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Come and See

September 2, 2018 Speaker: David Gough Series: John

Topic: Gospels Passage: John 1:35–1:51


John 1:35-51

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples,  36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold,  the Lamb of God!”  37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.  40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).  42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”  44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.  46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’  Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite, indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”  48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”  49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”  50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”  51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”


The opening chapters of John’s Gospel read a great deal like a diary or a personal journal.  It is more than just a log that John kept or a list of what had been going on.  What we find here is actually a detailed account of events in chronological order as well as John’s reflection of their meaning and significance.  Records of this type are very important.  Apart from such diaries and journals, much of the world’s history as we know it would have never been remembered.

Before literacy, communication of current events took place through oral transmission...much of which was either minimized or embellished as it was passed along from generation to generation.  That is why the written records that go back to the original source as closely as possible are so valuable.  Even with them, the “historical revisionists” of our day still try to match actual facts with their contemporary preferences.  Truth can be twisted, but it cannot be chaged.

John’s record contains a certain precision that testifies to the accuracy of the events that he chronicles.  For example, following his prologue, he writes in verses 19, “This is the testimony of John (the Baptist), when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him.”  The word “when” indicates a specific time, especially when we see how it fits in with the paragraphs that follow.  Notice that verse 29 begins with “The next day.”  Verse 35 reads, “The next day again.”  Verse 43 says, “The next day.”  And then chapter 2 begins, “On the third day.”

If for no other reason, the writer provides these specific “time markers” in order to help us understand that these events take place within a brief span of time...quite possibly, less than a week.  But why would he do that?  It is because these few days mark the start of Jesus’ public ministry.  Within days of His baptism—after thirty years of obscurity—Jesus Christ was about to embark upon a three-year journey that would result in the world being “turned upside down” (cf. Acts 17:6).  To this very day, it has never recovered.  And it never will.

What we find in verses 35 through 51 is John’s account of Jesus’ calling His first five disciples.  As we work through this section, we discover a growing realization on the part of those who follow Him regarding who He truly was.  It is a trail upon which everyone who ends up becoming a follower of Christ tends to travel as well.  We begin in verses 35 through 39, where...

Jesus is recognized as a Teacher (1:35-39).

The day following the interrogation of John the Baptist by the delegation sent to him from the Pharisees, we find John “standing with two of his disciples,” perhaps conversing over the unusual events that had recently taken place.  When the text says that “he looked (‘εμβλεπω’) at Jesus,” the word implies more than a “passing glance.”  It means “to fix one’s gaze upon” or “to carefully consider.”  John’s accompanying expression confirms this, as he repeats his earlier testimony concerning Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

Taking that as their cue and no doubt responding to the testimony that the Lord was bringing about in their own hearts, “the two (disciples of John)...followed Jesus.”  We should understand this in both a physical and spiritual sense.  These men literally left John’s side and pursued after Jesus, while in the process becoming His disciples.

The mission of John the Baptist was now entering its final stage.  He was the “forerunner,” remember...the one called to herald the arrival of the Messiah and to point others to Him.  When that role was fulfilled and Jesus was recognized as “the Christ,” he was to fade from the scene...his job having been done.  Not all of John’s disciples would immediately leave him.  Some years later in the city of Ephesus, the Apostle Paul would run into a group who were still clinging to the baptism of John, apparently implying that they had not yet heard that the Messiah had come and had given His life for sin.  Paul assured them that One had indeed come, and upon hearing the Gospel more completely, they were subsequently “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (cf. Acts 19:1-5).

Here in our passage, as these two disciples followed after Jesus, our Lord turned and saw them, asking, “What are you seeking?”  It is the same question that He asks of each and every one of us.  If you haven’t yet heard Jesus ask that question of you, then you have not been paying attention.  Another way of expressing it is, “What is the meaning and purpose of your life?” or “What is it that you are living for?”  Ultimately, it is the answer to that question that will determine our relationship with Jesus, as well as where you and I will spend eternity.

At this point in their pursuit, these two men could not foresee what they were getting themselves into.  Their reply to Jesus’ question revealed that they recognized Him as a “great Teacher,” because that is what the title “Rabbi” means.  But then they asked Him what appears on the surface to be a strange question of their own: “Where are you staying?”  The implication seems to be that they wanted to spend some time in extended conversation with Him.

It was clearly a question that Jesus delighted in, because “He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.”  Jesus was extending an invitation, and it remains His offer to those who are willing to hear it and respond to it.  “Come” and then “you will see.”  Notice that the “coming” precedes the “seeing.”  There would be no “seeing” apart from “coming.”  Augustine understood this.  In explaining his own “crisis moment” when the Word of the Lord penetrated his own heart, he expressed his decision for following Jesus by saying, “I believe so that I may understand.”

