Jesus’ First Disciples – John 1:35-51

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

May 26, 2013

Jesus’ First Disciples

John 1:35-51


How do people respond to Jesus Christ? To a large degree, that will depend on what they are looking for before they meet Him. Those who are not interested in spiritual things will generally ignore Him. Those who already have a set of beliefs and are complacent will also probably ignore him, but those who have made up their minds and are not willing to have their beliefs challenged will be antagonistic and oppose Him. Those who are seeking the truth and are willing to investigate will find Him.

These principles are important for all of us to consider as we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us. We need to remain steadfast in faithfully proclaiming the gospel with clarity to that others so that they may understand the truth and respond. But we can become weary in our well-doing if we are not careful, and an understanding of why some people reject the message and so few receive it can go a long way in keeping us motivated in serving our Lord regardless of how others respond. Remember, it is Jesus that saves, not us. We are only responsible to declare the truth about Jesus to others, but that responsibility also needs to be carried out with wisdom. It is easy to witness to those that want to hear what we have to say, but that can be difficult to the indifferent and antagonistic. Throughout the gospel accounts we will see how we can challenge both those who have little to no spiritual interest and those who think they already have all the answers. We want to prod them with the truth in such a way that they will start thinking deeply about the nature and purpose of life.

This morning we will be looking more at the example of those who were spiritually minded and were seeking answers from God. Turn to John 1:35-51 where we will examine the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and the first responses of the men who would become His first disciples. Their response is an additional witnesses testifying to the truth about Jesus, and the apostle John wants us to know that Jesus is the Son of God, so that believing we might have eternal life in Him (John 20:31).

John’s Identification of Jesus John 1:35-36

Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and ^said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

This passage is set in a seven day period in which several significant events occur. The first day mentioned (vs 19) was when the priests and Levites came out from Jerusalem to the Jordan River to find out the identity of John who was baptizing there. John made it very clear that he was not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet spoken about in Deuteronomy 18. John identified himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3 of the voice crying in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord (vs. 23). John was the forerunner of Messiah who called the people to repent and prepare for the coming of the Son of God. The very next day (vs. 29), John saw Jesus and declared to everyone that Jesus was the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the World. He testified that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that Jesus was the one that would baptize with the Holy Spirit because He is the Son of God. (See: The Witness of John)

Verse 35 begins by with a time marker that it is the day after John first identified Jesus to all the people. On this particular day, John the Baptist is with two of his disciples when he sees Jesus again. John’s response is to once again call attention to Jesus. The text does not indicate exactly where John and his disciples were at when they saw Jesus or if the two disciples had been with John the previous day. What is clear is both John’s response and the response of the two disciples.

John’s response is to make sure his two disciples clearly understand Jesus’ identity and significance. John repeats the declaration he had made the previous day, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” We dealt with this statement last week, but it bears repeating. The word translated as “behold” here is an interjection. It is a statement to draw attention to something – Behold! Look! “There He is! And who is it? The Lamb of God.

This title, “The Lamb of God,” identifies the origin of Jesus as well as His purpose. A lamb was used as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin. Sin is anything that is contrary to or fails to meet the holy standards of God. Sin includes lying, stealing, coveting, adultery, hatred, dishonoring parents, idolatry, having other gods, etc. The penalty for sin is death (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 3:23). The lamb died as a substitute for the person that sinned. The problem with the sacrificial system is that no animal is sufficient to pay the penalty. Hebrews 10:4 states that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. Neither can any man attain righteousness for himself by his own works for even his best efforts to do good before the Holy God are as filthy rags before Him (Isa. 64:6). What we could not do, God did for us. God provided a perfect lamb in Jesus Christ that would be the equivalent, sufficient and voluntary substitute payment for our sins. Jesus lived a sinless life. He fulfilled the Law, and His work on the cross was the perfect payment for sins past, present and future. All of our sins were nailed to the cross with Him (Colossians 2:14).

Either the decrees of guilt for your sins are nailed to the cross, or you are still carrying them around. You cannot pay for your own sins. You either turn to Jesus, the Lamb of God, and let His sacrifice take away your sins, or you remain under the just condemnation of the holy God that created you.

