Sermon title:  Jesus Calls Ordinary People to Extraordinary Wonders   John 1:35-49

 

    Immanuel Baptist Church – January 21, 2018

Back to ImmanuelBaptistNB.org

 

 

If you study world history,

you learn about the Caesars of Rome

and the Kings of England,

Presidents of the United States

and military commanders who won great victories.

 

But the history of the early Christian Church

that we find in the Bible

is totally different.

It’s a story of carpenters, fishermen, shepherds

and ordinary men & women.

 

They were ordinary men and women

who were called to know personally

the King of the Universe,

the Almighty God who created heaven and earth.

 

And that’s what we see

as Jesus began to call His first disciples.

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We’re going through the Gospels chronologically,

looking at the events of Jesus’ life and ministry

in the order in which those events occurred.

 

So, now we come to the things

that happened

after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

Matthew, Mark and Luke

all tell how Jesus immediately went into the wilderness

for 40 days by Himself—

and how He was tempted there

by Satan the Devil.

And then they go on

to tell about Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.

 

John’s Gospel

is the only one that tells us

what happened in between—

what happened after Jesus returned

from being tempted in the wilderness,

and before He went to Galilee.

 

We find it in John, Chapter 1,

beginning at Verse 19.

 

John the Baptist was still baptizing there

in the Jordan River

about 15 or 20 miles east of Jerusalem.

 

The Jewish religious leaders

were starting to show an interest in John—

to find out if he claimed to be the Messiah.

 

Beginning at John 1:19, we read,

 

19 Now this was John’s testimony

when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem

sent priests and Levites

to ask him who he was.

20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

 

Then John went on to explain to them,

as we read in Verse 23,

 

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

 

So, John explained to them

that he was sent by God

to prepare the people

for the coming of the Messiah.

 

Their conversation continues in Verse 25:

 

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent

25 questioned him,

“Why then do you baptize

if you are not the Messiah,

nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

 

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied,

“but among you stands one you do not know.

27 He is the one who comes after me,

the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

 

28 This all happened at Bethany

on the other side of the Jordan,

where John was baptizing.

 

So, John was still there,

about 15 or 20 miles east of Jerusalem,

and Jesus returned there

after 40 days alone in the wilderness

being tempted by the devil.

 

John 1,  Verse 29 continues,

 

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him

and said, “Look, the Lamb of God,

who takes away the sin of the world!

 

A lamb was sacrificed periodically

at the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem

as a sacrifice for sins.

But it served only as a reminder of their sins,

because they had to keep doing it—

keep sacrificing a lamb —again and again.

But Jesus would be

the lamb of God

that actually takes away the sin of the world.

His sacrificial death on the cross

would accomplish that once and for all.

 

So, that is why John the Baptist

called Jesus the Lamb of God,

who takes away the sin of the world!

 

Now John knew Jesus

before Jesus came to be baptized by him.

They were cousins.

Their mothers were related,

and Jesus’ mother Mary

had gone to stay with John’s mother Elizabeth

during the final 3 months

of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John.

 

Because they already knew each other,

that’s why John could say,

“I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”

which we read before at Matthew 3:14.

 

John already knew Jesus,

and felt Jesus was more righteous than he was,

but at that point

he didn’t know yet that Jesus was the Messiah—

until after he baptized Him

and saw the Holy Spirit come down on Jesus.

 

Continuing in Verse 30,

John explained this

to all who would listen.

John continued in Verse 30,

 

30 This is the one I meant when I said,

‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me

because he was before me.’

 

Jesus “came after” John

because Jesus was born 6 months after John was born,

and also because Jesus began His ministry

months after John began His.

But Jesus “was before” John

because He is the eternal Son of God

and was in the beginning

before the world was created.

 

In Verse 31, John continues,

 

31 I myself did not know him,

but the reason I came baptizing with water

was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

 

32 Then John gave this testimony:

“I saw the Spirit

come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.

33 And I myself did not know him,

but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see

the Spirit come down and remain

is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’

34 I have seen and I testify

that this is God’s Chosen One.”

 

So, even though Jesus was John’s cousin,

and John felt he should be baptized by Jesus,

rather than the other way around,

John “didn’t know him”

in the sense that

John didn’t know Jesus was the Messiah.

He didn’t know that

until he saw the Holy Spirit come down upon Jesus.

in the form of a dove.

Then he knew that this righteous and good cousin of his

was the expected Messiah, the Christ.

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But the Jewish religious leaders weren’t interested.

They ignored John’s testimony.

If they had stayed with John to learn more,

the could have met “God’s chosen one.”

