In our last study we read that John is the witness who is performing his God-given function. He is depreciating of himself while pointing to Jesus as the Son of God. When Jesus came toward him, he began declaring, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus is greater than John and has come with a greater baptism than John because through Jesus is the forgiveness of sins and entrance into the restored kingdom of God.
Follow The Lamb (1:35-39)
The next day John the Witness was standing with two of his disciples. Jesus walks by again and John continues his proclamation: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Verse 37 records what all of this was about. When John’s disciples heard his declaration of Jesus as the Lamb of God, they leave John and follow Jesus. John’s mission would be successful if he ended up with zero followers of him because all of them were following Jesus. John knew and repeatedly declared that his work was not about himself, but about revealing Jesus as the Lamb of God to Israel. There is no question. This is the obvious choice. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away sins. I must follow him. You leave what you are doing and follow him. It is amazing to me how often this does not happen! When we understand that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins, you drop everything and follow him. You do not go back to what you were doing before. You do not return to your normal way of life. You do not go back to work and back to your routine. The Lamb of God has come. Follow him!
When Jesus notices that these two people are following him, Jesus asks them an important question. “What are you seeking?” Obviously Jesus knows what these two are doing. But notice that Jesus does not ask them who they are seeking, but what they are seeking. Jesus wants to know why they are following him. Jesus asks this question of every person who seems to be walking with him. What are you seeking? Why are you following him?
If we are honest with our hearts we may find that there are numbers of reasons why we follow Jesus, none of which are what Jesus wants to hear. We may follow Jesus for some sort of social benefit. How often today people speak of the church in terms of social benefits. People will readily declare that they go to church because the people are nice, the programs are good, the children’s ministry is excellent, the music is good, the food is good, the potlucks are great, or something like that. This is not the reason to follow Jesus.
Some follow Jesus to soothe their guilt. They know they have been immoral and perhaps have committed a great sin. Therefore they are looking for a way to not feel so bad about themselves. Jesus is turned into a type of therapist who will make you feel better about yourself and ease the pain you have in your life. I am amazed at how often Jesus is turned into a personal therapist, as if the purpose of Jesus is to make you feel better about yourself or about your life. Following Jesus does not make you feel good about yourself because following Jesus is a constant reminder of our sinfulness and shortcomings. Taking up the cross and following him is not a path of feeling good about ourselves.
Others follow Jesus out of habit. They follow because this is what they have always done. Their parents were Christians, they grew up in the pews, and they really don’t know what else to do with themselves on Sunday. They do not follow from the heart but from habit. They follow because they think they have to, not because they want to. Why are you following Jesus? What is your motivation? What are you seeking from Jesus?
Notice the response of these two who were following Jesus. They want to know where Jesus is staying. This is not a point of information for these two. They are not saying that they are following because they are merely curious about his sleeping arrangements. They are declaring to Jesus that they want to get to know Jesus and spend time with him. They were seeking a relationship with Jesus. They were going to stay where Jesus was staying and they were going to use that time to learn more about the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus responds with the words they were hoping to hear: “Come and you will see.” Follow me and let’s go spend some time together. Jesus receives people who with honest hearts are seeking to know him. The only reason to follow Jesus is because you are seeking a relationship with the sin remover. Following Jesus is about needing our sins removed and desperately seeking a Savior.
Be Changed By Jesus (1:40-42)
Andrew is one of these two disciples who has turned to follow Jesus. He gets his brother Simon and tells him that they had found the Messiah. They had found the Lamb of God who will take away sins and be their deliverer. Simon comes with Andrew to meet Jesus. Jesus says, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter).” Have you ever thought about the impact of having your name changed when you are an adult by a person you do not know? You have been called by your name all your life. You are used to your name and it is a good name. Simon was a very common name at that time. It is not that he had a terrible name or that his parents had done a disservice to him. But Jesus has the authority to change your identity. He has the ability and the authority to change everything about you. Consider the prophetic blessing Jesus was placing upon Simon. Jesus changes Simon’s name to Cephas (in the Aramaic, the language of the Jews at that time). Cephas means “rock” in the Aramaic, and the corresponding Greek name for “rock” in Peter. This is the Peter we read about in the gospels and in the book of Acts. Jesus knew what Peter would become. Simon was an inappropriate name. Peter is the right name for you, Jesus says. You are going to be the rock. What is especially awesome about this name change is that it does not seem like Peter is a rock during the life of Jesus. He is full of faith and fire for Jesus but we see him falter on many occasions, even denying Jesus three times during his darkest hour. But Jesus knew what Peter would become. What will you become for the glory of the Lord? We must not look at our past and consider that our failures prevent us from being devoted workers in Jesus’ kingdom. If you have ever done any investing for your IRA or 401K you will notice that the papers given to you have in small print, “Past performance is not an indication of future results.” We ought to have that tattooed on our foreheads. It is so true of us. Your past does not have to be an indication of what you can be for the Lord. Paul considered his past a mark of being the chief of sinners, but look at the glory he brought to the Lord through his life! You can be changed to be a rock in the kingdom of the Lord.
Jesus Knows Our Condition (1:43-48)
You may be thinking to yourself that you cannot be changed. Your past is too dark or you may think your sins are too great. But Jesus knows everything about us and has the power to change us if we will let him. Notice how the story continues in verse 43, describing the events of the next day. Jesus encounters Philip and tells him to come and follow him. Philip finds Nathanael and tells him that they have the Messiah. When Nathanael is approaching Jesus, Jesus makes a startling declaration, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael wants to know how Jesus knows him. Jesus startles Nathaniel further, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” This pushes Nathaniel over the edge to recognizing that Jesus is truly the Son of God. Jesus knew the physical and spiritual condition of Nathaniel. He was able to know where Nathaniel was that day and he was able to know the heart of Nathaniel. Jesus knows what you are doing and knows your heart.
Jesus wants people who are following him for the right reason. Do not follow him for the other benefits. Too often people proclaim these side benefits, failing to proclaim Jesus. Follow Jesus because he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and for no other reason. Knowing who Jesus is means you will want to get to know him and have a deep relationship with him. Jesus knows your heart. He knows your actions. He knows how you are living your life. But he has the power to change you. You do not have to be lost in sin. You do not have to remain where you are. Just as Peter could become the rock after many failures, you also can become useful to the Lord by giving your life fully to him.