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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 10 – John 1:29-51
Names and guys

So far I have managed to keep each short study to one or two verses, but not this time. I hope you have a Bible handy in which you can read these verses. A many-coloured procession of different people come into contact with Jesus in these verses. And as they do we find the passage is full of a good many names and titles of Jesus. Counting in titles like ‘the Surpasser’ but not the equal names like Rabbi and Teacher I can find 13 of them. Here is the passage:


The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. ’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony:“I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. ’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”


The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”


They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”


“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”


So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 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).


The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 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.”


“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.


“Come and see,” said Philip.


When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”


“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.


Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”


Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”


Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”


Have a go yourself. How many names and titles can you find? I put my list at the bottom of the page – don’t look until you have had a go yourself.


They range from the bottom of the pile, which is surely ‘son of Joseph’, son of his step-father, to ‘Son of God’ at the top of the pile. Some have deep Old Testament connections like ‘Messiah’ and ‘Son of Man’, while others are simply derived from what John the Baptist knew first hand.


The really interesting thing is what we see if we compare what is said here with what is said in the other Gospels at the call of the twelve disciples. Without exception the other Gospels are less detailed except they all say that the disciples were called to ‘fish for people’ or, in the older versions, to be ‘fishers of men’.


Why the difference? What does it mean?


The answer has to be that John is solely concerned with Jesus. The rest is incidental. As we shall find as we work through the rest of the Gospel John is completely Jesus centred, or Christo-centric as it is called. Because Jesus was, and is, God He could be all those things at one and the same time. He could meet each one of the men listed here: John, Andrew, Andrew’s companion, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael, and meet them at their point of need. That is what John is telling us. And he is going to go on and tell us that Jesus would meet many other people, all at their point of need, no matter how way out that might be. Before long we shall be in chapters 3 and 4 where Jesus meets at their points of need a senior professor in Jerusalem and a slightly dodgy woman in a country village. Rather different people. I wonder how successful any of us would be at being equally effective in conversation with such different people. Not many, I am sure. Certainly not me!


But turned round and looked at from the other direction this is enormously encouraging for us. It does not matter who we are, what our problems may be, what is our point of need, Jesus, because He is the Son of God can speak to us encourage us, forgive us, save us, for this life and the next. Hallelujah and hooray – many times over.


Names and titles: Lamb of God/the Surpasser/the One to be revealed/ the One on whom the Spirit had come/the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit/God’s Chosen One/Rabbi=teacher/ the Messiah=the Christ/Jesus of Nazareth/the son of Joseph/Son of God/king of Israel/the Son of Man.


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