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“Come and See”

John 1:35-51
Bob DeGray
January 5, 2003

Key Sentence

Just as Jesus invites us to come and see him, so we should invite others.


I. Come and see the Lamb of God (John 1:35-39)
II. Come and see the Messiah of God (John 1:40-42)
III. Come and see the Son of God (John 1:43-51)


        Andrew and Philip followed John the Baptizer as he strode along the rocky road, away from Bethany, toward the Jordan, where the afternoon crowd waited for baptism. They were thinking about recent events. Two days earlier a group of priests and Levites from Jerusalem had come to question John. His answers were typical: he was not the Messiah, not Elijah, not the Prophet. He was a voice, sent to announce the coming of the Promised One. What had surprised them was his implication that he had already baptized this promised Messiah, and had seen the Holy Spirit descend on him. Since Andrew and Philip had recently been in Galilee, they asked John’s other disciples, but no one specifically remembered this baptism. They were floored to think they might have missed the arrival of the promised Messiah.

        But yesterday, they’d seen him. While baptizing, John’s attention had shifted to a point some way down the riverbank. Andrew and Philip had looked that way to see a man whose plain clothes marked him as a laborer of some sort - surely not a king. But John had pointed at him and cried “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Almost immediately the man had turned away into the crowd.

        Andrew and Philip wondered what this could mean - a lamb to take away sin. They were expecting a Messiah, a rescuer who would bring righteousness to the nation. But they couldn’t figure out why John would call him a lamb. A lamb could only bring righteousness by dying as a sacrifice. Surely the Messiah couldn’t die? When they asked John these questions, he became guarded and said “maybe you’d better ask him.” Philip and Andrew resolved to do just that at their earliest opportunity.

        Now, it seemed, the time had come. John motioned toward a man also walking toward the river, a man whose clothes and walk looked familiar. Then John turned to them and said again “That’s him, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and Philip stared harder. If John was right - and in their experience, he was a true prophet - then this ordinary man was no ordinary man at all, but one who would change the world.

        John seemed to be urging them to go to him, but the two disciples were still uncertain. John had been preaching publicly when they approached him. This man was just walking along, and gave no sign of wanting to be the answer to their hopes. And John had said that he himself was unworthy to untie this man’s sandals - unworthy to be his lowest slave. What did that make them? Even after repentance, even after baptism, Andrew and Philip each knew that they still struggled with sin. They hesitated to put their unrighteousness before the gaze of one greater than John.

        For nearly a mile then, Andrew and Philip just trailed along, halfway between John the Baptist behind them, and Jesus in front of them. Finally, Jesus himself resolved the issue by turning to wait for them. A little embarrassed, they approached him. “What is it you want,” he said, not in an irritated tone, but in a gentle inquiry.

        Andrew considered the question for a moment, the deeper meaning. What did they want? What were they seeking, he and Philip? Once Andrew would have said that they were waiting for the Messiah to rescue the nation, but John’s teaching had shown that the real need people had was for inner change. Was that what this man offered? Rather than pursue these thoughts, Andrew responded simply “Teacher, where are you staying? If this was the one they’d been waiting for, it was going to take more than polite conversation on the road to find what he was about. Andrew and Philip were grateful when he looked them in the eyes and said “Come, and you will see.”

        For Andrew and Philip, that day truly opened their eyes. Whereas John had been rough and blunt, Jesus was gentle and penetrating. In the hours between four and sunset, in the courtyard of his simple lodging, he showed himself to be all that they were seeking. He answered their questions, comforted their fears, raised their hopes.

I. Come and see the Lamb of God (John 1:35-39)

        Let’s step back from the story for a minute and talk about what we’ve seen. This is Jesus’ first encounter with two of his disciples. The key thing to notice is that he says to them what he still says to all who seek him: come and see. Come and see, not just where I’m staying, but who I am and what I’ve done.

        Our text for this week, John 1:35-51, takes place the day after John the Baptist had first identified Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God.’ Now he points Jesus out to two of his disciples. The text makes it clear that one of these disciples is named Andrew. I’ve presumed that the other is Philip, who isn’t mentioned by name until verse 43. But I have to say that no one agrees with me. Most commentators say that the second disciple is John, the author of this Gospel, who is unnamed in this text, but who, they say, retained a very clear memory of these events. That’s not impossible, but nothing in the text requires it, and I think my reconstruction is just as plausible.

