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We continue our series in John and today I want us to close off the chapter. Last week, we looked at Christ The Baptiser With The Holy Spirit and learnt some things about Holy Spirit Baptism. In verse 34 of our texts, John the baptist sort of rounded up all his testimony about Jesus Christ saying: “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” (v.34). The phrase Son of God simply means Jesus is God. We have belaboured this point but it is worth mentioning again. At the beginning of the series, we clearly identified Jesus as God (1:1). The Westminster Confession of Faith comes handy and throws more light on the phrase Son of God:
The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man (WCF 8.2).
If all these are true and they true, then a response is demanded from us. And what response is demanded from us? That brings me to the title of this morning’s sermon. We will consider for a title “Following Jesus.” In light of all that has transpired, the obvious response from those who heard Jesus and by extension us, is to follow him. And the idea of following Jesus is central to the verses we read (vv.37;43). What then does it mean to Follow Jesus? Is it just to be walking around with him everywhere he goes? We will spend the rest of the sermon to consider what it means to follow Jesus and Why we must follow Jesus.
What Does It Mean To Follow Jesus?
The whole context of the verses we read is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and calling his disciples. The heading for my bible (ESV) for vv.35-42 is “ Jesus Calls His First Disciples”. From vv.43-51 is also headed “Jesus Calls Philip and Nathaniel” So Following Jesus simply means responding to his call. Especially in v.43, we see this clearly: “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him “Follow me.” But then, responding to Jesus’ call also means many things. These men were called directly to follow Jesus, but we will not have any such direct calls. Nonetheless, Jesus calls us to follow him and we must follow. Here then are somethings from the text to examine. Following Jesus means
Faith: Responding In Faith (vv. 35-37)
The apostle John has been helping us by counting the days for us. So as v.35 opens with “The next day” it clearly points to us the fact that, the events of vv35-42 are different from vv.29-34. Note that, in v.29, John speaks about Jesus as “The Lamb of God.” Again in v.36, he repeats the same thing. And what happened is the basis for our first point: Respond In Faith. We are told that when the disciples of John The Baptist heard what their master said, they followed Jesus: (vv.35-37). They believed in the words John the Baptist spoke.
Look at the verse 37 carefully: “The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” They heard him say this… What did they hear him say? They heard him say “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Now the Bible doesn’t tell us, but it is very probable that these disciples heard John the baptist the first time he made this statement. And the first time, what did they hear? They heard that This Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world. The Lamb of God is a concept the Jews will understand clearly. Their whole lives were built around many sacrifices for the forgiveness of There were sacrifices for almost every event in the life of a Jew. And those sacrifices were primarily to atone or pay for the sins of the people. The book of Leviticus gives us a list of all these sacrifices: Burnt offerings (Leviticus 1), Grain Offerings (Leviticus 2), Peace Offerings (Leviticus 3), Sin Offerings (Leviticus 4), Guilt Offerings (Leviticus 5). But these sacrifices couldn’t atone permanently for sin. And they have to be offered continuously and repeatedly.
But Jesus as the Lamb of God, is an all time atoning sacrifice for sins. And this we must believe. We must believe that God sent Jesus to the world to save his people from their sin (Matthew 1:21). Jesus has offered a sufficient sacrifice that is acceptable to God. And all you and I are to do is to respond in faith to this truth in faith. How does faith come? The Bible is clear that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17).
And John’s disciples heard John’s word about Jesus clearly and they followed him. To follow Jesus then is to believe in who he is and what he has done for sinners. He is the lamb that takes away sin. This is the gospel we preach. Jesus died to save sinners that those who will believe in him will be saved.
Discipleship: Commitment To Jesus (vv. 38-39).
We see a probing question in these verses: “What are you seeking?” It’s like Jesus asking them, why are you following me? What do you want? It’s not as though Jesus doesn’t know why they are following him, at least in the text, we have seen Jesus displaying an attribute of God, that is all-knowing: Omniscient (vv.42;47-48). The question he asked therefore was not for him to know because he knew already. But it was for them to ponder their decision to follow him. A response to the word of God may be too soon out of enthusiasm without counting the cost. It is one thing to say we have believed in Jesus. Jesus’ question therefore was a question to reveal their commitment.
In our times, we hear of people who claim they have become Christians and within a short while, they fall off. This is because their faith was empty. They may have heard a message that stirred up some emotions in them and they prayed a prayer and afterwards considered themselves Christians. But they didn’t count the cost of following Jesus.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).
Now when John’s disciples were asked “What are you seeking?, they answered with another question “Rabbi (which means Teacher), “where are you staying? (I think these guys are Ghanaians. It is said that the Ghanaian answers questions with questions).
