Tag Archives: Cana of Galilee

His First Sign: Water to Wine!

Do you believe that God exists and that Jesus is Lord? If so, what reason would you give to someone who asked you why you believe? Here is a list of the most common reasons Christians give for believing. See which one comes closest to your own: 1) Answers to prayer; 2) Reading the Bible; 3) Marveling at what He has created; 4) Seeing changes in the lives of believers; 5) Sensing His presence in the worship services I have attended.

Picture1I ask you that question because that’s our topic for this study. In John chapter 2, we come to a turning point in John’s Gospel. The purpose for everything John wrote, I’d remind you, was to prove that Jesus is God. He states it clearly in John 20:31—“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.”

You see, according to John, it is only by believing in the Deity of Christ that you gain the eternal life He offers. For that reason, he have seen him call eyewitness after eyewitness in chapter 1, each one testifying to the Lordship of Christ. First, it was John the Baptist, then Andrew and John, then Peter, James, Philip, and Nathanael in that order. Six ordinary guys who became the greatest men who ever lived because they were willing to believe! Don’t get confused about that. The reason people go to hell is not a lack of evidence. There’s always more than enough evidence to believe if you’re willing to believe. The reason is a hardness of heart and unwillingness to believe the evidence God has given us.

Oxygen Volume 17But now in chapter 2, John moves on from the testimony of eyewitnesses to a second, even more convincing argument. He presents the first of eight great signs Jesus performed—each one something only God could do. He walks on water, creates new eyes for a blind man, creates food to feed 20,000 peoples, raises a friend from the dead whose body has been decaying for four days, and in the passage before us—John 2:1-12, if you’ll open your Bible with me—He turns water into wine.

I know it also helps sometimes to have a map of where you’re going, so let me do that briefly as we get started. Let me give you a short overview of John’s Gospel. It can be broken into four parts—chapter 1 which we’ve studied where John calls several eyewitnesses to testify to the Deity of Christ, chapters 2 to 11 where John describes the public ministry and miracles of Jesus, chapters 12 to 17 where he describes the private ministry of Jesus to His disciples on the last night before His death, and chapters 18 to 21 which describe His death for our sins and His bodily resurrection from the dead.

Picture2But here we are looking at Jesus’ first great sign described in John chapter 2:1-12 – water turned to wine. To guide our study, I’ve divided it into 4 parts—the feast, the faux pas, the feat, and the faith it gave His disciples as a result.

  1. The Feast

Have you attended any weddings this summer? I attended the reception of my niece and goddaughter a week ago Saturday, and it was beautiful! Beautiful bride! Beautiful decorations! Beautiful setting! It was held at her father-in-law’s 3-acre country with beautifully manicured lawn and garden, just outside of Monroe, Washington. And the food was delicious! The affair lasted all night for those who wished to stay. That was a little too long for some of us older folks. But nothing compared to weddings at the time of Christ.

jesus-turns-water-into-wine_WCA0116-1800Read verses 1 and 2 with me. Here John recalls where the wedding took place: “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.” The third day means it was the third day since He met Philip and Nathanael in Bethsaida. So if it was a Sunday they met, it’s now Tuesday—Sunday, Monday, Tuesday—which means everything we’ve read so far has happened in a week. They heard John the Baptist call Jesus the Lamb of God, they stayed with Him all night, they walked with Him from the Jordan to Bethsaida where He met Philip and Nathanael, and now they’re at a wedding with Him in Cana of Galilee. So if you think your schedule is crazy, don’t imagine for a moment that you’re busier than Jesus. He was always about His Father’s business.

Cana was also the hometown of Nathanael according to John 21:2 and about 9 miles from Bethsaida with a population of maybe 100 at the time. So it’s no surprise to find Nathanael there, as well as Mary. Having lived in Romania for 5 years, I can tell you that in old-world rural areas, you not only know the folks in your own village; you have friends and family in the next village too. Joseph isn’t because he’s died by this time. He died during the silent years when Jesus was working in the carpenter’s shop to support His family as the Firstborn Son. We know that because later, when Jesus is dying on the cross, He commits His mother into the care of John the Apostle, who was her nephew, something that wouldn’t have been necessary if Mary hadn’t have been a widow and Joseph was still alive. And as you’d expect of the mother of Jesus, she was busy serving at the wedding, maybe as the wedding coordinator, because you’ll notice in a moment, she feels very free to tell the servants at the reception what to do.

