Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” – John 1:43-51
Philip was not the first disciple whom Jesus called. The day before calling Philip Jesus had been walking by where John the Baptist was, and when John saw Him he said to two of his disciples (John 1:36), “Behold, the Lamb of God!” and when these disciples of John’s heard this, they immediately left John and followed Jesus.
Today I’d like to talk about ten characteristics of those who follow Jesus.
The first characteristic of following Jesus is that you end up leaving behind something or someone else. Jesus said (Matthew 6:24), “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can’t follow Jesus and money or family or jobs or sports or anything else.
When Jesus noticed these two were following Him He said to them (John 1:8), “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 9 Jesus said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day…
The second characteristic of following Jesus is going where He’s going and staying where He’s staying. Now can we answer question: “Where is Jesus going today and where is He is staying today?”
Now if you don’t really believe that Jesus is alive or if you believe that Jesus is somehow locked away in heaven, then you won’t be able to answer this question. However, if you believe that Jesus is truly present where He has promised to be – and where is that? Jesus said that He is present wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them (Matthew 18:20). If you believe that, then you know He’s here and to follow Jesus is to be here. This is where Jesus was every Sabbath Day, gathered with God’s people to hear God’s Word and to be in the presence of the Word. To follow Jesus is to be where He is as we are today.
Now one of those two disciples who followed Jesus was Andrew and he went off and found his brother Peter and said to him (John 1:41-42), “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). And 42 He brought him to Jesus.
The third characteristic of following Jesus is bearing witness to your family about Jesus and bringing them to where Jesus is. “Okay now, so you’re saying Pastor Tim, that to follow Jesus is for me to be where Jesus is and then to tell my family about Jesus and to bring them along with me to where Jesus is? Yes.
You mean, following Jesus isn’t just about being a nice person and coming to worship when I feel like it and I can’t keep my religion private? No…that’s not what God’s Word says and if you’ve been operating on that basis perhaps, you’re following a fake Jesus who you’ve just made up or whom someone else has convinced you about. Yes, Jesus calls you to share Him with your family and to invite them to be with you where Jesus is, right here, right now.
It was the next day that Jesus found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” The fourth characteristic of following Jesus is that followers are found by Jesus and not the other way around. This following Jesus is not some kind of “I found Jesus” movement or “I made a decision for Jesus.” Following Jesus is about being found by Jesus and then being filled with His Spirit so that you just have to follow Jesus.
It’s why Philip was so pumped that he went and 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.” Now, pastor, you just said we don’t follow Jesus and yet didn’t Philip just say, We have found him …”
The fifth characteristic of those who follow Jesus is that followers don’t necessarily have every aspect of their theology correct and yet, Jesus still welcomes and teaches everyone He calls. Jesus found Philip, not the other way around, but the Spirit could still use imperfect theology to accomplish God’s will.
The sixth characteristic of those who follow Jesus is that they bear witness and invite not just their family, but their friends too and even those who are skeptical.
46Nathanael said to Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And now listen to what Philip said, “Come and see.”
The seventh characteristic of followers of Jesus is that they allow Jesus to do the work of saving people. Being a follower of Jesus is not about arm twisting someone into believing or manipulating them or even using some kind of popcorn and candy attraction to get people in. Followers of Jesus believe that Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, can do the work of saving. We have to admit that it doesn’t always end in success, but we still need to allow Jesus to do the talking.
Philip let’s Jesus do the talking and when he arrives at Jesus, our Lord says to Nathanael, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Jesus notices that Nathanael is good German. He is honest about his skepticism and Jesus own honesty piques Nathanael’s curiosity and he asks Jesus, “How do you know me?” And Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
The eighth characteristic of followers of Jesus is that they are known by Jesus. Even though Samuel (1 Samuel 3:7) did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him, even so, Jesus knew Him and called to Him and revealed His will to young Samuel.
You may not know that much about Jesus, but don’t let that stop you from following him. As Eli taught Samuel, you can open your Bible, God’s Word and pray (1 Samuel 3:9), ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” And you will get to know the God who David declared in Psalm 139:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
The Spirit of God does amazing things through the Word of God, through Jesus the Christ. 49Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
The ninth characteristic of followers of Jesus is that they confess faith in Christ. Sometimes like our confirmands, that confession has all the right words even though they don’t realize the depth of what they are saying. Or like Peter, he made a wonderful confession (Matthew 16:16), You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and then almost as fast, he found himself standing on what seemed Satan’s side as Jesus declared (Matthew 16:23), “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
The tenth characteristic of followers of Jesus is that they continue to be sinners, under the influence of their sinful selves, the world and the devil. The life of a follower of Jesus is this ongoing battle against sin in which we have the victory only because of Jesus who walks with us, leading us, calling us in repentance back to Himself, forgiving us and renewing us.
Amidst the grandness of Nathanael’s confession 50Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Even though I have listed ten characteristics, there will always be much more to following Jesus than what I have described or we have already learned and experienced. Jesus desires to continue to teach us, to equip us in the way, the truth and the life of God’s kingdom and in the end, He will bring it to completion.
Until then, This list of characteristics is not intended so that you can check off the boxes and declare, “I am a follower of Jesus.” To follow Jesus is not to be comfortable or self-righteous. If anything, this list of characteristics ought to truly disturb you because following Jesus is not about being comfortable.
Jesus calls to you, “Follow me” whether you’re tired or energetic, young or old, here in worship or watching in the comfort of your home. Jesus calls you to follow Him and you are not alone in that calling because He also gathers people like you into Christian communities like this one. He gathers us around His Word and His body and blood; to chisel away at what stands in the path of you following Jesus; to heal you of the wounds that run so deep; to support you in the fellowship of believers; to equip you in your witness and service so that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, you can say to family and friends, “Come and see the Jesus who has found me, forgiven me, given me peace, made me whole and has welcomed me into His eternal family.
Come and see….come, follow Jesus and may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Amen.