Calling Disciples

Good morning – I’d like to welcome those of you who are here for the first time today.  We are glad you are here.  We started Journey about 9 years ago in order to help people who are just starting out on their spiritual journey or perhaps restarting it.  And so maybe that describes you, if so we are glad you are here.

This morning we are in our third week of a study of one of the four books in the bible that describe the life and times of Jesus.  These four books are the first four books in the New Testament – we call them the Gospels – which actually means Good News.  Four writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) explaining the good news –  that God became flesh and made his home among us.

Last week we talked about the fact that sin is a killer.  Sin has so diseased mankind that from the very beginning of it’s infection into humanity, it has killed – beginning with Adam and Eve’s own children.  And this week we saw yet another terrible scene of the results of a sin ravaged soul exacting his own twisted, warped, disgusting sense of revenge upon the innocent lives in Florida.  And it makes our hearts hurt.  And we ask, How long Lord will you allow this to go on?  How long before you intervene and rescue this world from such misery?  Such violence. Such evil?

The Psalms give voice to the pain of this life, and sometimes we find ourselves asking God the same thing that the author of Psalm 94 wrote, Psalm 94:3How long, O Lord? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?

And the answer is – until every person on this earth has had a chance to make the call about Jesus himself.  One day he will come back and set this world right.  But when he shows up – it’s game over.  And those who have stiff armed God will be allowed to stiff-arm him for eternity.

So Peter, who we will read about shortly, tells the church toward the end of his life, that  God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change. (The Message)

That might feel like a rather hollow response.  We want God to show up and fix everything, as we should.  It’s right to pray, In the meantime, the good news is, that even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us.  And so we fear no evil.

Back to Psalm 94 – what conclusion does the writer of that Psalm make?

16 Who will protect me from the wicked?
Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had helped me,
I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave.
18 I cried out, “I am slipping!”
but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
19 When doubts filled my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

So I trust this week you will continue to pray for those families in Florida and elsewhere who are trying to make sense of life right now.  And let’s pray that God will provide them comfort and renewed hope.

This morning we are going to see God’s plan for rescuing us begin to unfold.  God’s desire is to rescue us out of what the bible aptly calls the Kingdom of Darkness – and into a different kingdom entirely – the right now, on this earth now and forever, Kingdom of Heaven.  It’s a rescue plan that revolves entirely upon thinking highly enough of Jesus to trust him with our lives.

God’s plan to rescue us is this.  We place our faith in Jesus.  He removes any barriers that once stood between us and God – namely our sin.  And we begin to live our life with a loving an good and near God by our side, day by day.   He becomes our good shepherd, leading us, and we in turn are transformed into different kinds of people – people who naturally and easily care love others.

This morning we are going to read about the very first people who decided to follow Jesus.

This book of John we are reading is filled with incredible theology, but it also has some of the most powerful narrative sections in the Bible.  So John starts with In the Beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.  That’s straight theology.  Makes us wonder about the implications of that being true.  And we talked about what that meant two weeks ago.

But today we have a story.  One time Jesus was on his way to Galilee when this happened.  And John is filled with some of the most powerful stories in the gospels – like Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, in John 4, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead – in John 11.

Today we’ll read about the time when Jesus began to invite people to follow him.

It’s hard to imagine a time when Jesus didn’t have any followers.  This morning there are about 2 billion people who call themselves Christians.

I can’t help but imagine John – at the end of his life – he’s now an old man, there are churches springing up all over the known world.  Thousands of people are coming to faith in Jesus.  I can’t help but imagine him thinking back to the day it all started for him.  When someone told him that Jesus was the real deal and worth checking out.

John chapter 1.

35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!”37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.

The first two disciples to follow Jesus were originally disciples of John the Baptist.  And John the Baptist recognizes that Jesus is the one who was to come, and points them to Jesus.

The names of these two guys, we will soon learn is Andrew, and the other is most certainly John, the writer of the book.  He rarely mentions himself in the book – he humbly refers to himself as the other disciple.

38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.

They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.

So how did Christianity start?   Christianity began with an invitation from Jesus to check him out.  Come and watch me.  Investigate and decide for yourselves if I am worth following.

You know, at Journey we try our best to imagine every Sunday that this room is filled with people who have never been to church before.  We know that many of you have been followers of Jesus for many years, and we love that.  But we feel God has given us the role of, in essence, recreating the day Christianity was born.  Come and check out Jesus for yourself.