Picture3But the most important fact is that Jesus was there and performed His first public miracle there to emphasize the sanctity and importance of marriage in His eyes. So pay no attention to those who say that marriage is just a piece of paper! They don’t know what they’re talking about! Weddings matter and marriage matters. Marriage is a holy covenant made between one man and one woman in the presence of God and their family and friends, vowing they’ll be faithful to love one another as long as life itself. For that reason no other relationship on earth is as important or wonderful as marriage. Peter calls it “the grace of life,” meaning that of all God’s common graces—the graces He showers upon all people whether they love Him or not—of all His common graces, marriage is the greatest, which means any society that honors marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman will be blessed, whereas any society that fails to honor marriage is headed for chaos, judgment, disaster, and destruction. So watch out, America, how far you go! God is watching and will not bless what you’re doing!

For that reason, weddings have always been the most important celebrations on earth. I wish I’d understood that better as a young pastor. I would have preached it with even more conviction. The ancient world, especially the Hebrew culture, recognized that fact and considered a wedding the most important event of the year. Romania, where we served as missionaries, was also an old-world country in many ways, and they believed the same thing. Weddings would start in the late afternoon with a two to three hour ceremony at church, followed by a reception that lasted all night long, for anyone who could stay awake.

Picture4So it was in Cana of Galilee! Weddings often began on a Tuesday or Wednesday and lasted until the weekend. Or if you were well-to-do, they could last all week. And everybody came! Everyone was aware of the couple’s engagement that took place the year before, because an engagement was a legal contract that officially bound the partners to each other and could only be broken by divorce, even though the marriage itself wasn’t consummated until after the feast. What went on during that year prior to the wedding? That takes us to point #2—

  1. The Faux Pas

jesus-turns-water-into-wine_MG_0530-1800All year long the bridegroom worked to prepare a place for his bride to live, often a room added onto his father’s home. And he was also responsible to pay the full cost of the wedding. All of this to prove to her father that he had what it takes, that he was could provide for her once she became his wife! You see where the story is headed. The feast is in full swing and everyone is enjoying himself when the wine runs out. And that presents a problem.

As John MacArthur puts it, “Maybe he can’t plan! That’s what all of us fathers who marry off our daughters fear. Maybe he’s all smoke and mirrors and doesn’t know how to earn a living? I hope my daughter isn’t going to have to bring home the bacon!” They ran out of wine in the middle of the greatest celebration this couple would ever have—a huge embarrassment and a big question mark hanging over the head of this groom and his family. So verse 3 says: “When they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’”

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Now why do you suppose she would she say that to Him? Most preachers assume that she wanted Him to do a miracle. But why would she expect that? Had He ever done a miracle? No! Not that He couldn’t, but verse 11 says this was “the first of the signs” Jesus did. So there’s no reason for her to expect Him to do something He’s never done before. Again I think MacArthur gives the best explanation for this. When Mary had a problem, who did she always turn to, especially after Joseph died? Jesus, of course! Think about it. He never had a bad idea or made a bad decision in His life! He always led her in the right direction and had the perfect solution to every problem. If anything ever went wrong in their home, He always knew why it went wrong and exactly how to fix it. He was the smartest, wisest, and most resourceful person who ever lived. And He grew up in her home. By the way, He was also the compassionate person who ever lived! So who else would she turn to with this problem?

jesus-turns-water-into-wine_MG_0694-1800But wait a minute, is that the way a son ought to talk to his mother! Listen to what He says to Mary in verse 4. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’” Why such harsh words to the mother He loved? First, they didn’t sound nearly as harsh to Mary as when we read them out of context. For one thing, this is something He said to her in private, not publicly so as to embarrass. Remember that the next time you have something hard to say to someone you love, especially to your husband or wife. Wait until you’re alone with them instead of saying it out loud for the whole world to hear. That’s Matthew 18:15. Go to them in private and try to resolve things between the two of you before you let anyone else know about it. Tone of voice also makes a difference, and I know Jesus said it as gently as He could. And He was polite! The word “woman” is the same word He used at the cross when He entrusted His widowed mother into John’s care. Pointing to John, He said to her, “Woman, behold your son!” We have no equivalent in English, but He was saying in effect, “Dear Lady, what does your concern have to do with Me?”

