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Come and See

Come and See

John 1:35-51

Main Idea: Four simple, ordinary men whose lives have been transformed offer compelling endorsements of Jesus.

  1. John the Baptist Endorses Jesus to the Crowd (1:35-36).
  2. Andrew Endorses Jesus to His Brother (1:37-42).
  3. Philip Endorses Jesus to His Friend (1:43-46).
  4. Nathanael Endorses Jesus as the Son of God (1:46-51).
  5. Application
    1. Christians are chosen by Jesus to follow him.
    2. Christians are being transformed by Jesus.
    3. Christians are calling others to Jesus.

A number of years ago I developed seasonal allergies. I was miserable. I remember describing my misery to a friend at church, and he called his wife over to the table where we were sitting and explained to her what I said. Now, as he was explaining to her what I was going through, I noticed she seemed fine. Her eyes weren’t red and puffy like mine were. She wasn’t hacking and sniffling every few seconds. Without hesitation she took a small bottle of pills out of her purse and said, “I used to have really bad allergies like you do, but this medicine has made me feel much better.” I went to my doctor first thing the next morning and asked him for some of those pills.

Unlike the million-dollar athlete endorsing an inexpensive car he’ll never drive, her endorsement meant something. We respond to the endorsements of regular people like you and me when we hear them talk about something that changed their lives. In John 1 four men offer compelling endorsements of Jesus Christ. They’re not celebrities. They’re not paid spokesmen. They’re simple, ordinary men whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ.

John the Baptist Endorses Jesus to the Crowd

John 1:35-36

John the Baptist believed what he said. His purpose was to prepare men and women for the coming of Jesus. So when Jesus came, John willingly passed his disciples on to Jesus. If someone really believes what he says, he will continue to say it even when it requires sacrifice on his part. A lot of preachers stand up in pulpits around the globe and say it’s all about Jesus, but when it comes time to let a few people leave to spread the message of Jesus in other places, the truth comes out. The message from the preachers’ lips is contradicted by the message of their lives. “Go out,” some may say, “but don’t actually leave my church.” “Give your lives,” others might prompt, “but don’t actually stop giving in the offering.”

In church we’re often asked, “Are you willing to go?” Maybe we also need to ask, “Are you willing to let go? Am I?” It could be a close friend, a child, an accountability partner, a mentor, or a grandchild. Are we more concerned about keeping people here or sending them out? Are we more concerned about assembling a crowd or spreading the good news of Jesus? One author wrote,

John provides a genuine model of what it means to be a minister or servant of God. The human tendency is to make a name for ourselves and to attach our names to other people, institutions, and things so that people will remember us. To minimize oneself in order for Jesus to become the focus of attention is the designated function of an ideal witness. (Borchert, John 1–11, 141)

John’s endorsement rings true because he willingly gave up everything, particularly his influence and authority, to testify to the reality of who Jesus was.

Andrew Endorses Jesus to His Brother

John 1:37-42

Andrew has “found the Messiah” (v. 41). What a discovery! The word translated “found” implies someone was diligently searching for something and then joyously discovers it. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found [same word] and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field” (Matt 13:44; emphasis added). In another parable we’re told of a man who has a hundred sheep, but one is missing. So he leaves the ninety-nine and searches diligently for the one. “And if he finds [same word] it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over that sheep more than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray” (Matt 18:13; emphasis added). With the intensity of a shepherd looking for his lost sheep and the joy of a man who discovered a great treasure, Andrew endorses Jesus Christ to his brother. “We found him—the one we have been searching for, the one we’ve been waiting for.” Why could Andrew say with such great force and conviction they had found the Messiah?

Apparently Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist (vv. 35-37). One day he and another disciple of John the Baptist are standing around listening to him teach when he directs their attention to Jesus and says, “Look, there’s the Lamb of God.” As faithful disciples of John, they decide to follow Jesus. Jesus sees them following, stops, and asks them directly, “What are you looking for?” (v. 38). What are you seeking? Is there something I can help you find? They ask Jesus about his lodging. The question demonstrates their desire to go with Jesus. It implies, “We want to follow you, to talk with you, to learn more about you—where are you headed?” Jesus responds, “Come and you’ll see” (v. 39). They arrive where he is staying “about 4:00 in the afternoon,” and they talk. What a conversation that must have been! We don’t know what Jesus told them, but we see the impact the conversation made. Andrew runs quickly from that place to find his brother and makes a clear endorsement of Jesus Christ.

