The First Christ Followers

Title: The First Christ Followers

Bible Book: John 1 : 35-51

Author: Mark Adams

Subject: Discipleship; Jesus Followers; Operation Andrew



When I became a pastor in the fall of 1997 Word Perfect very quickly became my new best friend. I’d been a Word Perfect user from the beginning but in my youth ministry days I didn’t have to use a word processor all that much. That all changed when I began preparing a sermon every single week, not to mention writing SOWER articles, leading mid-week Bible studies, etc.

When I found myself dependent on this program I decided to “explore” all the little tools that the programmers had included—things like, spell-check, a thesaurus, the precious “un-do” key that will correct mistakes instantly, the search and replace feature, the high-lighter with it’s almost limitless list of colors—things like that.

In my exploring Word Perfect I came upon another tool that has come in very handy over the years. I’m referring to several built-in TEMPLATES that can be used when creating certain documents like resumes or business letters or labels. If you’ve ever used templates like this then you know that they are a great help because with all their built in questions they serve as a wonderful guideline in creating these specialized documents. For example, Word Perfect has several FAX templates that help you know what you need to include in an authentic fax—a fax that SAYS what a fax is SUPPOSED TO SAY and DOES what a fax is SUPPOSED TO DO.

I bring this all up because this morning’s text is John’s account of the calling of Jesus’ first disciples. And the circumstances surrounding their calling form what I think of as a TEMPLATE for DISCIPLESHIP, in that it highlights three of the things we need to order to become authentic disciples of Jesus—people who SAY what Christ-followers are SUPPOSED TO SAY and DO what Christ-followers are SUPPOSED TO DO.

Before we go any further, let me give you some background. Our text begins on the third day of Jesus’ earthly ministry. And—according to John’s tally—by the time the sun has set on the fourth day of Jesus’ ministry, He had five disciples: Andrew, John, Peter, Phillip, and Nathaniel—the very FIRST Christ-followers. Soon He would of course have twelve.

And, before we go any further, let me ask AND ANSWER two questions.

First, why would Jesus start with TWELVE disciples? Why not twenty or thirty?

Well, I believe He did so for symbolic reasons. I mean originally there had been twelve tribes of these twelve apostles were symbolic of the NEW Israel.

This leads to my second question...why have followers in the first place?

Well, in Mark 3:14 Jesus Himself answered this question.

(1)  FIRST, our Lord said that He did this so that the twelve might “BE WITH HIM.”

In other words, one reason Jesus chose followers was because He wanted companionship. Any person in a leadership capacity is lonely and the higher the place, the deeper the loneliness. In fact you could say that this is the PRICE of leadership. That’s why the presidency of the United States is said to be the most forsaken place in the world. President Harry Truman once said,“This is a lonely job. Everybody who comes to see me wants me to do something for them. No one comes to see me for fellowship.”

Well, as the Messiah, it would be natural for Jesus to crave fellowship as He went about His Father’s work. This is not diminishing Jesus’ divinity in any way because if you look back at Genesis 1, you will see that the reason God created mankind was to fellowship with Him—not because He NEEDED fellowship. God doesn’t NEED anything. God created mankind because He WANTED fellowship. He wants to KNOW us—and us to KNOW Him! Isn’t that a wonderful thing!
(2) And then, the SECOND reason Jesus said He called disciples was so that they might “be sent out to preach.”

That’s what the word “apostle” means. “Apo” means “away” and “stolos” means “sent.” So these men were to be sent away from Jesus with His message. They were to be the means by which the good news of His love would spread to all the world. In short, these first 12 disciples were to fulfill the original function of the original 12 tribes of Israel. Remember, as Isaiah 49:6 says, God had called Israel to “ a light to the bring [God’s salvation] to the ends of the earth.”

Okay—with all this in mind, take your Bibles and follow along as I read verses 35-51 of chapter one.

35 - The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.

36 - When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37 - When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

38 - Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?”

39 - “Come,” He replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where He was staying, and spent that day with Him. It was about the tenth hour.
40 - Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.

41 - The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).

42 - And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter.)

