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A Disciple's Calling



January 14, 2024|A Disciple's Calling|John 1:43-49

JD Cutler


Click here for the sermon audio


In the church we often refer to ourselves as Christians, which is a biblical word, but before the church was known as Christians they were known as followers of Christ, that is, they were known as disciples of Christ. I love the word Christian, which means ‘little Christ’, but I also think we need to contemplate from time to time what a disciple is and what a disciple does if we are going to be faithful Christians. 

Obviously, we can learn a lot about what it means to be a disciple by looking at the disciples we find in scripture, but this morning I want us to look at the calling of two disciples and what we can learn about being a disciple from this encounter. 


We are going to step away from the book of Mark this morning and look at an account recorded for us in the gospel of John. As I said last week, Mark moves very quickly from one event to the next and one of the things that he does not record for us is the calling of two of the disciples, Philip and Nathanael. 

We find their calling in John 1, at verse 43. 

As we look at Jesus calling these two men, I want to share with you.


Three  statements concerning a disciple of Jesus from his calling of Philip and Nathanael.

The first is simply…

A disciple is a follower of Jesus 

John 1:43 (ESV) 43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

As a note, it is interesting to note this is the first of the disciples that Jesus intentionally goes and finds. 

John the Baptist points Andrew and John to Jesus, so they follow him. Each likely brought his brother, James by John and Peter by Andrew, into contact with Jesus. But Jesus seems to seek out Philip. 

But regardless of how these various men encountered Jesus, his call is the same. 

Follow me. 

Such a simple statement, isn’t it? I mean, it’s recorded for us as much more than a statement, in the Greek it is an imperative, a command. Jesus says, Follow Me, but still pretty simple. 

So what is he commanding these men to do?

The word ‘follow’ here in the Greek is to ‘accompany someone’. It comes from a combination of two words, one meaning union and one meaning road. We might say, journey with me in the way I am going. Similar to what we may or may not holler at our kids in the store when we say, ‘come on’ or when we say ‘let’s go’ to someone. The idea is ‘stop what you are doing and come with me.’

Now it is important to note that this word in and of itself is not spiritual in nature. We often talk about following Jesus and we mean spiritually, but this word that we get that phrase from is not only spiritual. 


It is used in the new testament in a generic way. 

Jesus is said to have followed Jarius, who came to ask for healing for his daughter. The crowds are said to have followed Jesus.   

We know Jesus is not spiritually following Jarius, just like we know that many in the crowds who physically followed Jesus will not follow him spiritually. 

If we go to the Greek translations of the Old Testament, we find this word used to describe Elisha following after Elijah after he chose him and of Ruth clinging to her mother-in-law instead of going home. Neither of which necessarily describe a spiritual following, but rather a physical one. 


In every instance where we have recorded of Jesus calling a disciple, this is the language. Follow me. But, because we know the story, we know where Jesus leads these men, we know that he is not merely calling them to follow him geographically, right?

We understand that Jesus is not just calling people to physically follow him in the general sense only but that he is calling to himself disciples in the method of the Jewish Rabbi/Disciple relationship of his day.


This is evident in not only the language, but as we will see in a moment, the scriptures. 

First, the language. This imperative, or command, that Jesus gives is in the present, active tense which implies an ongoing action. Jesus is calling these men to stop what they are doing and follow him from now on. 


As I said, this is also immediately understood when we read the very next scene in John after this text. 

John 2:1-2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 

Who are his disciples? At this point, at least as we can discern from scripture, this is referring to Peter, Andrew, John, Philip, and Nathanael, maybe James. Men whom he had invited to follow him are now called his disciples and are invited along with him to what seems like a wedding of someone who is either family or a close family friend by the presence of his mother.


So the invitation to follow him was an invitation to become a disciple, which at the very least means a disciple is someone who follows another. This Rabbi/Disciple model was one where a disciple physically followed a Rabbi so that he could learn from him, so that he could be taught by him, and so that eventually he would be like him.


So a disciple in its plainest sense, then is someone who learns from another by following them. 

So if a disciple is a follower, and we cannot physically follow Jesus, can we be a disciple of Jesus? It’s a fair question, don’t you think?


However, Jesus clearly thought so. 