They could have met, and come to know

the Son of God in person.

 

But they didn’t stick around

for John to point them to Jesus as their Messiah.

 

God knew ahead of time, of course,

that the religious leaders would not accept Jesus.

 

So, He had John the Baptist

introduce Jesus to ordinary people, like you and like me.

 

He started with some

who had already accepted John’s message.

As followers of John, they had repented of their sins

and were expecting the Messiah to appear.

 

Verse 35 continues,

with John telling some of these disciples of his

that Jesus was “the lamb of God.”

 

Starting in John 1, Verse 35, it says,

 

35 The next day John was there again

with two of his disciples.

36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said,

“Look, the Lamb of God!”

 

37 When the two disciples heard him say this,

they followed Jesus.

 

John knew that these disciples

would leave off following him

 to follow Jesus instead.

That’s what he was preparing them for.

 

And Jesus welcomed them.

Verse 38 says,

 

38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following

and asked, “What do you want?”

 

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”),

“where are you staying?”

 

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

 

So they went and saw where he was staying,

and they spent that day with him.

It was about four in the afternoon.

 

Some translations say it was 10 in the morning.

Literally, it says “the 10th hour”

which would be 10 in the morning on the Roman clock

or 4 in the afternoon on the Jewish clock.

 

So, these men were starting to transition

from being disciples of John the Baptist

to being disciples of Christ.

Jesus welcomed them,

and they “spent that day” with Jesus.

They sat under His teaching

and learned from Him.

 

Who were these first two disciples?

Verse 40 says,

 

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother,

was one of the two who heard what John had said

and who had followed Jesus.

 

So, Andrew was one of the two.

The other was likely John himself—

the Apostle John,

the author of the Gospel of John.

 

If it was someone else,

John would have named him.

And it was John’s style not to name himself.

Matthew refers to the Apostle John by name three times;

Mark ten times;

Luke seven times,

and John not at all—

even though he had the closest relationship with Jesus

of all the Apostles.

Rather he refers to himself

as one of the “sons of Zebedee” ,

or “the other disciple,”

or “the disciple Jesus loved”.

(John 13:23 and 19:26 and 20:2 and 21:7.)

 

So, these two men

who John the Baptist introduced to Jesus

were Andrew and, most likely, John

who would become the Apostle John.

 

Now, what did Andrew do

after spending that day with Jesus?

He did just what most of us would do,

or what we may actually have done,

when we found the Lord.

Verse 41 tells us,

 

41 The first thing Andrew did

was to find his brother Simon and tell him,

“We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).

42 And he brought him to Jesus.

 

Yes, appreciative believers,

when they first come to believe in Christ,

want to share Him with those they love.

So, Andrew naturally went immediately

to his brother Simon.

I can imagine Andrew’s excitement

when he told his brother,

“We have found the Messiah!”

And he brought his brother to Jesus.

 

The middle of Verse 42 continues,

 

Jesus looked at him and said,

“You are Simon son of John.

You will be called Cephas”

(which, when translated, is Peter).

 

Jesus gave Andrew’s brother Simon a new name.

 

That new name was,

“Cephas” in the local Aramaic language,

which translates to “Petros” in Greek—

both meaning “a rock” or “a stone.”

And, of course, his name is “Peter” in English.

 

Jesus knew that Peter would serve

as a pillar in the early Church,

solid as a rock.

 

But He didn’t stop with Andrew, John and Peter.

 

Verse 43 says,

 

43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

 

44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter,

was from the town of Bethsaida.

 

45 Philip found Nathanael and told him,

“We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—

Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

 

So, Philip too appreciated Jesus so much

that he looked for his friend Nathanael,

to lead him to Christ.

 

But when Nathanael heard that Jesus came from Nazareth

he was skeptical.

Verse 46 says,

 

46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

 

Nazareth had a bad reputation.

I can appreciate Nathanael’s reaction,

because my wife and I live in Wareham,

a town that has a couple of trailer parks

and a couple of poor neighborhoods.

And we’ve actually heard

people from wealthier neighboring towns

say “Wareham!” with the same

disgust in their voices

as Nathanael must have had

when he said,

 

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

 

But, continuing in Verse 46,

we see Philip wasn’t put off by this,

but persisted.

 

“Come and see,” said Philip.

 

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching,

he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite

in whom there is no deceit.”

 

Jesus showed that He already knew

who Nathanael was.

And He liked what He saw in Nathanael—

“an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

 

Some other translations render that

“an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”

“who is sincere."

“a true Israelite,

in whom there is no deceitfulness!"