        These verses introduce two major streams of thought, expressed by the words ‘come’ and ‘see’. We see Jesus in this text through what others call him and what he says about himself. In the verses we just reviewed, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, the sacrifice for the sins of the world. This concept, a sacrifice for sin, is exactly what Philip and Andrew needed. They’d been with John, they’d done the repentance and baptism thing, but John’s baptism fell short of redemption, and all baptized by John would find themselves still sinning and not righteous. Only an encounter with the Messiah as Lamb of God could make a real difference.

        The other major stream of thought in this text is about evangelism. Jesus invites these two to come and see him only after John has already pointed Jesus out to them. At a very basic level this is what evangelism is all about, and what you and I are called to do. First, to ourselves recognize the Savior, as John recognized the Lamb of God, and then to point others to the Savior, as John did for Philip and Andrew. This week you could run into someone ready for Christ. Maybe someone who goes to a church and understands something about Christianity but has never had a real relationship with Jesus, someone who needs a push to encounter Jesus personally. You and I need to be like John the Baptist and point those people to Jesus. “Can I tell you about Jesus? He’s the one who has the real answer for your sins.”

II. Come and see the Messiah of God (John 1:40-42)

        When Andrew awoke the next morning, he had just one thought: “I’ve got tell Simon about this. He needs to get to know Jesus. He needs to hear him teach.” Andrew knew Simon was interested in the Messiah, but he was just as interested in a good catch of fish, supporting his family, having fun with his fishing partners. He was also headstrong. He’d recently gotten an idea for a new kind of fishing net, and spent days trying to prove it was better than the old kind. In the end he’d modified it so much it almost was the old kind. Andrew had left Simon at home with the nets before heading down the Jordan to see John, but had painfully extracted a promise that once the nets were repaired, Simon would come to see the Baptizer.

        Now Andrew was hoping to meet Simon on the road into Bethany, and take him to Jesus. Andrew set out early, heading north on the east side of the Jordan, the route Jewish travelers used to avoid Samaria. The sun rose pink in the east. Andrew could make out glimpses of the twisting river to his left as he walked. Even this early in the morning the road was busy and he anxiously scanned each group to see if Simon was among them. He needn’t have bothered. Looking down from the top of a hill, Andrew recognized his brother’s determined gait as Simon strode along.

        Andrew broke into a run and began to yell: “We’ve found him. the Messiah!” Simon hugged his brother fiercely, but seemed not to hear his news. He pulled a section of fishing net off his back, and began to show Andrew his latest changes. “See, I’ve retied the leaders on the inside. I think now we’ll be able to pull it in without losing fish.” “Great, Simon, but did you hear what I said? We’ve found the Messiah!”

        “You’ve what? Well, wonderful. Is it the Baptizer after all?” “No Simon – John is really the forerunner to the Messiah. He pointed him out to us and called him the Lamb of God. His name is Jesus. Philip and I spent the day with him yesterday.” “And did he claim to be the one?” “Not in so many words. But when you hear the authority of his teaching, the simplicity of his message, when you see the power of his touch, you’ll know him too. He is truly God’s anointed.”

        “Well, OK Andrew. Let’s go see this Jesus. But I can’t stay long. I’ve got to get back to Galilee and try out this net.”

        So Andrew walked back into Bethany with Simon, and brought him to Jesus, who was sitting in the small courtyard outside the house, talking with Philip and a couple of others when they walked up. Immediately Jesus got to his feet, grasped Simon by the shoulders and said “Nice net.” Simon seemed somewhat abashed: “Do you like it? I’ve been making changes to try to get a better catch.” Then Jesus looked Simon in the eye and said; “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas.”

        Simon stepped back and leveled his eyes to gaze into the eyes of Jesus. “How can you know this? What authority do you have? All my life everyone has accused me of being impulsive, flying from one thing to another. My heart’s desire, though, has been to be a Cephas, a rock.” “And such you will be, Peter, but it won’t be an easy road for you. For now, go back and try your nets. I’ll see you in Galilee.”

II. Come and see the Messiah of God (John 1:40-42)

        Step back from the narrative again for a minute. It’s interesting that though Andrew was there first, he is known in the narrative as ‘Simon Peter’s brother’: In the churches, Peter was much more widely known. Barclay concludes that Andrew was the kind of person content with second place, letting others have the lead and the notoriety. Barclay’s other conclusion is that Andrew was the kind who was always introducing people to Christ. His two other appearances in this Gospel both involve bringing people to Jesus - first the little boy with the loaves and fishes when Jesus fed the five thousand, and then some Greeks who inquired about Jesus in Jerusalem. Andrew knew that people needed to know Jesus - so he brought them to Him.

