This week’s study has focused on the changes Jesus immediately makes in the lives of those who love Him. In our last lesson we found that He changes us from unbelievers to believers. In this study, we find that He makes us inviters instead of mere seekers.
Change #2: You Become An Inviter.
Consider Andrew first. John 1:40 continues: “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.” As I earlier wrote, there isn’t a lot written about Andrew in the New Testament. His name is found in the list of the apostles. But when he is mentioned, it’s always as Simon Peter’s brother, and when their names are listed together, Peter always gets top billing except here in John’s Gospel. In this Gospel, John, who was Andrew’s fishing partner, describes him three times. Here in chapter 1, he leads his brother Peter to Jesus. Later in chapter 6, he leads a little boy to Jesus who has picnic lunch that succeeds in feeding a multitude. Then, finally in chapter 12, he leads a group of Greek worshipers to meet Jesus.
Andrew, then, was an inviter, a bringer, an introducer of people to Jesus. So are some of you! Some of you are very comfortable inviting others to meet Jesus or accompany you to church or a Bible study. Like Andrew, you may not get a lot of credit for it. But Jesus recognizes it and will reward you greatly for it one day, for just as important as the Peters among are the Andrews who invite others to meet Jesus. Imagine what the world would be like today if not for the Sunday school teacher who led Billy Graham to Christ or Andrew who led his brother Peter to Jesus. Church tradition says Andrew, whose name means “brave,” also spent the last twenty years of his life preaching Christ in Russia, Romania, and Ukraine where he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which has been known as Saint Andrew’s cross ever since.
But here it’s Peter he brings to the Lord. Verse 41 says, “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah!’ Then he brought him to Jesus.” This is joy unbounded and unspeakable—joy beyond joy! “We’ve found the Messiah!” No doubt or hesitation on Andrew’s part! One night with Jesus and he’s ready to tell the world, “We’ve found the Christ!” By the way, the words “Messiah” and “Christ” aren’t part of Jesus’ name, they are His titles. “Messiah” is the Hebrew word meaning “anointed,” which was how a king or priest was welcomed into office, whereas “Christ” is the Greek translation of the word “Messiah.”
Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, which is how the kingdom always advances, isn’t it? One beggar telling another beggar where he found spiritual bread and leading him to Jesus! And do you see the word “first” in verse 41? He first found his own brother.” That doesn’t mean “first thing in the morning,” though that’s likely when he did it. It means “first compared to John,” that even before John could find his brother James, Andrew found his brother Peter. But both of them brought their brothers to the Lord. In keeping with his humility, John doesn’t take the credit for it. But we know he did so because James is also listed among the apostles and always before John. When you see their names together, it’s always “James and John,” because James was the oldest, whereas John was the youngest of the apostles and became more prominent than James only after Herod beheaded him in Acts chapter 12.
Notice also a few things about Peter. First, he too had to be a disciple of John the Baptist because Andrew found him right away. So he couldn’t have been at home in Galilee. He had to be nearby, and the only thing going on nearby was John baptizing people in the Jordan River. So he too was a true Israelite who’d repented of his sins and was baptized by John. Notice too what Jesus says to him when they meet in verse 42. “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John.’” That had to surprise him. “After all, how do you know who my daddy is?” Answer: He knows everything about you and me, even how many hairs are on our heads. And He adds, “You shall be called Cephas” (Greek word meaning “rock;” the Latin translation is “Peter”).
Isn’t that amazing? In His first sentence to Peter, Jesus not only tells him who he is; He prophesies who he’ll become—a rock on whose testimony Jesus will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It won’t be easy to get there. Peter will stumble and fall many times before he gets to that point. But what Jesus says will happen happens, for not only does He have the supernatural knowledge to tell us what we’ll become; He also has the supernatural power to make us that. Remember that when like Peter you fall into sin. Remember the promise of Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” So let’s expect great things of ourselves not because we are special, but because He is infinitely kind, wise, great, and powerful!
