Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, January 22, 2022
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"To Be A Disciple..."

John 1:29-42

John chapter 1 just a flurry of activity. It begins with that grand theological discourse on the identity and work of Jesus. There’s the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus. And there are the stories of the first disciples. It’s a rather breathless chapter in all that it encompasses.

But if we slow down, we can see and appreciate that these stories have a lot to say about discipleship, what it means to follow Jesus.

John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John would be familiar with lambs, of course. His father was a priest, and every day, two lambs were offered as sacrifices for the sins of the nation, one in the morning, and one in the evening. But as the author of Hebrews points out, these sacrifices could not really take away sin. Otherwise, why would they have to be offered again and again? They must have been looking forward to a sacrifice that would be effective to take away sin.

There were also the lambs offered at Passover, in remembrance of how the angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites when he went through the land of Egypt. We think Passover was coming soon since it happens early in John chapter 2. In that case, the lamb was a salvation from death.

And there were prophetic words about a lamb, as well. In Isaiah 53, the prophet said, “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” And “He will bear all their sins.” The prophet Jeremiah said in chapter 11, “I was led like a lamb to the slaughter. I had no idea they were planning to kill me. They said, ‘Let’s destroy this man and all his works, so his name will be forgotten forever.’”

To be a disciple means we must acknowledge Jesus’ identity. From verse 29 through the end of the chapter, there are a number of different titles, names, and descriptions of Jesus: Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, One who is far greater than I am, One who existed long before I did, One on whom the Spirit rested, the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, the Son of God, Rabbi, Messiah, the One Moses and the prophets wrote about, the King of Israel. There may be some others in there, as well.

Who is Jesus? If he is the Son of God, Savior, Messiah, then we should follow him. If he is not, if he’s just a teacher, just a good guy, just someone with some good ideas, then it makes no difference whether or not we follow him. But we each must decide for ourselves who he is. And if we find he is the Son of God, then we dare not do anything except follow him.

The next day, John the Baptist sends two of his own disciples off to follow Jesus. That was an unusual thing for a rabbi to do. It required humility. It required acknowledging that another is greater than self, which is not something any of us ever likes to do.

They follow Jesus, and he asks them, “What do you want?” It might sound simple, but it can also be a profound question. What do we want from Jesus? Because some things he will give us, and others he will not.

People were looking for different things in the first century Hebrew world. The Pharisees wanted precision; they wanted to know exactly what to do in each and every conceivable situation. The priests wanted ritual; to maintain the traditions that had been handed down through the centuries. The Sadducees wanted positions of power and influence. The Zealots wanted bloody revolution. And the Essenes, the desert monks of the first century, wanted escape. They wanted to get away from the world and live a life of holiness and seclusion. Everyone wanted something, and some of them were things Jesus would not give.

What do we want? Do we want wealth and ease? Do we want peace and purpose? Do we want salvation? Do we want to be comfortable? Do we want an insurance policy? Some things he’ll give, and others he will not.

To be a disciple, you must be convinced that Jesus is able to offer something good and that he can do good works in our lives.

“Where are you staying?” they ask Jesus. A roundabout question like this was polite, according to the rules of hospitality. They’re asking to stay with him, to spend time with him, and learn from him. But they can’t come out and ask, “Can we go with you and stay with you?” because that was considered rude.

“Come and see,” Jesus says.

A disciple follows Jesus and seeks to learn from him through intimate fellowship. We can’t be a disciple without a commitment to learn and grow. The Greek word disciple meant “learner.” Are you willing to put the time into learning from Jesus? Will you read his word? Will you spend time in prayer? Will you spend time with others learning what it means to follow him? If not, then you can’t be a disciple.

“It was about 4 PM.” That’s the kind of eyewitness detail that would be remembered by someone who was there. One of these disciples was Andrew, and the other was apparently John, the Gospel writer. They spend the night with Jesus, and by morning, they have learned enough to convince them to stick with him.

Andrew goes to find his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus. Jesus says to him, “You are Simon, but you will be called Cephas.” Cephas was the Aramaic name that meant “rock,” just as the Greek version of that name, Peter. Often in Scripture, a change of name indicates a new relationship with God. And I think it also indicates that Jesus not only sees who we are but who we can become. Simon was a hothead, impetuous, often boastful, and often didn’t live up to his boasts. But in time he became Peter, a rock, a reliable person who could lead the Church and help others to know Christ.

A disciple is also someone who shares the good news of Jesus and invites others into relationship with him. John the Baptist told his own disciples to go learn from Jesus. Andrew shared him with his brother. Andrew serves as a good model for evangelism in John’s Gospel. He basically only shows up three times in the Gospel, and every time he is bringing someone to meet Jesus. And often, that’s all it means to evangelize: Tell others who Jesus has been to you and invite them to meet him for themselves.

There is no such thing as a private discipleship of Jesus. To follow Jesus is to be obedient to his command to share the good news and to make disciples of all nations.

So to summarize, what does it mean to be a disciple? First a disciple makes a decision about who Jesus is. Second, a disciple is convinced that Jesus is worthy of following and that he can do good works in our lives. Third, a disciple commits to following Jesus, learning from him, and being obedient to him. And finally, a disciple commits to sharing Jesus with others. There’s more to say about discipleship, of course, but that’s certainly a good start.

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