Sunday School: Why Did the Disciples Follow Jesus?
Written by Jenn Arman | June 2, 2013
Today, we have the complete Bible. We can read all about the great miracles that Jesus performed, and we have background information given to us by the New Testament about Christ that helps us understand both the person and spirit in whom we believe.
Back in Jesus’ day, however, people didn’t have access to all that information; all they had were the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The Israelites knew they were waiting for the Messiah, but they didn’t know exactly what they were looking for. In fact, many thought the Messiah would be a powerful political and military figure, which Jesus wasn’t.
I’ve been reading the gospel of John lately, and I noticed something that I hadn’t noticed before (I love it when that happens)! John 1:35-51 gives John’s account of Jesus gathering four of His first disciples – Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael. Here’s what I noticed: There wasn’t much logical reason for any of these men to follow Jesus.
Let’s look at what really started these men on their journey.
Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. He may or may not have seen the Spirit of God descending on Christ at His baptism, but he did hear John say “Behold, the Lamb of God!” as Jesus was walking by. That’s when Andrew started following Jesus.
Andrew went and grabbed his brother Simon, told him they’d found the Messiah and brought him to Jesus. Jesus didn’t do anything miraculous. In fact, if the conversation in the Bible is accurate, Jesus was a little socially awkward with Peter. John 1:42 says, He (Andrew) brought him (Simon) to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). So Jesus changes Peter’s name, and we move on.
Philip was from the same hometown as Andrew and Simon: Bethsaida. Philip happened to be in Galilee one day, and the Bible says that Jesus found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 1:43). That’s it: A stranger walked up to Philip and said “follow me,” so Philip went.
Then Philip goes to get Nathanael. Nathanael is chillin’ in the shade of a fig tree when Philip tells him that they’ve found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael asks his famous question, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip tells him to “come and see,” and off they go.
I suppose I can understand why Andrew followed Jesus. His mentor (John the Baptist) identified Jesus as someone much greater than himself, and I’m sure Andrew trusted and valued the wisdom and knowledge of his mentor.
I can understand why Peter went to check out Jesus. I mean, he probably trusted Andrew, since they were brothers, after all.
I understand why Nathanael went to see Jesus. His reason is in his question, “can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael was curious. I also understand why Nathanael stayed with Jesus. I mean, come on, Nathanael meets Jesus and gets a cool little demonstration of prophetic knowledge. That was enough to buy Nathanael.
I wonder why Philip followed. There was nothing special about Philip’s interaction with Jesus. Jesus was walking by, He saw Philip, said, “follow me,” and that was it. Why? Jesus wasn’t handsome to look at. The Bible says so,
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him (Isaiah 53:2).
So what do you think, girls? What was it about Jesus that made Philip abandon everything to follow a stranger?
Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these’ ( John 1:50).
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