Life of Christ 23
It was customary in Jesus' day for highly esteemed rabbis to have a group of young men whom they were tutoring or mentoring. These were often called disciples, and John the Baptist had attracted a select number of men such as this.
The day following John's great statement about Jesus being the Lamb of God he sees Jesus again. This time, John is with two of his disciples, and when he repeats yesterday's assertion about Jesus Christ they both immediately left John and started following after Jesus. This isn't an abandonment of John the Baptist but rather it is John releasing his disciples into the care and custody of a better Teacher, if they so chose.
Jesus suddenly finds Himself being followed around by two men, and turning around He asks them what they are looking for (John 1.35-39). Their answer, 'Rabbi, where dwellest thou?', simply meant that they were asking to become His followers, His disciples. And He allows them.
One of these men was Andrew, and practically as soon as he was settled in Jesus' care he went to find his brother, Peter (John 1.40-42). He tells Peter that he has found Israel's messiah, and drags Peter back to Jesus. Peter and Jesus have a short conversation and Peter goes away apparently unimpressed, but courtesy of a brother's compassion a seed had been planted that would bear astounding fruit some months later.
The next day, Jesus is walking with his two new disciples, and meets Philip, and says to him, 'Follow me' (John 1.43-51). Philip, who perhaps already knew Andrew (they were from the same town in Galilee), does follow Jesus, and the next day, fired with enthusiasm, he goes looking for his friend, Nathanael. Philip found him sitting under a tree and tries to convince him that they have found Israel's messiah. Nathanael's reaction is completely spontaneous and true, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' Philip encourages him to come and see, and so Nathanael does. He finds, to his great surprise, that this man Jesus pierces his skepticism with two statements, and Nathanael's reaction is to immediately and totally acknowledge Jesus as the Christ.
This is the sequential order of events as we see Jesus, for the very first time, begin to gather around Him men whom He would mentor and teach. Some of these would go on to become apostles. Bear in mind, He has not yet preached a sermon or done a miracle, but after His baptism, weeks of fasting, and facing down the devil in the temptations we can see He has transitioned from a simple village carpenter to the leader of a nascent religious movement in Israel.
Although there is a simplicity in Jesus' instruction to Philip, 'Follow me', there is also greatness here. This is the same instruction we will later see Jesus give to Peter (Matthew 4.19). It is the same instruction we will later see Jesus give to Matthew (Matthew 9.9). And this is the same instruction He continues to give to us today. In a very real way this is Christianity, following Christ. We are to follow Him in what He did. We are to follow Him in Who He was. In fact, if we live the Christian life well we will find ourselves always following, continuously, without end (Philippians 3.12).
I have spent almost a thousand hours studying the life of Christ in the past few years. So often, in the midst of it, I have wished that I could have been there, in Palestine, 2000 years ago, when He walked the earth. I have wished that I could have been in the crowd when He fed the 5000, preached the Sermon on the Mount, or tangled with the Pharisees in the Temple. But more than that, I have wondered what it would have been like to be one of those closest to Him, the apostles. How amazing it must have been to live with Him, to travel with Him, and to have Him interact with you personally on a daily basis!…when it suddenly occurred to me that I can be one of His disciples. All I have to do is follow Him.
If you would like to listen to the audio sermon that accompanies this blog you may find it here. Just press 'launch media player' and choose We Preach Christ 9, 'Follow Me.'