John 1:43-51- The Call to be a Follower of Jesus
Philip didn’t find Christ. Christ found Philip. T he truth at the heart of the Christian story is not that you and I have found Christ, but Christ has found us. We did not decide for God. God decided for us. And the narrative that runs throughout the Bible is of a God who constantly seeks out his people. And that’s the case right from the beginning of Scripture. If you remember in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, realised they were naked and were embarrassed, so they hid. And, in verse 8, God is walking in the garden and looking for Adam and Eve and in verse 9: “But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” Right from the beginning of time, God has been seeking us out and finding us.
So let us never think that we chose God: he has chosen us! As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:4: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…” And this is important because the knowledge that God has sought us out, rather than vice versa, is crucial in keeping us humble before God. Even our own faith is not our own decision!
And once Jesus finds Philip, he issues a single command: “Follow me”. Put Jesus as number one in our lives: that is what is demanded of us as Christians. Philip is compelled to follow Jesus – and leaves all else behind: his work, his family, his possessions, his ambitions. It all has to go when we follow Christ. Jesus, when he calls us to follow him, does not give us any Get-Out clauses. As someone once said, “He is Lord of all, or not at all”.
Following Jesus is a radical commitment that demands every aspect of our being. Of course we get it wrong from time to time and fall short of the ideal – but the intention of radical discipleship should always be before us. Second, we notice what Philip did when he set out to follow Jesus: Did he go on an Alpha Course? No. Did he join a church? No. Did he get baptised? No. The first thing he did, according to John, was find his brother Nathanael and tell him about Jesus!
The first rule of being a disciple of Jesus is very simple: Tell other people about Jesus! And what is so lovely, I think, is that Philip didn’t have any great learning and yet he was really effective in being an evangelist for Jesus. I’ve just said how God finds us, not the other way round, but look what Philip says to Nathanael: “We have found him about whom Moses in the law wrote…” Well, Philip’s theology isn’t very good: Jesus found him, he didn’t find Jesus! But, nevertheless, he is effective in bringing Nathanael to Jesus.
So often, we think we can’t tell other people about Jesus because we don’t know enough or we don’t know our Bibles well enough…but none of that matters. We don’t need to be theologians to be effective. We just need to be passionate for Jesus, and he will do the rest! So firstly, to be a follower of Jesus means to be found by him. Secondly, to be a follower of Jesus means to tell others about him. Thirdly, to be a follower of Jesus means keeping on going despite the knocks. Nathanael’s response to Philip is not particularly encouraging, is it? “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip had come running over to Nathanael, passionate about sharing this good news about Jesus, only to be met with a really cynical response.
Sometimes, when we tell people about Jesus, we are met with cynicism or rudeness or apathy and it can be really discouraging and it can knock our self-confidence. But when it happened to Philip, he didn’t get into some theological debate about the merits of Nazareth as a geographical region or its place within the salvation history of Israel, or anything like that…He just said to Nathanael, “Come and see!” And, when it comes to evangelism, that’s all we need to keep saying: “Come and see!” We don’t need to get involved in heavy theological debates. “Don’t take my word for it. Come and see!” – and let God do the rest.
Now, there is a real challenge to us here as a church, because there is a rhetorical question for us to answer: if people do “Come and see”, what will they find? Will people receive a warm welcome here? Will they get a sense of God changing lives? Will they have an experience of worship that gives them access to God? Will they go away with a sense of excitement that something is happening here?
Being a disciple means being found by God. Being a disciple means telling others about him. Being a disciple means not losing confidence when the message is not always welcomed. Being a disciple means receiving peace and blessing from God.
Think on these things!