Bible Passage: John 1:35-51
In these verses, Jesus begins gathering his first disciples. This is probably before the moment in the synoptic gospels where they drop their nets to follow him, and it tells of how Andrew, Simon, Philip and Nathanael first came to know Jesus. Simon and Andrew had previously been disciples of John the Baptist, and it was through John’s testimony that they came to know Jesus and to follow him.
John the Baptist – Jesus is the Lamb of God: John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus and the first of the witnesses that appear throughout John’s gospel that show who Jesus is. John had gathered a following of his own, but as Jesus walked by he pointed away from himself and directed their attention to Jesus instead (a great example of what we all should do). The description of Jesus that he gives is the ‘Lamb of God’, and here he is drawing on the Old Testament background that his hearers would be familiar with. In the sacrificial system, lambs would be offered to God for the forgiveness of sins and Jesus is the one whose offering will truly deal with sin. There are also echoes of the story of Abraham and Isaac, where Abraham tells Isaac that God himself would provide a lamb, who would be a substitute so Isaac would not die. Jesus is the fulfilment of that image too, as the substitute who died so that we may live.
Andrew – Jesus Is the Messiah: One of the disciples who heard John the Baptist speak was Andrew (the fact that the other isn’t mentioned makes it likely that it was the author of the gospel himself). After their attention had been pointed to Jesus, they had questions and spent time with Jesus for themselves. They spent the day with him, and this was enough. Andrew was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah (or Christ), an promised king in the Old Testament who God would send to make all things right. Once Andrew had discovered who Jesus was, his instinct was to share this amazing news (again, a great example for us all) and he found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus as well.
Nathanael – Jesus Is the Son of God: Just as Andrew shared the good news with Simon, Philip (who had started following Jesus the next day) told Nathanael. Nathanael was originally sceptical, letting his prejudice regarding where Jesus had come from cloud his judgement, but as Jesus showed his supernatural power through a word of knowledge, Nathanael believed and realised that Jesus was the Son of God (a title used in the Old Testament with connotations of kingship, although in John’s gospel it also picks up the additional sense of being the divine Son of the Father). Jesus did not condemn Nathanael’s scepticism, but instead praised his forthrightness and promised that he would see even greater things than what he had seen so far.
- The attitude of John the Baptist is a challenge to us all. Ask people to think about how they are drawing attention to themselves and what they can do to point attention to Jesus instead.
- Sharing about Jesus is a big theme in this passage. Invite people to think about their own network of relationships and who they can talk to about Jesus.
- There may be some in the congregation with questions and scepticism like Nathanael. This passage honours those questions and encourage people to ask them with sincerity and look to Jesus for the answers to them, just as Nathanael does.