        The focus on Jesus in this section is as ‘the Messiah’. “We have found the Messiah!” At this point in the narrative the word is introduced both in Hebrew and Greek - Messiah and Christ. It literally means ‘the anointed one’ and was used in the Old Testament especially of kings as God’s anointed - David was anointed, Solomon was anointed, and the coming king would be known as ‘the anointed’. But priests were also anointed, as Aaron was, to consecrate them for service. So were some prophets - you remember that Elijah anointed Elisha as his successor. The New Testament portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of all anointing - he is the prophet Moses promised, the high priest of our salvation and the king of kings and Lord of Lords.
        Andrew shared the good news of this Messiah with Simon. Then he brought Simon to Jesus, who gave him a new name as a declaration of what Jesus will make him become. He is Simon son of John, but now he will be called Cephas, which is Hebrew for Rock, in Greek, Petros. And that, of course, is what Peter, after significant tribulation, would become - a rock - in himself and for others.

        So this brief section is a great example of evangelism. Andrew had already seen that Jesus was the Christ, and he communicated his excitement about Jesus to his brother. Andrew was the first of many who have shared the good news of Jesus with their closest friends and family. This kind of personal and relational evangelism is the most natural and the most effective style: first, we tell people about Jesus and then we bring them to see Jesus - in the life of the church and especially in Scripture.

III. Come and see the Son of God (John 1:43-51)

        Philip left the fishermen with Jesus and wandered to the Jordan, reaching the river not far from where the Baptizer was at work. He was thinking about the friends he’d tell about Jesus. He thought especially of his close friend Nathanael, and their group in Bethsaida. They often met on a hillside, using the shade of a fig tree as shelter from the hot sun. There they read and discussed and argued over an old copy of the law of Moses, one set aside for safekeeping until it was scraped and re-written.

        Coming up at that moment, Jesus interrupted Philip’s thoughts: “I’ve decided to go to Galilee. Will you follow me?” Philip turned and looked at Jesus. He could tell there was more to the question than just the matter of a traveling companion, but nothing in Jesus’ manner indicted what else might be expected of him. “I’d like to,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends in Galilee, and I really want to have some of them meet you.” So Jesus and Philip and Andrew and Peter and a few others set out for Galilee. It was a long way, but pushed by Peter’s enthusiasm, the miles flew.

        Nathanael spent the same day with Philip’s other friends from Bethsaida. Work was scarce. They spent the morning in the town square, hoping a wealthy landowner would come and hire them for day labor. But an hour or two after noon, they agreed to give up, and one of them went off to get their scroll, while the rest went out to the hill and settled under the fig tree. When Eli arrived, they turned to the story of the patriarch Jacob and their discussion continued: “Why,” said Nathanael, “would God choose such a cheating scoundrel to be the object of blessing?” “Don’t forget,” one of the others responded, “God chastened him, even putting his hip out of joint. God changed him from Jacob the scoundrel to Israel the beloved”

        “Yes, but why choose him in the first place? Why bless him with twelve sons? Why give him that glorious vision of heaven opened, and angels ascending and descending from the throne?” “Why, simply to show that God blesses whom he chooses, and shows his wonders to even the undeserving.” “Maybe, but you haven’t proved it to me. Maybe God is just arbitrary.” And so the discussion raged on. But as evening fell the young men needed to go back to town. As they gathered their things, they saw someone approaching. “Isn’t that Philip?” asked Eli.

        It was, and he hurried up in excitement, bursting to tell them his news. But the others had to help at the synagogue that evening - only Nathanael could stay to hear Philip’s story. He and Philip sat back down. “Nathanael, I know you’re hard to convince, but we have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and about whom the prophets wrote. He’s Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth? O come on, I thought you were serious. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth.”

        “Nathanael Bartholomew, you’re a stubborn skeptic. Just do this for me: Come and see for yourself. When you meet him you’ll know the truth from your own experience - which is the only way you ever accept anything anyway.” So Nathanael went, and they found Jesus near the lake. Before they even came up to him, Jesus addressed those around him in a voice clearly heard by Nathanael and Philip “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob - no deceit.” “How do you know that? How do you know anything about me?” asked Nathanael. Jesus answered: “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

        Nathanael looked around. No one from the fig tree discussion was there. How could this man know they were talking about Jacob? Suddenly a certainty about what Philip had said replaced his skepticism. “Rabbi,” he said, “you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, just as Jacob saw heaven opened and angels ascending and descending, so you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

III. Come and see the Son of God (John 1:43-51)

        All this happened because Philip sought Nathanael and invited him to come and see Jesus. We don’t know much about Nathaneal - I’ve had to fabricate some details – but we do get the sense that he is skeptical. Yet when he sees Jesus this skepticism is swept aside forever. You may remember that Nathanael’s name isn’t included in the lists of disciples. But it is likely that Nathanael was the personal name of the disciple referred to in the other Gospels as Bartholomew, which is a last name, ‘the son of Tholomai.’ This Bartholomew is paired with Philip in most of the disciple lists.

