Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Life of Christ (1996-1998)

The Secret of Discipleship

John 1,2

So many of us are searching for the answer; so few of us are searching for the person who is the answer.

(John 1:35-51 NIV) 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."

Personal Relationship -- First Step

As I mentioned last week (not in notes, however) the first step in any personal relationship is to know who the other person really is. If I point to my wife and say, “That’s the bimbo I sleep with,” the relationship will soon cease to be the joy it is today. The basic reason is that I would then fail to recognize her as the person she truly is. Whether I fail at this because I am malicious or because I’m stupid is not really all that significant. Therefore, let us be careful to consider who Jesus really is. In this short passage we see a number of titles for Jesus of Nazareth; each gives us insight into who he really is.

Lamb of God: the phrase occurs only in John’s Gospel, but the concept is fundamental to the Bible. It takes our minds back to the Passover, the forerunner of Communion. The lamb was sacrificed; its blood spread on the doorpost, and the angel of death passed over that house. Jesus is the sacrifice that causes the angel of death to pass over us. For this sacrifice we are given eternal life.

Now, consider this: if someone does you an immense favor -- let’s say, he saves your life -- that action changes the relationship you have with that person. At the very least you should be grateful! More to the point, it becomes a positive pleasure to do something good for that person. You may never be able to “even the score” but even without it you feel obligated. That feeling is in fact a moral principle, and this is its highest point. (If you think not, consider how you would ever repay your parents).

Often, our inability to repay (have you ever been helped by an anonymous soul who was just passing by?) causes us to “pass it on.” We can’t repay the original, but we can carry on the debt to others, in a sense. This too is part of being a Christian.

Rabbi: the word is somewhat confusing for English speakers. In the Greek the word used is the root from which we get “didactic” -- it means a teacher. In the Hebrew, which is more significant here, it is a title meaning “My Master.” It comes from a Hebrew word which could best be translated “abundant.” The concept is one of a master teacher, overflowing with wisdom and knowledge, pouring this into a student.

The method is virtually unrecognized in modern society, but there is a common enough example. If you’ve ever been taught how to fish, you will recall that it did not happen in a classroom. One man shares his knowledge and love of fishing with another -- and that is a Rabbi in the real sense.

Messiah, or Christ: The words are the same (Hebrew and Greek, respectively) and mean “the anointed one.” If you will recall from the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed -- but always those with a mission. It is a statement which implies he has a mission, a task to accomplish. It also implies he is the chosen one of God (a similar title in Israel was “The Holy One of Israel.”) Like the word “holy,” it carries with it the idea of being set apart for a task.

Son of God: Strong’s Dictionary defines the root word used here as “son” to mean “any kind of kinship -- remote, immediate or figurative.” Curiously, the Greek word selected here by John carries some connotation of adoption. The matter is simply stated for us, and involves us deeply in the doctrine of the Trinity. It is sufficient for our relationship for us to realize that this man is, in some sense, “kin” to God. Later this will be amplified greatly. (It is exceedingly interesting that later in the Scripture we will also be described as sons of God, using this exact same word.)

King of Israel: This seems straightforward enough -- until you remember that Israel’s king at this point is an Idumean (Edomite) usurper, a puppet appointed by the Romans. The title is clearly indicative of the hopes of Israel -- that the house of David would be restored, that rule over Palestine would be restored to that house, and that the Day of the Lord had come. The application is premature. It is also extremely important for us, for it points out that this Jesus is destined to rule the entire universe.

Son of Man: The title (which is the most common which our Lord uses for himself) has a number of meanings:

·         it means that he is human, just as son of God means that he is divine.

·         it is a prophetic title, as in Daniel 7;13, meaning the conquering Messiah.

·         it is a title used to address the prophets (frequently in Ezekiel).

Taken together, these paint us the clear picture of Jesus, the Messiah.

The Call: “Follow Me”

If there is one thing that this section makes clear, it is that this relationship is personal. Indeed, it is “person to person to person.” One person carries the message of the good news to another, and on and on. There are three simple points in this;

1.    The call itself is personal. It is not a call to follow a system of doctrine, or a set of rules, or a tradition of exercises. It is a call to follow the person named Jesus. He lives, He calls, we follow. (Yet another reason to “judge not.”)

2.    The call is to “come and see.” Faith is not blind; it is based on evidence. But the evidence must be sought; it will not be handed to you. And ultimately you will not have proof, only evidence. For with proof there is no doubt; without doubt, there is no faith. Only when you involve your entire self, only when you “come and see,” can you know.

3.    When you do “come and see” He reveals even greater things. No one on the outside can fathom the wonders inside the faith.

We must now see the first miracle of Jesus: in it, we shall see discipleship in action

Water into Wine

(John 2:1-12 NIV) On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, {2} and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. {3} When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." {4} "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." {5} His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." {6} Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. {7} Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. {8} Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, {9} and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside {10} and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." {11} This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. {12} After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

Before we reach the real point of this little story, there are some side notes of interest. First, of all the people on earth, who knows Jesus best? Mary, his mother, of course. As far as we know Joseph is dead (hence Jesus commends her to John when on the cross). She alone knows him well enough to act in a sure and confident way around him. Her actions here are the picture of faith.

Next, note the jars. They are filled with water which is used for the ritual washing of hands. Jesus is superior to the ritual. He does not hesitate to use that which is set aside for “holy” uses and use it for the pleasure of man. It is the first instance of the casual nature in which he holds himself superior to the Law (especially as defined by man).

Finally, note the style of the miracle. Jesus has just been in the wilderness, where he was tempted to command the stones to become bread. Stones do not become bread; water becomes wine in the natural order of things. There is a divine style; the Son can only do what the Father has shown him to do.

Mary gives us three keys to discipleship here:

Obedience: The New American Standard captures the sense of the words a little better here: "Whatever He says to you, do it." Do you see what she has done? She has not argued with him; she did not try to make him feel obligated to her; she did not try to have him “show off” what he could do (though the context makes it clear that she knows of his miraculous abilities). Instead, she simply tells the servants to obey. She knows his response to obedience.

God-reliance: It is very significant what Mary does not do here. She does not attempt to tell him what to do. She states the problem for him and puts the servants at his disposal. She does not rely on her own wisdom for “the right answer” but rather relies on God’s wisdom. She is not, as we are so fond of being, “self-reliant.” She is God-reliant.

This does not mean “kick back and let God do it.” It means that she states the problem to Him, asks for help, and places all she can at his disposal.

Trust: The strongest temptation is presented to Mary here. That temptation is to stand around and supervise the young man at his work! She now exhibits the highest character: she trusts God for the result. She sets things in order as best she can, and then trusts him. How many of us can resist the temptation to play amateur providence and fix things on God’s behalf?

Summary

If I had to put this lesson in simplest words, it would be these:

·         Know who Jesus is -- for no relationship can be established without this.

·         Remember that the relationship involves all of you -- come and see!

·         Like Mary, we must trust and obey.

If you will see it, here is the secret of childlike faith.

·         A small child does not know what Dad is thinking, nor does he have to; he just knows who Dad is.

·         A small child follows his father naturally (indeed, sometimes you wish you could shake them off) and personally -- not a system of rules.

·         A small child naturally trusts his Father; and trusting, obeys for his own good.

There is great humility here. We as Americans are of the “I can do it myself” mentality. We need to know all the answers; we need to be self sufficient, and being self sufficient we trust no one and obedience is looked down on as weakness.

We can’t do it ourselves; we don’t know all the answers; we are not self-sufficient and we need to trust and obey.

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