Now onto Day 4 and two more disciples: On Day 3 it was Andrew, Peter, James, and John. Verse 43 now adds, “The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.” Did you catch that? All five men—Peter, James, John, Andrew, and Philip (and in a moment, Jesus will add a sixth)—are from the same village, Bethsaida meaning “house of fishing.” Any guess what they did for a living? Bethsaida rested on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee and had a population of 300 people at the time. So they knew each other. They shopped at the same market, attended the same school, worshiped in the same synagogue, and went into business together as fishing partners!
So Jesus heads to Bethsaida for two reasons: First, He is going to find a fifth disciple He wants. Jesus didn’t go after Philip out of pity; He went after him out of desire. Jesus is a jealous Lord who wanted Philip for Himself. And that’s the same reason He has gone after you. He has loved you with an everlasting love and wants you for His own. Second, He is going to attend a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee where something wonderful is about to happen. But that’s Day 5. This is Day 4 and they need to hurry, because Bethsaida is 25 miles north of where John is baptizing. But they can make it by midday if they start early—let’s say 6 o’clock in the morning—and if they hurry.
But then these guys know how to walk, and besides that will give them 5 more hours with Jesus! Why do I assume He’s taking them along? Because they’re all with Him the next day at the feast! Cana is just 10 miles from Bethsaida, so it’s possible that a few of them know the bride or groom, though five hungry and uninvited wedding guests could put a drain on the food and wine. And when Jesus finds Philip, He says to him, “Follow me!” That’s a command Jesus will issue twenty times in this book, and never as a trial offer to see if you like following Him. After all, this isn’t Burger King taking orders. This is the King of Kings giving orders!
How does Philip respond? Just like Andrew! He immediately finds his buddy Nathanael and says 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, who is part skeptic, part wiseacre, asks, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
And with good reason! Nazareth was a Podunk village with mud streets, a few small businesses, and a few hundred people at best. So it was only natural for him to be skeptical! But Philip is a skilled fisherman who knows how to catch a fish. Don’t you love it? Instead of getting tangled up in an argument about possibilities and trying to wrestle him into the boat, he repeats the simple invitation of Jesus in verse 39. “Come and see.” And it hooks him! (Nathanael)
Verse 47 adds, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and exclaimed, ‘Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’” Nathanael is known by two names in the Bible. Nathanael is his first or given name, and Bartholomew (“son of Ptolemy”) is his family name.” The moment Jesus meets him He pays him a huge compliment likely with a smile on His face. After all, Nathanael just dissed Jesus’ hometown and called his stepfather (Joseph) a “nobody” from a dead-end village. But then I like people who are upfront with me (Don’t you?), rather than a sneak who masks his feelings and stabs me in the back! Jesus must prefer it too because listen to what He calls him. “A true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” What does that mean? Romans 2:29 says a true Israelite is someone who worships God in spirit and in truth rather than relying on his religion or good works to save him. In other words, what Jesus recognizes in this phrase is that Nathanael is real and loves the Lord just as he claims.
To appreciate the second thing He says, “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” you have to remember who Israel was. He was the father of the Jewish nation, originally named Jacob meaning “someone who steals another’s place by scheming,” a trait he passed on to his progeny. But Jesus says, “You’re an exception to the rule. You’re an Israelite in whom there is no deceit, no trickery, no scheming! When people meet you, they get just what they see.” Of course, Nathanael is surprised by this and wants to know how He knows him.” Jesus explains, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” And that blows Nathanael’s mind! “After all, how could you know where I was and what I was doing when Philip found me!”
I’m not the first to suggest this, but why do you think Nathanael was so overcome by what Jesus said? One of the favorite spots for Jewish believers to read the Bible and pray was their garden under the shade of a favorite tree! Maybe you like to do that too. Furthermore, when a true Israelite prayed, what did he almost always pray for, especially when times were tough? For Messiah to come, just as we do today! “Come, Lord Jesus, come!” Amen! That’s what I believe Nathanael was doing under the fig tree. He was praying for Messiah to come. So when Philip shows up saying he’s found the Messiah, and Jesus knows everything about him, even where and what he was praying, what does Nathanael say? That will be the focus of our study tomorrow. Meeting Jesus makes you a believer; it turns you into an inviter; and it opens your heart as a worshiper! Join us then!