Flashback Episode — Inviting, Not Arguing: John 1:35-51

Read the Transcript

As Jesus was stepping from being relatively unknown and into the public eye, John the Baptist made pointing people to Jesus part of his message. One of these occasions is caught and recorded for us in the gospel of John. In my mind’s eye, this happens just days after Jesus returned from the wilderness where he had been tempted.

On the day Jesus came back from the wilderness, I picture Jesus passing where John the Baptist was preaching, and then we discover that the next day, Jesus returns to the spot where John was teaching and challenging the crowds. Our passage is found in the gospel of John, chapter 1, and we will be reading from the Contemporary English Version. Starting in verse 35, we learn that:

35 The next day, John was there again, and two of his followers were with him. 36 When he saw Jesus walking by, he said, “Here is the Lamb of God!” 37 John’s two followers heard him, and they went with Jesus.

38 When Jesus turned and saw them, he asked, “What do you want?”

They answered, “Rabbi, where do you live?” The Hebrew word “Rabbi” means “Teacher.”

39 Jesus replied, “Come and see!” It was already about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him and saw where he lived. So they stayed on for the rest of the day.

40 One of the two men who had heard John and had gone with Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother and tell him, “We have found the Messiah!” The Hebrew word “Messiah” means the same as the Greek word “Christ.”

42 Andrew brought his brother to Jesus. And when Jesus saw him, he said, “Simon son of John, you will be called Cephas.” This name can be translated as “Peter.”

Pausing our passage at this point, I want to point out a pattern that I see present in this passage, and one that continues as we finish off the passage. This pattern is that the people who see, interact, and/or who know who Jesus is tell those closest to them to pay attention to Jesus.

This pattern first starts with John the Baptist. Jesus had already been baptized by John, and John knew who Jesus was. He tells his followers that Jesus is the Messiah, though the specific phrase John uses is “the Lamb of God”. (v. 36)

While I don’t know how many people were in the crowd of John’s followers that day, two of those present are paying attention enough to realize that John just identified the Messiah and that the Messiah John pointed out is someone is who worth following even more.

Andrew and an unnamed disciple, who we could call John, since John is telling us about this event because he was probably present, leave the crowd surrounding John the Baptist, and follow Jesus.

This starts the pattern.

Once these first followers find out where Jesus is staying, one of them, Andrew, immediately finds his brother and brings him to Jesus. We don’t know if John does the same with his brother James, but that may have happened. John tries to keep himself out of the story as much as possible in his gospel because his goal is focusing people onto Jesus.

The pattern we see is that the earliest followers of Jesus immediately seek out those closest to them to bring to Jesus when they learn who Jesus is. This pattern continues the following day. Picking up in verse 43, we read that:

43-44 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. There he met Philip, who was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. Jesus said to Philip, “Come with me.”

45 Philip then found Nathanael and said, “We have found the one that Moses and the Prophets wrote about. He is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

46 Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Philip answered, “Come and see.”

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said, “Here is a true descendant of our ancestor Israel. And he isn’t deceitful.”

48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

49 Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God and the King of Israel!”

50 Jesus answered, “Did you believe me just because I said that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see something even greater. 51 I tell you for certain that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man.”

One thing I find amazing about this whole passage is the interaction Jesus has with the two disciples who were brought to Him by others. The first one, Andrew’s brother Simon, was given a new name, before Jesus really had spent any time with him. It would be like meeting someone for the first time, knowing this other person is important, and that person’s first response to you is to say He doesn’t like your name and promptly gives you a new one.

While I wouldn’t have been as bold or up front, Jesus gets away with this because He knows something we don’t, and while it sounds strange to us in our day, this might have been a powerful compliment to someone living at that time period. One way we could view this is that parents give their children their names, and Jesus giving Simon a new name, which was Cephas or Peter, was like Jesus was adopting Simon into His family.

The second disciple who was brought to Jesus was Nathanael. Jesus’ interaction with Nathanael is interesting because we know a little detail about Nathanael before the first meeting. John tells us that when Philip tells Nathanael about Jesus, Nathanael’s first response is to challenge the idea that anything good could come from Nazareth. As a side note, Nathanael might have not been aware of what Matthew wrote in his gospel about Jesus being called a Nazarene by the prophets. (This is referenced in Matthew 2:23. Understand that I am aware that a Nazarene is different from simply being from Nazareth, but I am intrigued that these two words sound connected even if they are not.)