After having these men follow him as disciples for 3 years, he gave them this commission before he left them physically. 

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


To these 11 men, he says ‘You have followed me as a disciple, now I want you to go and make other disciples’, how? 

By bringing them into the faith (described here as baptizing them in the Triune name of God), teaching them to observe (being a disciple is about not only learning but observing, changing your actions) all that I have commanded you. 

Which would include, don’t you think, what he just commanded them to do in making disciples? They were to make disciples who would then make other disciples, who would make other disciples, who would make other disciples. 


So who is a disciple of Jesus? Someone who follows Jesus to learn from him and become like him, even if they cannot physically follow him on Earth.

How were the disciples going to make disciples? By connecting them to Jesus through his words, actions, and commands.

They would follow Jesus as he was revealed to them by his disciples.

Having no first hand experience and knowledge of Jesus themselves, these second generation disciples would obey what Christ had commanded through his disciples, who then would make third generation disciples who obey what Christ had commanded and so forth. 


If it would have stayed like this, the model would have been, when someone wanted to accept the call to follow Jesus, they would have had to spend significant time with someone who had been discipled by a disciple who would pass on what Jesus did and said to them.

But part of what these disciples did, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was transition from oral instruction to written instruction. 

Matthew wrote down his experiences with Jesus, John wrote down his experiences with Jesus, Mark most likely wrote down what he learned from Peter and his experience with Jesus, Luke carefully gathered church history and accounts and put them down for future generations.


So how do we, so radically disconnected from these first century Jewish disciples, learn from them in order to obey all that Christ commanded them and be disciples ourselves? We read what they wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and obey what it says. 

God ensured that no disciple would ever be without what we needed to be disciples of Jesus in the Church of Christ and God. Amen!

We have what we need to know all that Jesus commanded and taught that is necessary for our discipleship, to be followers of the way.  

First, we see from Jesus' call that a disciple is a follower, second, we see in Philip’s response that…


A disciple is excited to share the news of Jesus 

John 1:44-45 (ESV) 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.” 

So Jesus found Philip and called him to follow him. Whether they had ever had any previous interaction, we do not know, but there are two things we know for sure by his message to Nathanael. 

One, he believes that they have found the one promised in the Old Testament, the coming messiah, the promised prophet, and the foretold king and that his name is Jesus.

Two, that he is excited enough about that reality, that he leaves Jesus to go and find Nathanael in order to tell him. 


Philip seeks out Nathanael, because he is excited about what he has found, or in reality, who has found him. 

We understand this, don’t we? When we are genuinely excited about something, we want to share it with others.

When the game the night before was a close one, we cannot wait to talk about it the next day. People go online to post about it, they text others about it, they bring it up first thing in the morning, did you see that game last night?

When we are really excited about an upcoming game, maybe we even invite people over to watch it, right?

We are coming out of the Christmas season, where many of us exchange gifts. Our kids are excited about their gifts, they can’t wait to get back to school to wear that shirt, to carry that bag, to tell their friends about their new ‘fill in the blank’

Adults, we are the same way when we get something new, aren't we?


Parents, when our kids do something great, we are excited to brag about them and tell everyone about it, right? From the simple things, their first words, to their first steps, to their first signs of independence, like tying their own shoelaces or riding their bike without training wheels to the big things, winning the championship game, getting accepted to the college of their dreams, their engagement, etc…


Then doesn’t it follow that when we encounter Jesus who is the best gift in the entire world, when he finds us and we come to realize who he is, what he has done for us, and what he gives those he finds, shouldn’t we be excited to share that news with everyone around us? This is what we see in scriptures, isn’t it?


It’s interesting that John mentions Philip in relation to Andrew and Peter, because before Philip went and found Nathanael, Andrew went and found Peter. 

John 1:40-42 (ESV) 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).

We are familiar with the story of the women at the well, when she realized who she was talking with, ran to town and told everyone about her encounter with Jesus. How do you think Jesus attracted such large crowds during his ministry?

With no social media, no campaigning, no billboards or radio spots. Word of mouth, people telling people about Jesus. 

Just a few examples from scripture will suffice. 

Matthew 4:23-25 (ESV) 23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Matthew 9:30-31 (ESV) 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” 31 But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.

Matthew 14:13 (ESV) 13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.

