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John’s Journey 1.8: Word Spreads – John 1:43-45

 

Long before social media there was simply social interaction or what we might call person to person communication. Throughout the 2000+ year history of the Christian faith, this person to person telling of the story of Jesus has been the primary mechanism by which people in all time periods have come under His influence. Such was the case from the very beginning. Andrew came to understand that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, and he told his brother, Simon Peter.

On the heels of this encounter between Andrew, Peter and Jesus, Jesus decided to move on to Galilee. There He found Philip, another of the original twelve disciples.  The text reads, “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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’” (John 1:43-45).

This is the first occasion in the Gospel of John that we see the formulation, “Follow me,” a formulation that we will see many times throughout the book. In the custom of that day, students sought out a teacher to “follow,” meaning that the student would literally follow the teacher throughout that teacher’s life and travels and learn along the way. Typically the student would approach the teacher for permission to follow. In the case of religious or theological learning, that teacher would be a rabbi. Note that Jesus was addressed as “Rabbi” back in verse 38.  Jesus defies convention in that He doesn’t wait for followers to approach Him and ask permission to follow Him. Rather, He selects these followers and calls them, challenges them, compels them to follow Him.

First, there was Andrew who passed the word to Peter. Now, there is Philip who would pass the word to Nathaniel. I think it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t build this band of followers in Jerusalem, the religious center and the location of the Temple. He chose instead to gather His first followers and lead team on the outskirts. We learn that Philip, Andrew and Peter all hailed from the city of Bethsaida, a word that means “house of the fisherman” or “Fishertown.” Of course, fishing was the commerce of the area and these men were mostly fishermen by profession. Jesus wasn’t looking for the religious elite of the day. He was looking for ordinary folks living ordinary lives to whom and through whom extraordinary things would come.

Just as Andrew had passed the word to Simon Peter, Philip passed the word to Nathaniel. What word? The word that Jesus, this Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph, Son of God, had come to fulfill all prophecy concerning the One who would come to save the people of God from their own sin. I’m sure that Simon Peter trusted Andrew and I’m assuming that Nathaniel trusted Philip, but talk of a coming Messiah had been buzzing throughout Hebrew thought and culture for hundreds of years. So, why here? Why now? Why this Jesus? Should Andrew be believed? Should Philip be believed?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Simon Peter didn’t become a follower of Jesus on the strength of Andrew’s claim alone. Nathaniel didn’t become a follower of Jesus on the strength of Philip’s claim alone. They met Jesus face to face and could not help but be drawn to the person and power of the Son of God. Why here? Why now? It was God’s plan.