8Why didn’t He call her “Mother?” Because the relationship between them had changed! For 30 years Jesus had been about His mother’s business, doing whatever she asked of Him. But now, with the cross looming before Him, He has just 3 years to be about His Father’s business. His mother, like His disciples, didn’t really get that until after His resurrection. But it’s imperative to let her know that from this point on, His only concern is the mission for which His Father sent Him into this world and nothing, not even familial relationships—can stand in His way. He gave her a warning of this early on in Luke chapter 2, when He was 12 years old and they found Him asking and answering questions of the scholars in the Temple. She scolded Him for worrying her. So He reminded her, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

BoyJesusLater He had to remind her again when she and his brothers stood outside a home where He was teaching, waiting to speak with Him. “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” He said. Then stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He explained, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” That’s true, isn’t it? We who love the Lord Jesus and do the will of His Father in Heaven are His brothers and sisters and mother. You see He wasn’t being unkind. But it had to be said. “I am the Son of God and I’m on a mission of infinite importance, and I can’t allow anything—not even family relationships—stand in My way. And thank God He didn’t let them get in the way. For if He had, you and I wouldn’t be saved today!

Nor is Mary offended. She may not understand the implications of what He’s said. But she knows who her Son is, and she trusts Him. So what does she immediately do? Verse 5: “His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” Wise counsel! Wouldn’t you say? Whatever Jesus tells you to do, do it! That would save us a lifetime of grief, wouldn’t it? So what does Jesus tell them to do? That’s the third chapter in this thriller. We’ve been to the feast. We’ve witnessed the social faux pas. Now let’s watch Him as He performs His first miraculous feat.

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  1. The Feat

Do you know what the truly marvelous thing about this miracle is? Even though it wasn’t his mother’s place to give Him ministry advice…By the way, we’re going to find that Jesus never took the advice of anybody when it came to ministry. Why not? I thought a humble man always seeks the counsel of others? Not in Jesus’ case! He was humble. No question about that! More humble than you and I have ever dreamed. Try hanging on a cross for a crime you didn’t commit without defending yourself or trying to get even with your enemies! The reason He didn’t seek the counsel of sinful human beings is because He couldn’t trust us and didn’t need it. For this is no mere man we’re talking about. This is the Holy God become Man whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. So though it wasn’t Mary’s place to give Him advice (nor do I think she was asking for a miracle), women’s intuition may have told her something wonderful was afoot. And it was! By God’s grace her concern, the need of that young couple, and God’s will all came together in one miraculous moment of time, leading to one of the greatest feats He ever performed.

Picture5You see contrary to popular belief, this miracle was not an unexpected and premature event, interrupting God’s plan for His Son, due to a well-meaning but interfering Jewish mother. This was Plan A from before time began—for the first sign of Jesus’ Deity to be a miracle performed at a wedding in Cana of Galilee for His mother, His family, and His friends. Wasn’t that gracious of Him? And here’s how it happened. Verse 6 says: “Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.”

This wasn’t water for washing their hands or taking a bath. It was for ceremonial purposes. Before a Jewish family would eat a meal, they’d pour water over their pots, their pans, their plates, and their hands, not to get them clean, but to be ritually pure. So for a feast of several days, you had to have a lot of water. But why did He have them fill the jars to the brim? So there would be no question about something being added to the water. Skeptics always try to explain away a miracle. Remember Pharaoh’s magicians and how they tried to copy Moses’ miracles? So they filled the jars to the brim. Ought to last till the weekend, don’t you think? But why so much wine? To picture the super abundance of God’s grace—“Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it will be poured into your lap.”

