John Lesson 4 - The Test
Christ makes it very clear in the Gospels that if we want to be His disciples, we have to be His disciples for the right reasons. He isn't going to follow our desires or our wills or our dreams. He wants to conform our desires and our wills and our dreams to His. So in this message Stephen reminds us that although discipleship is free it will cost us everything.
Imagine starting a corporation that you knew one day would employ several million people all around the world. Furthermore, your company would be guaranteed a thriving business for at least 2,000 years. What makes it even more exciting is that this business is your brainchild. And it will actually touch the lives of every single human being. Now, keep imagining . . . you have conceived of and created this incredible operation. But all the while, you somehow knew that in three years you would turn the day to day enterprise over to your subordinates, even though they had served under you for approximately 38 months. What would you think of that? Probably not very much!
Well, set aside your imagination and consider the fact that Jesus Christ would start a ministry that would eventually touch the lives of millions of people all around the world. He had approximately three years to give his subordinates the training they needed. He knew all along that He was scheduled to physically leave planet earth after only about 38 months of training them to carry on the enterprise.
Now, if you were the Creator of the church, and you knew that in less than 4 years you'd be turning your mission over to your disciples, just what kind of disciple would you be looking for.
Suppose you drew up a test. A test that would reveal just who exactly would make the final cut - what would the questions be like?
I happen to believe that if we were to devise that test, the questions would sound a lot like these:
- What are this candidates past achievements for God?
- Has this individual been recognized for outstanding leadership quality?
- Is there proof that, while they are strong leaders, they are at the same time team players who would rather work with and through others rather than by themselves?
- Does this candidate remain composed and collected under adverse circumstances?
- Do they have a proven track record with people skills, administration and leadership motivation?
- Are they loyal to the enterprise and place priority on its success rather than personal advancement?
And so on!
Well, make no mistake, Jesus Christ is about to choose His first disciples and even though He none of them questionnaires, you are about to discover that Jesus Christ did indeed put together a test . . . of sorts.
And you will discover that His questions are far different than the ones we would naturally select.
As we work through the questions that Jesus implicitly asked these future disciples, consider for yourself what your own answers might have been, if He had interviewed you 2000 years ago.
Question #1: “Since you want to be my disciple, what are you actually looking for?”
John 1:35-38 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked upon Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (Literally, “Look, there He is!”) 37. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38. And Jesus turned and beheld them following and said to them, “What do you seek?”
You could translate this, "What exactly are you after?"
Now we know that Andrew and John, the names of these two disciples, were serious about following Christ because of the words in the text, “and they followed Jesus” (verse 37).
The word translated “followed” is used elsewhere in the New Testament for committed discipleship. However, the same Greek word (akolouqew; aloloutheo) is also used of those whose interest and commitment was only temporary. A temporary interest in following Christ, but for all the wrong reasons.
An illustration of these “temporary disciples” is found in John 6:2. After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and a great multitude was following (akolouqew) Him, because they were seeing the signs which He was performing on those who were sick.” In other words, “Jesus was more exciting than the circus . . you won’t believe the fascinating things He’s doing . . . c’mon, let’s follow Him!”
It’s interesting that when Jesus spelled out what it really meant to follow Him, these whimsical, fickle disciples quickly changed there minds!
By the time you come to the end of John chapter 6, the Gospel writer records in verse 66, As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore."
So, back in chapter 1, when Jesus turned and saw Andrew and John following Him, He asked them their first test question of a true disciple: “What do you really want from me?”
- Are you ambitious opportunists, looking for position and power?
- Are you nationalists, looking for a military commander to smash Rome?
- Are you looking for some formula for success?
- Are you seeking happiness and comfort?
- Are you sick or hungry and think I’ll be you’re meal ticket to health?
Ask yourself the same question, “Just why are you following Jesus?”
Is it because He works better than antacid?
Or you want fire insurance from hell when you die?
Or You think He'll double your money or erase all your problems?
Or perhaps, He’s good for your business reputation?
To all would be fickle disciples, would you believe that following Christ is not enough! You must follow him for the right reasons.
To follow Christ for your own purposes is, in reality, asking Christ to actually follow you! To fulfill your mission! To do your will!
So, Jesus asked these two men this powerful question, "You want to be my disciple . . . why?!
Notice Andrew and John’s response to the Lord in chapter 1:38, 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.
