Follow Jesus the Messiah
Series: The Gospel of John
FOLLOW JESUS THE MESSIAH
1. Seek Him
2. Point to Him
3. Recognize Him
ESV Study Bible – Study notes on the Gospel According to John
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament – The Gospel According to John – Andreas Kostenburger
Pillar New Testament Commentary Series – The Gospel According to John – DA Carson
The Bible says, in the very first Psalm, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” In other words, people who plant their lives in the water of God’s word are joyful (they’re truly blessed), stable (they’re like a tree planted by a plentiful water supply), and fruitful (their lives lead to the flourishing of others). As you just heard, Citygroups are where we plant our lives in God’s word together. Though our Citygroups do more than study the Bible, studying the same book of the Bible that we’re learning from on Sundays is the steady diet of our weekly Citygroup gatherings. As we learn the Bible together, glean one another’s insights, and receive one another’s encouragement to plant our lives in God’s word, we experience God’s blessing. That’s why I can’t over-estimate how important it is to commit to a Citygroup if you want to experience all that the Lord has for you in the Gospel of John. There may be no more important thing that we all do to see and savor Jesus in the Gospel of John than commit to gather weekly with a Citygroup.
That’s why we are helping everyone find a home in a Citygroup this month. Many of our groups have taken the month of September to rest and prepare to re-launch in October. That means this is the perfect time to join a citygroup; everyone is new. We have more groups than ever before in more geographic regions than ever before. Even if you’ve been part of a citygroup in the past, we’re asking you to “recommit” to a group this month. Some of you have already done that by talking directly with your current group leader or registering on a previous Sunday- but for everyone else, here is what we are going to do…
On your seats, you’ll find two items that will help you find the group that is just right for you to connect with:
1. A brochure that includes all of our groups which will be starting the first week of October.
2. A Citygroup sign up card, please complete the card and bring it to one of the tables in the lobby.
The tables in the lobby are arranged geographically and staffed by representatives from Citygroups in that region – so whether you live in Philly or the suburbs, simply find the table for your region, and then they’ll help you find a group close to your home that works for you.
John 1:35-51 – The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
A few summers ago, Andrea and I went on a once in a lifetime trip. About a year earlier, I volunteered to be bumped off a flight from Philly to Orlando and received, I kid you not, a $2400 voucher to fly anywhere in the world. Nearly one year later, Andrea and I were back in the Philly airport, boarding a plane with two free tickets to Switzerland where we were going to fulfill our dream of hiking together in the Alps. One of our favorite and most frightening hikes was the Schilthorn Summit (picture). It was frightening because, as you can see from this picture from the beginning of the day, we hiked the summit on a very foggy day (picture). About halfway to the summit we hit a snow and ice field that completely covered the trail. I believe this picture is from just before we got to it and picture time was over (picture). It was a hiker’s nightmare. Thick fog in the air, deep icy snow covering the trail making the ground incredibly slick, and, as a result, almost no visibility. We were in trouble. By the grace of God, some Dutch hikers came up behind us and their navigation equipment was, let’s just say, far more sophisticated than ours. And that day, Andrea and I learned just a little bit more about what it means to be followers. These guys were moving fast, but we stayed right behind them, matched their every step, and hung on their every word. By following their every step and hanging on their every word, we made it to the sky bridge (3 pictures) and, eventually, safely to the summit (picture). We made it by following.
Today, as we continue our journey through John’s Gospel, we are going to see Jesus call his first disciples, his first followers. John 1:43 – The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” What does Jesus mean when he says, “follow me”? It’s similar to how Andrea and I followed those Dutch hikers. In Jesus’ day disciples literally “followed” or walked behind the one they had chosen as their teacher. Additionally, disciples built their lives on their Rabbi’s words or teaching. But following Jesus is even more than that. Andrea and I had to leave behind our own efforts to navigate to the summit ourselves to follow those Dutch hikers because they were the way of salvation for us that day. We follow Jesus not only by following in his steps and living by his words, but also by embracing him as our only way of salvation; our only hope in life and in death. And Jesus’ original invitation to follow him, which is also a command, is the same one that is extended to all of us. And that brings us to the big idea of our passage today: Follow Jesus the Messiah. Walk in his steps, build your life on his words, trust him as the only way of salvation. Follow Jesus the Messiah. How do we do that? 1. Seek him 2. Point to him 3. Recognize him.
