced Jesus. And last time, we saw John the Baptist and his testimony of Jesus.

In the prologue, John the author of this gospel told us about how God revealed himself in his Son, the Word of God who was in the beginning, was intimate with God, and indeed was God. He created all things. But when he came to his own people, they did not receive him. But, some people, both Jews and Gentiles, did receive him and have the right to become Children of God. One key verse I want you to recall is verse 6 “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:16, NAS95.

We learned that it’s not really “grace upon grace”, but “grace instead of grace”. The grace of the gospel replacing the grace of the Old Testament. The Law was of grace because it pointed to Jesus. But the gospel is the fulfillment of the Law in Jesus.

Let’s keep that in mind as we look at today’s section as Jesus begins to call his disciples.

1.35-36 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

John the Baptist continues the role that he was given by God, he witnesses to Jesus. John is not jealous for his disciples. He continues to point to Jesus and wants his disciples to look at him.

As we saw a few weeks ago, John the Baptist’s proclamation of Jesus as the Lamb of God did not have the realization of the suffering Messiah that we have, but as a prophet, he speaks better than he knows. This happens a few times in John.

1.37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

These two disciples hear John the Baptist’s testimony and follow Jesus. Some teachers and leaders might be jealous of a similar thing happening, but not John. This is why he came. Some of you may be teachers or leaders now, or maybe you will be someday. Maybe you will be discipling someone. And, what happens if the time comes for them to leave from under you? Shall you be jealous? Not if they are following Jesus. Always remember, it should always cause us joy to learn that those we’ve helped are following Jesus.

1.38 And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?”

John, the author of this gospel tells us that the two disciples were following him. Of course, this can simply mean that Jesus was walking ahead of them. But, John may be hinting that this is the early stage of the two disciples turning from following John the Baptist to following Jesus, to becoming his disciples.

Jesus asks them “what do you seek?” This too can simply mean seeking as in physically looking for something. But, it’s also possible that Jesus wants these potential followers to say for themselves why they want to follow.

They call Jesus “Rabbi”. Rabbi is the Aramaic word that was used for teacher. But, since John’s readers may not know that, he translates the meaning for them. And, they then ask “where are you staying?”

1.39 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.

Jesus’ answer is simple. “Come, and you will see.” This fits with what we’ve seen from John before. God wants eye-witnesses. Jesus doesn’t just tell them, he invites them to see with their own eyes.

They accept Jesus’ invitation and John, the author, tells us that it was the 10th hour. This would be 4 p.m..

This is a good time to think about who these two disciples are. We know from the text that one of the disciples was Andrew, the brother of Peter. But, what about the other disciple? We don’t know for sure, but tradition holds that it was John, the author of this gospel. If it was John, it seems to fit. Reporting the hour of the day is something that we might expect from an eye-witness who was impressed by the event.

Jesus is inviting you to come and see. Some of you may not yet know Jesus. He is inviting you to see for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. Don’t just take your parents’ word, your husband’s work, your wife’s word. They, like John the Baptist gave witness to Jesus to you. But, now it’s time for you to come and see Jesus for yourself.

1.40-41 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ).

Here is where we learn the identity of one of the disciples. It is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. And, what is his response? He goes and tells his brother. How many times has this happened through the ages. When a new disciples comes and sees Jesus, he then goes and tells his family. And, what does Andrew tell Peter about Jesus? He calls him the Messiah. And, what was John the Baptist’s first words when the priests and Levites sent a delegation to question him? I am not the Messiah.

Messiah is a Hebrew word that literally means, “anointed one.” Again, many of John’s readers would not know this, so he translates it into Greek. This word was used in the Old Testament for the kings of Israel and Judah. David, before he was king, used it to talk about King Saul.

As Christians, we have to be careful again. We hear Andrew call Jesus the Messiah, and we might think that Andrew had a mature understanding of what Messiah was like. But, it’s clear from the rest of John that neither Andrew, nor anyone else understood Messiah to be one who would suffer and die. Andrew thought that Jesus would become a political king to lead Judah to the glory days. But, even though Andrew is mistaken, he spoke better than he knew.

1.42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. This is what we are called to do today. We’re not called to win arguments or bring people to a Christian event (merely). We are to bring them to Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t even wait for Peter to speak and tells him who he is and who he will be. He was Simon the son of John, or in the original Bar-Jonah. But Jesus gives him the name Cephas which John translates as Peter, or “rock”. When something or someone becomes yours, you name it. When you buy a puppy at the pet shop or bring home a newborn baby, you name it.

