We recently began a study of John’s Gospel at PRAXIS, Element’s “third place” small group, and something really awesome jumped out at me from this passage this week. Check out John 1:35-51:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
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.
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, “So 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.”
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
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.”
Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 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.”
This is John’s account of Jesus’ calling some of his first disciples. The thing that struck me the more I looked at this passage is the changing titles ascribed to Jesus. There are at least 7 titles/descriptors given to Jesus here:
1. The Lamb of God, ultimately referring to his atoning sacrifice
2. Rabbi, ascribing to him the place of teaching and wisdom
3. Messiah (the Christ), acknowledging him as the answer to Israel’s expectation
4. Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph, which reminds us of his incarnate humanity
5. Son of God, referring to his deity
6. King, which is pretty self-explanatory
7. Son of Man, an earthy title which actually belies its prophetic and apocalyptic meaning, in v.51 connected to his exaltation
Seven titles, seven facets of Jesus’ identity. Seven angles at his all-surpassing awesomeness.
In just 17 short verses, in just one short narrative recounting Jesus calling men into the radical life of following him, we see a big picture of all that Jesus is.
And it occurs to me that this is not just a great picture of this call to discipleship, but that it’s a wonderful picture of our call to discipleship. We tag along and Jesus asks, “What do you want?” and so many of us answer with a piddlin’ amount of expectation compared to the all-satisfying goodness he is actually drawing us into.
In our study last Monday night we talked about the mentors we chose when we first entered young adulthood, and what we would have said if they had asked us, “What do you want out of this relationship?” Our answers varied: guidance, information, affirmation of gifts, encouragement.
And we go to Jesus asking for those slices of wholeness, as well. We saw our needs expressed in these different titles — he is the Rabbi for those needing wisdom, he is the Messiah for those needing fulfillment, he is the Lamb for those needing forgiveness — but the truth is we need all that Christ is, and the truth is that in becoming his disciples we actually receive all that Christ is!
We settle too easily. As C.S. Lewis says, “We are far too easily pleased.” We want and expect Jesus the information desk, Jesus the ATM, Jesus the boyfriend, Jesus the socially conscious vegetarian, Jesus the culture warrior, Jesus the chest-thumping ultimate fighter, Jesus the tea drinking beatnik, and he is none of that (but perhaps all of that). He is all of God, and he is all of life.
There are two instances of “evangelism” in this account, also. The Baptizer’s disciples ask Jesus where he’s staying and Jesus responds, “Come along and see what’s happening.” Philip doesn’t just tell Nathanael about Jesus; he says to him, “Come and see.”
Clearly it is one thing to impart information about the goodness of Jesus, but the real affect, the real impact upon those desperate for life, occurs when someone “sees” the fullness of Christ in action. If discipleship means embracing the fullness of Christ, the community of disciples should radiate the wonder and worship life in the fullness of Christ really evokes.
We worship an amazing God who supplies all our needs according to his riches in King Jesus.