Our passage this morning picks up where we left off last week, with John the Baptist identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “Deliverance through the blood of lambs in the OT prefigured the coming of Jesus as the lamb of God who obtains eternal salvation for all who believe in him through his sacrificial death” (ESV Study Bible). Last week John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God publicly, but in our passage today, John the Baptist tells two of his own disciples privately that Jesus is the Lamb of God. As a result, the two disciples leave John behind to seek after Jesus John 1:37-39 – The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. The first way to follow Jesus is to seek him.
So, I want to ask you the same question that Jesus asked his first followers: what are you seeking? I want you to notice, and this makes all the difference in the world, they aren’t seeking something Jesus can give them, they’re seeking him. They’re not seeking Jesus so that Jesus will give them what that they really want. They’re seeking him. That makes all the difference. Allow me to illustrate what a big difference this makes. One of the biggest challenges that I’ve introduced and re-introduced into my marriage to Andrea, is my longing to be a great husband. Why is that a problem? The longing, at times, leads me to not really seek Andrea as an end in herself, but rather to seek her as a means of getting from her what I really want: validation that I’m a great husband. And when I do that, I’m more focused on how I feel than how she feels. Marriage doesn’t work that way. Marriage is too powerful to be a means to one spouse’s end. In the same way, the only way to seek Jesus as a follower is to seek him not for what he can give you, but to seek him. So, let’s get back to our question. When it comes to Jesus, what are you seeking? Are you seeking him because you hope that he’ll help you improve yourself? Are you seeking him because you want more peace or purpose in your life? Are you seeking him because you want him to help you have a godly spouse, a good family, a successful career, a sense of certainty, or confidence as you face the future? Friend, you can’t follow Jesus that way. Jesus says to seek first his kingdom, but everything I just described is asking Jesus to help you seek first your kingdom. Seek him first and all that you truly need will be added to you. What are you seeking? If the answer isn’t Jesus, don’t panic or feel beat up. Instead, go straight to Jesus and either tell him you want to seek him first, or you want him to help you want to seek him first. We do this by reading Scripture and praying. When we read Scripture, Jesus speaks to us and when we pray, we speak back to him. Read through John and write to Jesus in your John journal. Go to Jesus in community. Jesus’ first two followers sought Jesus together. Register for a Citygroup and seek Jesus with others who are seeking him. Follow Jesus the Messiah, first, by seeking him, not for what he can give you, but for him.
POINT TO HIM
I’ll tell you something I find truly amazing about our passage today. Depending on how you read our passage, everyone, or nearly everyone, who comes to Jesus does so based on someone else’s witness. Jesus is on the scene physically, in the flesh, and still everyone who comes to Jesus does so on the basis of someone else pointing them to Jesus. First, Andrew and another one of John the Baptist’s disciples come to Jesus because of John the Baptist’s witness. That’s very rare. As one NT scholar describes it, “To recommend disciples to a greater teacher was rare, required great humility and denoted confidence in the other teacher’s superiority.” John the Baptist points Andrew to Jesus and Andrew finds Jesus. Then Andrew immediately finds his brother and points him to Jesus. John 1:41-42 – He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 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). Can you imagine if Andrew was as quiet about Jesus as many of us are? The Apostle Peter, who turned the world upside down with the gospel of Jesus, might have died fisherman. The day after Andrew started following Jesus, Jesus called Philip to follow him. Notice what Philip does first. John 1:45-46 – 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.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” I love that. Even when Jesus was present, nearly everyone who came to Jesus in our passage did so because someone else pointed them to Jesus. And those doing the pointing had been following Jesus for less than a week. Pointing people to Jesus is not a unique task for the especially mature and bold followers of Jesus. Rather, pointing people to Jesus is following Jesus. It’s totally normal and, in Jesus’ strength, you and I can do it. So, let’s point to him. Like John the Baptist who lost his own disciples, let’s point to him regardless of the consequences. Like Andrew with Peter, let’s point to him in the presence of our loved ones. Like Philip with Nathaniel, let’s point to him in the presence of the skeptical. Around here we often talk about pointing others to Jesus in four ways: pray for three non-Christian friends regularly, love them tangibly, invite them into your Christian community, and speak about Jesus with them. Everyone’s life is pointing others to someone or something? What is your life pointing others toward? Point people to Jesus, you just might be talking to the next Peter, don’t let them die a fisherman. Follow Jesus the Messiah; seek him, point to him…
Why is all this happening? Why is John the Baptist pointing his own disciples away from himself and to Jesus? Why are grown men leaving their old lives and livelihoods behind to seek Jesus? Why do they just have to find others and point them to Jesus too? Why should you? Why? There is only one answer: they recognize Jesus. They seek Jesus and point to Jesus because they recognize Jesus for who he really is. And in our passage, Jesus’ first followers recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the One who names, the fulfillment, and the Son of Man.
