The First Followers of Jesus
Text: John 1:35-51
I. On the day following John’s testimony that Jesus was the Christ (John 1:29)
A. John was standing with two disciples when Jesus walked by. John pointed him out and said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
B. This was sufficient for these two.
1. John had been announcing the coming of one greater than he and this person had now arrived.
2. They immediately began to follow Jesus.
C. Perhaps knowing the greatness of Jesus from John they did not speak to him, but simply followed him.
1. Jesus eventually turns and ask what it was that they sought.
2. Though they had yet to met Jesus personally, they addressed him as teacher.
a. With this, they are humbly asking Jesus to instruct them and they wished to know where they might go and receive that instruction.
b. As a side note: the fact that John interprets the Hebrew word rabbi, shows that John’s target audience might not be familiar with Hebrew.
3. It was late in the day, being about four o’clock in the afternoon, so Jesus invites them to follow him and see where he is staying.
4. They remain the rest of the day with him, though little of it was left.
II. We learn that one of the two who came to Jesus was named Andrew, which of course leaves us wondering who was the other one.
A. The most likely answer is John who rarely names himself (see John 20:2-3, 8 as an example).
B. However, his presence is implied in his detailed knowledge of the events (even recalling the hour of the day).
C. Andrew’s conversation with Jesus, combined with John’s testimony, convinced him that the Messiah had truly come.
1. He went to his brother Simon, told him of his find, and brought him to Jesus, probably that same evening.
2. Simon’s name means unloved or hated (Genesis 29:33) others translate the name as meaning fearful or timid,
a. But Jesus said he would be called Cephas (Syriac) or Peter (Greek) which means a stone or rock.
b. Here Jesus demonstrates power beyond men.
c. He knew both Simon’s name, his father’s name, and greater he gave him a name which would be more suitable for him in later life.
d. In other words, at their meeting Jesus knew Simon’s current and future character.
e. Notice that Simon accepts and begins using his new name immediately.
III. On the following day, began journeying toward Galilee and met Philip.
A. Philip was from Bethsaida, the same home town of Andrew and Peter.
1. Bethsaida is on the north edge of the Sea of Galilee.
2. Since people travel together for safety, it is logical that others from the Galilee area would join together for a long journey.
B. Philip in turn found Nathanael.
1. Nathanael’s other name appears to be Bartholomew (which means “son of Ptolomy”).
a. John consistently calls him Nathanael while the other writers call him Bartholomew.
b. Due to the way Luke records the names of the apostles later in Luke 6:14, it is likely that Philip and Nathanael are related or are close friends.
2. While Philip is from Bethsaida, Nathanael is from Cana (John 21:2).
C. Philip is also convinced that Jesus is the one prophesied by the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 18:18).
1. He excitedly tells Nathanael that Jesus of Nazareth is the one for whom the nation of Israel has been long looking.
2. Nathanael is not particularly impressed.
a. Nazareth is not a town from where you would expect a great king to hail.
b. Nathanael, being from a neighboring town, was particularly unimpressed by some who calls Nazareth home.
3. However, Philip insists he must see for himself.
D. Notice how often people are not asked to accept another’s statement, but to come and see for themselves whether the statement is true.
E. Jesus greets Nathanael in a very unusual way.
1. He declares to those around him that here was an honest man.
2. Jesus calls him “an Israelite indeed,” or here was a man who actually deserves to be called an Israelite (Psalm 32:2; Romans 2:28-29; 9:6).
3. Nathanael doesn’t deny the assessment; instead, he is puzzled how a man he doesn’t recall meeting knows his character.
4. Jesus tells him that before Philip found him Jesus saw him under the fig tree.
a. By saying he saw him, Jesus is not claiming to have physically seen him, but had seen him as God sees all (Psalms 139:1-2).
b. The wording is a bit odd. It is common for people to sit under the dense foliage of the fig tree for shade
(1) But Jesus didn’t say he saw Nathanael under a fig tree but under the fig tree.
(2) Something notable happened under that particular fig tree of which we are not made aware
(3) But Nathanael is startled that Jesus knew what he was certain no one else could have known.
5. Nathanael jumps to the logical conclusion that this man must be deity. He must be the long awaited king.
F. Evidently Jesus found it amusing how easily Nathanael reached the right conclusion
1. But he assures him that greater things would be seen that would confirm what Nathanael now knows.
2. In particular, Jesus states that they would see into heaven and see God’s angels coming to and going from Jesus.
a. This is an allusion to Jacob’s vision (Genesis 28:12).
b. Angels are God’s ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14).
c. Thus, Jesus is stating that Nathanael would witness God’s care for His Son.