John 1:35-51  The first followers of Jesus.

Introduction:  John has made it clear that this book is about Jesus.  The people we meet in the course of reading this book are only mentioned in context with who Jesus is.  Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and those who believed this had life through His name.  That is to say they were saved because they believed Jesus was the Christ the Son of God.  They believed the message of this book.  Many of those who accepted Jesus as their savior followed Jesus and became His disciples.  We shall take a look at the first five followers of Jesus and harvest and glean from them the fruit which will show to us that Jesus is indeed the Christ the Son of God.


I. John 1:35  Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

     Up until this point the Pharisees had disciples and the Sadducees had disciples and few others.  John has gotten, by his preaching, disciples as well.  Two of them are mentioned here in this verse as standing with John.  These would spend as many hours as they could with John.  They would listen intently at his messages.  As was the case with Andrew, who was one of these two, he had to be about the business of fishing.  He would catch fish and salt preserve them and bring them to Jerusalem.  It was no doubt that he had met John the Baptist on just such an outing.   He no doubt looked forward to his weakly trips to Jerusalem down the Jordan river just so he could spend a few hours listening to the preaching of John.   The first thing we learn then about the first followers of Jesus is that they loved to hear the word of God preached.  They had accepted the message of John and had repented with great sorrow of heart and had trusted in the Lamb of God which John preached.


II.  John 1:36  And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

          John identifies again Jesus to those who were standing in the crowd.  He has again pointed out to these people that Jesus has come to be the sacrifice for their sins.  Jesus would fulfill the picture contained in the sacrifices of the law of Moses.  He would be the true satisfaction for our sin debt.  His blood would cleanse men of their sin for the blood of bulls and goats could never do so. 


III.  John 1:37  And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

          The two disciples of this verse did not hesitate to follow Jesus.  They did not worry about offending John.  They knew that John would be pleased for them to follow Jesus.  John intended for all men to follow Jesus.  These men saw the need to follow Jesus and not a man.  They believed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God.  It is He and He alone who should be followed.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they should follow him as he followed Christ.  Do not put your trust in men.  Preachers may disappoint but Jesus never will.


IV. John 1:38  Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?

          The two disciples began to follow Jesus as He walked.  They had to run to catch up with Him and as they approached they slowed their pace to match His.  They did not call out to Him but simply began to follow Him.  They did not ask permission to accompany Him.  They did not draw attention to themselves as they followed Jesus.  They were men of few words.  Jesus knew all along that these men would follow Him.  He knew this before they were born.  Jesus turns and puts them to the test.  Jesus asks “What seek ye?”.  This is like saying “why are you following me?  For what are you looking?  What can I do for you?”  They respond in a most interesting way.  They call him Master.  Jesus would later commend His disciples for calling Him master.  He will say that they do well to call Him master.  Jesus is the master.  Martha will tell Mary over in Chapter 11 “the Master is come and calleth for thee”.  The first two followers of Jesus recognized him as Master.  They knew who He was so they did not answer by saying we want to know who you are.  They simply wanted to know were He was staying.  This brings to my mind the words of Jesus in chapter 14 of this book “I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself that were I am there ye may be also”.  The early followers of Jesus wanted to dwell were Jesus dwelled.   Followers today are no different.  Remember the words of that old song “I’ve a home prepared were the saints abide just over in the Glory land for I long to be by my savior’s side just over in the Glory land.”  Dwelling with Jesus has been the theme of many songs which the followers of Jesus sing.  “I’ve a home beyond the river, I’ve a mansion bright and fair, I’ve a home beyond the river and I will dwell with Jesus there”.  Followers of Jesus long to live with Him and be, always, in His presence.


V. John 1:39  He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

          Jesus makes them a grand invitation here.  He accepts their acknowledgement as Master and invites them to come and see were He dwells.  These men are easy to please, are they not?  They simply went with Jesus and saw were He dwelt and they stayed with Him the rest of that day.  The tenth hour is about 4:00 in the afternoon.  Nothing is said of the conversation which they had with Jesus.  I shall not speculate as to what was said but whatever they heard it made them that much more convinced that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God. 

          When I first met my wife and we began to date I always worried about what we would have to talk about.  I tried not to let the conversation lag for I wanted her to know that I liked her.  I wanted her to want to be around me.  I tried to be witty and conversational.  Now after almost 30 years of marriage we often sit by each other for long periods of time without saying a word.  We are not mad at each other we are just content to be with each other.  I once carried an elderly man to the hospital to see his wife of 60 years.  She was hard of hearing and he was a man of few words.  I was impressed that it was enough for him to simply hold her hand.  