43 - The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow Me.”

44 - Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.

45 - Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, and about Whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.”

46 - “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

47 - When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”

48 - “How do You know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

49 - Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel."

50 - Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.”

51 - He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Okay—what can we learn about following Jesus—from these FIRST five people to do that? How can this text serve as a “template” for discipleship? Using the record of the calling of the first Christ-followers, I want to point out three things that should be able to be said about any authentic disciple.

(1) First, a growing Christ-follower spends regular TIME with Jesus.

Verse 37 says that when John the Baptist pointed at Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” two of his disciples left and followed Jesus. As I told you last week, this would have pleased John—it would have brought the Baptist joy—because that meant he was doing his job—the good work God had prepared and called him to do: point people to Jesus. Well, verse 40 tells us that one of these two disciples who left John the Baptist to follow Jesus was Andrew. Tradition says that the other was John—the Apostle. By the way, this is the first of many veiled references to John that we’ll see in his gospel. He usually refers to himself as simply, “...the disciple Jesus loved.” In any case, Andrew and John asked Jesus where He was staying and Jesus invited them to come and see and they did. It was about 4PM and John and Andrew spent the day with Him. I imagine they talked into the wee hours of the morning. Well, those hours spent with Jesus was all it took for them to “sign-up.” From then on they followed Jesus. I mean, that first day led to three years—and then their entire lives. This reminds us that discipleship—Christ-following—is built on TIME—TIME spent with Jesus. Let me put it this way. You can’t be a growing DISCIPLE of Jesus—unless you know Him...and you can’t know Him unless you consistently spend TIME with Him.

Now—in those days all kinds of people—both Jews and Gentiles—had disciples. Two of the Greek words that were in common use were “didaskalo,” which meant “teacher,” and “mathetes,” which means “pupil” or “disciple.” It was impossible for a didaskalo to be a teacher unless he had mathetes. It was equally impossible to be a mathetes — a disciple — unless you had a teacher. Didascalos would gather their disciples around themselves to discuss their particular perspective on life. Theirs was a PHILOSOPHY-BASED relationship. For example, a Greek teacher of STOICISM would gather disciples who wanted to learn his STOIC perspective on life. And—Jewish Rabbis would gather disciples who wanted to learn his perspective on the LAW—like the rabbi’s personal interpretation of the laws about the SABBATH. Suffice it to say that back then, for everyone but Jesus—the teacher/disciple relationship was based on a particular philosophy or way of thinking. But with Jesus it was different because, as I said a moment ago, He invited people to follow Him in order to BE WITH HIM. For Jesus discipleship was—and still is—based not on philosophy but rather on RELATIONSHIP.

So, when you “boil it down,” Christian discipleship is BEING WITH Jesus. Yes—this helps us have a Christian world view—but it is based on TIME with our Lord. We don’t just study His teachings—His philosophy—we study Him—we relate to Him in a personal relationship. Authentic, growing Christ-followers are always focused on spending more and more time with our Lord, letting His Spirit guide our study of His written Word, spending time in His presence in worship—but especially spending time in conversational prayer. With these spiritual disciplines we learn to deepen our walk—our friendship—with Jesus and that RELATIONSHIP enables us to learn to be more like Him.

Christians who spend regular time with Jesus and those who don’t—well, they are like the difference between a vine ripened tomato and one of those flavorless tomatoes that look and taste more like pink styrofoam. In a growing, RIPENING relationship Jesus teaches us how to respond to life’s trials and tribulations. He empowers us to resist temptation in its various forms. We learn to pray more effectively such that eventually we find ourselves communicating with Jesus all the time. In these conversations—in this deepening RELATIONSHIP—our Lord tells us what to SAY and what to DO such that little by little we become more and more like Him.

When I first entered seminary I had a friend who’s favorite expression was, “son!” If he liked the food in the cafeteria he’d say, “Son! Those mashed potatoes are good!” If he liked a sermon he’d say, “Son! That man can preach!” We spent a lot of time together and it wasn’t long until I was saying, “Son!” all the time. He rubbed off on me! Then my friend left seminary and I never heard from him again. Before you know it, I reverted to my old expressions. I stopped being like my friend. “SON!” — as an exclamation — ceased to be a part of my vocabulary.