When Nathanael sees Jesus, the first thing Jesus does is compliment him. In an odd twist, Nathanael criticizes Jesus because of where he came from, right before we read that Jesus compliments him based upon his ancestry.

While the rest of the conversation proves to Nathanael that Jesus is sent from God, it is less significant in my mind then what we can learn from this big pattern.

In this passage, I see the big truth and challenge to all who call ourselves disciples, believers, and followers of Jesus that we are to share Jesus with others. Arguing with people over who Jesus is, is not productive. Inviting people to experience Jesus is the way to move forward.

In all the examples in this passage, the invitation is presented to simply follow Jesus and see what He is like. We can learn from this first century pattern and example because there are plenty of excuses and arguments people have for not choosing Jesus – and some of these reasons are valid ones. However, arguments are rarely “won”. Instead, when people argue, they become more emotionally attached to their own side of what is being debated.

We learn from this passage that a better way to share Jesus is to invite those to experience Him. The “Come and See” approach is perfect because only by experiencing Jesus can we truly realize His heart for each of us. Experiencing Jesus today is a little different then back in the first century. Today, we can experience Jesus by visiting a Christ-like church community, by reading more about Him from the gospels, and by serving those in need like Jesus did when He was present on earth.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life. If you are on the fence about Jesus, be sure to “come and see” what He is like before discounting Him or His message. If church has burned you in the past, let me apologize for them because while they believed they were doing the right thing, I know they missed communicating in a truly Christ-like way. While the media might make you think differently, there are more churches who model Christ’s character than those who don’t, so please try it again, and if needed, make a personal challenge to see how quickly you can find a church that truly does model Jesus well. They do exist, and I believe when we seek God, He will lead us to the community He wants us to be a part of.

Also, as I always challenge you to do in one way or another, when coming to Jesus, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself. A pastor or podcaster can give you things to think about, but these things can never replace your own personal relationship with Jesus. Your personal relationship with Him grows strong when you know who He really is – and this is learned through the pages of the Bible.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or drift away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 4: Discover a better way to convince people to experience Jesus. See how the first disciples chose to share Jesus with those around them, and discover what we should be doing instead of what often times happens.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

While Still in the World: John 17:1-26

Focus Passage: John 17:1-26 (CEV)

After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed:

Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you. And you gave him power over all people, so that he would give eternal life to everyone you give him. Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent. I have brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you gave me to do. Now, Father, give me back the glory that I had with you before the world was created.

You have given me some followers from this world, and I have shown them what you are like. They were yours, but you gave them to me, and they have obeyed you. They know that you gave me everything I have. I told my followers what you told me, and they accepted it. They know that I came from you, and they believe that you are the one who sent me. I am praying for them, but not for those who belong to this world. My followers belong to you, and I am praying for them. 10 All that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine, and they will bring glory to me.

11 Holy Father, I am no longer in the world. I am coming to you, but my followers are still in the world. So keep them safe by the power of the name that you have given me. Then they will be one with each other, just as you and I are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost, except the one who had to be lost. This happened so that what the Scriptures say would come true.

13 I am on my way to you. But I say these things while I am still in the world, so that my followers will have the same complete joy that I do. 14 I have told them your message. But the people of this world hate them, because they don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t.

15 Father, I don’t ask you to take my followers out of the world, but keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They don’t belong to this world, and neither do I. 17 Your word is the truth. So let this truth make them completely yours. 18 I am sending them into the world, just as you sent me. 19 I have given myself completely for their sake, so that they may belong completely to the truth.

20 I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. 21 I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.

22 I have honored my followers in the same way that you honored me, in order that they may be one with each other, just as we are one. 23 I am one with them, and you are one with me, so that they may become completely one. Then this world’s people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me.

24 Father, I want everyone you have given me to be with me, wherever I am. Then they will see the glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the world was created. 25 Good Father, the people of this world don’t know you. But I know you, and my followers know that you sent me. 26 I told them what you are like, and I will tell them even more. Then the love that you have for me will become part of them, and I will be one with them.