Matthew 14:34-36 (ESV) 34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick 36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.


Come to the one who teaches with authority, come to the one who has power over sickness, demons, and death, come to the one who receives not only the infirm but takes time to bless little children, come to him who is unlike anyone you have ever encountered.

It amazes me that men and women who claim to have personal knowledge of and experience with this same Jesus and his restoring power often do not share their experiences with those around them. 

To our shame, we work with men and women everyday that do not know we are disciples of Jesus, we interact with men and women at the grocery store, at the bank, at the ball fields, at the gym, that would not call us disciples of Jesus because we have never shared Jesus with them. 


Do we believe that he is the one, as Philip says, whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, do we believe that he is the promised Messiah, that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one can come to the Father except through him? And if we do, if we are followers of his, his disciples, shouldn’t we be excited enough about Him to share him with those around us? Shouldn’t we be seeking out our Nathanaels and Simons?

What we see in scripture, again and again, is that a disciple is excited to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus with others. 


But Pastor, you say, there is so much negativity surrounding Jesus, there is so much opposition to him. I agree, but fortunately for us, the person Philip sought out shows us how to handle opposition, which is our next statement…


A disciple is not deterred by opposition 

John 1:46-49 (ESV) 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!” 


Let’s deal with Nathanael’s statement first and then look at Phiilip’s answer a little closer, as well as find encouragement in Jesus’ own words to Nathanael. 


Philip goes and finds Nathanael in his excitement about encountering Jesus and Nathanael’s answer is a little jarring isn’t it?

Can anything good come out of Nazareth? 

There are two possible understandings of what Nathanael says here. 

One, as a Jewish man, he has a hard time believing that God’s annointed one would come from a region like Nazareth. This would be in line with the thoughts about Jesus that others in his day had. For instance, we read of two such instances in John’s gospel. 

John 7:40-44 (ESV) 40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

John 7:50-52 (ESV) 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Two, we learn later that Nathanael was from Cana in Galilee. Perhaps it was his knowledge of the people he had grown up with that caused him to doubt that God would bring his anointed one from among them. This would have been similar to what Jesus experienced in his own home town. They stumbled at who he was because they say  ‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.


Opposition to the good news of Jesus takes many forms, doesn’t it?

People oppose it because they don’t believe that the Bible is true. They cannot fathom that the creator of the universe would use men to record his truth, which isn’t too different from Nathanael not believing that God would use someone from Nazareth as his Messiah. 

People oppose it because they don’t believe that Jesus is anything other than an historical figure, which isn’t too different from the crowds struggling that Jesus being a man, could be more than a man. 

People oppose it because they don’t want to believe it, because if they believe it, it means that they are not okay, that they are hopelessly lost, that they need something beyond themselves to experience life and redemption and reconciliation to God. 

You need to understand this one thing as disciples who make disciples, pride is at the root of much of the opposition you will face in sharing the good news of Jesus. 

So how do we combat someone’s pride? Write this down, this will help you tremendously. Are you ready? You don’t.

Because you cannot, in your own power, convince someone of their need for Jesus, so what do you do? You take a lesson from Philip’s answer. 


What does he say to this opposition? Come and see. Come with me and I’ll show you. Come with me and you will understand. 

Now immediately, if you have been around the evangelical church long, you immediately connect his statement with inviting someone to church or to an evangelistic event, don’t you? In the church world, we even talk about evangelism in terms like ‘go and tell’ and ‘come and see.’ Almost exclusively we mean inviting someone to church under the heading, come and see. 

But is that what Philip does here? I’m going to get on a little bit of a soap box here for a minute, but I promise it’s going somewhere, so bear with me. 


If your only evangelical strategy is to invite someone to church so that they can hear preaching on a Sunday morning, that is a horrible strategy, no matter how good or bad the preaching is. Why? Because that is not what this service is for. 

It is my opinion that the Sunday morning service is for the edification, education, and encouragement of the saints. 

Does that mean a lost person cannot benefit from it, not at all. Paul says that perhaps an outsider or an unbeliever comes into our service, it is by the joint proclamation of the true word that they will see that God is among us and fall on their face and worship. 

