When you were a child, who or what did you want to be when you grew up? As a child, I dreaded the Christmas visits to aunts and uncles. Every year they would ask me the same question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I hadn’t a clue. In many societies, you are expected to join the family trade or you may become an apprentice to a master craftsman. That’s how my grandfather Lewis learnt his trade. My great-grandmother paid a local carpenter to take Lewis on as a young boy and teach him carpentry skills. I still have his articles of indenture. My grandfather became his pupil, a learner. Then when he too became a master craftsman, he took on my father who became his disciple. I broke the family tradition although I’m pretty good at putting Ikea furniture together. The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but life without meaning, without purpose. Many people go through life without ever discovering God’s purpose for their lives. We are not an accident. We were created for a purpose. We were made to have meaning.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says “Without God, life has no purpose, and without purpose, life has no meaning. Without meaning, life has no significance…” In our Gospel reading we learn about God’s purposes, not just the first disciples, but for us too. The context for their meeting with Jesus begins in verse 35.
“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-36)
John the Baptist describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. The Jews were familiar with lambs for sacrifice. At Passover, each family would bring a lamb to atone – to hide their sin temporarily, from before God’s eyes.
Until the next annual sacrifice. But John the Baptist describes Jesus as ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Not just hides sin, not just covers sin, but literally takes away sin. And not just Israel’s sins either but the sins of the whole world.
What an understatement. No wonder the disciples who heard John, followed Jesus. Then notice verse 43,
“The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)
The primary reason God created us is to know him.
- The Call of Jesus is to Follow Him
“Come and you will see…. Follow me…” (John 1:39, 43)
1.1 This is a Passionate Call
This was a command not an invitation. “Come,” literally means “come here…. your destiny is to follow me!” For the disciples, this meant leaving their nets, their father, their boats. In 1st Century Palestine it was the norm for disciples to choose their rabbi. Like the way people tend to choose their church today for a particular style of worship or preaching or for convenience. Here Jesus does the choosing. This was a passionate call.
1.2 This is a Purposeful Call
“Come, follow…” conveys the idea of following as a learner, an apprentice, committed to imitating the one being followed. It conveys a path, a destination. This was a passionate call. A purposeful call.
1.3 This is a Personal Call
“Come, follow me” Jesus calls us to follow him, not join a denomination or a church but himself. Have you responded personally to the call of Jesus to follow him? This is our primary purpose in life. The call of Jesus is a passionate, purposeful and a personal call. The disciples’ obedience was immediate: They left their nets and followed Jesus. Will you follow Him, where ever he leads in 2018? The Call of Jesus is to know Him, to follow Him.
If our primary purpose is to know him, our second purpose is to serve him.
- The Community of Jesus is His Family
“Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “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.” (John 1:38-39)
Notice how Jesus responds. He asks a question. He tests their motives. Following Jesus must be a conscious decision we each choose to take. Jesus says “What do you want?” “Why are you following me?” Because someone brought you? Because it is expected of you? Or because you want to find out more about me? Jesus invites them to be with him. He doesn’t invite them to a service or to a meeting but to his home. He calls them to follow him home and join his family.
In the gospels Jesus describes his disciples as his brothers and sisters. So, let me ask you, why are you here this morning? Because you have always attended church? Because you like the music or the liturgy? Or because you want to be with the family of Jesus and serve them?
God never intended us to live alone in isolation like Paddington Bear – as orphans. When we trust in Jesus we are born into his family. We are unique and have different gifts and talents but we are here to support one another as brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit indwells us, assures us, equips us and binds us together into a family of many nationalities. In his book, Knowing God, Jim Packer asks:
“Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother [and sister] too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning, last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of – a happy life? – yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and a God-honouring life… May this secret become fully yours, and fully mine.”
God’s first purpose? The call of Jesus is to follow Him. God’s second purpose? The community of Jesus is where we serve Him. And God’s third purpose for us? To share Him.
- The Concern of Jesus is for the Lost
Mark, in his gospel, elaborates on the call of Jesus.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:18)
After spending a day with Jesus, what is ‘the first thing’ Andrew does? He finds his brother, Simon, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah”” (John 1:41). That was his testimony. Messiah simply means “the anointed one”.
The long awaited Saviour. Notice the sequence. Andrew tells Simon about Jesus. Andrew brings Simon to meet Jesus. Andrew and Simon follow Jesus. And notice the same sequence with Philip the next day. Philip meets Jesus. Philip tells Nathaniel about Jesus “We have found the one…” Philip urges Nathaniel to meet Jesus “Come and see…” Philip brings Nathaniel to Jesus. Nathaniel trusts in Jesus also. When Nathaniel met Jesus, he discovers that the Lord already knows all about him.
What a shock. Isn’t that true of us too? When we come to faith we think that we chose to follow Jesus. But as we grow to know him better we realize that it was Jesus who came looking for us. And Jesus invariably uses his brothers or sisters to do so, to grow his family. Collectively, the experiences of John the Baptist, and of Andrew, Peter, John, Philip and Nathaniel together give us an awesome picture of who Jesus is:
- The Lamb of God – The Passover sacrifice (John 1:35)
- The Messiah – God’s Anointed One (John 1:41
- The One Moses and the Prophets wrote of (John 1:45)
- Rabbi – my teacher (John 1:49)
- Son of God – Divine (John 1:49)
- King of Israel – Royalty (John 1:49)
- The Son of Man (John 1:51)
No wonder these first six disciples are eager to introduce their friends to Jesus. What can we learn from them? As they shared news about Jesus it was neither contrived nor self-conscious, neither forced or artificial. It was spontaneous. It was infectious. It was effective. Why? Because they had been with the Lord Jesus Christ. They could not help but speak of him to others.
This is the reason baby Christians are often most effective in bringing their friends to Jesus. Why? The change in their life is often dramatic. They are naturally grateful and enthusiastic. They still have plenty of non-Christian friends. If you want to lead people to Jesus, you don’t need to go on a training course. You don’t need to read lots of books that will help you answer common objections. There is a much simpler way. Years after this first encounter, Simon Peter wrote in his first epistle,
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)
We tend to put the emphasis on knowing what to say, but Peter, perhaps remembering his first encounter with Jesus, begins by saying “in your hearts revere Christ as Lord….” If we want to be fruitful, then spend more time with Jesus and his family. Then you will be ready when opportunities come to talk about him. It will feel natural to invite others to meet him too. “Come and see” is the most effective invitation there is. Then watch as Jesus does his transforming work in their lives too. This morning we have observed,
Our first purpose is to know Him because the call of Jesus is to follow Him. Our second purpose is to serve Him through the church, because the community of Jesus is His family. Our third purpose is to share Him because the concern of Jesus is for the lost, for those who do not yet know, love and serve Him. In the Acts of the Apostles, we discover how the church lived out these purposes in the face of opposition, hostility and persecution. What was it that confounded the authorities when they tried to suppress the Church?
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13).
They had been with Jesus. They had been with Jesus. May the people we meet this week, reach the same conclusion about us. Lets pray.
Dear Lord, help me discover your call and purposes for my life so that I might know you, love you and faithfully serve you all the days of my life. Please make my love for you so infectious that others will come to know you too, and one day I may hear you say, “We’ll done, my good and faithful servant.” In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
A sermon preached at All Saints Parish Church, Fawley, Winchester Diocese, 14 January 2018