Philip Endorses Jesus to His Friend

John 1:43-46

John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God. Andrew understood Jesus was the Messiah. Philip calls Jesus the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. Jesus is the one to whom all of the Law and Prophets—another way of saying the entire Hebrew Scriptures—testified. I wonder if Philip understood just how accurate his statement was. Later in the Gospel, Jesus (while talking to those who opposed him) made a similar statement (5:39-40). The Old Testament Scriptures are all about Jesus. What a profound endorsement of Jesus Christ!

Nathanael Endorses Jesus as the Son of God

John 1:46-51

Nathanael understood the Messiah was coming and was the Son of God. As soon as he understood Jesus was the Messiah, he then testified that Jesus was God’s Son—his Son who had the right and authority to rule over all nations. When Philip introduced Jesus to Nathanael, he called him “the son of Joseph” (v. 45). Nathanael’s eventual response was that Jesus’s father was not a Jewish carpenter; his Father was the God of the universe (v. 49). How did Nathanael arrive at the conclusion this unknown carpenter was the Son of God?

Nathanael’s first response to hearing about Jesus (v. 46) is not positive. He says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say the Messiah would be from Nazareth. In fact, Nazareth is never mentioned in the OT. We now understand Jesus wasn’t born in Nazareth but in Bethlehem, which was identified by the prophets as the place of the Messiah’s birth. However, Nathanael only knew where Jesus grew up.

In response to his doubt, Philip brings him to Jesus. When Nathanael meets Jesus, his heart is instantly exposed. Jesus looks into him and says, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

Jesus was right, but Nathanael, still not ready to believe, challenges him: “How do you know me?”

“When you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus responds. Jesus’s omniscience strikes Nathanael powerfully. When Jesus revealed something to Nathanael there was no way he could have known—about Nathanael under the fig tree—then Nathanael knew Jesus could see into his soul. Jesus saw both the outside and the inside of Nathanael. Even when we’re not aware of it, Jesus sees us. Even when we don’t see God, he is there, fully aware of all that’s happening. He knows not only what’s happening on the outside, but he also sees your heart.

It’s difficult to reject Nathanael’s endorsement of Jesus since his first response is disbelief. Nathanael wasn’t looking to get caught up in something. He knew the Scriptures, and they said nothing of Nazareth. But when Jesus confronted him and looked directly into his heart, Nathanael could do nothing less than exclaim, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” The Gospel of John is bracketed by accounts of unbelief melting into belief: Nathanael, here in chapter 1, and Thomas, in chapter 20. Both men were inclined to disbelieve, but an encounter with Jesus won their faith.

This account ends with a fascinating statement. Jesus said to Nathanael, “You will see greater things than this. . . . Truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (vv. 50-51). Jesus was preparing Nathanael for what was coming down the road, but he was preparing more than just Nathanael. In verse 51 when he says, “You will see,” that’s plural. You all will see. What will they see? In Genesis 28 Jacob falls asleep and has a dream. In this dream he sees a ladder that extends from heaven to earth. Angels are using this ladder to move between the two. Above the ladder stood the Lord God. Jesus is the ladder to God. He is the only way into God’s presence. He promises Nathanael he will recognize that Jesus alone can bring a person into God’s presence.

We’ve seen Jesus called the son of Joseph and the Son of God. This passage ends with Jesus claiming one more title—the Son of Man. Jesus is taking this title from Daniel 7:13, a passage that clearly speaks of the Messiah. He’s confirming to these disciples they’re correct. Their endorsements are true. He is the one promised and sent by God.


The first words of Jesus in the Gospel of John are found in verse 38: “What are you looking for?” This is the question that confronts each of us. What are you looking for? What are you seeking in life?

  • These two disciples could have been looking for assurance that they were OK before God—that their effort and sincerity were sufficient to please him.
  • They could have been seeking for authority, position, and prominence in the company of a powerful leader.
  • They could have been looking for the excitement that would come through a new political leader, who would lead a rebellion against the establishment.
  • They could have been hoping for an escape from the drudgery of boring, purposeless lives.
  • They could have been seeking personal affirmation—someone to say, “You’re OK.”
  • They could have been looking for a mystical, religious experience—some new feeling they’d never experienced.