If that sounds like “a step in the dark” or “a leap into the great unknown,” then you need to hear afresh these words from the writer of the Hebrews letter: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)...as well as these: “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).  And in another place, it was Paul the Apostle who wrote, “And faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

If you have never “come and seen” the Lord Jesus and responded to Him in faith, then His invitation remains open to you today.  The Scriptures, in fact, tell us that “Now is the favorable time;...now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

These two disciples did respond, and so we read in verse 39, “They came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.”  The passage would seem to suggest that John was using Roman time (a new day which began at midnight), which would have made it ten o’clock in the morning when the pair accompanied Jesus to the place where he was residing.  And there they spent the entire day learning from the One they knew as “Rabbi.”

But as the hours passed, they found Him to be so much more than a “great teacher.”  As verses 40 through 42 will show us,

Jesus is recognized as the Messiah (1:40-42).

For the first time the identity of these two disciples is given.  Verse 40 tells us that “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.”  It is interesting that Andrew is introduced to us by way of someone we have not yet met...namely, Simon Peter.  We must remember, however, that John wrote this Gospel several decades after-the-fact.  By then, Peter had become—along with Paul—the recognized voice of the Church (cf. Galatians 2:8).  But here in the telling of his story, John is simply making known to us in order of appearance the characters involved in the narrative.

But who was the other disciple, who is not named?  It would most clearly seem to be John himself.  Not John the Baptist, but John the apostle...John the one who is recording these events.  As we noted in an earlier message, his anonymity is maintained throughout the entire book.

What occurs in verses 41 and 42 establishes the pattern for everyone who would in time become a follower of Jesus.  Referring to Andrew, we are told that “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He bought him to Jesus.”  This is Andrew’s “Go and tell” response to Jesus’ “Come and see,” and it should be the response of anyone and everyone who has spent time with and gotten to know Jesus.  William Temple, a former Archbishop of Canterbury called Andrew’s example of finding his brother and bringing him to Jesus, “The great service one man can do for another.”

“We have found the Messiah,” Andrew told his brother.  John translates the Hebrew term “Messiah” into Greek...Χριστοs,” “Christ.”  In both languages, it means “the anointed one.”  Biblically, the word finds its origin in Daniel 9, verses 25 and 26, where the promise of His coming is predicted.  Earlier in that prophecy, Daniel wrote that this One would “sit in judgment” and “his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (cf. Daniel 7:26 and 27).

At the time of Jesus, faithful Jews understood Daniel’s prophecy to refer to a warrior-king, whose arrival would signal the overview of Roman rule in Palestine and inaugurate a revival of the “golden age” of King David.  Many clung to that hope and thought that day had had dawned with the announcement of Jesus.

“He is the One for whom we have waited,” Andrew excitedly informed Simon.  Then we are told that “He brought him to Jesus.”  And in doing so, he became the Church’s first “evangelist.” This should give us pause and force ourselves who ask who it is that you and I have brought to Jesus recently?  Or ever?  Or has our excitement at having found “the Messiah” waned to the point where we barely speak of Him at all?  Has our enthusiasm for Him given way to lesser things?  May the Lord grant us grace to recapture the motivation and the energy to reclaim the mission that He gave His life to give to us.

Looking intently at Simon, Jesus was able to see straight into the heart of the man.  “‘ You are Simon the son of John,’” He said.  “‘You shall be called Cephas’ which means Peter.”  Actually the word means “rock.”  It is a nickname that will stick and will later be confirmed when Jesus gives to him—as the church’s representative—“the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (cf. Matthew 16:18-19). 

Generally in the Bible, a new name implied a new relationship.  “Sanctification” and spiritual maturity do not occur overnight.  It would take time for the impulsive Simon to evolve into the “rock solid” Peter.  But He would, because Christ always completes the work within His people that He begins (cf. Philippians 1:6).

If you have been counting, then you are aware that Jesus’ band of disciples now numbers three: Andrew, Peter, and John.  They responded to the call of the “Rabbi” to “Come and see,” and found Him to be more than an ordinary “Rabbi.”  He was the long-anticipated “Messiah.”

The story now advances to “the next day,” bginnning in verse 43, where...

Jesus is recognized as the Prophesied One (1:43-46).

Journeying northward into the region of Galilee, we are told that Jesus “found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’”  No further details of this encounter are given, but we should not overlook the repetition of the word “found” throughout this section.  There are two ways of “finding” something...one is “to stumble upon it,” and the other is “to locate it after an intentional search.”  Clearly, the latter is in view in John’s record.  Here, Jesus specifically “sought” Philip and issued a call for him to “follow.”

The reference to his being “from Bethsaida” links Philip with Andrew and Peter, implying that those two (and very likely John as well), had accompanied Jesus into Galilee.  When he heard Jesus’ call, he appears to have immediately responded.  And like Andrew before him, Philip’s response to the Good News prompted him to go and share it with another.  Verse 45 says that he “found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”

Recognized first as a “great teacher,” then as the anticipated deliverer, Philip thought Jesus to be even more.  To this newest disciple, He was the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophecies.  “The Law and the Prophets” is frequently used by Jesus and the New Testament writers in reference to the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures, from Genesis to Malachi (cf. Matthew 7:12, Luke 16:16, Acts 13:15, Romans 3:21).  After meeting Jesus, Philip was so convinced that this One was the fulfillment of the One of whom the Scriptures had foretold that he not only aligned himself with Jesus’ band, but sought to enlist another as well.  It is said that “Philip found Nathanael.”

