A Bible study through John 1-6
Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus calling people to Himself. However, during the early days of His ministry, He intentionally called out the men who would become His group of disciples and core group of followers. These men would walk with Jesus throughout His three year ministry, listen to all His teaching, and join Him on the night He was betrayed. While they were a chosen group of men, they were also extremely ordinary people who failed and struggled in their faith just like we do. What set the twelve disciples apart was not only the fact that Jesus specifically chose them, but that they agreed to follow Jesus wherever He would lead.
But how did these men first meet Jesus? How did they become His followers
While the Gospel of Matthew provides more details and shares the stories of all twelve disciples and how they met Jesus, the Gospel of John highlights only four of the twelve by name: Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.
“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).”
“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.’”
While John the Baptist was declaring the arrival of the Messiah, a couple of his followers took to heart his message and sought out Jesus. Andrew was one of these men, and he quickly recognized Jesus as the Messiah. I love how the first thing he does after following Jesus is tell his brother about what he learned. While there are no “what ifs” in God’s kingdom because He is completely sovereign and always fulfills His purposes, I still believe it is valuable to contemplate the far reaching impact of Andrew’s decision to share Jesus with his brother. Have you considered what the story of the church would have been like without Peter? What if Andrew had been too afraid of his brother’s big, loud personality and how he would respond to his message? How would history have been different if Peter had stayed Simon the fisherman?
The next person the Gospel of John lists as following Jesus is Philip. According to this account, Philip is the only one specifically mentioned as being called out by Jesus. However, he doesn’t just follow Jesus after receiving the invitation. Like Andrew, Philip’s recorded action after becoming a follower of Jesus is to grab a friend and tell him the good news. Unlike Peter, Nathanael doesn’t immediately believe the message Philip gives him about having found the Messiah. He accompanies Philip back to Jesus, but is skeptical all the way. However, Jesus quickly quieted his doubts and Nathanael joined the band of men who would become the twelve disciples.
So what can we learn from all this? While the text is rather straightforward and more historic in nature, there are definitely lessons we can glean from the information God felt was important for us to know.
First, following Jesus should always prompt us to invite others along the journey. Notice that in this passage of John five people began following the Lord, two of which were brought to Christ by a friend or brother. From the very beginning, Christ’s kingdom was built by each person grabbing a friend and sharing the truth they had learned. Andrew brought Peter and Philip got Nathanael.
So how are we doing with inviting others to Jesus? Are we quick to tell people the truth we have learned and point them to Christ? Notice that neither Andrew nor Philip shared what they learned in a pushy way. They didn’t “preach” to their brother or friend; rather, they stated what they recently discovered in a matter of fact, you-should-check-it-out-too kind of way. I believe this is something we can learn from and remember as we try to share Jesus in our circle of influence.
Second, the invitation to follow Jesus is still on the table. The words Jesus spoke to Philip still ring true today. “Follow me.” The call and invitation to follow Christ is still being issued. We just have a choice to make. Do we answer and follow the call, stepping outside our comfort zones and into a semi-unknown future? Or do we count the cost of following Christ too great and decide to reject the invitation out of doubt or fear of missing out on what the world has to offer?
When Jesus calls us to follow Him it’s an all or nothing deal. We cannot follow Him and follow the world. We cannot expect the blessing and joy of walking with Jesus and enjoy the pleasures of this world. They are mutually exclusive. However, once we get over our fears and doubts, the pure joy and delight of following Jesus is beyond comparison. As Jesus told Nathanael when Nathanael approached Him with his doubts:
“Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, “I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’”
As we answer the call of Christ and follow Him wherever He leads, He shows us great and marvelous things that we could never have imagined or dreamed. While the cost to follow Jesus may initially seem great, walking with the Savior of the world is definitely worth whatever sacrifices are required, because He is the only source of eternal life, everlasting peace, unstoppable joy, and unconditional love.
So will you answer the call of Christ and follow Him?