The Response of John’s Disciples John 1:37

The response of these two disciples is in clear contrast to the priests and Levites that had come to John a couple of days before who had questioned John extensively, but they did not even pay close attention to what he said. It is not known if they were present the next day when John pointed out Jesus to everyone as “The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world,” but there is no indication that they did any further investigation at that time into the claims made about Jesus. There is also no indication in this passage or any other test that they believed John or responded in any positive manner to what John said. We do know from Matthew 21:25-26 and Luke 20:5-6 that the Pharisees and other religious leaders rejected John and his testimony.

If a person has already made up their mind so that they refuse to consider any other possibility, you cannot argue them into submission. In short, you cannot argue someone into the kingdom of heaven. All you can do is declare the truth in the most clear way you know how. The best you can do is to challenge them to think and investigate for themselves and then pray for them. The change of heart and mind is a work of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life.

John’s two disciples respo
nded in a completely different manner. John 1:37, “And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.” They heard John say it, and they then immediately followed Jesus. The exact scene is not recorded, but you can get the sense if you can picture John standing with these two men, possibly by the Jordan river. John points out Jesus who is walking by and he declares to them that Jesus is the Lamb of God. The two disciples then leave John and start following Jesus.

What a testimony to John’s humility which he later expressed so well when he stated that Jesus must increase and he must decrease (John 3:30). John does not have an ego problem. He knew the purpose of his life and it was to point people to the Messiah. That is also the purpose of life for all Christians. We are to tell others about Jesus. We are to live in such a way that people can see Jesus living in us. We are to point people to Jesus. Your life is to be about Him, not yourself.

Jesus’ Invitation John 1:38-39

Jesus notices that these two men are now following Him, so He engages them in a conversation. John 1:38-39, And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and ^said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” 39 He ^said to them, “Come, and you will see.” They came therefore and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.

Jesus’ first question is a simple one, “What do you seek?” Notice that it is “what” and not “whom.” Jesus is asking their reason for following Him. What do they want from Jesus? Their answer is in the form of a polite formal address, “Rabbi.” John is writing to a largely Greek audience in Ephesus, so he translates the term for them. Rabbi means “teacher.” It is a polite term of respect given to someone they know is important, but they do not yet have a personal relationship or any greater understanding of him. As they get to know Jesus, they will start calling him “Lord.” This is also true for the Christian. Before you know Jesus, you may address Him with politeness and respect, but as you come to know Jesus and develop a relationship with Him, then you begin to speak of Him with terms reflective of your relationship. “Lord” is a title of submission to His deity and authority over you. “Savior” is a term of gratitude that identifies what He has done for you. “Jesus” is His personal name and a term of intimacy and a personal relationship with Him.

The disciples respond to Jesus wanting to know where He is staying. This is not a curiosity question. When I worked for the County of Los Angeles, I would occasionally have to work in Hollywood. There you will find street vendors selling maps showing where the homes of famous people were located. Curious people would buy these things and drive around to find them so they could say they saw the home of the particular celebrity in whom they were interested. These two disciples were not curious about seeing the place where Jesus was staying. That was not important to them in the least. They wanted the opportunity for uninterrupted conversation with Jesus. They took what John the Baptist said about Jesus very seriously. They wanted to talk with Jesus personally and find out more about Him. Standing out in the open was not conducive to such a conversation. Jesus responds with an invitation, “Come, and you will see.” They follow Jesus and find where He is staying, and then stayed there for the rest of the day.

There is some question about when this occurred. Some have argued that according to Jewish time keeping, this would be the 10th hour from Sunrise (6 a.m.), and so it would have been 4 in the afternoon. It can be better argued that this reference is to the Roman method of tracking time since John uses that method elsewhere in his account (John 4:6,52; 20:19). We also use the Roman method of keeping time in which a day begins at midnight, 12 hours after the Sun reaches it zenith at noon. The 10th hour would then be 10 in the morning. This also makes better sense since it would have been difficult for them to ask all of their questions and still accomplish the events recorded in verses 40-42. That would have been difficult if they did not start meeting with Jesus until 4 p.m.

Many people show some curiosity about Jesus, but until there is a desire on their part to actually know Him, do not expect much of a response. It is certainly proper to use a person’s curiosity to get a conversation started and try to point them to Jesus. Many of our evangelistic efforts and the tracts we give to people do just that. However, there must be a much greater desire than just curiosity before a person will seek to know Jesus in a way that will lead to salvation.

