Reframing Disciples | John 1:35-51

September 23, 2018 Series: REFRAMING JESUS | Portraits of Glory from John's Gospel

Topic: Gospel Passage: John 1:35–1:51

Nate Greenland

September 23, 2018

John 1:35-51

Reframing Disciples


Have you ever had the opportunity to go on a short term missions trip outside the country? Or have you had the opportunity at some point in your life to help someone who was in crisis - to stand in the gap for them to serve and care for them. Have you ever been part of a team, whether an academic team or a sports team or some other group of people with whom you put in grueling hours and weeks and months of hard work that eventually took the championship or the top prize?

How did that feel? What thoughts and emotions spring to mind as you remember that life experience? Maybe exhilaration, deep satisfaction and soul contentment. Exhaustion mixed with profound joy. You were part of something bigger and something greater than yourself and it felt amazing

Contrast that with your feelings and sense of well-being after your most recent binge watching of that new, must-see series, your latest 1am fortnight exploits, buying that item that fits perfectly in your collection of whatever it is you collect, or logging in to see what your retirement portfolio has grown to. Unless your young in age or have lived an extremely sheltered life, I’m sure you’d agree there’s no comparison in what you feel as you reflect on those different life experiences.

You and I were meant to live for so much more, for something and Someone so much greater than ourselves. Because of the fact that every human being on planet earth is created in the image of GOd, I have to believe that many people, maybe even most people, somewhere deep down, want to be part of a story that’s bigger than the small stories we find ourselves in. Our culture’s constant promotion of the american dream and individualism and consumerism and comfort frame the meaning and purpose of life in ways that our souls are never meant to be satisfied with.

Is there anything wrong with collections, fortnite, saving for retirement or enjoying a good show? Absolutely not. But the fact is that many of those things that God meant for good - entertainment, financial security, the joy of the hunt - have become god things for us. Mark 4 says but rthe cares of sthe world and tthe deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

We’re in the 3rd of 38 weeks of our series in the gospel of John titled Reframing Jesus. This week we’ll be in chapter 1 v 35-51 and we’ll be reframing the disciples and remembering what it is we’re called to as Christians. My hope for our time together this morning is that after looking into God’s Word together, we’d leave this place not necessarily ready to pack our bags for Africa, but that we’d be a little more dissatisfied with our personal status quo. That Christ’s Spirit would reframe for us a little bit what it is to be not just a believer but a disciple, one who actually follows after Jesus. That we’d individually and collectively be asking God where and how we can get more of Him as we join Him a little more fully on HIs grand mission of Kingdom expansion, specifically by inviting others to trust and hope in Him.

  1. The Gospel Frame
  2. Our Reframed Name
  3. Our Reframed Purpose


READ John 1:35-51

[35] The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, [36] and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” [37] The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. [38] Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” [39] He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. [40] One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. [41] He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). [42] He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

[43] The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” [44] Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. [45] Philip 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.” [46] Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” [47] Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” [48] Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” [49] Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” [50] Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” [51] And 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.”

Seeing is Believing

This is such an exciting text for today. The whole book of John is all about the revelation, the seeing of the glory of God in Jesus, and that’s certainly true of our text today. We’ve seen that right from get go in the prologue where Christ is put on display and exalted as the eternally existing Word of God. There’s no slow build up or hiding his majesty. When you read the other three gospels, Jesus is often quoted as trying to keep his glory and true identity under wraps for a period of time. After performing miracles, he commands people to “tell no one.”

You won’t find one such reference here in John. He omitted those conversations and commands because he’s not trying to veil Jesus’ glory in any way. He wants his audience to see from the get go the uniqueness and radiance of Christ.

Case in point. When you read the gospel of Luke and get to the end, AFTER Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, just before his ascension back to heaven, we find him walking on the road to Emaus with two depressed and downcast disciples who still think their Messiah has been defeated. Their minds and hearts were blind to the fact that they were walking and talking with the risen Christ. We read in Luke 24:25–27:

[25] And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! [26] Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” [27] And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

These Israelites hadn’t connected the dots. Contrast that then with what we read from our text this morning. Luke’s gospel ends with Israelites blind to Jesus’ glory. John’s 1st chapter begins with Israelites wide-eyed to that very glory:

v45 Philip 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

What a contrast! Chapter one and we’re off to the races. The eyes of the disciples are open and expectant and John is calling us at the outset to get our eyes open as well as he sets the scene for the call and expansion of Jesus very first disciples. To underscore John’s intention here, in these mere 17 verses, there are 13 times where John uses the following words in order: looked, behold, saw, see, saw, looked, see saw, behold, saw, saw, see, see. In the preceding 28 verses, he only uses such words twice, and only once in chapter two.

John is saying to his first century readers and to us, “Hey, reader/hearer, picture this. Open your eyes. Don’t miss who this is. See him and all His nuance and complexity for yourself. And don’t miss out on how disciples are called and formed.

So let’s take John up on his invitation and see how Jesus gathers disciples. We’re going to do things a little backwards today. We’re going to begin working through the text at the end because it’s the most shrouded part and it contains the motivation we need for what Jesus and John are calling us to.

The Gospel Frame - Jacob’s History

In verses 50 and 51, Jesus responds to Nathanael’s declaration of faith by saying,

“Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” [51] And 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.”

Sounds kinda weird at face value, but it’s not. Church, the best tool you have to understand the Bible is...the Bible. Commentaries and other study tools can be great, but first we should let God’s Word shed light on itself. So if you look at your cross reference for verse 51, you should see a reference to Genesis 28, which is a story about Jacob’s ladder. So turn with me to Gen 28:10–17.

