Upon an initial reading of this passage, it may seem to be just a mundane text that narrates us from one point to the next without any real significance to us beyond just explaining the first disciples of Jesus. However, that is just not so. There is great significance in this text and many lessons for us. Most importantly we begin now to follow Jesus in the text. In vss. 1-18 you have the beautiful prologue. Then the narrative transitioned to focusing upon John the Baptist, and now the focus shifts from John to Jesus as the first disciples come to Christ; which in itself is significant in being an illustration of the purpose of John’s ministry – to be a forerunner to Christ – His purpose was to be the transition to Christ. We have that happening here.
So the way I want to approach this text today is simply to walk through it pretty much a verse at a time, and pick up on certain things as we go.
Verse 35: Here we see from the text that John the Baptist had disciples. This was not unusual. The religious teachers of that day all had disciples. A disciple is simply a follower or student of a teacher. So we have John here with two of his disciples.
Verse 36: As John is there with his disciples, Jesus walks by them. This is certainly not mere happenstance or coincidence, but divine appointment and providence. As Jesus walks by, John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Here we have John preaching the same message that he preached the day before – and he is preaching it here to two of his disciples, who certainly would’ve known what he was teaching. There are at least a couple things we can learn from this.
First, the preaching of Christ in the Gospel is a message that is worthy of being preached and heard over and over again. It is not something that gets old, tired, or worn out. In today’s world of the sensational news cycle where big news stories are here one moment and gone the next, it is not so with the message of Christ crucified, the Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world to make sinners right with God.
Secondly, the message of Jesus Christ as the Sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is a message that we need to hear day by day. It is not only worthy of a daily hearing, but we need a daily hearing of it. It is a message that is ever relevant because our sin is ever relevant and the glory of God is ever relevant. It is a message worthy of daily preaching and hearing. Even the ones who are most familiar with the message are not exempt from the need of Christ.
So John the Baptist proclaims the same message as the day before to his disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” It is clear and direct; both theological and practical; and centers on Christ.
Verse 37: John’s two disciples hear his message and they respond to it by literally following after Jesus. We don’t really know their exact motivation at this point. It could be that through John’s preaching and seeing Jesus that they have true faith. Or it could just be that their curiosity is peaked and they want to investigate this Jesus for themselves to see whether He truly is the Messiah. We do not know for sure. Either way, there are great lessons for us here.
Now, this is surely not the first time these two disciples of John the Baptist heard this message that Jesus was the Lamb of God, and likely wasn’t the first time they saw Jesus. Especially considering they were likely there the day before when essentially the same thing happened. They most certainly would’ve heard this many times before being disciples of John the Baptist whose ministry it was to point to Jesus Christ. So why is that now these two disciples begin to follow after Jesus? Because as Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Christ.” You never know how many times you need to hear the Word of Christ until the Spirit quickens your heart to faith. This is why we don’t give up in preaching the gospel. It is the power of God to save, through its being heard. Sometimes it may take a thousand times for someone to hear the gospel and then finally believe. So don’t give up hope for your lost friends and family members. Don’t lose heart in the discipling and evangelizing of your children. It is probably going to take them hundreds, if not thousands, of times of hearing the gospel before they believe! This is why we don’t just share the gospel once with a lost a friend and then think we can check it off the box and not worry about it again because we’ve done our duty. No, we persist in proclaiming Christ. The next time could be the time they come to faith!
We see also from the two disciples here that when the preaching of Christ takes root in someone’s heart, it changes them. It changes the way they walk, live, and the direction of their life. They went from standing still to following Jesus.
Verse 38-39: Upon turning to the two disciples who had begun to follow Him, Jesus asks them what they are seeking. Now why would Jesus ask this? What’s the point of such a question? Well there are many things that people seek in Jesus and many motivations and reasons that people attempt to follow Him, and not all are equal. Not every motivation or intent is a good one. A lot of times that Jesus asked various people questions, it wasn’t that He didn’t know the answer, but He was simply starting conversation, so that through conversation they could come to the truth, as we try to do often times in talking with someone about Christ – there is a conversational way to probe at their heart with the truth so that they might come to see it. This may be precisely what Jesus is doing here, simply starting conversation, knowing where He wants to take it. We can really learn from Jesus here when it comes to our efforts in evangelism. When you want to start a spiritual conversation with someone, I find it very easy to begin by asking them a disarming type of question that can lead to the gospel. I like to ask people if they believe in an afterlife. Conner likes to ask people if they are a good person. When Conner asks that, he knows the answer. The Bible tells us there is no one good, no not one, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, no one seeks after God. Yet, you ask questions like that to begin the conversation so that through it, that person may have their need for Christ revealed to them.
So Jesus asks this question, and the two disciples don’t actually give an answer immediately here. “Rabbi” is not an answer to what they are seeking. They answer the question with a question, asking Jesus where He is staying. Now that seems kind of weird. Why would they ask Him where He is staying? Is that what they are seeking? Jesus actually responds to what may seem like a strange question to us by saying, “Come and you will see.” So they go and they stay the day with him. So what’s the meaning of all that? Well, their asking Jesus where He stayed was basically like them saying, “Hey, let’s go somewhere where we can talk more about this in private or where we have time to ask more questions.” Presumably they would’ve had some incredible conversation during this time of staying with Jesus. We are not told exactly what was said, but we can be sure it was incredible, because in verse 41, Andrew, who was one of the two disciples, goes and tells his brother that they have found the Messiah! So that’s what their conversation led to, a knowledge of Jesus as the Messiah. Like I said, we don’t know their conversation, but in my head I just imagine Jesus taking them through so many texts of Scripture, and through explaining the Scriptures, their eyes are opened to see Jesus as the Messiah.