Further, it is my opinion, when the evangelical church by and large adopted the seeker-sensitive model for the Sunday morning gathering, they not only weakened the body but they inadvertently took the responsibility of every Christian to reach the lost and professionalized it by making it the Pastor’s responsibility. You bring them and I’ll preach to them. 


You say, what does "come and see" mean then if it doesn’t just mean come to my church? I’m glad you asked!


Philip’s invitation was for Nathanael to come encounter Jesus for himself. What is an even better model for us to faithfully do the same when people object or have reservations about Jesus? 

How can we connect them to Jesus?

Let’s go back to what we said in the first statement about disciples being followers.


So how do we, so radically disconnected from these first century Jewish disciples, learn from them in order to obey all that Christ commanded them and be disciples ourselves? We read what they wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and obey what it says. 


So what’s an even better model for your friend, coworker, loved one, neighbor to encounter Jesus than simply inviting them to church? How about, “I would love for you to join me at church sometime to see what it’s like but in the meantime, why don’t you and I read the gospel of Mark together and we can meet over coffee or lunch and talk about what it says.”


If faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ, how much better is ‘come and see’ by taking them to the Bible than come to church on Sunday? They can hear a 35 minute message from scripture or they can hear from it themselves with you walking alongside them. 


Okay, I’m done with my soap box, but do you see? Do you see that what Philip does here is much closer to what I am describing than simply inviting someone to a gathering of the church?


But you say, Pastor, that is so much harder. Here’s where I want to encourage you from our text. 


Jesus knew Nathanael before Philip ever found him and brought him to him. Right?

As soon as Jesus sees Philip and Nathanael coming, he pronounces not only does he know who is he, but he has known him, and knows him intimately better than even Philip does. 


Jesus says ‘ahh, look, here is an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.’Nathanael says, ‘how do you know me?’

Jesus says, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’

Whatever was significant about this to Nathanael, it convinced them that this Jesus knew him in a way that was not humanly possible. (Reformed Expository Commentary) Many commentators suggest that Nathanael might have been praying under the fig tree. Or perhaps he was thinking about things that he had been hearing about a coming Messiah. Maybe he was considering going out to be baptized by John the Baptist, as others from nearby had done (see John 1:44). We do not know, but Nathanael knew, and now he found that Jesus knew the inward things of his heart. The same thing happens to us when we come to Christ through his Word. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active, . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 

That is the very thing Jesus did to Nathanael. If you bring your heart to Jesus in the manner that Nathanael came—sincerely, without deceit—his Word will persuade you, too, that he is the very Son of God. 


No matter who we engage with the news of Jesus, we can be sure that not only does Jesus already know them, he knows the inward places of their hearts, and only his word is powerful enough to penetrate their pride and resistance in order to create new life. If that doesn’t encourage you to spread the news of Jesus far and wide, I don't think that there is anything that will. 


The story this morning  is pretty simple, isn’t it?

Jesus found Philip and called him to follow Him, immediately Philip in his excitement went and found Nathanael and brought him to Jesus, who upon encountering him, at least indicated by his proclamation, fell at his feet in belief that he was the Son of God and became a follower of Jesus himself. Thus Jesus calls two more disciples to himself who will eventually be called to be apostles and will through the power of the Holy Spirit help establish the church in Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond. This is God’s plan to establish his kingdom in the hearts of men, through his disciples who follow him and make other disciples who follow him. 

Confronted with such a simple truth, we have to ask this morning.

Am I a disciple? Are these things true of me?


Am I following Jesus in the sense that he calls disciples to, that is, am I spending time with his word, learning from him, becoming more obedient to it as I grow?

Does knowing Jesus excite me enough to share him with others the way I share other things in my life?

Do I share him without fear of, real or imagined, opposition?


If the answer to any of these is no, I pray that this morning you would repent and turn to Christ asking him to strengthen you to better follow him. 

And if you are here this morning and you know that you are not a disciple of Jesus, but through his word you know that he is creating in you a desire to call out to him, to accept his invitation to follow him with your life, from now on, I would love to talk to you this morning. 


In a moment, we are going to stand and sing one last song of praise to our Savior.

Brittany and I will be at the front during this song if you want prayer or if you want counsel or if you just need encouragement. Please feel free during this time to come and meet with us. 


Let us pray and then we will stand and sing. 










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