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Part 4: Jesus’ First Disciples (John 1:35-51)
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Here now we’ve come to Jesus’ Earthly ministry. There is a short prelude to His Ministry. Just as the day before John the Baptist sees Jesus, but this time he is standing with two of his disciples. He – John the Baptist – repeats his words of the previous day and his disciples hear. Now why would these two men trust John’s words so heavily that they would seek out Jesus? Well discipleship – at that time – was not just being a student of a teacher. You gave up everything and lived with the teacher. You would believe them fully. These men exemplified this quality in this scene.
Now these two guys go and follow Jesus. They don’t announce themselves, they just kind of follow behind Him. One of these men we know the name of because it tells us: Andrew brother of Simon Peter. Jesus knew they were following Him, He was just waiting for the right time to talk to them. He finally foes by asking them, “What do you want?” Their answer is interesting in the fact that they don’t answer His question but ask one of their own. They call Him Rabbi – or Teacher – ask Him where He’s staying. His response is so easy and simple: “Come and see for yourselves.” They do. They go with Him and stay with Him for the rest of the day.
One of these two men – as we saw before – is Andrew the brother of Peter. Peter and Andrew were obviously very close because the first thing that Andrew does is go find Peter. He tells Peter that the Messiah is found, and brings him to meet Jesus. When Peter meets Jesus he is not called Peter, yet, he is known as Simon. Here we have something happening in the New Testament that we have seen time and again in the Old Testament. Simon is given a new name! He was born Simon son of Jonah (or John depending on the manuscript) and now Jesus tells him that he will be known as Cephas. (Cephas and Peter are the same name one is Hebrew and the other is Greek.) Name changes are important in the Bible. They mark people who have been called for a specific task.
I can think of a few off the top of my head: Abram/Abraham, Sarai/Sarah, Jacob/Israel and Hoshea/Joshua. All of these people had their names changed as they were called to specific ministries. What was Peter’s task? For our answer we can go back to Matthew 16:18: “and on this rock I will build my church and even Hell and the enemy won’t be able to stand victorious against it.” That’s Peter’s task to be the foundation of the Church. This was not who Peter was when Andrew brought him to Jesus, but this was the man that God grew Peter into. This is a huge lesson for us. Peter was not a courageous man, when asked if he was a follower of Jesus he denied Him three times. Just as Peter was grown into a great man by God, God takes us up out of our mire and sin and grows us into the likeness of His Son, Jesus.
We see Jesus calling more disciples to Him: Philip who goes and gets Nathanael to follow Jesus also. Here at the end of the first chapter we get our first taste of Jesus’ teaching. He shows us an example of His omniscience (all-knowingness) when He speaks to Nathanael. Jesus tells Nathanael things about himself that only Nathanael could have known. From this Nathanael recognizes Him to be the Son of God. Jesus tells Nathanael that He will do things far greater than just tell Nathanael that he was sitting under a fig tree.
In fact Jesus calls their attention back to the Patriarch Jacob and his vision of a ladder (Genesis 28:12). This was to show them that He was the link between God and them. It is not only to them, but also to show us. This is similar to His words in John 14:6. He is the only way! The link between us and God. No one comes to the Father except through Him. With these words of angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man like a ladder chapter one closes.
This is an important transition from introductory material to Jesus’ open ministry. With the statement that Jesus is the only link between man and God Jesus sets the tone for His ministry. What do you think this tone is? What does Jesus being the only way to God mean to you?