Picture6“And,” verse 8 continues, “He said to them, ‘Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.’ So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine…” Wait a minute, you say! I think I missed it. When did He do the miracle? In between the lines, there between verses 8 and 9! But then that’s how the Bible always describes the miraculous—very matter of fact. You really didn’t expect Jesus to make a big deal out of it, did you? Drum roll, please! “Tuh-dum!”

But what a miracle it was! Verse 9 says: “When the master of the feast (the headwaiter) tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew, (he) called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.’” That’s true, isn’t it? When we invite guests for dinner, we get out our best china, put flowers on the table, pull out our best recipe, cook our best meal, and serve them in style. But if they stay a second or third or fourth day, it’s: “There’s the fridge. Try your luck! I think there are leftovers in the back if you look hard.” But in this case, it’s far different! The maître d says, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk too much, he serves the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Good wine! This was the best wine anyone ever tasted—like new wine freshly squeezed from the grapes of Eden!

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  1. The Faith

But we can’t leave it at that. We need to take a step back before we finish and ask the big question: Why did John tell us this story in the first place? Answer: To help us relive it with him and discover with His disciples who Jesus really is. Remember they’re only a week into following Him and this walking by faith thing is new to them. So Jesus performs a miracle, and John tells us about it, so that both they and we will believe. We have been to the feast. We have witnessed the faux pas. We have seen the miraculous feat He performed.  Now it’s time to solidify our faith in Him. That’s what this miracle did for them and should do for us. Verse 11 says: “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”

jesus-turns-water-into-wine_MG_0586-1800 Remember there are only 6 of them at this time: Andrew, Peter, James, John, Philip, and Nathanael—all of them good friends, fishing partners, and strong believers in the God of the Bible—but not one has ever seen a miracle. Nathanael got a taste of His omniscience when Jesus said to him, “Before Philip found you under the fig tree, I saw you!” But not one of them (or you either, for that matter) ever saw a miracle like this. We’ve seen some amazing answers to prayer, but nothing like the magnitude of this miracle! 150 gallons of water instantly turned to wine!

The impact was so great two things happened right away. First, all six of His disciples put their faith in Jesus. I know. I know. They already believed in Him. Or they wouldn’t have followed Him all the way to Galilee. They called Him “Rabbi.” They called Him “Messiah.” Then Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel.” But Jesus said they would see even greater things than these. And the first and one of the greatest was this—seeing their Creator make something out of nothing just as He had in the beginning. And for what purpose! So that both they and we would never doubt.

People-surround-Jesus-1024x744But even more important is the second thing that happened. John says they saw His glory! Isn’t that the purpose of our lives and what we’ve been longing for since we first met Him? I want to see His glory. And they did, at least in part! What glory? The eternal glory He shared with the Father before time began! You know the verse. So say it with me. John 1:14, “And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And the best thing about is you didn’t have to be there to experience it. You can experience it this moment if you have faith to believe. As He said to Thomas, who finally believed and fell at His feet in worship saying, “My Lord and my God,” “Because you’ve seen, you’ve believed. But blessed (That means happy, elated, and overcome with joy!) “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed!” And so we believe without seeing, and we behold “His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus-Face-Paintings-01But someone will say, “I’d believe too if I saw a miracle like that!” Don’t be so sure. The Israelites witnessed 10 miraculous plagues in Egypt and the Red Sea splitting in half before them, and they still didn’t believe and died in the wilderness as a result! And the people of Jesus’ day saw even greater miracles than that. In fact, nowhere in the Gospels does anyone ever question Jesus’ power to do miracles. What His enemies claimed was that He performed miracles by the power of Satan, earning a place in hell as a result of it. The truth is Jesus performed miracle after miracle after miracle, day after day, for three years until virtually all disease was eradicated from Israel. But they still didn’t believe, because faith isn’t about evidence. It’s about a willing heart.

Jesus PleaThat means, if your heart is willing, you can know Jesus this very moment through simple childlike faith. So if you’ve never believed before, open up your heart to Him now as I lead us in a closing prayer. Say these words or words like them with me in the quietness of your heart and, if you truly mean them, Jesus promises that He will come into your life this very moment and live with you forever.