Telling Family John 1:40-42

These two disciples respond to their meeting with Jesus by telling others about Him. John 1:40-42, One of the two who heard John [speak,] and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He ^found first his own brother Simon, and ^said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated 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 is translated Peter).

Verse 40 specifically states that one of these disciples is Andrew. The other disciple is not declared by name in the text, but it can be deduced that it was John who so impressed with this first meeting with Jesus that he even remembered the hour that he first met Him.

Andrew and John have concluded that Jesus is the Messiah. John again translates the term for the Gentiles that would be reading his gospel account. Jesus is the promised one of the Old Testament. He is the “anointed one,” which is the meaning of both the Hebrew word, “Messiah,” and the Greek word, “Christ.” Andrew goes immediately to find his brother and tell him of their discovery.

This response lets us know that Andrew and John understood the ministry of John the Baptist as the forerunner of Messiah and they were looking for him to come. When John pointed Jesus out they immediately went to investigate if Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and then finding that He was, they go to tell others.

What a wonderful example of the heart that wants to know God and is truly searching for the truth. First, Andrew and John are faithfully following what truth they did know. Second, they are diligent in looking for more truth and a deeper understanding of God. Third, they investigate what they find to determine the validity of the claims. Fourth, they go and tell others their conclusions. Do you truly want to know God better? Are you a truth seeker?

It must be concluded that Simon was also looking for the coming of Messiah for upon hearing about Jesus he immediately went with Andrew to meet Him. When they met, our text says, “Jesus looked at him.” Jesus looked Simon over and then made a declaration about him. You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas. The name, Simon, is from a Hebrew word which means to “hear” and Cephas and its Greek form, Peter, means “rock.” This is a demonstration of Jesus’ deity. Jesus just met Simon, but being God he is able to assess and declare the character trait that Simon would one day have. This is both a prediction and a promise. Simon would become a rock, and so his name was changed to Cephas or Peter.

This is a precious example to us for God deals with us in a similar manner. God takes us as we are currently, but sees us for what He will make us to be. We are lost in our sins, and it God that finds us. We are walking according to the course of this world, and it is God that changes our direction. We are by nature children of darkness, but God changes us into children of light. To be in Christ is to become a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17) and God is faithful to complete the work He begins in us (Philippians 1:6). God know
s exactly what you are now, but He also sees you for what He will make you in the future.

Calling Philip John 1:43-44

43 The next day He purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He ^found Philip. And Jesus ^said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter.

On the next day, Jesus is planning to leave for the region of Galilee. We know from Chapter 2 that He is to be at a wedding there in a few days. Before He begins His journey north, Jesus found Philip. Possibly Andrew and Peter had told Jesus about Philip the previous days since they were all from the same city of Bethsaida. We are not exactly sure where Bethsaida was located other than it was on the Sea of Galilee, for its name means, “House of fishing,” and that it was probably not far from Capernum.

It appears that Andrew, Peter and Philip had all come down together to where John was baptizing. It is clear that Philip was also a person who was seeking after the Messiah, for when Jesus commands him to come, the clear implication is that he did so and became one of His disciples. Philip also immediately went to tell a friend whom he had found out.

Telling Friends John 1:45-51

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.”

Nathanael is from Cana of Galilee (John 21:2). In the synoptic accounts, Nathanael is referred to as Bartholomew, meanings “son of Tholmai.” The name Nathanael means, “God has given.” It is apparent in this text that Philip and Nathanael are friends and both are seekers of the Messiah. Philip declares to his friend that they had found the one Moses and the prophets had foretold. The “we” would most likely be a reference that also included Andrew, Simon and John who had become Jesus’ disciples the previous day. They all had concluded that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and Philip wanted Nathanael to know.

Philip makes it clear exactly whom he is talking about by referencing Jesus by name, family and hometown. This is the Jesus who is the son of Joseph. Philip is not making a theological statement here, but simply a reference to how Jesus would be known and distinguished from any other Jesus. He also points out that this is the Jesus who was from Nazareth. Possibly Nathanael may have met Jesus at some previous time since Nazareth is only about five miles from Cana. In the Greek, the description ends with the word, Nazareth. (We have found Jesus the son of Joseph, the one from Nazareth).

