#16: Searchers then Disciples

John 1:35–51

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated 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 about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Great though the works of John the Baptist had been, here comes Jesus to do a much, much greater work. So we see John point beyond himself to Jesus the Lamb, and then we see two of his disciples move on to become followers of Jesus.

In the previous reading we saw how Jesus turned the usual rabbi type of procedure on its head by taking the initiative in searching out and then calling his disciples. Here we see the opposite of that. These two are already on the spiritual journey. They have certainly arrived at a good place with John, but they are not yet where they need to be. They are a bit like our old friends, the ‘Three Wise Men’. Like them they are searching.

When they see Jesus and feel the encouraging words of their mentor they begin to follow. And when I read this story it feels as if I have become one of these searcher followers. As if Jesus turns around, looks me in the eye and says ‘So then, Robin Gamble, what exactly are you looking for?’ – then waits for an answer. Whether you and I are at the ‘trying to find, learning to follow, or working to become like him stage’ still he asks us what are we looking for? So what would your answer be?

It is likely then that the full movement of these four becoming disciples was a two way movement. They were searching for Jesus, Jesus was searching for them. And John the Baptist? Well he seems to have been the middle man helping the one to find the other.

In calling him teacher, they are in effect, saying ‘we are your pupils’. We want to bow our heads, lower our own self-pride and learn from you.

In asking ‘where are you staying?’ they are, in effect, saying ‘we need to be with you, your place must be our place’. So often today when people get close to Jesus they expect him to move into their place, this picture of the disciples show all the movement going the other way.

In saying ‘come and see’, Jesus was effectively drawing them in, pulling at their curiosity. Gently, lovingly he was landing the fish.

Andrew brings Peter. The next day back in Galilee Philip brings Nathaniel.
In these two stories all the key steps to discipleship are laid out for us:

  • The searching for more
  • Jesus turning and beckoning
  • Searching becomes following
  • Jesus draws us in
  • The searchers turn and beckon their friends

Here we have seen Jesus beginning to gather disciples. The mission has gone from one man to a community. The movement has begun. In fact the movement still goes on. The fact that you are reading this book right now probably points back to an Andrew or a Philip introducing you to Jesus. It might have been years ago in your childhood or perhaps just a few weeks ago. Now it is your turn to become part of the great missionary movement of Jesus.

Lord Jesus,
Rabbi, teacher, leader.
I am still searching,
Still following,
Still wanting to become like you.
So may you help me today on my journey.