1.43-44 The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.

The text is not clear about who the “he” is that purposed to go into Galilee and found Philip. In fact, it’s quite possible that the “he” here is Andrew. First, he found his brother, the next day he found Philip, his friend. And, he brings him to Jesus, and Jesus calls him to follow him. Andrew learned well from his mentor, John the Baptist. He doesn’t know much, but he knows enough to tell his brother and friend and bring them to Jesus.

1.45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Philip follows the same example of Andrew and quickly tells Nathanael. And let’s look at what Philip says. He says they found “him of whom Moses in the law and also the Prophets wrote." Well, if you were here and remember, when the delegation from the priests and Levites question John, he denies being the prophet that Moses spoke of. But Philip witnesses that Jesus is that prophet. But, then he tells who he is in the customary way of the day. You would say the person’s first name, where they were from and who their father is. So, “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

1.46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael were all from Galilee. And Galileans had a bad reputation with Jews from Jerusalem. But, here, even the Galileans looked down on people from Nazareth. Jesus, the Word of God, the Son of God, was from the most humble city he could be from. Of course, we know that he was from Bethlehem, the city of King David. But, Jesus was quite happy to be from Nazareth.

No matter what your background, God can use you.

Philip doesn’t try to argue with Nathanael, but repeats the phrase, “come and see.”

1.47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

Just as with Peter, Jesus doesn’t wait for Nathanael to speak, but tells him who he is. He describes him as being true, upright, and devout.

1.48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Nathanael obviously agreed with Jesus’ statement. And when he asks how Jesus knows him, he tells him that he saw him under the fig tree. We don’t know that Nathanael was doing under that tree because John doesn’t tell us. Fig trees were known for being good places for meditation. The movie the Gospel of John shows Nathanael having an epiphany during meditation at that time. But, we don’t know.

1.49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”

Whatever it was that Nathanael was doing under the tree, somehow Jesus’ statement removes his doubt and he confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel. Now, this doesn’t mean that Nathanael understood that Jesus was the Son of God, that is, “the Word of God who was God.” The expression “son of God” was used of the king of Israel and certainly the Messiah. So, Nathanael is claiming that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel. Like Andrew before him, and John the Baptist before him, Nathanael spoke better than he knew.

1.50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

Jesus promises that Nathanael will see greater things than what led to his confession. In fact, when we get to chapter 2 next time, we will see the turning of water into wine. But, indeed, the gospel of John is full of such signs. And this is a good time to remind ourselves of the verse from the end of the gospel that summarizes the purpose of the gospel: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:30, 31, NAS95.

1.51 And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Jesus now tell Nathanael that he will see the greatness of the Son of Man, an even greater vision than Jacob the father of the nation of Israel saw in his vision. Before we look at that reference, notice how Jesus begins the statement. He says in our version here, truly, truly. Other versions say verily, verily, or Very truly, I tell you. Its actually the word from which we get amen and means that something is true. Now, when do we usually say, amen? We usually say it at the end of a prayer or AFTER someone says something we agree strongly with. It was the same in Jesus day. Jesus, says amen BEFORE he speaks. This is shocking! And, then, he repeats it. In Hebrew and Aramaic, this was a way to emphasize it. In English, we might say it once loudly or write an exclamation mark. In Japanese, you might say アーメンですよ!. Jesus, not only prefaces his statements with amen, he does it twice. When you see these statements in the Bible, pay attention! Jesus wants your attention.

So, he tells Nathanael that he will, for certain, see angels ascending and descending on him. And not just Nathanael. The “you” in this verse is plural. All of the disciples will see the glory of Jesus.

All of the Jews recognized the special place of Jacob. And they understood that Jacob’s vision of the ladder was a key moment. In fact, Jacob named the place of the vision “Bethel”. Bethel means “house of God”. And now, we see that Jacob’s vision was a forerunner of what would happen to Jesus. Jesus is greater than Jacob. Earlier in John, we saw that the phrase “grace upon grace” really means “grace instead of grace”. That is, the grace Jesus brings replaces the grace of the Old Testament. Jesus is Jacob’s ladder. Jesus is the “house of God”. Jesus is God’s gracious gift to us. And by faith, we along with Nathanael and the disciples, can see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man, as we hear the witness of those who tell us the gospel and believe it. “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31, NAS95. Believe, and have life in His name!