Following and Being Led —John 1:35-41
Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 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. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 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.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
How do men find God? In our passage a network of people pick up on news spread by a couple of John the Baptist’s former followers: “We have found the Messiah.” Before long Jesus’s ministry has grown to five. But had these men found God? The scriptures tell us that whatever men think, in reality, God finds them:
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. (John 6:44)
There is an invisible and powerful backstory to each of our relationships with God. Theologians call it prevenient grace: a divine grace that precedes human decision. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. It means that whenever I am moving toward God by choice, I am actually responding to the One drawing me. It means the thoughts and circumstances preceding my choice were His wooing.
This is one of those realities that makes our prayers and songs begging God to draw near quite absurd. We might feel lonely or feel abandoned, but perhaps we shouldn’t respond by pleading with God for something He has already accomplished. Perhaps we should take a reality inventory and, by faith, discount our feelings and align our thinking with what actually is. God has never left us. In fact, even in the troubling and disorienting moments He is fully present just as He was yesterday and will be forevermore.
Once upon a time, I worked very hard to maneuver others so I could look at them eye to eye, tell them the gospel, and pop the question, “Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your heart?” Looking back on those days as a fisherman, it was as if you could stick anything on the hook and the fish would bite—even on a shallow presentation of the Gospel. I was one of those fish. Did the fish quit biting, or did I just quit fishing? Regardless, God is still casting for men.
I’m still fishing, too, but my bait is much different. It’s no longer a patented presentation, though that lure is still in my tackle box. I haven’t touched it for years now. My lure of choice these days is Jesus Himself. In the mysterious dynamic of men moving toward God, in which our will is somehow involved yet subordinate to God’s drawing, I believe the best lure today is something very much like what I see in this passage: “Ok, you want to find God? Excellent. Come and see Him.”
Where I perceive God is drawing a person, I simply pass along Jesus’ invitation, “Come and you will see.” If you follow this lure with an honest heart, far at all, what you’ll see is that you’re being drawn. I am not too big on trying to snag fish with patented gospel presentations these days. I want people to taste the bait for themselves and see that He is good. They need to come and personally discover that, out of a crazy powerful love, God is present and intimately involved in all the affairs of our lives. In our taking the bait, we need to surrender to this love. As he holds us in the powerful currents of his grace, we are transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
The Blue Book is one of the best invitations I have come across, and I believe it is one of God’s favorite lures. It’s been extremely successful in drawing men to Him in the waters I fish.
All glory, power, and honor be unto Him, forevermore. Amen.