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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:How disciples of Jesus are made
Text:John 1:35-42 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 95:1-3

Hymn 11:9 (after the law)

Psalm 135:1,2

Psalm 65:1,2

Hymn 61

Scripture reading:  Isaiah 11:1-10

Text:  John 1:35-42

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus,

The Bible uses several different words to describe Christians.  Sometimes we’re described as servants.  Jesus says in Luke 17:10, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”  Christians are servants of the Master.  In other places, we’re called children.  You can think of 1 John 3:1, “See what kind of love, the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”  Christians are children of the Father.  Towards the end of Ephesians 6, Christians are taught to think of themselves as soldiers.  Christians are soldiers under the command of a heavenly General, fighting the good fight for him.  All of these are ways that the Bible describes us, good ways of thinking of ourselves as Christians.  But they’re not the only ways.

There’s one way in particular this morning that has our attention from our text here in John.  We’re introduced to the idea of believers as disciples.  This is the first time in John’s gospel that we encounter disciples.  They’re first John’s disciples, but they become Jesus’ disciples.  As we move through the New Testament, we discover that there were 12 special disciples who later became apostles (except for one – Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus).  But the term “disciple” was never limited to the twelve.  In fact, Scripture is clear that all who believe in Jesus become his disciples.  We are his disciples. 

Of course, then the question begs to be asked:  what is a disciple?  I want the children to listen here.  Here’s something that you can learn too.  What is a disciple?  A disciple is the student of a teacher.  But he is a special student.  A disciple spends a lot of time with his teacher, listening to his words and also watching his example.  You see, a disciple wants to be like his teacher.  For example, he wants to speak like him and act like him.  A disciple wants to imitate his teacher.  That’s part of what makes discipleship special.  If you think about it, we’ve all been students and we’ve all had lots of teachers in life.  Many of them have been imposed on us – we didn’t have any choice but to have them as our teachers.  Some teachers impressed us more than others.  Maybe there were some special and unique teachers that you really looked up to and you wanted to be like them.  Well, a disciple gets attached to one of those special teachers who can really make an impression.  The disciple follows this teacher with extraordinary commitment.

That gives us the background to understand our text.  Our text is all about discipleship.  Here the Holy Spirit reveals to us how disciples of Jesus are made.  Our Master is teaching us how this process works.  As we dig into this passage, we’ll see that disciples of Jesus are made:

  1. When they hear the witness
  2. When they follow the Saviour
  3. When they share the news

If your ESV Bible is like mine, you have a heading over this passage, “Jesus Calls the First Disciples.”  But if you know your Bible, that heading plus what’s in these verses might raise a question.  I want to get that question out of the way first.  If you’ve read the other gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke you might remember that Jesus seems to have his first encounter with Andrew and Simon in a different setting.  For example, in Matthew 4, beginning at verse 18, Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee and he sees Andrew and Simon fishing.  He says to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew tells us that “immediately they left their nets and followed him.”  It sounds like they became Jesus’ disciples at that moment.  It sounds like John has a different story to Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  How do we explain that?

To answer that, I want to draw your attention to two things.  First, it does not say in Matthew, Mark or Luke that Andrew and Simon had never met Jesus before.  Second, it does not directly say in John’s gospel that Jesus called Andrew and Simon on that day.  The word “call” is not used and the idea is only barely there.  Put those things together and this is what we get.  John’s account is the prequel to what you find in the other gospels.  It sets the stage for what happens later by the Sea of Galilee.  In our text from John, when Andrew and Simon follow Jesus, they do become his disciples, but they haven’t yet given up their jobs as fishermen to follow him full-time.  At some later point, described by the other gospels, that’s what happens.  They finally leave everything behind and follow Jesus permanently.  If we see it in that way, there’s no contradiction or competition between the gospels.

As we come to our text, we have to remember what happened the day before this.  John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and he bore witness about him in four ways.  John revealed Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Jesus is our propitiation.  Propitiation means the turning away of God’s wrath and the return of his favour.  By taking away sin, God’s wrath is turned away and his favour returned.  The Lamb of God does that for those who believe in him.  He’s also the anointed Messiah.  The Holy Spirit descended on him and remained upon him.  He’s anointed to be our Prophet, Priest and King.  Jesus is also the Spirit-baptizer.  He poured out the Holy Spirit on his church at Pentecost.  Last of all, John bore witness that Jesus is the Son of God.  By saying that, he was saying that Jesus is God incarnate, God in the flesh. 