Nathanael immediately picks up on this and challenges Philip’s claim. 46 And Nathanael ^said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip ^said to him, “Come and see. ”

Some have claimed that this statement is a put down of Nazareth because of speculated rivalry between Cana and Nazareth. Perhaps, but it is also a legitimate question from someone that knew the prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah and is challenging the idea that the Messiah could come from Nazareth. Nathanael does not know of any prophecy which tells of good coming from Nazareth, so how then could Jesus be the Messiah if Jesus is from Nazareth? The Pharisees had the same concern and gave as one of their reasons for rejecting Jesus was that He was from Galilee (John 7:52).

Philip’s answer is appropriate and a good model to follow when people ask us hard questions about our faith which we might not have an answer for. Philip does not try to argue, he simply said, “Come and see.” He invites Nathanael to join him in investigating further. A good practice for us to follow as well. You do not need to be intimidated when you are asked one of those tough questions. Simply be humble and invite them to investigate further. But notice this is not just passing on the responsibility. It is not a put off. The invitation is for the person to join you in further investigation. It is “come and see,” not “go and see.” You will do it together.

Nathanael takes up the invitation and goes with Philip to meet Jesus, and Jesus makes a declaration about Nathanael’s character when He meets him. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and ^said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” This is quite a statement about Nathanael which is even stronger than would first appear because there is a word play here on Jewish history. Jacob was renamed Israel by God just prior to his return to Canaan. Jacob was a deceiver. He could not be trusted. Jesus points out that Nathanael is a descendent of this deceiver, but he is of opposite character. The word translated here as guile or deceit is doloV /dolos which is the word for fish bait. Nathanael was honest and up front about what he thought about things. He would not say one thing while thinking another. That character is displayed again in verse 48.

48 Nathanael ^said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

Most people would simply thank the person for the compliment, but Nathanael is true to character and speaks his mind. Nathanael wants to know how Jesus could make such an assessment of him when they had just met. He makes no denial of the statement which reaffirms that the statement was accurate.

The statement itself is not revealing in exactly what Jesus meant by it. Because of that, there are those that speculate this is some sort of cryptic statement with some hidden meaning. However, Nathanael’s response make it clear that this is not just some statement about Jesus seeing Nathanael at an earlier time when Nathanael had not noticed him. Nathanael’s response lets us know that this is a statement of omniscience. Verse 49, Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” In recognizing that Jesus had supernatural knowledge about Nathanael’s character and being under a fig tree earlier, Nathanael concludes that Jesus must be the Messiah, the Son of God, the promised King of Israel, for He did something that no human could possibly have done.

50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” 51 And He ^said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Because Nathanael had been looking for the Messiah he was able to quickly discern Jesus’ identity from something that seems relatively simple. Jesus would perform all sorts of miracles in the years ahead that should have convinced them (John 14:10-12), yet the religious leaders and many of the people would still not believe. Jesus promises Nathanael that he and others would see future glories far greater than Jesus demonstrating His omniscience in a relatively minor manner.

What greater things would they see? The allusion in verse 51 is to the vision Jacob had in Genesis 28. The patriarch Jacob had a dream the night he fled from his brother Esau. In that dream Jacob saw a ladder extending from Earth to Heaven, and on the ladder were the angels of God ascending and descending. In the midst of this dream, Jacob hears the voice of God pronounce His blessing upon him, “And in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

Jesus tells Nathanael here that what he would see in the future would be similar to Jacob’s dream. There is an interesting change in the pronoun here from second person singular to second person plural. It would not be just Nathanael, but others too, that would see these things. They would see the glories of heaven and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. Jesus takes the place of the ladder in Jacob’s dream. Jesus is the link between Earth and Heaven.

Nathanael had experienced Jesus omniscience and so had seen a
glimpse of Jesus’ deity. In the future, Nathanael and the other disciples would see display after display of Jesus’ deity in various healings, casting out of demons, control of the elements, forgiving sins and raising the dead back to life.


Andrew, John, Simon, Philip and Nathanael quickly came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the promised redeemer who would save them from their sins. They knew what they were looking for and quickly recognized it when they found Him.

What are you searching for? Would you recognize it if you found it? Those who search for the Savior will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). Jesus is calling to all who are weary and heavy-laden with sin to come and find their rest in Him and follow Him (Matthew 11:28;16:24). And to those that will follow Him, He will show the glories of heaven. If you are not a follower, a disciple, of Jesus Christ, you can become one today and begin your journey of walking with Him. If you are a disciple, then follow the example of Andrew and Philip. Go and tell someone else what you have found and invite them to join you as you follow Jesus.