This is why it is so important for Christ-followers to spend regular, consistent time with Jesus. By definition, a Christian disciple is someone who is not world-like but Christ-like and your level of Christ-likeness is dependent on the time you spend RELATING to him. Here’s another illustration of my point. Imagine for a moment that your goal is to become physically fit, but instead of reading about fitness you decide to learn about health from someone who has experienced it first hand...say Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead of having Arnold tell you how to get in shape, what if you could just follow him around all day?

You would eat what he eats and when he eats.
When he works out, you work out. He may bench press 550 and you may bench press 110, but still you work out alongside him.
When he rests, you rest.
If he does it, you do it; if he doesn’t do it, you don’t do it either.

How long do you think it would be before this “round-the-clock” therapy took effect and you found yourself in great physical shape? Maybe a few weeks, maybe a few months, but eventually you would see results. Jesus offers us the same opportunity. We can live around the clock in His presence as we learn to pray “without ceasing.” This is an essential requirement for discipleship. It’s a part of the “template.”

Well, how are you doing in that area? How is your RELATIONSHIP with Jesus? How close are the two of you? How much time do you spend together every day? When was the last time you talked? How familiar are you with His Book? How well do you recognize His still, small voice?
And—you don’t have to answer these questions—because time with Jesus—or the lack thereof—SHOWS!

Here’s a second part of the discipleship template we find in this text.

(2) An authentic Christ-follower is CONTENT with whatever Jesus asks him or her to do.

Their RELATIONSHIP with Jesus has top priority so they only care about pleasing Him. They only care about doing what He tells them to do so it doesn’t matter whether or not others see what they do. They know that Jesus sees and that’s enough. I’m saying that you can’t be an authentic disciple of Jesus and at the same time seek the spotlight. That kind of ambition is contradictory to a growing relationship with Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there is no such thing as a Christian in the spotlight. Of course not—but the “Billy Grahams” and the “Mother Teresas” don’t SEEK that kind of thing. They are humble people—who only stand in the spotlight because God shines it on them. PLUS—for every spotlighted disciple there are thousands of disciples who are content to work behind the scenes on less-noticeable but equally-important tasks.

A perfect example is Andrew. His life shows that a genuine encounter with Jesus will produce an attitude of contentment in whatever service they are given. I say this because even though Andrew was the “protokletos”...or “first called”...the first disciple Jesus enlisted—even though he was the first to recognize Him as the Messiah, Andrew never achieved the fame that his brother Peter did. Think of it. During his years as a disciple Andrew was never included in Jesus’ inner circle. Unlike Peter, James, and John he was not taken up to the Hill of Mt. Transfiguration—nor was he invited in with Jesus when our Lord healed Jairus’ daughter. Andrew wasn’t asked to go with Jesus when He prayed in the Garden of Gesthemane prior to His arrest. Andrew never preached like Peter, never recorded a gospel like Matthew or John—nor was he ever recognized by the early church like James. PETER’S name appears in the four gospels 96 times. Only Jesus is mentioned more often but Andrew’s name is only found 14 times—and most of those times he is either in a list or just referred to as “Peter’s brother.” Peter is constantly in the center of the action. There are numerous accounts of things he said or did but Scripture only records Andrew as doing three things.

Now, it takes a great deal of grace to play second fiddle...especially if it’s your own brother who’s playing FIRST fiddle! And Andrew must have learned to access this grace because he doesn’t seem to mind this arrangement. I mean in a similar situation many of us would have considered ourselves slighted. But apparently Andrew didn’t feel this way. He was just happy to be a humble part of the twelve.

Contemporary disciples like you and me must learn—as Andrew did—that people who work behind the scenes in God-given tasks play a very important role in His kingdom. I mean, God used Andrew in a powerful way—even though he did not achieve the popularity of his brother. Think of it.

Andrew not only brought his own brother to Jesus. He also directed the inquiring Greeks to Jesus which makes him both the first HOME and first FOREIGN missionary.