“a genuine son of Israel--a man

of complete integrity."

 

Jesus appreciated the good qualities He saw in Nathanael,

just as He appreciates the good qualities He sees in us.

 

Now it’s true that ‘All our righteousness is filthy rags’

when it comes to being saved

by our own goodness.

We are all sinners,

and none of us are good enough

to earn our way into heaven.

 

But we do have good qualities,

and we do engage in good behavior,

and God appreciates the goodness in us.

 

We can see that at Daniel 10:11

where an angel told the prophet,

“Daniel, you are very precious to God”

or

“highly esteemed” as another translation puts it.

 

God liked what He saw in Daniel.

 

Hebrews 6:10 says,

“God is not unrighteous

to forget your work and labor of love,

which you have showed toward his name,

in that you have ministered to the saints.”

 

So, even though we are all sinners,

God appreciates our good qualities

and our good behavior.

So, Jesus appreciatively greeted Nathanael

by saying,

“Here truly is an Israelite

in whom there is no deceit.”

 

Verse 48 continues,

 

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

 

Jesus answered, “I saw you

while you were still under the fig tree

before Philip called you.”

 

49 Then Nathanael declared,

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God;

you are the king of Israel.”

 

Evidently Nathanael had been all alone under that fig tree

with no one else around.

Maybe he was alone praying silently,

perhaps confessing his sins to God.

 

He was doing something there that showed

that he was sincere,

that he had no deceitfulness,

that he was a man of integrity.

But it was between him and God.

No one else was there.

 

So, when Jesus showed that He saw Nathanael at that time

and that He knew what Philip said and did,

that convinced Nathanael

that Jesus was the Son of God.

Nathanael declared,

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God;

you are the king of Israel.”

 

In Verse 50, Jesus answered Nathanael’s declaration of faith.

 

50 Jesus said, “You believe

because I told you

I saw you under the fig tree.

You will see greater things than that.”

51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you,

you will see ‘heaven open,

and the angels of God

ascending and descending on’

the Son of Man.”

 

Nathanael had already realized

that he was standing face-to-face

with the Son of God.

That, in itself, was an extraordinary wonder.

It was something greater

than anyone had experienced since Moses

who talked with God face to face.

But now Jesus was telling Nathanael

that he would see even greater things than that.

“Very truly I tell you,

you will see ‘heaven open,

and the angels of God

ascending and descending on’

the Son of Man.”

What an amazing privilege!

 

And, interestingly, Jesus did not mean this for Nathanael alone.

 

In the original Greek,

the word “you” here is actually in the plural.

 

The English word “you”

can be used to address one person

or a multitude of people,

and you have to determine which it is

from the context—

except down South,

where they say “you all” to mean “you” in the plural.

 

In fact in the Amplified Bible John 1:51 says,

"...most solemnly I tell you all,

you shall see heaven opened,

and the angels of God

ascending and descending upon the Son of Man!"

 

So, the Greek shows plainly here

that Jesus was not addressing this just to Nathanael.

When He says,

 

“Very truly I tell you,

you will see ‘heaven open,

and the angels of God

ascending and descending on’

the Son of Man.”

. . . He is addressing all of us who become His followers.

 

And, not only that,

Jesus was using familiar language

from Genesis Chapter 28

where it talks about angels

“ascending and descending.”

 

It’s talking there in Genesis 28

about Jacob and “Jacob’s ladder.”

Jacob is the man whose name God changed to Israel.

 

Beginning in Genesis 28, Verse 12, it says about Jacob,

“And he dreamed,

and behold,

there was a ladder set up on the earth,

and the top of it reached to heaven.

And behold, the angels of God

were ascending and descending on it!

And behold, the Lord stood above it and said,

‘I am the Lord,

the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.’”

 

What a privilege for Jacob

to see such a thing in a dream-vision!

 

Jesus was alluding to this,

when He used the same language.

 

But, instead of the angels “ascending and descending”

on a ladder,

Jesus said we would see the angels “ascending and descending”

on the Son of Man.

 

Jesus Himself is the bridge – or the ladder

between God and man.

He is our link to heaven.

 

Ordinary people like Andrew and John

and Peter

and Philip and Nathanael

can connect to God.

We can connect to God—

ordinary people like us.

What a precious privilege!

What an extraordinary wonder

for ordinary people

to connect with God.

Now that connection

is through prayer in Jesus name.

 

And before we know it,

we’ll be seeing God face to face,

serving in the heavenly courts

and sitting with Jesus on the throne

with all the other ordinary people

He has called to Himself.