This short verse or two reveals that these disciples were interested in more than Jesus’ address. They were actually asking, "Where is Your dwelling place?” In other words, “We'd like to be able to sit down with you and ask questions and get answers. . .we want to get to know you!”
I wish the Bible recorded for us that lengthy afternoon conversation. It doesn't. But it does give us the result! One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. he found first his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus . . . (John 1:40-42)
This is no fickle disciple looking for a quick cure or a fast fix. He became convinced that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah and he ran to find his brother Peter and tell him the great news.
By the way, Andrew is the man who was always introducing other people to Jesus. He is the kind of individual who will set a city on fire for Jesus Christ while everybody else is still looking around for matches.
Furthermore, the only three times in the Gospels where Andrew is brought to center stage is when he's introducing someone to Jesus (John 6:1-9; 12:20-22)!
Andrew will never spend much time in the limelight though. He will constantly be referred to as Simon Peter's brother. On the day of Pentecost he will listen to his brother preach. Even though he was the first disciple called by Christ, he would not be the most significant. He wouldn’t be included in the closest circle of Jesus' disciples.
That didn’t seem to matter to Andrew. He was happiest putting people in front of the Messiah, instead of himself.
Some people won't play in the band unless they get to beat the drum. Not Andrew. He's just thrilled he’s found the Messiah, and he wants everybody else to find Him too.
Notice what Andrew says to Peter - "We have found the Messiah" (Verse 41)
The Greek word translated “found” was used by the Greeks for someone who found hidden treasure. It’s actually the word from which we get the English word, eureka! (eurhkamen; eurekamen)
Dear friends, has it ever occurred to you that the more precious you consider your discovery of Jesus Christ, the higher your priority in sharing Him with others.
If you don't consider Him significant - you won't consider Him worth sharing!
Just imagine digging in your back yard one day. Perhaps you're planting a tree or some flowers. You overturn some sod and a small fountain of water shoots upward. Some of the water falls on brown dry grass and to your amazement the grass quickly turns green and fresh. Your eyes follow the water as it trickles toward your flower garden and immediately wilted flowers stand upright and blossom. You run into your house and grab a cup, fill it up take a sip. Immediately you feel refreshed and invigorated. You dash into the house, look into the mirror and some of your wrinkles have turned into smooth skin. To put it bluntly, you've discovered the fountain of youth. Eureka!
Would you share it with your best friend? Would you give a sip immediately to your children and close friends? Would you tell your mother or father who are dying of old age. Or would you cover up that fountain of youth with dirt and never whisper a word?!
Depends on how valuable you considered the benefit of your discovery.
Are you telling anyone about the Fountain of Life?
One survey conducted a number of years ago found that on any given Sunday morning, 1 out of every 4 people surveyed would willingly attend a church service if they were invited by a friend. For Americans alone, that number represents the fact that 20 million more people would be in church this Sunday if they were given a personal invitation!
Every study of evangelism effectiveness reveals the same answers: 85% or more of all the people who come to faith in Jesus Christ are brought to Christ by someone they already trust.
You know who Andrew is, and everyone like him? They are people who just can't keep Jesus Christ to themselves. They have discovered the Fountain of Life and they can’t keep it a secret!
The second test question for those who wish to be disciples:
2) Do you really want to be radically changed?
John 1:42. He [Andrew] brought him [Simon Peter] to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which translated means Peter).
The word translated "looked" (eubleyaV; eublepsas) describes a concentrated, intent gaze. You could amplify the phrase to read, “Jesus not only looked at him, but he looked right through him."
And then, Jesus Christ exercised his authority over Simon by saying in effect, "I'm going to change your name."
It was not uncommon to change your name, even as an adult. Often the new name reflected some quality or personality trait that the individual displayed.
The Lord said to Simon, “I'm going to change your name to Cephas (Aramaic), or Peter, from the Greek word Petros which means, “rock”.
Strong. . . steadfast . . . unmovable . . . consistent . . . controlled!
It isn't any surprise to me that Peter didn't say anything. He was speechless! And that's unique for Peter you know. Peter seemed to be never without words. He was constantly opening his mouth if only to change feet.
And he was anything but rock-like. Peter was the emotional outburst waiting to happen. He was the one whose tongue became engaged before his brain did. Peter was the man who would constantly battle with temper and ambition and inconsistency.
He was anything but a rock!