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Discuss the sermon with them. Here is some help for your children. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the term “disciple” is used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the context of John 1:35-51? What is the significance of John’s statement that Jesus is the “Lamb of God”? What was the response of the two disciples when they hear John’s declaration? How did they differ from the Priests and Levites (vs 19-34)? What can you help a person who is not searching for the truth? In what ways should Christians follow the example John the Baptist? Why did the two disciples want to know where Jesus was staying? What is Jesus’ response to those who seek Him? Who were the two disciples? What was their conclusion after personally investigating Jesus? What did they do in response to their conclusion? What are four characteristics of someone that is truly seeking God? Why did Jesus change Simon’s name? What did Philip do after he met Jesus? How should you respond when you are witnessing to people and they ask a question you cannot answer? What does it mean that Nathanael was an Israelite without guile? What was his response to Jesus? How did Jesus respond to him? What caused Nathanael to quickly conclude that Jesus was the Son of God? If you are not a disciple of Jesus, what should you do? If you are a disciple of Jesus, what should you do?

Sermon Notes – 5/26/2013

Jesus’ First Disciples – John 1:35-51


People respond differently to Jesus depending on what they are looking for ___________they meet Him

We are to be _____________in proclaiming the gospel, but it is Jesus that saves, not us

We seek to prod people to search for the truth and ____________deeply about the nature and purpose of life

John’s Identification of JesusJohn 1:35-36

John made it clear to the priests and Levites that he was not the _____________, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet

The next day, John identified ________as The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (vs. 29-34)

The following day, John points Jesus out to two of his ______________(vs. 35-36)

The title, The Lamb of God, identifies Jesus’ purpose in becoming the substitutionary _______for man’s sin

Either you accept Jesus’ payment for the forgiveness of your sin, or you remain ______________in your sin

The Response of John’s Disciples John 1:37

The priests and Levites did not listen and heed John’s message or investigate it further, and so __________it

You cannot argue someone into the kingdom of heaven, you can only ________________the truth to them

John’s disciples heard, heeded and ____________________

John ________________ pointed his followers to Jesus, all Christians are to do the same

Jesus’ Invitation John 1:38-39

Jesus begins with a _______________ question – what do you seek?

They want to know where Jesus is staying so they can be with Him and _______________ more

This occurs at about 10 in the morning (reckoning by _____________ time keeping)

Until curiosity about Jesus becomes a ____________ to know Him, do not expect much to happen

Telling Family John 1:40-42

The two disciples are Andrew and _____________

They conclude Jesus is the Messiah (Christ) and Andrew goes to tell his __________, Simon

Marks of a heart that wants to know God and is searching for the truth

A. _____________in following what truth is known

B. ______________in looking for more truth and a deeper understanding of God

C. ________________thoroughly to validate any claims

D. ___________and tell others your conclusions.

Jesus changed his name from Simon (to hear) to Cephas (rock) – ____________in Greek

God takes us as we are currently, but sees us for what He __________________us to be.

Calling Philip John 1:43-44

Jesus is planning to _______________for Galilee, but first He must meet and call Philip

Philip is a _______________ of Andrew and Peter and was also looking for the Messiah

Telling Friends John 1:45-51

Nathanael, “God has given,” is referred to as ___________________, “son of Tholmai,” in the other gospels

Vs. 45 – Philip tells his ______, Nathanael, they had found the Messiah, and carefully points out His identity

Vs. 46 – Nathanael questions how Jesus could be the Messiah if He is from ____________________

Vs. 46 – Philip invites Nathanael to ________________and investigate the matter with him

Vs. 47 – Jesus compliments Nathanael as being an Israelite with no ___________- no deceit

Vs. 48 – Nathanael is ________________ by Jesus’ statement

Vs. 49 – Nathanael recognizes Jesus’ ____________- & therefore the truth of the claim He is the Son of God

Vs. 50-51 – Jesus tells Nathanael he will see _______________ things in the future

Others would also see “greater things” – Jesus’ many _________& Him as the link between Heaven & Earth


Those who search for the Savior will ______Him – and those that follow Him will see the glories of Heaven

If you are disciple of Jesus, go and ________someone else what you have found and invite them to join you

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