One of the other reasons we have this part about the two disciples going and staying with Jesus is because the gospel writer is showing us what He said about the Word made flesh back in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” These first two disciples saw and witnessed Jesus’ dwelling place with man and dwelt with Him.
Verse 40: Here the identity of one of these first two disciples is revealed to us. One of them is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. The identity of the other disciple is not revealed to us. He is left anonymous. The traditional belief, which I would agree with, is that the other unnamed disciple is John, the writer of this gospel. One of the reasons for that belief is the fact that the gospel writer nowhere mentions his own name in the entire gospel. He does refer to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved, but doesn’t mention his name. So it would be consistent with that practice. Nevertheless we do not know for sure.
Verse 41: Upon spending the day with Jesus, the first thing Andrew does is go to his brother to tell him that they have found the Messiah. This also tells me that this is the answer to first question Jesus asked them, the answer to what they were seeking. But whether or not that is what they were seeking, that is what they found. There is obvious great excitement and joy in this, being that the first thing Andrew does is that he goes to one of his closest friends, his brother, to tell him the good news! This is how we ought to be as those who have found the Christ. We ought to be happy and excited and go and tell those we love and bring them to Jesus.
Just as with Andrew here, our first responsibility is to our own home. Our home is our primary mission field. If we don’t talk much of Christ under our own roof we likely won’t do it elsewhere, and if we do, we are hypocrites and in sin. I think that so many of our societal problem can be attributed first and foremost to the failure in the home. May God give us grace to change that. May God give us grace to pour blood, sweat, and tears into our own homes for the glory of God. Last night I was thinking about Psalm 127:4, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth.” Parents, in Psalm 127:4, do you realize that parenthood is compared to being a warrior? We often look at this verse and think “oh yeah, children are arrows that we shoot out into the world…” But do you ever think of yourself, in your role as a parent, as a warrior? Maybe that’s part of the problem – we’ve stopped thinking that way. Well we need to start thinking that way! What happens to a warrior before he ever shoots an arrow? He goes through intense training and discipline. If you are not pouring blood, sweat, and tears into your children while they are young, you cannot expect to be in shape to hit your mark when it comes time for them to leave the home. Now, what is the purpose of the arrow in the hand of a warrior? It’s not target practice. It’s not turkey hunting. It’s to kill the enemy. Who is our enemy as Christians? As Ephesians 6 tells us, not flesh and blood, but rulers, authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. How do we kill that enemy? Not with swords and guns, but with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, holy living, and making disciples of Jesus by teaching them to obey everything that He commanded. Is that what we are training our kids to do? The enemy is alive and well in this world, and we’re not helpless; we’ve got the weapon to take him down. Don’t we want to do that? I think the decaying culture around us is a result of families not doing that. Maybe your parents failed at it, that’s no reason to blame them and think that now it can’t be done. Adult Andrew went to his adult brother Simon Peter and brought him to Jesus. There is always hope with Christ. I once heard someone say that the difference between David and the Israelites is that the Israelites thought Goliath was too big to fight; while David thought Goliath was too big to miss. We need to have that attitude when it comes to discipling our children to take out the enemy. Don’t look at the world and think, “Man, the world is just so unbelieving and there are so many people who hate God, I am so afraid for my children.” Instead we should think, “Man, look at all these people God has given us to make disciples of!” How do we take out the enemy? By converting them! We have such a great opportunity before us to take out the enemy, and it begins in our home. Let’s do it.
Verse 42: Andrew brings his brother Simon to Jesus, and what does Jesus do? He tells Simon who he is, which could’ve worked to ease any doubts Simon may have had that Jesus was the Christ. Then, Jesus changes Simon name to Cephas in Aramaic, or Peter, in English; which would’ve been Petros, I believe, in Greek. As you may know, the name Cephas means rock, or stone. Certainly we see a lot of foreshadowing here, although the full understanding wasn’t quite revealed yet.
You know what’s interesting? When we are faithful to proclaim the gospel and make disciples, we don’t bare the responsibility of making people into converts. God does. So when we proclaim Christ, we are simply unleashing the message, letting it fly, and God then, is the One who does the work. He does it. We can’t make it happen. That’s why we don’t ought not to get frustrated or feel guilty when we have striven faithfully to proclaim Christ, and our kids just don’t want Jesus. It may be that you have neglected your responsibilities, but if you have imperfectly proclaimed Christ, it’s out of your hands, it’s in Christ’s hands. Those are good hands to leave it in. Andrew brought Simon his brother to Jesus, and Jesus did the converting. Jesus was the One who changed Simon’s name. Jesus is the One who gave him a new name and a new identity. I like what D. A. Carson says here, “…the focus is much less on what this name change means for Peter, than on the Jesus who knows people thoroughly, and not only ‘sees into’ them, but so calls them that He makes them what He calls them to be.” That is just what happens when someone comes to faith in Christ. Jesus gives them a new name, a new identity. No longer a child of the devil but a child of God. No longer a child of wrath, but a beloved son. No longer lost, but found. No longer dead, but alive.
That’s the goal of discipleship, evangelism, and preaching Christ – that dead people come alive, and that lost people become found by Jesus. I didn’t mention much about it, but in verse 38 the two disciples call Jesus “Rabbi” (meaning teacher). That’s part of what it means to make disciples, to lead them the teacher. That’s why the great commission says that we are to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded. It’s true, Jesus is our teacher; but not just a teacher. He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God. It’s true, He came to teach; but not only to teach. He doesn’t just say, “sit up and listen” (although we better). He says, “Come and you will see.” See what? See Him as the Messiah, the Lamb of God, laying down His life on the cross for His sheep. See Him resurrected and ascended on high as He rules, seated on the throne, defeating the enemy as He makes us into what He calls us to be.