Read John 17:1-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of Jesus’ famous prayers, He shares an interesting idea, and it is one that could confuse those reading Jesus’ words without knowing the context of the last months of Jesus’ time on earth. In His prayer, Jesus says to the Father, “I am on my way to you. But I say these things while I am still in the world, so that my followers will have the same complete joy that I do.” (v. 13)

Some people when reading this may get the impression that Jesus’ death was when He left to return to God. But this doesn’t add up when we look at other details of the crucifixion – including Jesus’ conversation with Mary in the garden following His resurrection.

Instead, the focus at this point of the prayer is not on Jesus leaving as much as it is on Him wanting to say what needs to be said while still in this part of His ministry. The clock was ticking on being able to share a message with His disciples before the crucifixion happened, and while Jesus briefly taught the disciples following the resurrection before returning to heaven, trying to prepare the disciples for what was about to happen did have a time limit. Jesus wanted to share God’s message with them before He was arrested. Jesus wanted them to realize before the cross what the cross signified.

Jesus continues His prayer-conversation with the Father by saying, “I have told them your message. But the people of this world hate them, because they don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t.” (v. 14)

“Not belonging to this world” is a characteristic of Jesus’ followers. What this doesn’t mean is standing on a street corner preaching an “us vs. them” message. Instead, this statement means that we should not focus on what the world focuses on, and we should not be swept up with the ever changing new and greatest thing.

But instead of focusing on what we shouldn’t be focusing on – which is something that never works well, we should intentionally keep our focus fixed on Jesus and on keeping our connection with Him strong. Other people might hate us because they don’t understand or agree, but don’t let their opinions shake our focus off of Jesus. When we intentionally keep our focus on Jesus, ignoring the craziness of culture becomes easier because we will have an anchor holding us steady in the storms of life.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

The Second Miracle: John 4:46-54

Read the Transcript

Moving forward through Jesus’ miracles, we come to another miracle, which is tagged as Jesus’ second miracle at the conclusion of it. But when we read how John introduces us to this miracle, I wonder if Jesus would rather not have done any miracles.

Let’s dive into our passage and discover some things it can teach us about faith, about Jesus, and about how Jesus went about His ministry. Our passage is found in the gospel of John, chapter 4, and we will be reading it from the New Century Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 46, John tells us that:

46 Jesus went again to visit Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. One of the king’s important officers lived in the city of Capernaum, and his son was sick. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to Jesus and begged him to come to Capernaum and heal his son, because his son was almost dead. 48 Jesus said to him, “You people must see signs and miracles before you will believe in me.”

Let’s pause reading here for a moment because what Jesus has just said is powerful for us to pay attention to. In a short, quick statement, Jesus calls out everyone present, which would include the disciples, this officer making the request, and everyone around on the idea that miracles make one worthy of faith and belief. The idea then is implied that if a greater miracle worker came around, we should switch our allegiance over to the new miracle worker.

When saying it like this, the idea sounds crazy, but it isn’t a stretch to imagine people thinking this way. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of people living today who believe that they should follow someone working miracles.

However, also tucked within Jesus’ challenge is something we could call a cry to not base our faith on signs or miracles. I imagine the way Jesus said these words was challenging and confrontational with emotion, possibly a hint of sadness, in His words.

While John tells us that Jesus replied to the king’s officer with this statement, Jesus starts His response by saying “You people…” which implies that Jesus was speaking to a larger group of people or segment of the population.

Jesus replied by saying, “You people must see signs and miracles before you will believe in me,” and let’s pick back up in verse 49 to learn what happened next:

49 The officer said, “Sir, come before my child dies.”

50 Jesus answered, “Go. Your son will live.”

The man believed what Jesus told him and went home. 51 On the way the man’s servants came and met him and told him, “Your son is alive.”

52 The man asked, “What time did my son begin to get well?”

They answered, “Yesterday at one o’clock the fever left him.”

53 The father knew that one o’clock was the exact time that Jesus had said, “Your son will live.” So the man and all the people who lived in his house believed in Jesus.

54 That was the second miracle Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

In this passage, and specifically in how this passage ends, we discover something amazing. John tells us in verse 54 that this miracle “was the second miracle Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee”.

The implication is that Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. In the timeline of the gospels, this event likely happened right before Jesus is run out of the Nazareth synagogue that we began this year by looking at.

