JOHN:The Gospel of Heartfelt Belief
Deciding to Follow Jesus
Jerry A. Collins
We are constantly making decisions about what or who we are going to follow. When we are young children we want to follow the popularity of some popular sports figure we hope to be like one day. When a little older we want to follow the latest styles in dress. When we get a little older we want to follow our peers and be in with the gang. When we get a little older than that we want to follow the strategy of the most recently successful company so we can be successful too.
The Bible knows of our tendency to follow and so Godís Word tells us who and what we should follow. We are going to learn that there is no more rewarding and successful endeavor in our lives than to follow Jesus. Following Jesus will be the most satisfying and beneficial thing you could ever do. We are going to learn this from the decisions to follow Jesus that the first five of Jesus disciples made. And there are a number of things about deciding to follow Jesus that we can apply to our lives from this passage.
1. We will be influenced to follow Jesus by someone who already knows the value of doing so 1:37
Here we see John the Baptist pointing his disciples to Jesus as the Lamb of God. John has already testified of this in vss. 29-34 and the purpose for repeating it again is to initiate a chain reaction which will bring John the Baptists disciples to Jesus and make them Jesusí own disciples. The focus is on Jesus as the Lamb of God. In other words the testimony is foreshadows Jesusí death as the Savior. John knew that Jesus was a person worth becoming a follower of because of what he came to do. Namely, to die for our sins as Godís sacrifice for us.
If a person is going to become a follower of Jesus Christ, they must first come to terms with His sacrifice for sin. This is the first step in becoming a follower of Jesus. He must first become your Savior. You must first recognize that he came to save you from your sin, its consequences and destiny. Usually someone who already recognizes this and has turned to Christ by faith will testify about this like John did. Their testimony verified by the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit will be used of God to open a receptive heart to faith in Jesus Christ. You cannot follow Jesus if you are not saved. You can admire him, talk about him, study him, teach about his life but you cannot follow him. But when you have settled that question you can do what these disciples of John did in vs 37. When they heard Johns testimony they followed Jesus. In other words, they left John to learn from Jesus. Things are changing in Gods plan. He is moving from Johns baptism to Jesus ministry. Here we see then the change of allegiance. Now they will follow Jesus.
2. Jesus invites us to decide to follow him 1:38-39
In this interchange between Jesus and these first two disciples we see Jesus inviting them to follow him. Jesus turns and his question implies more than just what it is they are seeking but in the sense of what are you seeking in life? It seems that their relationship with Jesus began when they went to him to see where he was staying and stay with him. Later we will learn that their following Jesus was sealed when they saw his glory, during the working of the seven sign miracles, and believed in him (2:11).
Jesus invitation to follow him is an invitation to stay with him. To learn from him and listen to him and abide with him and obey him. It is a voluntary decision we make to pursue Christís righteous life as our own. We determine to keep making the righteous choices again and again and again. No excuses. No justifications. No alterations. We cannot become a follower of Jesus if we do not abide with him. We must stay with him no matter the cost to us. When there is a personal cost involved then our devotion to follow Christ and stay with him will be tested. Jesus invites us to decide to follow him so that no matter how difficult our marriage has become, how tenuous our financial situation is, how lonely our days are, how insecure our health is, how painful our loss is, or how difficult this decision may be, we will stay true to Jesus Christ and take the righteous path. The only other alternative is to pursue the worlds solutions and that James tells us makes us a friend of the world and an enemy of God (James 4:4). Instead James says in 4:7 submit to God. Donít submit to your old nature. Donít submit to the temptation to follow your own solution.
3. Followers of Jesus invite others to become followers of Jesus 1:40-42
By the time Andrew finds his brother, he knows Jesus is the Messiah. Apparently he learned this during his short stay with Jesus which would have been the previous evening. The title Messiah would have been the recognition that Jesus is the One who has come to deliver Israel. It is interesting that Andrew appears two more times in John (6:4-9; 12:20-22) and both times he was bringing someone to Jesus. When Jesus saw Peter he changed his name which would be indicative of the future role he would play. He would be a rock-like man in the church during its early years. When God changes peoples names, like Abram, Sarai, Jacob, it reflects that God is going to change the destiny of this person. So Simons name change is prophetic.
Discipleship is what occurs when one person intentionally impacts another person in the direction of Christlikeness. We learn seven things about discipleship from Andrew and Peter. (1) Discipleship is incarnational. It is being there. Cannot happen from a distance.
(2) Discipleship is reproductive. Be imitators of me as I of Christ 1Cor11:1
(3) Discipleship invites personal discovery. Discovering new way of seeing things.
(4) Discipleship reasons, persuades and gives evidence. He is the Messiah!
(5) Discipleship counts the cost. Jesus gets highest priority.
(6) Discipleship is giving. Greater givers have greater influence/authority.
(7) Discipleship has an eternal perspective. Focus on other side of grave.
4 Following Jesus produces further knowledge and understanding of God 1:43-51
First, John pointed his followers to Jesus and they followed him. Then Andrew who became Jesus follower points Peter to Jesus. Now Jesus personally calls Philip to follow him. After Philips exposure to Jesus, he invites Nathaniel to follow Jesus. But he does so from a position of greater knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is. He calls him the one Moses wrote about in the law and the prophets also wrote about Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph (1:45). This is similar to the encounter with Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27. There, too he began with Moses and all the prophets interpreting things written about himself in all the scriptures. It is possible that Philip heard these same things from Christ after Philips call to follow him. Nathaniel, not yet a disciple of Jesus is initially skeptical of Jesus because he comes from Nazareth with itís backwoods reputation vs 46. Philip knew Nathaneals questions would be answered. When Jesus saw Nathaniel he observed that he had a willingness to believe when shown the truth vs 47. Evidently this supernatural understanding of Nathaniel that Jesus displayed puzzled him initially in first part of vs 48. Jesus revealed even further intimate knowledge of Nathaniel in vs 48 when he knew exactly what Nathaniel was doing under the fig tree. What seems to impress Nathaniel was that Jesus was aware that he had been there. This whole exchange evokes a confession from him that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel vs 49. Jesus then says that Nathaniel will see even greater things and understand even greater truth--the truth that Jesus himself is the point of contact between heaven and earth vss 50-51. When Jesus begins to do his miracles beginning at Cana, his knowledge and understanding of Jesus as the revealer of heavenly things to men will increase.
Knowledge is not sufficient but it is essential. After knowledge we need understanding and after understanding we need application. Knowledge and understanding alone are useless unless we apply what we know and understand. But if we do not know the truth of God about the character of God revealed in the Word of God we cannot become a follower of God. God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth 1 Timothy 2:4. Jesus also said if you abide in my Word you are truly disciples of mine and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free John 8:31-32. So, followers of Jesus study the Bible to learn about the knowledge of God which describes the Jesus who is the basis of our faith.