          These first two disciples were satisfied with just being in the presence of Jesus.  Just being around Him was enough for them.


VI. John 1:40  One of the two which heard John [speak], and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

John 1:41  He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

John 1:42  And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

          Let me first of all deal with the disciple that is unnamed in this text.  I do not know why God chose not to reveal his name to us.  I have found it best for all concerned to adhere to the policy of “Where the Bible is silent then we should be silent as well.”  I will not speculate on this unnamed disciple.  We should never be followers of Jesus just to be seen of men.  Whether we have earthly fame or not we should be followers of Jesus.

          Andrew is the other of the first two followers of Jesus.  He is Peter’s brother.  Peter is the best known of the Apostles.  He walked on water, cut off a man’s ear, and put his foot in his mouth on a few occasions.  Much is know about Peter but it was his silent brother, Andrew who was the first to follow Jesus.  Andrew did not keep Jesus to himself.  He went immediately and found his brother. 

          I love my brothers.  I have two brothers in the flesh, Steve and Ralph.  I was the first of us three to be saved.  My older brother was saved the week after I was saved and my youngest brother was saved some three years later.  When I find a good thing I like to call my brother’s and share it with them.  When I found Jesus and became a follower I wanted my brothers to become followers as well. 

          Andrew shared Jesus with Peter and would share Him with many, many others in the years to follow.  Followers of Jesus are not ashamed of Jesus.  The love Jesus has for lost souls rubs off on His followers and they want to see lost souls saved as does their Master.

          The message that Andrew brought to his brother was that he had found the promised Messiah, that is to say, the Christ.  The Jewish people had been looking for the coming Messiah for hundreds of years.  Andrew and Peter were blessed to live at the exact time and place when and were the Messiah was to come.  The verse says that he brought Peter to Jesus.  He had to bring him because Peter did not know were to find Him.  Andrew had seen the house were Jesus was staying and had the face of Jesus firmly planted in his mind.  Peter meeting Jesus was to important to be left to chance or misunderstood instructions.  It is fine to leave a Gospel tract for a lost soul to read but it is far better to tell them about Jesus in person.  Bring them to Jesus, show them the way in so doing precious lost souls will be saved.

          Jesus recognizes Peter and calls him by name.  Jesus did not need Andrew to tell Him who Peter was.  Jesus knew Peter before he was born.  Jesus renames Peter.  His new name means “a stone”.  Jesus will later use a play on words with Peter.  When Peter says a great truth concerning Jesus that being “Thou are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Jesus will respond “thou art Peter,” this means a small stone. “and upon this rock” which is the truth which Peter had just spoken. “I will build my church”.  The Church is not built upon Peter but upon the truth which is the very purpose of the writing of this book that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we might have life through His name.

          These two brothers will later be called out by Jesus to become fishers of men.  For now they are content to be followers of Jesus.


VII. John 1:43  The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth

Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.

John 1:44  Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.    

John 1:45  Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

     Jesus has decided to go to Galilee but before He goes he finds Philip who is from Galilee.  Now unlike Andrew and the unnamed follower of Jesus, Jesus searched for Philip and found Him.  It is no surprise to me that Jesus finds what He looks for.   Jesus says to Philip “Follow me”.  Philip followed Jesus without question.  He does not completely understand Jesus but he is willing to follow.  Like Jesus Philip searches for another to follow Jesus.  He goes to his friend Nathanael.

          Philip needs a lot of work.  Those who are new to following Jesus usually do need work.  Philip will have many doubts along the way as he follows Jesus.  We discover here in this verse that Philip was not a stranger to Jesus.  He had found Jesus and become convinced that Jesus was the Christ.   Jesus sought Philip out and told him “follow Me.”  Philip did not understand the scriptures well.  Jesus was written about in the Law of Moses and in the prophets and yes He was of Nazareth but he is not the son of Joseph.  He is the Son of God.  Perhaps because Nathanael live only ten miles from where Jesus grew up he would have known him as Joseph’s son, the carpenter’s son.  Philip will later ask Jesus to show them the father to which Jesus will reply “if you have seen me you have seen the father.”  The first followers of Jesus had the desire to share Jesus with their families and friends.


VIII. John 1:46  And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.

          Nathanael is a cautious man.  He wants the truth.  He does not fall for every wind of teaching that comes along.  He is very cautious about what he believes.  His concern seems valid for Nazareth was a wicked city.  But the prophet Isaiah had fore told that the Messiah would come out of Nazareth.  Again Nathanael imitates Jesus not only by seeking and finding but by saying “come and see.” 