It was Andrew who led the boy with the lunch to Jesus. Because of that simple act our Lord fed nearly 15,000 people, ...a miracle that has been used to help millions understand that Jesus is the Bread of Life...that only He satisfies the inner hunger all of us have to know God.

Tradition says it was Andrew who prompted John to write his gospel.

So God used Andrew’s “out of the spotlight” ministry in amazing ways! Our Lord uses ANY ministry in amazing ways—even those tasks that won’t be known about by others until we all stand in His presence.

You know, usually it takes MORE of a person to be second in life than first. And I think we see this in Andrew’s life because it seems to me that he was more spiritually mature than Peter. I think he was more loyal, had a clearer self-awareness, and a healthier self-esteem than his more popular sibling. More of us need to learn to be like Andrew...willing to work behind the scenes...willing to serve God even if it brings us no earthly acclaim. Too many of us only want to serve God if people notice. We shun those tasks that go unseen. Listen friends—that self-centered attitude is not in the template! To be a true disciple of Jesus must be content with whatever task He gives us—knowing that in His eyes no one is more loved than another...and that “seconds” are just as valuable as “firsts!”

In the late fifteenth century, Albrecht Durer and his friend Franz Knigstein were studying to be artists. Their art lessons suffered though because they were spending too much time working trying to eke out a living. So, by drawing lots they decided that Albrecht would study art full time while Franz would spend all of his time working to support the two of them. Then, when Albrecht had completed his studies and was successful they would reverse places. Albrecht would then work while Franz studied art. Well, Albrecht finished his course, and eventually his work was acclaimed. He then returned to change places with his friend. But when he arrived, he discovered what a great sacrifice Franz had made for him. He had worked at such arduous manual labor that his fingers and his sensitive hands had become permanently crippled. It was no longer possible for him to ever become an artist, but there was no bitterness in his heart. His happiness was in the joyous knowledge that he had made Albrecht’s successful career as an artist possible. One day Albrecht saw Franz kneeling, his rough and gnarled hands clasped in silent prayer. As he listened he heard his friend praying for his continued success as an artist. Albrecht captured that image in his mind and later he began to sketch those rough hands. Out of that preliminary drawing came what is perhaps Albrecht’s most famous painting, simply but movingly entitled, Praying Hands. I think we should salute Franz Knigstein, who worked behind the scenes making possible the remarkable work of Albrecht Durer, for without Knigstein, Durer might never had been an artist. And...without Andrew there might never have been a Peter.

So if you ever feel unappreciated by your peers, even though you work hard for our Lord, then remember Andrew and countless others like him. Determine to stop worrying about public acclaim. Remind yourself that authentic Christ-followers learn to die to self. They play for an audience of One. As 1 Cor. 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This won’t be hard because when you encounter Christ like Andrew did—when you spend time with our Lord—your joy will be found in doing His will—whatever it is. As Jesus said,“whoever will be great among you, shall be your servant: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” (Matthew 20:26)

When we serve with this attitude we show that we ARE in relationship with Jesus—that He is rubbing off on us because as Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

So—to review—according to our template for discipleship—authentic Christ followers: spend time with Jesus...they are content with whatever task Jesus gives them and then we see one more aspect of discipleship in this text:

(3) Growing Christ-followers have a constant DESIRE to tell others about Jesus.

We see this in the fact that the first thing both Andrew and John did after they met Jesus was to find their brothers and tell them all about Him. Philip’s first action was the same. After meeting Jesus he immediately went to his friend Nathaniel and invited him to come and see Jesus. This shows that a genuine encounter with the Christ will produce in us a yearning to tell others...and the better we know Him, the deeper this yearning will be. We’ll realize that the story of Jesus is good news that people need to hear! My first semester of seminary I was single—Sue wasn’t in the picture yet. I had a friend named Roger Lee who was also single and we spent a lot of time commiserating over the fact that we were enrolled in a school where single women were rare indeed. Well, I went home for Christmas that year and met Sue and fell head over heels in love...and when I got back on campus the first thing I did was find Roger and tell him all about her. She was—and still is—so wonderful that I just had this deep desire to tell Roger—and everyone who would listen—all about this person I had met. Well, this is similar to what happens when we meet Jesus. That meeting...ignites a desire in us to tell others about Him. It’s like the woman at the well. Once she met Jesus, this woman who had spent years AVOIDING people ran to everyone in town saying, “Come, see a man Who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?!” (John 4:29)

Well, let me just stop and ask, “Do you remember having this desire to tell others about Jesus? Do you still have that excitement—that desire—or like so many Christ-followers have you suppressed that urge such that you no longer feel compelled to share your faith?”