If in fact Jesus is God in the flesh, then we learn what God is like by watching Jesus.  And what do we see here in Jesus?  A welcome invitation to come and see what he is like.  So maybe that’s the role you are in today.  And maybe it’s kind of freaking you out.  You are like, on the inside, I’m not a follower of Jesus and I wonder if I’ll stand out – you’re curious but skeptical.  Guess what?  You’re in the bible – cool, right?

The invitation that Jesus gave to John and Andrew stands for you today.  They hung out with Jesus for the rest of the day before they made the decision to follow him.  And that’s pretty quick, it might take you a little longer, and that’s okay.  The important thing is to be honest about your search and when you feel that you’ve seen enough, then make the call and follow him.

Let’s see the third person to make the call to follow Jesus.  His name is Peter.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

Now I’m not sure how Andrew and John came to that conclusion so quickly.  Perhaps John the Baptist told John and Andrew that Jesus was the chosen one of God.  The anointed one – the savior.  Now truthfully, they are using a term here they don’t at this point understand.  They think the Messiah will be the political ruler who rescues Israel from the Romans.  It’s going to take time for them to realize – and it’s not really until after the resurrection, that they understand exactly what John the Baptist meant when he said Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

In any case – they go to Andrew’s brother Simon and tell him – you’ve got to come with us – we have found someone who is rocking our world.  Come on – come with us.

Maybe you have an Andrew or John in your life?  Someone who has been telling you – you’ve got to come to church with me.  It’s not what you think.  You’ve got to learn about this Jesus with me.  Now Andrew and John have an advantage here in that Peter didn’t have a preconceived notion of what Jesus was like.  He’s like, Jesus?  Who dat?

Today we face the hurdle of trying to tell people about Jesus and they think they already know what he’s like.  And so we often say we want you to discover the real Jesus – and when you find him we believe you’ll find him irresistible.  But sometimes it means having t lay down what we think Jesus was like, and let the bible tell us for itself.

Do you have an Andrew or Simon in your life?  If so, then they are good friends. And that’s why you are here even.  It’s because you trust them.  They aren’t freaks – you like them and respect them even, and so it’s caused you to think, maybe there’s something I’m missing.  Great!  You’re right!

Now the flip side would be – maybe God’s calling you to be an Andrew or John to someone else?  Is there anyone in your life you are close with that you think might be ready or willing to come to church with you if you invited them?  Might be ready to hear and learn and investigate Jesus?

It’s interesting to me – when I get a chance to talk to people about Jesus – people say – well, Christians are mean-spirited and judgmental.  And I say, I’m a follower of Jesus , am I that way?  Please tell me if I am!  Oh no – not you – you’re different.  How many of you have ever heard something like that?  Christians are judgmental!  Except you, you’re different.  No – not at my church.  From the evidence I see I see people caring for the poor, the orphan, paying bills for one another who need some help.  Donating time to serve those who need food.  Not perfect, but certainly not hateful, unkind, unloving.  Your friends deserve a chance to have their conception of church challenged.

And I’d like you to consider that perhaps God has placed you in the life of a person who God said – they need to see what a real follower of Jesus looks like.  Maybe God is calling you to be a John or Andrew and say, “Want to come to church with me?”  It’s only an hour.  You get a free donut and coffee.  No harm no foul if it’s not your thing.  But you never know.  It just might be that God has put you in the proximately of a Simon – who was ready to hear the invitation.  Check it out.

42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”). 

Now what’s going on here?  Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter.  Well, Peter means rock.  Jesus declares to Peter – I’m going to turn you into someone special.  Forget what you used to be known for – I’m going to make you a rock of the faith.  Now if one reads the gospels, we get a chance to see Peter’s journey to becoming a rock of the faith.  And throughout the story of Jesus and his twelve disciples, we see Peter at both his highs – like when he walked on water with Jesus once. And his low’s – like when he denied knowing Jesus within earshot of Jesus as he is being beaten by soldiers.

By changing his name – Jesus announces to Peter – you are about to go on a fantastic journey with me that will change you at the very core.  I see the kind of person you can become and I can make it happen!  And you know what, Peter needed to hear it.  It was welcome.

And you know what?  You know people like Peter.  They are tired of their reputation.  And they are ready for a new name.  A new nature.  A new way of living.  A new reason for living.  They are ready for it.  They just need someone to introduce them to the only one who can actually deliver on the promise of a new me.

So now there are three followers of Jesus. Andrew, John and Peter.  43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.

One day I was flying somewhere – I don’t even remember where – but I was in Dallas and I had a layover – and I was walking through the terminal in Dallas looking for a place to grab a bite to eat and I look up and people are passing me and I look at this guy walk past me and I do a double take – and he does the same thing.  And it turns out to be a good friend of mine!  I was like wait, what!  So random – he was flying back from somewhere and we just happened to pass one another in the terminal, so we grabbed a bite to eat together before going on our way.  What a coincidence, right?

