14: Follow the Son to Find Life (John 1:35-42)
14: Follow the Son to find life
“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” John 1:35-37
It was so simple for John. He points people to Jesus. Then they leave John’s burgeoning open air revival meetings to be with The Lamb of God. Today it is two of his disciples. In the end it’s the crowds.
John has got to the point where he can probably draw thousands, certainly hundreds to hear him at any one time. From this point onwards those crowds probably dwindled away to a very few close disciples, as they rushed over to the latest ministry in town, which was at a level significantly above John’s.
John doesn’t seem at all bothered. This is what he came to do. When people have connected to Jesus, his job is done. That is quite remarkable.
There were many learned Bible scholars, teachers and preachers in the days of Jesus who were waiting for the Messiah. Most of them were absolutely, personally threatened by the popularity and purpose of Jesus’ ministry. That led to them adopting a cynical, proud, judgmental approach to Him. We all know where that ended up. They killed Him to maintain their own privileged position.
John the Baptist was the only one that encouraged his disciples to go and follow the One and Only. In the end, he was the only one who could submit his ministry and all those associated with it, to Jesus Christ.
This is sobering for us in ministry. We all want to believe that we would be like John the Baptist. That if Jesus personally came to town we wouldn’t just welcome Him but we would encourage our folk to go and join Him and not give way to jealousy or feeling threatened. We would be happy to end up with very few people, as long as those who left us were now with Jesus.
When Jesus comes to town in new ministries, what is our attitude to them? Are we suspicious, distanced, threatened? Do we like to hear reasons why there is something not quite right with them? Do we inside feel a bit of a glow of warmth when things don’t go so well for them?
God will test the heart of every minister, at some point and probably In many ways, to see if we are still stewards of His people and purpose, or if we have become owners of them.
When my wife Julia and I planted the South congregation of Gateway Church it was at the same time as a number of new ministries were beginning in the same City. The leaders concerned were around my age. One church grew quickly to over four hundred members, the other blossomed to a few thousand. The manifest presence of God was rich in both places. They weren’t just growing by transfer growth from other churches (although that happened in a big way) but they were also seeing people being miraculously saved and added to the churches.
We started with around sixty (a big number for a church plant) but many soon left as they realised it wasn’t going in the direction they wanted to go in. We had good folks and decent times of worship in the presence of the Lord, but it was a struggle. In ten years we had grown to over a hundred and fifty on Sunday morning, mostly through young Christian families that had moved into the City or area where we were. When eventually someone (a Chinese man) put up his hand during the gospel appeal, it turned out that far from being our first salvation, he thought he was indicating that he wanted a coffee. He did later give his life to Jesus, but it was a humorous indication of our struggles.
Week by week I would watch the other churches as they grew and seemingly prospered and struggled with all of the feelings of jealousy and being threatened that I outlined above. Thankfully I have a Pastor who has a uniquely strong, and humble, love for the Body of Christ and an equally unique gift and capacity to serve the purposes of God in the City beyond our own church. He, like all of us, has his own struggles in this, but has consistently demonstrated a willingness to battle through his own discouragements and temptations to bless, support and encourage other ministries in the City, even when they were attracting people from our own church.
He has taught me the value of having a heart like John the Baptist.
We all have our parts to play. We are all equally loved and equally necessary in the Body of Christ. But we always need to be ready to submit to what Jesus is doing and receive the gifts He sends into our neighborhoods, humbling ourselves to love and even serve them.
The Holy Spirit, through the apostle John is going to make sure we clearly understand this message by the time we have read this gospel. This is an essential part of the life that is in Christ for us. It is an absolute necessity if we are going to be the light to this world that Jesus wants us to be. The gospel writer makes sure that we see these principles in action right from the first ministry he highlights.
John the Baptist loved Jesus more than he loved his ministry and the honor and respect he received from the crowds. If it came to the crunch, he would lose it all, if it meant that people were really connecting with Jesus.
“Behold” he says again. This time it is not just for the sinners to hear. This is not just to draw people to the waters of baptism. This was also for his disciples to hear. To encourage them beyond the waters of baptism into a life of following Jesus above all others.
“ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” (John 1:37)
This attitude cost John his place as the top dog ministry in his area. It cost him his primary place of respect and honor amongst the regular people. It cost him almost all of the people that were following him and from this moment on his ministry (to our eyes) would take a downward spiral that would end in prison and doubt. No more influence and even struggling in his faith. He died there.
But he died a hero of the faith. He had done his job. He had stayed true to his call and when Jesus came into town, he was prepared to get out of the way and serve Him and encourage people to leave his own ministry to follow Him.
It was not that John did not have a hugely important ministry and didn’t have much to give. He had plenty to give his followers and disciples. He could preach, teach, exhort, encourage, rebuke, discipline and love people. It was that he couldn’t give them life. He could only prepare people and point them to the life. He knew the scope of his ministry, where it started and where it ended and he didn’t push beyond those God given boundaries to try and be something that he wasn’t.
The Holy Spirit through John the Apostle wants us to get this message. He will return to it later in this gospel.
This life is found in Jesus. In Jesus alone. But it is a life together in Him that submits to and serves Him and His purposes by submitting to and serving each other. When we are prepared to diminish, so that Jesus’ purpose in and through others may flourish, when we are able to do that with freedom and joy, then we are able to experience more of the fulness of life that is in the Son. If we are not able to do that, then we are denying ourselves and those we serve, something of the fulness of that life that is available for all of us in Christ.
As Christians we all have the option to respond well, like John the Baptist. In reality we have more capacity to do so than John, because as children of God we have the DNA of the Father given to us through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is in our new nature to respond this way. We just have to choose it over our old nature, the Adam in us, that still wants to rise up and serve our own selfish ambition rather than the will of God.
Even after Jesus had ascended into heaven, the apostles would still find people who had been touched by the ministry of the Holy Spirit through John the Baptist. They had put their lives right but had never met Jesus nor known that there was a Holy Spirit. At the end of the day, even during and after wonderful moves of God, the most important thing is that people “behold”, see, gaze upon, run after and connect with Jesus in a meaningful and life changing way.
“One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” (John 1:40)
It’s probably a small thing, but John only names one of the two disciples who left the Baptist to follow Jesus. Consistent with his whole gospel, he is only going to concentrate on specific individuals, this is not mean to be a comprehensive account of what happened.
At the end of the gospel he says that there were lots of other events that he could have written about.
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30).
However, he chose these particular ones as a summary “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
He wanted us to have enough evidence to believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, so that through believing we might have true, real, fulness of life in His name.
He is not interested in adding other people to the story just because they were there, he doesn’t want to distract the gaze away from Jesus. He’s not interested in adding other events just because they happened, he wants to focus on those that explain and reveal the life that is offered to us in Jesus.
This life is most found when we are prepared to diminish so that He may increase, however, wherever, whenever and through whomever He wants to do that.
Lord give us all the heart of John the Baptist!Posted on: May 23, 2018Peter Todd