“Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!…” John 1:35-51
In this passage, Jesus gathers men as disciples, and we must ask, “Why disciples?” Jesus’ work on earth begins with his incarnation and ends in his crucifixion and resurrection. So why not go right to the cross? Why gather disciples? John gives the answer in 1:14-16. Jesus came, not only to take away sin, but in order for the world to see the glory of Son and the Father and for us to receive grace upon grace from this fullness. Removal of sin is not the end, but the means to life with God––life as children of God, life as followers of Jesus, life as his disciples. Jesus has come on a glorious and gracious mission. He has come for people to see the glory of God and to graciously share in that glory as children of God. And so he starts with four men named in this passage––Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael. Each of these see Jesus as glorious, full of truth and grace.
Following the Lamb of God (vs. 35-39)
John again identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God (vs. 36). Two disciples hear John say this and follow Jesus. “What are you seeking?” Jesus asked. They’re seeking to have their sins taken away! Discipleship is first and foremost the expressed need for a savior from our sins. The beginning of following Jesus is not for the strong, but the weak, not for the healthy, but the sick, not for the righteous, but the sinners (Mk. 2:17). They discover the truth that Jesus is the Lamb of God and follow in order to receive grace.
We Found the Messiah (vs. 40-42)
They were seeking Jesus and they find the Christ. Andrew, one of the two first disciples, becomes an evangelist and tracks down “his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah!’” (vs. 41) This is the one like Moses who would deliver God’s people from slavery. This is the one like David who would restore God’s kingdom. This is the one like Solomon who would build God’s temple. This is a glorious declaration that leads Simon to receive grace.
After Andrew brings Simon, Jesus looks Simon over, possibly whistles and then gives him his new life long nickname “Rocky.” Or more accurately Peter, the Rock. Jesus named him Peter, and Peter became his new name (Mt. 16:17). Jesus has authority to give a new name, new identity, new life. This is more grace because there is no better identity that what Jesus gives his disciple.
Follow Me and Found Him (vs. 43-46)
The next day, Jesus decides to travel to Galilee and he found Philip and said, “Follow me.” Philip then 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.” There’s a lot of finding here in these few verses. But who found who first? Jesus’s finding Philip was prior to Philip finding Jesus. Every disciple must find Jesus, just like Philip found Jesus. But then you will know that Jesus has found you first.
Nathanael responds, “Out of Nazareth! What? Can anything good come?” This could simply be Nathanael’s rural town rivalry as a Bethsaida boy with Nazareth. But he also knew there was no mention of Nazareth in the messianic prophecies. As a recent follower (that day), Philip didn’t have all the answers and so gave a simple invitation, “Come and see.”
The King of Israel, the Son of God (vs. 47-49)
Even as Nathanael comes to see Jesus, Jesus sees Nathanael and knows him inside and out. “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (vs. 47). Nathanael responds, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael realizes that he is so thoroughly known and seen by this stranger that Jesus must be more than a man. And so he uttered these life-changing words, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel!”
The Son of Man Lifted Up (vs. 50-51)
Jesus responds by describing the greater things Nathanael will see, “You shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Jesus combines two seemingly strange Old Testament dreams. The first is Isaac’s dream in Genesis 28 of the angels climbing up and down the ladder to heaven and the second is in Daniel’s dream in Daniel 7 of the Son of Man receiving a kingdom from the Ancient of Days. So what’s going on? I believe that Jesus is affirming what Nathanael says about Jesus––He is the Son of God, and He is the King of Israel. Jesus will be seen as the Son of God and the King of Israel as he is lifted up on the cross as the Son of Man (Jn. 3:13-15).
While hanging on the cross, Jesus is ingloriously mocked as the King of the Jews and the Son of God. And yet, Jesus says these are the greater things that will been seen. You will see the glory of the Son of Man, who is the King of Israel, who is the Messiah, who is the Lamb of God, who is God’s own Son, lifted up on a cross to die for sinners, for his disciples.