(To listen to or download the audio message, click AUDIO. To download the written message, click WRITTEN. If you know someone who might benefit from this message, we encourage you and invite you to send them this link.)

 

First to Believe in Jesus!

How would you feel if I said to you, “You’re very ordinary. There’s nothing special about you,” how would you feel? Would you take it as an insult or encouragement, a blessing or belittlement, a compliment or criticism? There’s no question about it in this culture, is there? Calling somebody ordinary is about the meanest things you can say to them. After all, what do we tell our children from Day 1? We’re all special. Everybody is a winner! You all deserve a trophy! So we give everybody an award just for taking part. We promote kids to the next level even if they aren’t ready for it. And I understand at many sporting events for children, they don’t even keep score anymore lest someone feel bad about it. And I get it! We’re trying to compensate for the dog-eat-dog cruelty that’s in the world, which is fine as long as we realize that none of this is true.

11The fact is there’s only One Special Person in this universe according to the Bible, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Unique Son of God! But as for the rest of us, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many… influential; not many… of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise… the weak things of the world to shame the strong… the lowly things of this world… to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him… Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

They say the truth hurts, and sometimes it does. And in our case, the truth is this: None of us is special. We’re all just ordinary people. But then that’s OK because in the hands of Jesus, that which is ordinary can turn into something extraordinary for His purposes. They don’t start out that way. Moses had a rod. David had a sling. Jael had a nail. But in the hands of God, that which was once ordinary became something of miraculous value and use. And we’re going to find the same thing in our study for today, if you’ll open your Bible to John chapter 1, starting at verse 35.

The BibleHere Jesus begins to gather His first disciples and what’s amazing is that not one of them is special in any way. Not one of them is a priest, a Sadducee, a scribe, a rabbi, or a Pharisee. They’re just ordinary people like you and I. Yet by the amazing grace and power of Jesus Christ they become the first witnesses, first preachers, and first missionaries of a movement that turns the world upside down by their influence. In fact, one of the ways you can tell it’s a God-thing is that Jesus doesn’t have to put hardly any effort into it, which is what you have to do if you’re trying to get your will rather than God’s will done. Instead of scouring the countryside to find the best man in each town or village, He’s able to take half a dozen ordinary guys who’ve followed John the Baptist and makes them disciples of His own. And that makes them special. The fact that they’re followers of John means they are also true believers who have repented of their sins and are waiting for the promised Messiah to appear.

But now He’s here! That was John’s message on Day 1: “Messiah is here! Christ has come!” Then on Day 2 it was: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” But now it’s Day 3 and John, who has no ego or ambitions of his own except to make Jesus known to the world, directs two of his two best men to Jesus, knowing that once he does, he will have turned a corner in his ministry. Jesus will begin to increase, and he will begin to decrease. But he’s OK with that, for that’s why God sent him—to reveal Christ known to the world.

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Let me remind  that was also John’s reason for writing this Gospel. He says in John 20:31—“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name.” Because it is only by believing in Jesus that you receive the eternal life He offers! So like a brilliant defense attorney, John begins to call witness after witness to prove his case. Last week we heard from his first and greatest witness, John the Baptist. But this week it’s the first six disciples of Jesus who by the providence of God are already best friends and ready to be turned into the greatest men who ever lived. Let’s see how it happened to them and how it can happen to us as well. That’s my outline for our study: three ways that meeting Jesus can change us from ordinary to extraordinary people.

Change #1: You Become A Believer.

Jesus has just endured 40 days of temptation in the wilderness. But now He’s back filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and ready to begin His ministry, having defeated the devil at every turn. And it’s at this point on Day 3 that John the Baptist says to two of his disciples, “Behold that Lamb of God!” In other words, that’s the Messiah I told you about, and it’s time for you to follow Him. How do I know that’s what he meant by what he said? Because that’s what they begin to do!

stdas0374Verse 35 says: “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.” (See I told you that’s what he meant!) Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’” That’s the question of our lifetimes, isn’t it? What are you seeking? The Kingdom of God and His righteousness—is that the most important thing in your life? Or are you pursuing the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life? But that’s too big a question to answer in passing. They need time to sit down and talk and ask Him questions.