So, the question was not, “Peter, do you want to become one of Jesus' disciples?” No! The real question was, "Peter, do you want to be radically changed?"
We have far too many would be disciples who excuse their selfishness and inconsistency with a quick, “That’s just the way I am.” Well, mark it down my friend, Jesus Christ never offers any excuse for you, nor will He accept any from you!
If you truly desire to follow Jesus Christ, you can expect Him to clean up your language. You can expect him to harness your temper and make you into that person the Spirit lives in and through. You can expect to see evidences of the Holy Spirit called the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...” (Galatians 5:22, 23) It’ll take a life time by the way. You’ll never completely become the finished product until you stand complete before Christ (Philippians 1:6)
Once someone came upon Michelangelo chipping away with his chisel at a huge shapeless piece of rock. He asked the sculptor what he was doing, "I am releasing the angel imprisoned in this marble," he answered.
What about Peter. Did he radically change over a life time of discipleship. Did this impetuous, quick tempered man ever reveal kindness and gentleness?
Listen as Peter, now an old man, wrote, “To sum it up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, (doesn’t sound like the same Peter who swore at a servant girl by the fire or swung a sword at a man’s head in the garden!) or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing, for let him who means to love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile. (I Peter 3:8, 9)
Did Peter learn the importance of humility? Oh, was young Peter ever proud and filled with egotistical self-confidence. Remember? “Lord, everybody will fall away from you but not me; I'm made out of better stuff than the rest of these guys.” (cf. Matthew 26:31-35)
But listen now to an older, wiser Peter write, “and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble; humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”
(I Peter 5:5-7)
Thankfully for Peter and us, his failures weren't fatal. He did indeed evidence the fruit of the Spirit as he grew up in Christ.
Like Peter, you need to understand that if you want to be Christ’s true disciples, He will insist on placing you in the process of radical change.
Test Question #3: Will you follow me over the long haul!
John 1:43. The next day he purposed to go forth into Galilee, and He found Philip, and Jesus said to him, "Follow Me."
Now this is only one brief phrase, yet it speaks volumes.
The imperative tense of the Greek verb could be translated, "Keep on following me." Or, "Follow me over the long haul Philip."
That was critically important to a man like Philip. Why? Because Philip took a long time to catch on to spiritual truth. That wasn’t because he lacked intelligence; it was because he lacked faith!
You see, to Philip, facts and figures were the issue, not faith. Yet Christ wanted
And Christ wanted to develop faith in Philip that would take him over the long haul of discipleship and ministry.
Did you know that the only time Jesus ever asked advise from his disciples was when he was surrounded by 5,000 hungry people. We refer to that incident as “The feeding of the five thousand”. (John 6:1-14)
Jesus turns to Philip and asks him, “Where are we to buy bread, that these people might eat?” (John 6:5)
Philip never responded to Jesus question "where" but instead he got out his calculator, tallied up the money Judas was carrying and finally announced, “Lord, we don't have enough money.”
After observing Jesus turn water into wine; even after watching Jesus heal the sick, he still missed the point. The point was not how much money they had with them. The point was how much power Christ had within Him.
Then again, later in the upper room near the end of Christ's earthly ministry, Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” At this point the Lord rebuked him for his slowness and blindness when He responded to Philip, “Have I been so long with you and you still don't know Me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-9)
Philip just didn't get it! Because he just couldn't see it!
But Jesus never knocked him out of the flock! Hey, you're just not quick enough on your spiritual lessons."
Oh no. . .I can't help but believe that many times, flustered, flabbergasted, frustrated Philip remembered the very first words that Jesus spoke to him when he put his hand on his shoulder and said, "Philip, follow me and don't ever stop following me to the very end." (verse 43).
One of the amazing things to me is how different all the disciples were. They were different socially, economically, emotionally. They had different tastes and preferences. . .they were the first illustration of any new Testament church.
I think of any church congregation - how different people are from each other.
Some love the sounds of Beethoven and Bach. . .if only church were more formal! Others like music with a twang and a twitch; some don't really like music at all and retort that the church needs less singing and longer sermons (they are pastor’s favorites!).
Some can't imagine watching three hours of football, but can certainly watch three hours of tennis, or play three hours of monopoly or stand in some swollen stream for three hours with a fishing rod and catch absolutely nothing but mosquito bites and yet talk about how wonderful it was. We’re all different!