The very next day we see John standing with two of his disciples.  Here in verse 35, this is the first we read of John having disciples.  Evidently he gathered a following, including at least one fisherman.  There were men who sought to be under his instruction, who aimed to learn everything they could from his words and example.  John’s disciples are mentioned again later.  In John 3:25 and following, we see more of them.  In fact, they also refer to John as “Rabbi,” an Aramaic word that basically means “teacher.”  John was their rabbi.

Who are these two disciples in verse 35?  We’re told who one of them was in verse 40:  Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.  But what about the other one?  Most commentators agree that the other one was probably the author of this gospel, John.  But “probably” is as far as we can go.  There’s no way to say for sure. 

What’s important here above all is the fact that these disciples were with John.  Every indication is that they had been there the day before too.  We’ll see why we can say that in a moment.  But if they had been with John the day before, that means that they had heard John’s witness about Jesus.  They’d heard that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, that he’s the Messiah, that he’s the Spirit-baptizer, and that he is the Son of God.  Their master John had told them.  They heard him.

Now Jesus comes walking by in verse 36.  John looks at Jesus, stares at him really, and says again, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  He doesn’t add “who takes away the sin of the world.”  He doesn’t need to if his disciples had been there with him the day before.  They know what this is referring to.  Jesus is the sacrifice for sin that God has provided.  Jesus is the propitiation that all sinners need.

Andrew and the other disciple had heard John the Baptist say it the day before, but in verse 37 we see them hearing it a second time and feeling personally addressed by it.  It’s as if John is pointing his finger at Jesus and saying, “Look, he’s the Lamb of God, he’s the one I was telling you about yesterday, you know what you need to do…” John is not a jealous rabbi who’s going to try and keep his disciples at all costs.  When the Lamb of God comes along, John the Baptist knows that he has to fall to the side, and his disciples should become the Lamb’s disciples.  That’s exactly what happens.  Andrew and that other disciple leave John behind and instead “follow” Jesus.  That word “follow” is often used in the New Testament for what a disciple does.  Disciples follow their teacher.  Here too, although it has to be said that the two also seem to be literally following behind Jesus, walking behind him.  But it’s clear from what follows that there’s a shift right here from being disciples of John to being disciples of Jesus.

But what is the catalyst for all this?  What’s the key element that makes all this happen?  It’s the hearing of John’s witness.  It’s the words and the hearing of those words.  Andrew and the other man, they become Jesus’ disciples because someone spoke to them about Jesus.  Their master John was God’s instrument so that they would become disciples of Jesus.  God worked through his words.

The pattern still holds for today.  People become Christians, they become disciples, when they hear words about Jesus Christ.  People will become disciples when they hear us tell about sin that needs to be taken away and the Lamb who does it.  But it can’t be emphasized enough how important the words are!  You can’t imagine John the Baptist without his words.  Similarly, brothers and sisters, we have to have it clear in our minds that our role in making more disciples for Christ is always going to involve speaking to people about Christ.  Disciples are made when they hear a witness.  You’re called to be that witness.  So am I.  We all are.    

We’re now in verse 38.  Our Saviour turns around and he sees these two former disciples of John literally following, walking behind him.  They’ve turned away from John the Baptist and now they’re going to be Jesus’ followers.  This is where we hear Jesus speak for the first time in the Gospel According to John.  He asks them, “What are you seeking?”  What this means is “What are you after?”  Or:  what is it that you’re expecting?  They follow after Jesus, and this is the first thing they hear from him.  It’s a question designed to make them think about their following him.  It’s a question that we can also ponder.  When you follow Jesus, what are you seeking?  What is it all about?  What are your reasons for following Jesus?  That’s something to think about; maybe you can talk about it over lunch.

In our passage though, the new disciples don’t answer the question, at least not directly.  Instead, they answer the question with their own question.  They call him, “Rabbi,” which is a clear indication that they’ve become his first disciples.  Then they ask Jesus, “Where are you staying?”  It might seem like an odd question at first glance.  But asking “Where are you staying?” is meant to say, “We want to be with you, we want to go with you, we want to spend time with you.”  That’s what they’re after.  That’s what they seek.  That’s really at the heart of being a disciple.  You can’t be a disciple of someone with whom you never spend any time.  You can’t follow a Teacher like a disciple without good quantities of time in his presence.  That’s how you grow as a disciple:  spend time with the Master, heaps of it. 