We don’t know very much about Nathanael.  In fact, John is the only Gospel writer who mentions him by that name.  Most believe him to be the same person who is identified as “Batholomew” in the Synoptics.  His initial response to Philip’s enthusiastic approach was slightly more than apathetic: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Perhaps this was not so much a disparaging remark about a city with a bad reputation, as it was an exclamation of astonishment that a small and virtually unknown village might actually be the hometown of the Promised One.

I love Philip’s reply.  It is simple and yet profound: “Come and see.”  It is virtually the same invitation that Jesus offered to Andrew and John in verse 39: “Come and see.”  And “come” Nathanael did.

That brings us to the ultimate step of recognition that is seen in this passage.  Jesus is a great Teacher...Jesus is the Messiah...Jesus is the long-anticipated Promised One.  But the path to Jesus is not complete until...

Jesus is recognized as the Son of God (1:47-51).

Verse 47 tells us that “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him” and began to engage him in what would become an amazing conversation: “Behold,” Jesus said, “an Israelite, indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”  That is a rather odd way to begin a conversation with a stranger.  But as we read on, the meaning behind Jesus’ words becomes clearer.

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.  We might be tempted to ask the same question of Jesus: “How do you know me?”  But make no mistake, He knows you.  He knows you well.  He knows you far better than you know yourself.

It is with that hint of omniscience that Jesus responded, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”  Nathanael’s shocked response reveals that there was something in Jesus’ statement that only he would have known.  Why else would he answer in verse 49, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”?  Clearly, Jesus knew what Nathanael was thinking at that very moment.

And while you and I are not granted access into full content of their dialogue, Jesus’ closing statement in verses 50 and 51 give us a pretty good idea.  “Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these...Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

For some of you, that scene strikes a familiar chord.  It certainly did for Nathanael.  It takes us back to Genesis 28, where we have the story of Jacob’s dream.  Unlike Nathanael, Jacob’s life had been characterized by deception.  But one night he had a divinely-ordered dream that changed him forever.  In that dream, “There was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And...the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And...the LORD stood above it and said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of Abraham...and the God of Isaac’” (Genesis 28:12-13).  It would seem that Nathanael was mediating on this very passage when the Lord spotted him “under the fig tree.”

But how could Jesus have known that...unless He was more than He initially appeared to be?  Nathanael was obviously a spiritual man.  The image of the “fig tree” links him with Israel and the Law.  Unlike so many who were “of Israel” by physical ancestry, Nathanael was known to Jesus as part of “the true Israel”...those who would both recognize and respond by faith to “the (very) Son of God.”

When Jesus told Nathanael that he would “see heaven opened, and the angels ascending and descending” on Him, the clear implication was that Jesus had become that “ladder.”  Through His incarnation, sinless life, and sacrificial death, He would from henceforth be the link between heaven and earth and the sole source of Divine revelation.  He would be “the one mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5).  He was “the λογοs,” “the life,” “the light,” and now He was “the ladder.”

And by Jesus declaring Himself to be just that, we find the first chapter of John’s Gospel arriving at a fitting conclusion.  John’s purpose in this opening chapter has been to introduce Jesus as “the Word (become) flesh”...God become a man.  Therefore, when Jesus refers to Himself as “the Son of Man,” He is not minimizing His authority but rather explaining it.  Listen to how the prophet Daniel described the vision he had concerning this One:

“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion.
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

When “the Word became flesh,” “the (preexistent) “Son of God” stepped into history and became “the Son of Man,” and thus He shall be throughout eternity.


Do you realize that had God not become a man, there is no way that He could have taken our sin upon Himself and carried it to the cross?  Hebrews 2:17 tells us that “It was necessary for him to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

We must give careful thought and reflective consideration of that as we approach the Lord’s Table this morning.  When Jesus held up the Bread and the Cup on the eve of His crucifixion and said to His disciples, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” (cf. Matthew 26:26-28), He did so to emphasize His human character.  Yes, God would die for our sin, but because God is spirit (cf. John 4:24) and does not have flesh and blood (cf. Luke 24:39), it was necessary for Him to assume a body in order to live among us and be sacrificed in our place.  Therefore, as you eat the Bread and drink the Cup today, recognize that the One who died in your place was not just a great teacher, not just a warrior-king, not just the subject of prophecy, but “the (very) Son of God.”

How long does it take to build a church?  In a matter of a few days, Jesus called His first five disciples and began a movement against which not even “the gates of hell” shall ever prevail (cf. Matthew 16:18).  The men we have seen in these paragraphs were ordinary men who responded to Jesus’ invitation to “Come and see.”  And then they did, they “found” Him and “brought” others to Him as well.  Are we not called to do the same?

Twenty centuries later, neither the task before us nor the method for accomplishing that task has been altered.  Disciples follow Jesus, and go to find others who will follow Him as well.  As we come to the Table, let those of us who belong to Him by faith bear witness to that great truth and renew our commitment to fulfill the mission to which we have been called.

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