Some are red hot zealots while others are slow calculators, some say go, others say no while many never say anything at all!
How can we possibly work together? It happens when we stop looking at each other and follow Jesus Christ . . . over the long haul!
When I consider these early disciples, think of the different contributions they made.
There's Peter - quick to speak. We have no recorded words from the lips of Philip after the Lord ascended to the Father. But Peter never stopped talking.
Then there's John, the brilliant author and church leader. Compare him to Philip who never wrote a book. We have no record that he ever even started a church.
What we do have from tradition is rather impressive though. Philip continued in a variety of ways to serve the risen Lord. He died a martyrs death for his stand. Tradition records that he was hung upside down - his thighs and ankles pierced so that he would slowly bleed to death.
Oh how the words of Jesus must have encouraged him in those last moments as he remembered the Lord saying, "Philip, keep on following me . . . to the end."
It's the long haul that develops disciples - not the short sprint!
Question #4 for would be disciples: If you want to be my disciple, are you willing to be totally exposed and honest with me?
Notice further in John’s account of Nathaniel introduction and call by Jesus; 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. And Nathanael said to him, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:45, 46)
Seems like a biased thing to say doesn't it? But not really. Nazareth was in fact a wicked city that had little room for God -how in the world would the Messiah come out of Nazareth.
Nathanael’s surprise that the Messiah could come from Nazareth was based on the reputation of this wicked region. The Bible records for us that Nazareth was the first city to respond to Jesus' claims with a violent reaction. After only hearing Jesus preach one sermon, they attempted to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-30)!
Philip only responded to Nathanael’s cynicism by saying to him, “Come and see." (verse 46)
Philip was wise. He didn't argue, push or prod. It’s good to remember that no one has ever been argued into Christianity. Philip simply said, "Come and see."
Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is not guile” (verse 47).
The word “guile” is the Greek word doloV (dolos) used elsewhere for “bait” or “trap”. It was used to refer to a person who had moral integrity. In other words, Nathanael was not an opportunist with deceitful intentions.
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."
Now follow carefully what Jesus Christ just revealed about Himself.
To the Jews the fig tree was a place of peace. When a man could be undisturbed under his own fig-tree, he was considered truly at rest. Furthermore, the fig-tree was leafy and shady and it was their custom to sit and meditate under the protection and cool shade of its branches. In fact, sitting under a fig tree was a euphemism during Christ’s day for "spiritual meditation". It seems that Nathaniel had been meditating and resting under his fig tree, just before Philip arrived!
In this one introductory comment to Nathanael, Jesus revealed his omniscience. He said to Nathaniel, in effect, “I saw you before Philip came to you - you were under the fig-tree.” The further revelation Christ’s words implied, “I even knew what you were thinking about.”
Many Bible scholars believe that Jesus actually implied Nathaniel had been meditating on the story of Jacob and the ladder from heaven. They gather that from Christ’s later comment to Nathanael, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (verse 51).
What did this mean? It meant that Jesus had seen Nathanael under his fig tree just before he was brought to Christ. It also meant that Jesus knew what Nathanael had even been thinking about under those branches. And He promised Nathanael that future events would reveal more to him than even Jacob’s vision of the ladder where angels ascended and descended from the throne of God.
Is it any wonder that Nathanael answered Christ’s word with worship! “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel" (verse 49).
Does it encourage you or frighten you that Jesus Christ knows your inner secrets. That may be the bad news. . .the good new is that wherever you are today, Jesus sees you, and if your heart yearns for light and peace, He knows that too.
Take it to Heart
For those who want to answer the call and become a disciple of Christ:
-Are you willing to follow Jesus Christ for the right reasons?
List some of the wrong reasons people follow after the Lord:
What are some godly reasons for following after Christ:
-Are you willing to be radically changed?
What are some ways God wants to change you in the near future:
-Are you willing to follow Him over the long haul?
What are some of the things that keep people from following Christ:
What things consistently pull you away from following Christ as you should:
-Are you willing to be open and honest with Jesus Christ?
Is there anything about your life that you would be ashamed if Christ confronted you with it face to face?
May I encourage you to pray right now and confess those things, thoughts and actions to the Lord. Remember, He can see you under your “fig tree” at this very moment. He already knows. He has already seen.
Be honest with Him . . . and watch as He makes a true disciple out of you!
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