SESSION THREE: JESUS' FIRST DISCIPLES (JOHN 1:35-51)
INTRO: When you get some good news, who is the first person (other than your spouse) that you want to share it with? Why?
- In light of verses 30-31, how do you think John felt when his disciples left him to follow Jesus? What does this say about John?
- What motivated the disciples of John to follow Jesus? What motivated Andrew to tell Simon about him?
- How do you think Simon felt when Jesus change his name to Cephas (meaning "tiny pebble")?
- What type of person is Nathaniel? Why might he find it hard to believe Philip's statement? Why would Jesus call Philip and Nathaniel in such different ways? How do you thin Nathaniel felt when Jesus spoke to him?
- Of the five people in verses 35-48 to follow Jesus: (a) How was the contact made for each one? (b) How much did each one know about Jesus when he decided to follow Jesus? (c) How does each decision for Christ illustrate the point of the prologue (vv. 1-17) about the light of John and the true light of Christ?
- What was your motive for initially following Jesus? What were the circumstances that led you do do so? How much did you know Jesus?
- Consider verse 48: In your life, how has Jesus shown his ability to know all about you?
TAKEAWAY: What is your greatest takeaway from this passage? What specific life changes do you need to make? How will you hold yourself accountable?
COMMENTARY: JESUS' FIRST DISCIPLES (JOHN 1:35-51)
JOHN'S DISCIPLES: "COME AND SEE"
The first two disciples of Jesus were actually disciples of John the Baptist? Does it surprise you? It shouldn't. John the Baptist was already content to play second fiddle to Jesus. He knew he was not the Messiah and when two of his disciples decided to follow Jesus, he had no problem pointing them to the Lamb of God.
Jesus, however, wanted to know these disciples' intentions. "What are you looking for?" he asked them. Jesus wanted to know WHY they were following him. Did they want holy answers and legalistic practices like the Pharisees? Did they want power and prestige like the Sadducees? Were they looking for a military commander like the Zealots? Where they humble men seeking to know God's way and truth?
The two disciples called Jesus "rabbi" or "great one." John helps his Greek readers to understand better by using the term "Teacher" (didaskolos). John notes an interesting and obscure detail about this incident. He says it's "four o'clock in the afternoon." At least one commentator suggests that only the AUTHOR would remember or cite such a detail. Could these two disciples of John the Baptist actually be James and John (author)? It's possible!
ANDREW AND PETER: "LITTLE ROCK"
Andrew is one of the more "shy" disciples, but his significance cannot be overstated. Andrew is Simon Peter's brother. They are fishermen on the sea of Galilee. He will introduce Peter to Jesus, and then fade into the background. Like John the Baptist, Andrew has no problem playing second fiddle. When Jesus creates his "inner three" (James, John, Peter) it would've been easy for Andrew to be angry and envious, but he's not. Andrew also is a "bringer." He brings Peter in our story. Later he'll bring a boy with his fish and bread lunch (John 6:8-9); and still later, he'll bring some inquiring Greeks (John 12:22). Andrew loves to bring people to Jesus. He loves to share the glory. And we should too.
When Jesus meets Peter he gives him a new Greek name: Peter (Petros). It literally means "little rock" or "pebble." The practice of a second name wasn't uncommon in first-century Greco-Roman culture. If you were Jewish, your birth name was in Aramaic, but often you were given a Greek name too (and usually the Greek name meant something special). For example, Thomas (Aramaic) is also known as Didymus (or "twin"). Another good example is Saul (Aramaic) and Paul (for "short"). In this case, Jesus gives Peter the nickname of "Rocky." He's not THE Rock (petra) but a little stone (petros). If he was a girl his name might better be "Pebbles!"
PHILLIP AND NATHANIEL: "COME AND SEE"
When a fifth disciple named Philip follows Jesus, he eventually goes to tell his friend Nathaniel. But Nathaniel is reticent. He doesn't believe. He's stuck by the fact Jesus is a Nazarene and "nothing good ever comes out of Nazareth." This was true. Nazareth had a soiled reputation for being populated by thugs, outlaws and fringe types. It's probably why Jesus picked two kids from Nazareth to parent Jesus. Nobody would expect that one coming.
It's interesting that Philip doesn't debate Nathaniel. He doesn't criticize his ignorance nor fight his feelings. He just says "come and see." Come and see that I'm not wrong! Just check it out for yourself. It's a great way to share Jesus with our friends and family. You don't need to have a theological degree. You just need to know where to take inquiring minds. For Philip that place was a person named Jesus. And Nathaniel soon agreed that Philip was right.
Nathaniel is not mentioned by the other gospel writers. And that leads many to speculate. Could he be an "ideal" rather than a real person? Some suggest he's Matthew because both names mean "gift from God." But a better solution is he's Bartholomew. John never mentions Bartholomew (while the other gospel writers do). Could Nathaniel be his Aramaic name and Bartholomew (Son of Ptoloemy) his Greek name? Could Nathaniel and Bartholomew, like Simon and Peter or Thomas and Didymus be one and the same person? It actually makes sense.
Discipleship. Fellowship. Prayer. WORSHIP.
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Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.