So they say to Him, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” The Bible doesn’t tell us where He was staying. It could have been in a tent or a cave out in the wilderness or at a friend’s home in Bethany near where John was baptizing. But wherever He was, that’s where they wanted to be! Is that true of you? That’s my testimony and how I first knew I was born again. Wherever Jesus is, that’s where I want to be forever. They also call Him “Rabbi,” a term of great respect in Hebrew culture. Here it’s translated “teacher,” but it meant far more than that. It not only meant someone you learned from, it meant someone you followed and obeyed. In effect, then, what they’re saying is: “We trust John’s testimony and we’re ready to follow you whatever you say and wherever you lead.”

SimonZelotesLast week we learned who the first two disciples were. But let me repeat it for anyone who may not have been here. Verse 40 says, “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” You’ve heard of Peter, I’m sure, but you probably don’t know as much about Andrew. And yet, as you’ll see in a moment, if not for Andrew, you wouldn’t have heard of Peter either.

The name of the second disciple, on the other hand, isn’t mentioned here. But that’s actually the best clue to his identity because who’s the one disciple John never names in his Gospel? John! Out of humility, John never names himself. But you can tell it’s him because of how accurate he is about his meeting with Jesus. They ask Him in verse 39, “Where are you staying, Rabbi?” Right away He invites them, “Come and see?” Not once in all the Gospels, by the way, will you see Jesus turn somebody away because He’s too busy! Nor will He turn you away. Instead, He invites them, “Come and see!” So John says, “They came and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” The tenth hour was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, too late and dark on a winter’s day to start the long walk home. So they stay the night with Jesus.

Jesus-and-PeterThe point is if it were someone other than John, he wouldn’t have mentioned the exact hour. But this was the great turning point in his life, and he could never forget it. So they spend the night with Jesus, and that’s all it takes to convince Andrew. That’s why I call him the first believer in Jesus. Because what does he do first thing the next morning? That’s the second change that takes place. The first thing that happens when you meet Jesus is you become a believer. The second change is—

Change #2: You Become An Inviter.

JesusConsider Andrew first. Verse 40 says, “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 suggested a moment ago, there isn’t a lot written about Andrew in the New Testament. His name is found in the list of the apostles. But whenever he’s mentioned, it’s always as Simon Peter’s brother, and whenever their names are listed together, Peter always gets top billing except here in John’s Gospel. Here John, who was Andrew’s fishing partner, highlights him three different times. Here in chapter 1 bringing his brother Peter to Jesus, later in chapter 6 bringing a little boy to Jesus who has picnic lunch that will turn out to feed a whole multitude, and finally in chapter 12 where he brings a group of Greek worshipers to meet Jesus.

Andrew, then, was a bringer, an inviter, an introducer of people to Jesus. So are some of you! Some of you are very comfortable inviting others to meet Jesus or come to The Gathering. But like Andrew, you don’t get a lot of credit for it. But I notice it. More importantly, Jesus recognizes it and will reward you greatly for it one day, for just as important as Peter are the Andrews among us 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. Tradition says that Andrew, whose name means “brave,” also spent the last twenty years of his life preaching the Gospel in Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine where he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which has been known as Saint Andrew’s cross ever since.

1.jpgBut 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, no hesitation, no equivocation on Andrew’s part! One night with Jesus and he’s convinced, “We’ve found the Christ!” By the way, the words “Messiah” and “Christ” aren’t part of Jesus’ name, they’re titles. “Messiah” is the Hebrew word meaning “anointed,” which was how a king or priest was officially welcomed to office, whereas “Christ” is the Greek translation of the word “Messiah.” Andrew brought his brother to Jesus, and that’s how the kingdom always advances, isn’t it? One beggar telling another beggar where he found bread and bringing him to Jesus!

