By Roy Ciampa, Ph. D.
Armstrong Chair of Religion, Samford University
SHARE CHRIST WITH YOUR NEIGHBOR
It is rare for any two people to come to faith in precisely the same way. In the Gospels, Jesus encountered each person in a personal way that connected with his or her specific needs and experiences. We who already know Christ need to trust Him to use our feeble attempts to introduce others to Him as a foundation He can build on to make Himself known to them in His way and time.
Love others by telling them about your experience with Christ. (40–42)
Andrew was one of John the Baptist’s early followers, and when he heard John identify Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” he began to follow Jesus (vv. 35–40). The first thing Andrew did was find his brother, Simon, and tell Simon the wonderful news that he had found the Messiah. The second thing Andrew did was bring Simon to Jesus so he could see for himself. Jesus gave Simon a new name: Cephas, or Peter (Cephas is Aramaic for “rock,” which rendered into Greek comes out as Peter).
Peter became the most prominent of Jesus’ disciples and was a key leader or “pillar” of the early church (see Acts 15 and Gal. 2:7–9). Peter was the first apostle to preach the gospel to Gentiles (non-Jews) and to baptize the first Gentile converts (see Acts 10). What if Andrew hadn’t made the effort and taken the risk in his relationship with Simon to tell him about Jesus?
Invite others to “come and see” about Jesus for themselves. (43–46)
When Jesus calls Philip to follow him, Philip finds Nathanael and tells him he and others have found the One who had been written about by Moses and the prophets. Philip probably has in mind the “prophet like me” Moses mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15, as well as various prophetic texts about the coming Messianic king from the line of David, who would redeem Israel and rule over all nations (see, for example, Ps. 2). Philip identifies Jesus in the traditional way, by his hometown and his father’s name: “Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Nathanael’s response suggests Nazareth was not known as a hothouse of spiritual leaders but as a place filled with people of questionable morals. He doubts anything (or anyone) good could come from Nazareth (and thus, how much less the Messiah Himself).
Notice Philip does not give up on getting Nathanael to Jesus, despite the latter’s initial resistance and skepticism. Philip pushes right past Nathanael’s opening deflection and urges him to “come and see” for himself. Philip serves as a fine example to us today, reminding us that although we are not ultimately responsible for the faith or unbelief of those around us, we are expected to do our best to let others know about Christ and the life and hope we have found in Him. We must learn to trust that Christ will honor and use our humble attempts to make Him known to others.
Trust God to work in the hearts of others. (47–49)
Jesus knew what He needed to do to win the faith of Nathanael. In Nathanael’s case, it meant letting him know Jesus had seen him and knew about him when that would have been impossible for a normal human being (since Jesus evidently could not have seen Nathanael from where He was with human eyes). Nathanael recognized Jesus was not merely another human teacher but God’s Son and Messiah, confessing, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
We often wish we and our friends and family could experience Jesus “in the flesh” like His original disciples did. But Christ promised to be with us to the end (Matt. 28:20). By the work of His Spirit in and through us, He continues to reach out to others and to meet each one at the point of his or her need.
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