        Notice Philip’s approach. In addition to relying on their friendship, Philip also relies on Scripture. He portrays Jesus to Nathanael as ‘the one Moses wrote about in the Law and about whom the prophets wrote’ – that is, as the Messiah expressly promised in Scripture. Maybe it’s Nathanael’s knowledge of Scripture that leads him to ask ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ - Nazareth is never mentioned in Old Testament. But it is likely that Nazareth also had a bad reputation in Galilee. Certainly Nathanael is skeptical of anyone who came from there. Philip responds with the only thing you can say to a skeptic, “come and see.” He trusted Nathanael to honestly investigate Jesus even though he disliked the man’s origin.

        To Nathaneal’s surprise, Jesus greeted him as if he knew him quite well. “See,” he said, “an Israelite indeed in whom there is no deceit.” In light of what follows we could paraphrase ‘Here is a true son of Israel, one who is all Israel and no Jacob’ - the name Jacob means deceit or guile. Jesus had God-given knowledge of Nathanael’s integrity and sincerity, a knowledge further demonstrated when he said that he ‘saw’ Nathanael while he was still under the fig tree. These words struck a chord with Nathanael, and helped him go quickly from skeptic to believer: “You are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.” Nathanael was acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, the Promised One of Scripture.

        The use of ‘Son of God’ and ‘King of Israel’ to portray the Messiah is drawn from such passages as 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 2. In fact, it’s all in Psalm 2: “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, “and throw off their fetters." The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me "You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” The messiah, the anointed one, is the King of Israel and the Son of God. That’s what Nathanael recognizes in the presence of Jesus.

        In the Gospel of John people use both these terms to describe Jesus, but Jesus doesn’t use either title to describe himself. They were too linked in popular Jewish thought to expectations of a political liberator - which he wasn’t. But Jesus was the promised King, even if his kingship differed from their expectations. So Jesus responds to Nathanael’s acclaim by assuring him he’s right, that truly ‘he will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

        In making this promise Jesus uses the phrase that is almost his trademark: ‘truly, truly I say to you’, which confirms and emphasizes the trustworthiness of what he is saying. The image he then uses is drawn from Jacob’s vision of the ladder reaching to heaven, with angels of God ascending and descending. Jesus portrays himself as the successor to Jacob, the heir of Abraham, to whom all God’s promises pointed, and in whom God’s glory is revealed to others.

        Here also, for the first time in John, Jesus calls himself ‘the Son of Man’. This is his distinctive title for himself, chosen, many feel, because it didn’t have the political overtones of ‘Son of God’ or ‘King of Israel.’ Jesus could build his own meaning into this phrase. Starting from the vision of the ‘one like a Son of Man’ in Daniel 7, Jesus often used the phrase to refer to his future glory, as here. But as time went on, he also spoke of the Son of Man as a Servant Messiah, fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah, suffering for the sins of others. Indeed the Son of Man becomes ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ by his sacrifice.


        This section teaches us to “come and see”. Those who will come and see Jesus, will find ‘the Lamb of God’, the Messiah of Scripture, ‘the Son of God’ who sits at the right hand of the throne of God, ‘the King of Israel’ who will come in glory to reign, and also ‘the Son of Man’ who as a lamb will suffer for our sins. Those who come and who see this Jesus are to put their faith in him as Lord as Savior, just as Nathanael believed in him as Messiah and king. We are to become believers – those who are rescued by trusting Jesus.

        As believers, we have a responsibility to go to our own Nathanaels, to our own Simons. There are people in our own community who desperately need a Philip or an Andrew to invite them to come and see Jesus - to see Jesus in the life of his people, to see Jesus in the worship of his church, and especially to see Jesus in the pages of his word. We need to say to those around us “Come and see Jesus. Come and be part of a new community that’s experiencing Jesus. Come and learn how much he loves you, how much he’s done for you. Come and experience hope.”

        The two streams of thought here are first “Come” - an invitation to us and an invitation we extend to others. And second, “See” – see with the eyes of your heart the Jesus who lived a sinless life and who died on the cross for our sins, see the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and who now reigns as Messiah and king in the hearts of those who have put their faith in him.