The late Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ once said, “Millions of surveys which we have helped to take around the world indicate that approximately 98% of the Christians do not regularly introduce others to the Savior.” In other words, they’ve stopped following this “discipleship template!” One way we tend to rationalize away this desire is by telling ourselves that the best way to tell others about Jesus is through big revival campaigns—like those done by people like Billy Graham. We look at the thousands who come down the aisles at crusades like that and think our individual sharing is pointless.

Well, the fact is, mass conversions, like what happened when Peter preached at Pentecost are rare. Great movements of people coming to Christ are usually one by one. And evangelists like Billy Graham know this—which is why his revivals have been so effective. You see, his campaigns are based on stirring up individuals to invite their lost friends. They come and hear the gospel and respond but each of those thousands of conversions begins with a single Christ-follower inviting a lost friend to “come and see.” As Bright also said,“70% to 90% of persons who join any church in America come through the influence of a friend, relative or acquaintance. No amount of theological expression from the pulpit can overcome a lack of invitational expression from the pew.” Your individual witness is far from pointless so don’t stifle the desire to tell others about Jesus!

In his book Unchurched Harry and Mary, Lee Strobel makes the following observations about the 55-78 million adults in our nation who are unchurched. His comments are based on work by the Barna Research group and the Gallup pole.

Observation #1 - Harry and Mary have rejected church, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have rejected God. 91% of American women and 85% of men say they pray.

Observation #2 - People are morally adrift, but secretly they want an anchor. They are looking for something to believe in that will give their lives a real center.

Observation #3 - They don’t just ask, “Is Christianity true?” Often they ask “Does Christianity work?”

Observation #4 - They don’t just want to know something. They want to experience it.

Observation #5 - Harry and Mary don’t want to be somebody’s project, but they would like to be somebody’s friend. Mechanical witnessing will usually not reach them but one-on-one relational evangelism will.

I share these observations so that you will see that people in your realm of influence: co-workers, neighbors, barbers, family members—they want to hear the good news you’ve been commissioned to share. They are open to your witness. They want to know God. They want something to build their lives on. They want to hear your testimony about how Christianity WORKS. They want to meet Jesus—and all the crusades in the world won’t be as effective as your sharing!

William Barclay tells a story about how, at the turn of the century, Thomas Huxley, the great agnostic, was attending a party at a country mansion. In those days the wealthy would invite friends to come and stay with them for several days after the party. Sunday came around, and most of the guests prepared to go to church. Very naturally, Huxley did not get ready. Instead, he approached a man known to have a simple and radiant Christian faith. Huxley said to him, “Suppose you don’t go to church today. Suppose you stay at home and you tell me quite simply what your Christian faith means to you and why you are a Christian.” “But” said the man, “You could demolish my arguments in an instant. I’m not clever enough to argue with you.” Huxley said gently: “I don’t want to argue with you. I just want you to tell me simply what this Christ means to you.” The man stayed at home and simply told Huxley about his relationship with Jesus. When he had finished there were tears in the great agnostic’s eyes as he said, “I would give my right hand if only I could believe that.” There are millions of Huxley’s out there—your friends—who need to hear about your experience with Jesus—people who long to know God loves them. Does that fact light a desire in your heart to tell them? Did God just put the name of a person in your mind—someone you know is not a Christ-follower—someone who needs to hear your witness? Listen—you don’t have to wow them with theological facts and doctrine. You just have to say, “Come and see! Come—let me tell you what Jesus means to me.” God will do the rest.

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