Sermon – September 23, 2018

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John 1:35-51 – The Nature of a Disciple (mp3)

Last week, we examined the wonderful example of John the Baptist’s ministry. He, like us, was put on this earth to point people to Jesus. But this is not where we stop – this is not the fullness of what we are called to do. Jesus didn’t tell us to evangelize the world only, but to make disciples. What does that look like in our lives, and what are we striving to see in others’ lives? Today, we look at the nature of a disciple, as Jesus begins to call the first disciples to himself. In this passage we find that disciples are:

1. Devoted to Jesus
Many today assume that a simple confession is all that is needed to be a disciple of Christ. Nothing could be further from the truth! True discipleship means a devotion to Christ, a desire to spend time with him, to learn from him. That is what both Andrew and the un-named disciple do here: they ask to simply spend time with Christ. Friend, spend time with Jesus! Read of him in the word, spend time with him in the Church.

2. Defined by Jesus
If this were not Jesus, the Lord, it is hard to see how his renaming of Simon would be anything but a grand display of arrogance! But, because Jesus is the Lord, he gets to define who we are, and if he desires to take a fisherman and make him into the foundation of his Church, he can do so! We must, as disciples, allow Jesus to define who we are, what we love, what we do.

3. Duplicated for Jesus
As we have mentioned before, disciples simply duplicate themselves. They find others and tell them the good news about Jesus. We find John the Baptist, Andrew, and Philip all doing this in this short passage. This pattern will continue throughout the Gospel. Disciples make more disciples.

4. Discerning about Jesus
Jesus provides a difficult metaphor in his final statement to Nathaniel, that he would see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. This particular image is a reference to a dream provided to Jacob, as he was fleeing the murderous rage of his brother Esau. Jacob sees a ladder opened from heaven, with the Lord present, and angels coming and going on it. God provides this dream to show Jacob that he is working even when Jacob can’t see him; he works to keep Jacob safe and to make his promises come true. Jesus is the fulfillment of this vision in the fullest sense. Jesus protects those who are his, brings to fulfillment all the promises of God, and is himself the very way that heaven and earth meet. The disciples will begin to understand this as they see his signs, even as the rest of the world misunderstands and misappropriates these same miracles. Real disciples understand and discern the signs: they show Jesus for who he is, not for what he can give us!