When we frame this miracle with the detail that the only miraculous thing Jesus had done up to this point was turning water into wine, this officer’s belief is amazing. John described the miracle turning water into wine as something that the servants and early disciples knew, but it wasn’t something that was known beyond those two groups – that is, unless word spread because people had been talking about it.

However, while turning water into wine is amazing in itself, healing someone of a deathly illness is something much greater. A cleaver magician might be able to replicate the first miracle, but this second miracle would require divine intervention, because Jesus didn’t come to heal the man’s son personally, and he didn’t give any medical advice for how to turn the son’s condition around.

By asking Someone who had only turned water into wine up to this point for a miracle, this official is displaying an incredible amount of faith when there hasn’t been a track record for this type of miracle yet. Later on, Jesus will be known for healing people, but at this point, He was only the carpenter’s Son who could turn water into wine.

The official had faith in Jesus’ ability to perform a miraculous healing, and even though Jesus challenges the whole group, and possibly the entire generation of people, on the idea that they must see miracles before they will believe, the simple act of this official coming to ask Jesus for help is a powerful demonstration of faith. This official models faith like we should have faith. The official took Jesus at His word and returned home to find His request answered.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always intentionally seek God first and place your hope, faith, trust, and belief in Him. We should be willing to ask God for help even if we don’t have any evidence of God helping in the specific way we are asking. This official only knew Jesus could help with drinks that had run out, but that was enough to ask Jesus to do the impossible. While we know Jesus is able to do the impossible, we shouldn’t discount our own requests thinking He is either above them or unwilling to help. God wants to help us in our own situation, and it is up to us to simply ask.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with Jesus. A pastor, author, speaker, or even a blogger or podcaster can give you things to think about, but always take what you learn and match it up with what you read and discover in the Bible. God is not going to randomly choose to contradict His Word, and because of this, we can use the Bible as a guide for our spiritual lives today.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 4: Moving further in the gospel of John, we come to the miracle where Jesus heals an official’s son. Discover something we can learn from this event about how we should have faith in Jesus, and something we should not depend on when believing in Him.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

Learning From a Child: Luke 18:15-17

Focus Passage: Luke 18:15-17 (GW)

15 Some people brought infants to Jesus to have him hold them. When the disciples saw this, they told the people not to do that.

16 But Jesus called the infants to him and said, “Don’t stop the children from coming to me! Children like these are part of God’s kingdom. 17 I can guarantee this truth: Whoever doesn’t receive God’s kingdom as a little child receives it will never enter it.”

Read Luke 18:15-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Most times I read about Jesus blessing the children, a question enters my mind. Perhaps, when we reach heaven, I’ll ask Jesus the question personally, but until that point in time, I will be left to looking for clues from the gospels that include this event.

The question is not why Jesus would have prompted this event or why He allowed children to come close. Jesus loves everyone, and He chose to value the children/infants as much as women and adults.

However, in the few verses that make up this event, Jesus makes an interesting comparison. At the end of verse 16, Jesus says, “Children like these are part of God’s kingdom.

This prompts my question: What is it about “these” children that give them the status of being a part of God’s kingdom?

Is it some characteristic that is present in each child, such as trust, hope, faith, love, curiosity, or something else? Is it that these children had self-control and were intently listening to and engaging Jesus in conversation? Or is it simply because these children were with Jesus?

If Luke’s gospel description is correct in its additional detail that the children were “infant” age, then they likely didn’t have much if any conversation. Perhaps there was crying involved, but likely not any self-control. An infant loves and trusts their parents, and they do grow into being curious.

However, as I read this event, I think that Jesus is not talking about the children themselves, as much as He is talking about “where” the children are – next to Him and being held by Him. Perhaps Jesus was telling stories to the children who were old enough to understand stories, or perhaps He was simply holding ones who were too young to realize what was going on. Either way, the children who were there were with Jesus.

The children who were there may have been there without emotional or spiritual baggage. We don’t read anything in any of the gospels about the children being skeptical or questioning Jesus on His mission of being a Messiah. If the children are united in their proximity to Jesus, they also seem to be united in their acceptance of Jesus as well.

As I dig into the details, what I learn most from this event is that each of us should focus on being close to Jesus personally and that we enjoy our time with Him. Accepting Jesus is one big key to being a part of the kingdom of God!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.