That’s what Andrew and this other new disciple did.  Jesus told them to come and see where he was staying.  He was saying that this is a good idea.  So that’s exactly what happened.  These two came with him and they stayed with him that day.  It got late – John says that it was about the tenth hour, that’s 4:00 PM.  The day was getting on, so they stayed at this house where Jesus was lodging.  By spending these hours with him, they were getting their first lessons in Jesus’ school of discipleship. 

Loved ones, disciples of Jesus are made when they follow their Saviour.  As we see in our text, one of the most important parts of following the Saviour is spending time with him, so that he can teach you.  Andrew and that other disciple, they could do that by spending time in the literal physical presence of our Saviour.  Today, he is still present on earth, but not bodily.  Yet we believe that Christ is still here in his divinity, majesty, grace and Spirit.  We believe that he is here still with his Word to teach us.  We believe that whenever Christians are gathered for worship, Christ is there with them.  Christ is here with us as we gather for worship every Sunday.  He’s here with his Spirit and Word to teach us, to disciple us. 

Loved ones, our text leads us to reflect on whether we make a priority out of habitual, regular church attendance.  This is not about the members who are elderly and frail, or those who are sick, or who work at jobs which require Sunday work, like nursing and so on.  No, this is about those who make a choice not to go to church, not to go to church twice and sometimes not at all on a Sunday.  Loved ones, Jesus is here to teach you, not just in the morning, but also in the afternoon.  He wants you to be his disciple.  You cannot be his disciple unless you spend time with him, under his teaching.  You need to spend as much time with him as you can.  Now the only way you can get around that is to say one of two things.  You could say: “I don’t believe Jesus is present when the Free Reformed Church worships.” Or you could say, “I don’t care if Jesus is present when the Free Reformed Church worships.”  If you’re staying away when you could be here, which is it for you? 

If you say I don’t believe it, then, look, you don’t believe the Word of God.  Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I among them” – that’s in Matthew 18:20.  Do you believe what Jesus says there?  Then you have to believe that Jesus is here when we worship.  And if you call yourself a Christian, then you’re a disciple, and you should be here with the Master as often as possible, ready to learn from him.  Believe what the Word of God says and let it shape the choices you make, also the choices you make each Sunday morning and afternoon.    

If you don’t care that Jesus is present when we worship, then you might legitimately wonder whether you’re really a Christian.  If you don’t want to be with the Master, then be honest with yourself and at least realize that this is a major problem.  Look, you should be with the Master.  You’re called to be.  It’s a good place to be.  But if you don’t want to be where Jesus is to bless his people, that may indicate that you don’t really love him and he’s not really your Saviour.  If he’s not your Saviour, then Jesus is not your propitiation, he’s not the Lamb of God who turns away God’s wrath from you.  Listen: it’s far better to be a disciple of Jesus, to rest and trust in him as your Saviour, to love him, and to want to be where he is, not only today on this earth, but also in eternity.  Think about it.  If you don’t care, now is the time to see that as the problem it is and turn away from it.  Ask God for his help in making you care about being in the presence of the One who can lead you along the narrow path that leads to life.                   

Back to our passage and we’re at verses 40-42.  This is where we see how disciples are made when they share the news.  Verse 40 just tells us what I’ve already mentioned:  one of these two disciples was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.  Our attention now focusses on him and what he does.

In verse 41, the Holy Spirit tells us that the first thing Andrew does is go to find his brother.  After spending time with Jesus, his first thought is for his brother.  Obviously Simon was dear to him; he loved him and wanted him to share what he’d discovered.

In sharing what he discovered, I want you to note again that he uses words, just like John the Baptist did.  He said, “We have found the Messiah.”  That’s an amazing statement for a Jew to make.  Remember, Messiah means the anointed of Yahweh.  Messiah is a Hebrew word and Christ is the Greek translation of that word.  The Jews had been taught to expect a figure called the Messiah.  The Old Testament Scriptures had taught them to expect the Messiah.  One of those passages that taught that was what we read earlier from Isaiah 11.  The Jews of Jesus’ day understood that Isaiah was speaking about the Messiah when he wrote about the “stump of Jesse.”  For our purposes, we can especially note what Isaiah wrote in verse 2, “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him…”  That’s what John said he saw in his testimony in the passage before this.  John saw the Spirit remain or rest upon Jesus.  Andrew heard this testimony from John the Baptist.  He spent time with Jesus himself.  The Holy Spirit convinced him of the truth:  Jesus is the Messiah that had long been expected. 