          I certainly do not fault someone for being cautious about what they believe.  It is good to be careful about what you believe.  Be careful what you put your trust in.  There is one and only one who is supremely trustworthy and His name is Jesus.


IX.  John 1:47  Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!

          Jesus has with him others who here him speak this testimony of Nathanael.  He says to them that truly this is an Israelite in whom there is no guile.  Guile is a word which is not commonly used in modern English.  It means deceit, deception, and lying.  It indicates an absence of truth.  What Jesus is saying of Nathanael is that he is a man who holds truth to be of utmost importance.  He does not lie nor deceive others.  He wants only truth.  Being a person of this character he is going to love being around Jesus.  Jesus is the way, the Truth and the life.  Here I am reminded of Jesus’ conversation with Pilate in  John 18:37  Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.  Men have had enough of lies.  Satan began his attack on mankind with a lie, with deception, and Satan has continued this practice unto this very day.  Jesus came to bring us the truth.  Back in verse seventeen of this chapter John tells us that Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ.   



X.  John 1:48  Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.

John 1:49  Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

          The translation of this verse into English looses just a little bit.  Here is the since of this verse.  Nathanael was under a fig tree when Philip came to tell him about Jesus.  Jesus was not bodily present there when Philip called Nathanael.  It was Just Nathanael and Philip.  How did Jesus know that Nathanael was under a fig tree when Philip called to him?  A Prophet could have known this.  Samuel knew about the lost asses of Kish.  Jesus is much more than a prophet.  He knows more than man can conceive.  He possesses total knowledge.     

          Based upon the reaction of Nathanael to Jesus seeing him under the fig tree I believe Nathanael may have put out a fleece.  This would explain his proclaiming Jesus as God rather than a more conservative reaction which would be to call Him a prophet.  The Woman at the well reacted by saying “sir I perceive that thou art a prophet”.  Nathanael reacted with total conviction that Jesus was nothing less that the Son of God and the King of Israel.


XI.  John 1:50  Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.

John 1:51  And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

          I believe Jesus praises Nathanael here.  He did not need some huge sign from God to believe that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God.  He was ready to accept by faith that Jesus was the Christ.  God never expects His followers to have blind faith.  He gives to His followers ample evidence of the truth.  It is up to them to exercise their faith and accept the truth.  I once was asked by a man if I could prove to him that there was a God.  I gave him a shocking answer.  I told him that I could not prove to him that there is a God.  I could only show him the overwhelming evidence of the existence of God but he would have to have faith in order to come to a knowledge of God.  The writer of Hebrews tells us by the inspiration of God Hebrews 11:6  But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

          Verse fifty one presents a puzzle.  Jesus uses the term “Verily, verily” to describe what He is about to say.  This term means “of a truth”.  It indicates that the thing which he says will certainly come to pass.  He tells Nathanael that he will certainly see heaven open.  Sense Heaven is a spiritual place this would seem to indicate a vision.  Stephen saw the heavens open in a vision.  Jacob saw the heavens open in a dream.  John saw the heavens open and recorded the sights there in the book of Revelation.  We do not have recorded for us the vision which Nathanael saw.  The puzzle for me is this, why tell of the vision and then not relate its fulfillment?

          The angels of God, ascending and descending to and from heaven, were seen by Jacob.  I am fascinated by the contrast in Nathanael and Jacob.  Remember Jesus has called Nathanael an Israelite in whom there is no guile.  Jacob, on the other hand, is a trickster.  Jacob is notorious for deceiving his father and his father in law.   Yet God blessed Jacob anyway.  Nathanael treasured truth and never practiced deception.  He was still a sinner and God blessed him anyway.  When God blesses in spite of our sinfulness it is called grace.  It is by grace we are saved through faith and that not of ourselves for it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.


Conclusion:  The first followers of Jesus set for us an example.  These men were men of faith.  They trusted in Jesus Christ as their savior.  They longed to be in his presence.  They were eager to share Jesus with their family and friends.  They were greatly blessed when they forsook all to follow Jesus.  They love the truth.  If you are not now a follower of Jesus you need to repent of your sins and confess them to Jesus Christ.  You need to ask for forgiveness and ask Jesus to have mercy on your soul and to save you from the penalty of your sin.  The Lord makes to you this great promise and assurance of your salvation is had when you believe this promise.  Romans 10:13, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.