Well, that’s what happens here.  Andrew and Peter are going to Galilee and on their way they run into Philip – who “Just so happens” to be from the same hometown and Philip and Simon.  Hey guys!  What are you guys doing here?  What a coincidence.  Except it was no coincidence.  Jesus went there for Philip.   It was no coincidence that Philip would see two people he already knew.  They are from their hometown.  A town so small, by the way, that about 65 AD it ceases to exist.  It just gets abandoned.  I mean, it’s a small town.

I can’t wait to see one day, the workings behind the ‘coincidences’ of life.  I mean, how many time a day do people, somewhere in the world, say, “What a coincidence!”  And God smiles.  See, God has his eye on Philip.  He knew Philip was ready to follow him and he knew what it would take – two old friends – to get him to follow him.

I personally am a follower of Jesus based on ‘coincidences.’  My mom was in the hospital, recovering from breast cancer, and by coincidence, was placed in a room with another woman who, it just so happened, was a follower of Jesus.  And it just so happened that the woman’s pastor visited and prayed for the woman.  And it just so happened that the woman said – you should pray for Margaret too.  And my mom was so touched that she said, if I get out of here alive I’ll go to that guys church.  And she did.  And I went with her.

And fast forward 40 years, and it just so happens that you are here.  And it just so happens that we are talking about Jesus and his willingness to desire and indeed determination to find those who are ready to follow him.  And maybe someday you will be old and look back to this day as the day when everything changed for you.  Perhaps.

Don’t underestimate God’s working in coincidences.  We need not turn coincidences into mystical things.  We shouldn’t make too much of them, but neither should we dismiss them as random things.  It’s at least worth asking, is God up to something here?  Could God be speaking to me here?

Philip became a follower of Jesus because of the word of two friends he just so happened to run into on his travels through Galilee.

I remember talking to my friend Jeremy one time and I asked him about how he became a Christian.  And he said he prayed one day for God to handle this big issue in his life, and that by the end of the week the issue was incredibly resolved.  And it forced him to ask himself – was that just a coincidence?  And he determined no – it was not coincidence it was God at work.  And he decided to follow Jesus.

Philip becomes the fourth follower of Jesus on earth.  And it happens as a result of coincidentally bumping into friends on his travels.  What does he do?  Naturally, he finds his friend, Nathanael and wants to share with him about this Jesus….  See how Christianity grows?  It always grows when a trustworthy friend speaks to another friend.

45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”

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

I do love that John includes Nathanael’s response.  It’s like Nathanael says, “Yea, right!”  Because in his mind nobody comes from Nazareth except hillbillies and red necks.

It’s like hearing that the Messiah comes from Kentucky.  Kentucky!  Can you imagine, and I can because I think Jesus has a good sense of humor, that Jesus sees Nathanael and says, “Hey ya’ll, come follow me!”  “It’ll be fun”

Nathanael can’t imagine anyone but hicks coming from Nazareth.  But he is willing, because he trusts Philip – to go and check this Jesus out for himself.  And check out this interesting exchange…

“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.

47 As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”

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

Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”

49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”

Ok, what in the world is going on here?  Well, we don’t know.  But we do know that the fig tree is often a place where people would go and read their bibles and study scripture and prayer.  But whatever is going on – God is working on Nathanael under that fig tree.  It’s pure speculation.  But what if Nathanael is praying something like, God, here I am under this fig tree – do you even know I’m here.  How Long, oh Lord, before you show yourself to me?  How long will I sit under this fig tree.  I need to know that you see me.  I need to know you have a plan for me.

And at that moment – coincidentally?  Philip says, “Come meet someone who can make sense of your life.”  And Jesus looks at him and says – I heard you under the fig tree.  I saw you there.  Come – follow me.

Is that too much to speculate?  I’d say no – not based on the way Nathanael responds – You are the Son of God.  You are the King.  You are the real deal.

And how does Jesus respond.

50 Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 

You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Friends, here’s the deal.  God is at work in the hearts and lives of everyone you see.  God is continually at work.  It is his desire to woo us to himself.  Is it possible that you have been asking God for a sign of his existence?  Is it possible that today – this very message – is the answer to your prayer?  He sees you.  He knows you.  And his offer to you today is the same offer that he has been extending now for 2000 years.  Come, follow me.

You haven’t see anything yet.  You will see far greater things that you can imagine.

God is working in the lives of your friends.  You never know when your words of encouragement, even your invitation – is itself an answer to the silent prayers of friends who are finally ready for God.

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