What did he do with that truth?  Did he keep it to himself?  No, he right away went and shared it with his beloved brother.  “We have found the Messiah!”  Andrew himself is just a new disciple.  He’s a baby disciple, and yet here he is already going out and making more disciples.  He brings Peter to Jesus.  How are disciples of Jesus made?  When disciples share the news of what they’ve found with their Master and make more disciples.  Disciple-making is supposed to be a contagious activity.  Someone becomes a disciple and then the plan is that they go out and make more disciples.  Imagine if God would use every one of us here to make just one more disciple for Christ.  Now imagine if those disciples would in turn each go and make just one more disciple for Christ.  And on it goes.  The number of disciples would multiply rapidly.  That’s what happened in the early church.  That’s how discipleship functioned in the days of the apostles.  Believers discipled others, and those others in turn discipled others again.  The Holy Spirit used the witness of disciples to gain more disciples for Christ.  We should pray that he would use us in the same way.  Brothers and sisters, fellow disciples of Jesus, let’s pray that God would use us to make more disciples. 

But you say, “I can’t disciple others!  I don’t have what it takes.  That’s for somebody else, not for me.”  You need to look at our text.  Let me remind you:  Andrew was just a baby disciple.  He’d hardly spent any time with Jesus.  Yet he just goes to his brother who wasn’t yet a disciple and just told him, “We have found the Messiah.”  It wasn’t complicated.  Moreover, remember what we learned from elsewhere about Andrew.  He wasn’t a scholar.  He wasn’t a student of the famous rabbis in Jerusalem.  He wasn’t a theologian.  What was he?  He was a fisherman.  If God could take a regular old fisherman from Galilee, make him a disciple, and then use him as a disciple, as a baby disciple, to disciple others, what makes you think that he couldn’t use you?  He can and he will.    

There’s one last thing in our passage we need to briefly look at.  In verse 42, after Peter gets brought to Jesus, Jesus looks at him intently.  There’s no introduction.  Andrew doesn’t say to Jesus, “Here’s my brother Peter, I want you to meet him.”  There’s no need.  Jesus knows.  “You are Simon the Son of John.”  He’s saying, “I know who you are and I know who you will become.”  To indicate his future, he speaks a name change for Simon.  Simon will be called Cephas – that’s in Aramaic.  In Greek, that works out to Peter.  Both Cephas and Peter mean “rock” in English.  In the Old Testament, God changed names when people had a special calling.  You can think of Abram getting his name changed to Abraham, or Hoshea getting his named changed to Joshua.  Here too, Peter is going to have an important role in the making of more disciples.  He’s made a disciple, but the Lord is also going to use him to make many more disciples through the rock-solid foundation of his confessing Christ.

Brothers and sisters, you can’t separate being a disciple of Christ from being a Christian.  No one can say, “Well, I’m a Christian, but I’m not really into being a disciple.”  No, the two go hand-in-hand, you can’t have one without the other.  If you’re a Christian, you’re a disciple.  You’re a student of Jesus Christ, placed in his school of discipleship.  You’ve been made a disciple – you didn’t do that to yourself.  The Lord took you for a disciple, called you to be his disciple.  Now his purpose is for you to continue growing as a disciple and also be involved in discipling others.  It’s been happening since the time of our text and it’s going to continue to happen.  Let’s be eager to be involved in this great gospel work of seeing more disciples made for our Lord Jesus.  AMEN. 


Lord Jesus,

You are our Master and Teacher.  In your sovereign grace, you have called us to be your disciples.  We have heard the witness about you and we want to follow you.  We want to be in your presence always – we thank you that we could be in your presence again this morning.  We want you to teach us more and lead us further.  Please continue to disciple us with your Word and through the power of your Spirit.  Also, Lord, we pray that you would use us, even when we’re baby disciples, to disciple others.  Please work through us to make more disciples for the glory of your Name.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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