When Andrew finds his brother and points him to Jesus he says, “We have found the Messiah.” What do they recognize in Jesus? “Messiah” is a Hebrews word that means anointed one. In the Old Testament, there were three groups of leaders: the prophets, the priests, and the kings. And they were each anointed for their special task by the Holy Spirit. Kings were tasked with protecting God’s people and establishing justice in Israel, priests helped bring people to God by offering sacrifices for their sins and by teaching them God’s word, and prophets spoke God’s direct message to God’s people. They were all anointed ones. Why did Andrew leave all to seek and point to Jesus? Because he recognized that Jesus is the true and greater prophet, priest and king. Jesus is God’s direct message to us. Jesus is the sacrifice by which sinners can come to God. Jesus is the King who protects us from judgment and establishes us as a people who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God. Friend, the Messiah is worth spending your life seeking and pointing others to.
When Simon meets Jesus he recognizes him as the One who can change his name. He’s now Peter. In the OT, God frequently changed people’s names to indicate their new identity and special calling. We still do this today. Pastor Mike at Citylight Center City does CrossFit, and he tells me that everyone at his gym as a nickname. His is Rev. When people join the new community they get a new identity, which is reflected in their name. Peter recognizes in Jesus the One with the divine authority to give a new name, a new identity, a new community, and a new future. Friends, Jesus is the only One who can give you a true identity, an eternal community, and a future inheritance that can’t fade. Seek him and point others to him.
Philip seeks and points Nathaniel to Jesus because Philip recognizes Jesus as The Fulfillment of everything written in the law and the prophets, that is, the whole of the Old Testament scriptures. A few of you may come from an ethnically or religiously Jewish background, but you don’t yet believe in Jesus. Some of you may have had an otherwise religious upbringing that has instilled in you a sort of respect for the Bible. Seek Jesus and point to him because He’s the fulfillment of the scriptures.
And finally Nathanael follows Jesus because he recognizes him as the Son of Man. John 1:47-51 – Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 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.” 51 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.” Nathaniel recognizes Jesus as the King of Israel, which is true, but because of its political overtones, Jesus was reluctant to call himself the King of Israel. Nathanael, like many Christians today, is more interested in Jesus as someone who will help fulfill his political agenda. Whether you’re left, right, or somewhere in between, that’s not what Jesus primarily came to do. Jesus gently corrects Nathanael’s expectations and ours by helping Nathanael recognize Jesus as the Son of Man. The Son of Man is none other than the mysterious human, yet divine figure in Daniel 7:13, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.” Jesus is the Son of Man. Truly human and also truly God; the One who would be given rule over all the nations of the earth forever (ESV Study Bible). And the Son of Man tells Nathaniel will get to see something for greater. What is greater? The Son of Man will be lifted up on a cross and die to take away the sins of all who believe in Him and three days later he will rise. The Son of Man, in his life, death, and resurrection is everything that God has to say to us in a person. Who else would we seek and what else could our lives possibly point to?
It’s tempting to come away from a passage like our present one and feel weighed down. I hope you don’t, but if you do, I get it. This passage seems to be primarily about what we need to do: seek, point, recognize, follow! If you’re feeling that way, remember that Jesus saw Nathanael before Nathanael saw Jesus. Jesus spoke to Nathanael before Nathanael spoke to Jesus. Nathanael sought Jesus because Jesus was first seeking him. And so it is with all of us. His seeking always comes first. We seek him because he first came to seek and save the lost. We seek him because he’s drawing us. Even our seeking is a work of his grace. So, let’s follow the Messiah together, by grace.