Jesus asks us the same question: What are you looking for? Acceptance? Position? Influence? Excitement? Escape? Love? Security? Experience? Approval? After the question comes the invitation. John points to Jesus and tells his disciples, “Look” (v. 36). Jesus says to these same disciples, “Come and you’ll see” (v. 39). Philip invited his friend to come to Christ with the words, “Come and see” (v. 46). Jesus made a promise to his disciples: “You will see” (v. 50). Jesus invites us to come and see what we really need. We all seek something. Jesus invites us to come and to discover in him all we’ll ever need. Only Jesus Christ can fill the emptiness inside us. These endorsements of Jesus hold important lessons on what it means to be a Christian.

Christians Are Chosen by Jesus to Follow Him

Five times in this passage we read the word found. In verse 41 Andrew found his brother and said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” In verse 43 Jesus found Philip. In verse 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found [him].” This raises an interesting question: Who really finds whom? As the great church father Augustine wrote, “We could not even have begun to seek for God unless He already found us” (quoted in Barclay, Gospel of John, 101). We’ll see this truth in greater detail later in the Gospel when Jesus says to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (15:16). What did Jesus choose them to do? He chose them to follow him. Three times in this passage we see the word follow (vv. 37, 38, 40), plus “Follow me” is the simple command Jesus gave Philip (v. 43). One mark of a true disciple is following Jesus.

Christians Are Being Transformed by Jesus

When Jesus meets Simon (v. 42), he changes his name to Peter. He gives him a new name—a divinely appointed nickname. Nicknames are usually based on a past event or some defining characteristic. A sportswriter in Michigan watched a high school basketball player do spectacular things with a basketball, and the world was introduced to “Magic” Johnson. Mary I, Queen of England, became “Bloody Mary” by burning more than three hundred religious dissenters at the stake. But when God changes a name, it’s often a prophetic nickname. It’s a way for him to declare his intent for this person. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham because he would be the father of many nations (Gen 17:5). Jesus is declaring his intention to transform Simon into Peter—literally, into “the rock.” Peter is nothing like a rock. He’s emotionally unstable. He’s impulsive. His moods travel by way of roller coaster. Yet Jesus lets Simon know he “will be” (future tense) transformed into a rock. And it happens! We don’t turn to the book of 1 Simon, do we? We turn to the book of 1 Peter, and there we read the words of a man whose life has been completely transformed. This is what Jesus does to every true disciple. In the words of D. A. Carson, Jesus “so calls them that he makes them what he calls them to be” (John, 156).

Christians Are Calling Others to Jesus

Though Jesus was the one who chose these men, he used his disciples to testify about him—to call others to him. Andrew’s first response (v. 41) was to go tell his brother about Jesus. In fact, Andrew is only mentioned three times in this Gospel (6:8; 12:22), and each time he’s bringing someone to Jesus. Philip’s first response (v. 45), like Andrew’s, is to immediately go find a friend to bring to Jesus.

One summer I was trained as a lifeguard. In our training we spent a significant amount of time learning first aid and CPR. We knew there was a strong possibility that at some point in the summer we would scan the water and see a person frantically trying to swim. We were prepared to leap from a seat, dive in the water, swim to him, bring him back to shore, and begin medical treatment immediately. As a lifeguard, when you saw a person begin to struggle, you didn’t sit there in your chair and wonder if he would make fun of your swimming stroke or if he’d reject your attempt to save him. No, you saw his helpless condition, and you did something immediately. All around us are men and women drowning in their own sin. They are frantically waving, hoping for someone to notice them and help them. How often do we sit in our shaded chairs and refuse to help them because we’re concerned about what they might say or how they might respond? People are dying. Will we get out of our chairs and help them? Andrew did. Philip did. And they started with those closest to them—a brother and a close friend.

Reflect and Discuss

  1. Have you ever shared your story of coming to follow Jesus with anyone?
  2. Why are personal stories of salvation and change so powerful?
  3. Describe what the men who meet Jesus at the end of John 1 have in common.
  4. How does Philip’s example inform the way you might share the gospel with skeptics?
  5. How will Nathanael see greater things than a display of Jesus’s omniscience?
  6. What claim does Jesus make by calling himself the Son of Man?
  7. What are you seeking most in life? How does Jesus answer the desires of your heart?
  8. Are there areas in your life where you are not following in obedience to Jesus?
  9. What obstacles keep you from sharing Jesus with others?
  10. How does Jesus’s divine initiative in finding disciples encourage you to tell others about him?
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