Summary: The disciples became followers of Jesus when John the Baptist pointed Him out, however they only became true disciples when they were willing to leave everything.
From a Follower to a Disciple
In the early years of the first century the people of Israel were waiting for the Messiah to come. They were waiting for the person who the prophets had spoken of, to come and set the people free. A man then appeared in the wilderness. He started baptising people and calling them to repentance. There was a great excitement and people gathered to hear what he had to say. He made it clear however that he wasn’t the person that they were looking for, instead he was the one called to prepare the way. This man, of course, was John the Baptist.
John soon gathered around him a group of disciples, eager to listen to what he had to say. Amongst those would have been both the learned and the lay man, wanting to know what this new teaching was all about. The gospel of John goes on to tell us about two of those people who had gathered around John the Baptist. They were simple fishermen, but had an obvious hunger for Gods truth. They were waiting to see who John would identify as being the Christ. After being with John for a short time, John did exactly that and pointed out a man who came like all the others to be baptised. I want to look at how these men responded to Johns claim.
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.
36:When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
37:When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
38:Turning round, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
39:"Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
40:Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.
41:The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ).
42:And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
43:The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me."
44:Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
45:Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
46:"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip.
47:When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."
48:"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig-tree before Philip called you."
49:Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."
50:Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig-tree. You shall see greater things than that."
51:He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
Called to Follow:
Here we see the calling of the first disciples to Jesus before He begins His ministry. The disciples one by one, by different testimonies, put their faith in Christ. Jesus calls them to follow Him. Over the next three chapters we find that their belief in Jesus becomes stronger and stronger. Before I talk about that, I just want to expand upon a few things that happened during this encounter of Jesus and the disciples.
Firstly we see that after John the Baptist had identified who Jesus was, the two disciples had begun to follow Him. Jesus turned around and asked them ’what do you want?’ After all that John the Baptist had just said about Jesus this seemed quite a strange question. However Jesus knew that over the course of His ministry people were going to come to him for very different reasons, and He wanted to know what their motives were. He probably also wanted them just to stop and examine their own motives for a second.
There could have been many different reasons for the two disciples wanting to join Jesus. They knew from what John the Baptist had said that Jesus was important. They could have just wanted to be seen with Him so that they could look important also. They could have been like the Pharisees who were suspicious of Jesus, and only wanted to get close to Him, to discover what he was up to, and to spoil His plans. There could have been many other reasons and so Jesus asks them this very important question.