And do you see the word “first” here in verse 41? “He first found his own brother.” It doesn’t mean “first thing in the morning,” though that’s probably 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. But in keeping with his customary humility, John doesn’t take credit for it. But we know he did it 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 he was the oldest, whereas John was the youngest of all the disciples and became more prominent than James after Herod beheaded him in Acts chapter 12.

Peter-and-JesusNotice 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 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 been baptized by John. And what does Jesus say 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 father is?” Answer is: He knows everything about you and me, even the number of hairs on our heads.

He continues, “You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).” Isn’t that amazing? In His first sentence to Peter, Jesus not only tells him who he is but also 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 getting there. Peter is going to stumble and fall many times before he gets to that point. But what Jesus says always 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 His promise in 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 we expect great things of ourselves not because we’re special, but because He’s infinitely special, gracious, kind, wise, good, great, and powerful!

1 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 to the group)—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 maybe 300 people at the time. So they knew each other. They shopped at the same market, worshiped in the same synagogue, attended the same synagogue school growing up, and then 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 out of 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.

1ABut then these guys know how to walk, and besides that’ll 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 may also know the bride or groom, though five hungry and uninvited wedding guests could put a drain on the food and wine. And when He 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?”

PP-PhillipAndNathanael_JS_0032And 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 about it! But Philip is a skilled fisherman and a quick study who knows how to reel in 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 same simple invitation Jesus gave in verse 39. He says, “Come and see.” And it works!

1Verse 47 continues, “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 Gospels—Nathanael, his first or given name, and Bartholomew, his family name which means “son of Ptolemy.” And the moment Jesus meets him He pays him a huge compliment probably with a smile on His face. After all, Nathanael has just dissed his hometown and called his stepfather a “nobody” from a dead-end village. But then I like people who are upfront with me (Don’t you?), even if I don’t enjoy what they say, rather than a sneak who masks his feelings and stabs me in the back! Jesus must prefer that too because listen to what He says about him. “A true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” What does that mean? What does it mean to be a true Israelite? Paul defines it in Romans 2:29 as 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 one phrase is that Nathanael is real and loves the Lord just as he claims.

2But 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 “a supplanter” or “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 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!”

prcas1312I’m not the first to suggest this, but do you know why I believe Nathanael was so overcome by what Jesus said? One of the favorite spots for Jewish believers to pray and meditate on God’s Word at that time 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? The Messiah to come, just like 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 seems to know everything about him, even where and what he was praying, what does Nathanael say? That’s my final point. Meeting Jesus makes you a believer; it turns you into an inviter; and—

Change #3: You Become A Worshiper.

1Nathanael asks Him in verse 48, “How do you know me?” And when Jesus explains, “Before Philip called you when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” he explodes with praise, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!’” I’d call that a change of heart, wouldn’t you? In just minutes, he goes from “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” to “Rabbi” (a term of deep respect), “You are the (He uses the definite article to emphasize He’s not just a son of God like you or I) …You are the Son of God (meaning He shares the very essence of God with His Father)… You are the King of Israel!” (i.e., “You’re the One who’s going to bring the Kingdom of God to earth and rule over it forever and ever!”) That’s what you call true worship, and that’s what happens to you when you meet the real Jesus. The moment Nathanael meets Jesus it turns him into a true worshiper of both God the Father and God the Son.

It also blesses Jesus who says to him, “Because I said to you I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And then again He takes him back to Jacob saying, “Truly, truly (a guarantee that what He says will come true) you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” What does that have to do with Jacob?

1When Jacob left home, you’ll remember, he did so for fear that his brother Esau would kill him because of the way he cheated him. But then God appeared to him in a dream in which he saw a ladder reaching to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending on it and from the top of the ladder God promised to bless him and keep him and give his family the land of Israel forever. So when he awoke, Jacob believed God’s promise, set up an altar to worship the Lord, and called that place Bethel meaning “house of God.”

The point is obvious, isn’t it? Jesus was saying to him and to us, “I am Jacob’s Ladder. I am the Way to Heaven! So believe in Me, worship Me, and invite others to believe in Me too!” And then He adds, “You will see greater things than these.” What sorts of things? “Miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle, every day you’re with Me, starting tomorrow in Cana of Galilee!”

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