When these disciples referred to Jesus as Rabbi, which John explains to mean teacher, it was a kind of indication they were willing to follow him as disciples or student. According to a Jewish online portal, “A rabbi is a teacher of Judaism. The word itself literally translates from Hebrew to “my teacher” or “my master.” (My Jewish learning learning). In the life of the Jews and during Jesus’ lifetime, students learn by following a Rabbi. And their answer “where are you staying is noted to be an indication they were willing to submit to Jesus as his disciple. They have made a decision to commit and submit to him and spend more time with him.
There’s something in Jesus’ response also I think we must pay attention to: “come and you will see.”(v.39). This same statement was made by Philip to Nathaneal: “Come and see.” (v.46) These two statements are like an invitation to experience something for themselves. It’s experiential. A commitment to Jesus I reckon is something every single person must experience for themselves: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8). Taste and see! To be committed to Jesus is a personal commitment every single person must make.
Missions: Bringing Others To Jesus: (vv. 40-42)
Look at vv. 40-42. One of the disciples now finds his own brother and brought him to Jesus. This points us to Missions, Evangelism, Reaching out to the lost. Everyone who has come to faith in Christ has been called to a life of missions. That is, we are called to also bring others to Christ. And this is also represented in the text. See v 45-46. Our faith is personal. But our faith is not private. All of us who have believed in Jesus are missionaries to the world. We are to bring others to Christ. We are to fulfill the great commission.
We are to witness. We are to testify about Jesus. We are to talk to others about Jesus. This is not the work of only Pastors, Evangelists or Missionaries. We are all missionaries and wherever we find ourselves, we should look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus. Two profound statements are made by these two disciples. We have found The Messiah (v.41)… We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (v.45). The title Messiah (Hebrew), which also is Christ (Anointed one) simply means a deliverer. Israel was expecting a deliverer who will deliver them from bondage, captivity and oppression from foreign lands or so they thought. However, God’s plans for the Messiah was to deliver his people from sin. And those who encountered Christ, went telling others about him. That is what all believers are called to. To tell others about Christ. We are all a part of what is called the great commission.
Let’s all make this a point in our life to be telling others about Jesus. I think that our first point of call for reaching out should be our family members. At every opportunity, we should speak about Christ to our unsaved families and closest friends. That precisely is what these disciples did. They brought their brothers.
Why Must We Follow Christ?
We now know what following Jesus looks like or I hope my explanations are clear from the text. I want us now to look at why we must follow Jesus. Obviously, for everything there is a motivation. So what’s the motivation for following Jesus?
He Is The Messiah (vv.41;45)
Jesus came to save sinners. And this is the greatest motivation to follow him So that he will save you from your sinners. We know that all human beings are sinners and until one has come to a saving knowledge of Jesus we are totally separated from God and doomed for eternal damnation. This is the testimony of Scripture: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever doesn’t believe is condmned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John3:18). Everything written in John is for this one purpose, that we might believe in Jesus and be saved (John 20:31)
He Knows Your Life (vv.42;45-50)
Some people think they have to put their lives all together before they can come to Jesus. Others think their lives are so sinful that Jesus will not accept them. But no, Jesus rejects no one. Look at v.42: “You are Simon the son of John” That’s is interesting. Having not met, Jesus knows Simon already. We see a similar incident in v.45-50. Here too Jesus shows Nathanael he knows him already. You and I cannot hide our lives and hearts from Jesus. He knows everything and he calls you to himself despite your sinfulness.There is not sin Jesus cannot pardon and we must run to him for salvation from our sins.
He Is The Only Mediator Between God and Man (v.51; 1Timothy 2:5)
You see in this text that Jesus Christ is the link between heaven and earth. He is a ladder and the Angels ascend and descend on him. R.C Sproul pointed this out as the dream Jacob saw in Genesis
This verse alludes to Jacob’s vision of a ladder or stairway stretching from earth to heaven, on which angels ascended to worship God and descended to do His bidding on earth. As Jacob slept, his resting place became a temple, a “house of God” (Bethel, Gen. 28:12). Jesus HImself is the reality to which the stairway pointed…Christ is the end-time sanctuary in which God communes with His people
It Is A Command (v.43).
I can give all the reasons to follow Jesus. But most importantly, this is a command we must obey. When Jesus told Phlip “Follow me” there was not an option left for him to disobey. When Christ calls, we must obey. And the Bible is a command for sinners to come to God. Jesus in his ministry issued calls for sinners to come to him (Matthew 11:28; John 7:37-38).