[10] Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. [11] And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. [12] And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! [13] And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. [14] Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. [15] Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” [16] Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” [17] And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Bear in mind that Jacob wasn’t just strolling through the wilderness on a backpacking trip when he has this dream and gets this promise from God. No, he’s fleeing from his brother Esau because Esau wants to kill Jacob. Jacob, true to his name as a usurper and deceiver, he’d tricked Esau into giving up his rightful birthright as the firstborn son for a silly bowl of stew. On top of that, Jacob then tricked and lied to his senile dad Isaac by dressing up and pretending to be Esau so that his dad would give Jacob his one and only blessing, which was like an irrevocable promise. So Jacob the liar, cheat and thief is on the run, fearing for his life when God appears to him.

I love the fact that the Bible records the detail that Jacob’s pillow that night was a rock. A rock. When you’re pillow is a rock, you aint got nothing. You’re not in a position of power. In that moment when God came to him and sought him out and found him, Jacob had nothing to offer God. He was on the run. He was desperate. And yet in that moment of desperation, God makes him an incredible promise reverberating with echos of the promise he made to Jacob’s grandfather decades before in Genesis 12 and 17 - a promise to greatly multiply them and to give them the promised land.

Bringing it back to John 1, Jesus evokes this national-historical memory for Nathanael and the other disciples in ear shot, but there’s one significant detail that’s different. In the Genesis dream, the Lord stood ABOVE the ladder, transcendent, in the heavens looking down. In Jesus words to his disciples, the Lord IS the ladder - the angels will ascend and descend ON the Son of Man.

Church, this is the good news of the gospel we celebrate every week from different perspectives. In the desperation of our deceitfulness and sin, having tried to rob God of the glory he alone deserves and having tried to trick Him into blessing us by hiding who we really are-broken sinners, God doesn’t leave us in our darkness. He doesn’t plot against us with murderous intent. He doesn’t stay transcendent above the heavens, distant and removed, merely sending angels to do the messy, work of redemption.

No. As the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ takes on flesh and dwells among us. Through His body stretched out on the cross, He spans the humanly unframable gulf between heaven and earth. He restores the fellowship and communion with the Father through His own body. This isn’t a dream or wishful thinking. Through His life, death and resurrection, He made this a reality.

The Kingdom of heaven has broken in and is here! The Word of God has set Himself as a ladder so that we can have access to the Father and cry out with Jacob, but in a different way, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it. I didn’t really see it” [17]... “How awesome is this place! WE are none other than the household of God, BECAUSE HE is the gate and ladder of heaven.”


The effect of Jesus’ gospel in our lives, church, is so powerful. He doesn’t just pardon liars. He speaks true, new names over us. He reframes our core identity and our sense of self. Who in the world are you? Really. Ask yourself that. Who am I? I am _____. Who we think of ourselves as has a big effect on how we live life. The wrong image of ourselves either leads to pride or despair.

I believe that the default human state is that deep down in our souls we wrestle with a low self image. God has written His law on our hearts and even though we as humans try to suppress the knowledge, we know that we don’t measure up to the Creator’s holy standard.

You might be saying, Nate, I know a LOT of people who are plenty self confident. Self loathing isn’t their problem Pride and overconfidence is.” And I’d disagree with you. There’s a very low view of self behind that facade of arrogance. They’re just doing what our first parents did in covering their shame and nakedness with fig leaves of pride.

Even once we who trust in Christ have been brought from death to life, we don’t believe and grasp and bathe our minds with this truth and new reality. We hold on to our old identity. Nathanael said in v46, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

The audio file in our thoughts loops over and over, “can anything good come out of me” Can anything good come out of a recovering alcoholic? Can anything good come out of person who hasn’t open the Bible in 4 weeks? Can anything good come out of a person who’s served time? Can anything good come out of a struggling student like me? Can anything good come out of someone with my body shape or abilities.

YES! You had better believe it. Not because of you or me, but because if you’re in Christ, Christ is in you. You have his cleanness. You have His goodness. You’re filled with His righteousness. He’s reframed and redeemed your identity and has given you a new name. This is the same God who 7 chapters later in Genesis takes Jacob the schemer and usurper and changes his name from there forward to Israel.

This is the God who takes a fisherman named Simon and gives him the new name Peter, meaning Rock. On the face of it, you’d think Jesus got that one a little wrong. It’d seem like there’s a gigantic irony because Peter’s path of discipleship with Jesus was more a pile of gravel than a rock. It be easy to say, “um, Jesus, I think you meant Rocky or shaky, not Rock”.

This is the guy who knew Jesus intimately from getting to spend nearly all of 3 years with Him, hearing amazing truth, seeing miracles, witnessing compassion, yet when it matters most, he denies Jesus 3 times while Jesus suffers and hangs on the cross. More than that, after witnessing Jesus resurrection, being forgiven and being sealed with His Spirit at Pentecost, Peter tries to force new disciples in Antioch to live according to Jewish customs! Jesus...Rock? Really?

And yet, what do we have here in this book? Two wonderful letters to churches that were scattered and suffering persecution and trial, churches who desperately needed the encouragement and exhortation Peter so faithfully provided. And church history records that Peter himself was martyred through crucifixion, but he requested they crucify him upside down because he wasn’t worthy to die the same way his Savior did. Jesus, unsurprisingly, was right. Peter was ultimately, a Rock.

I like how one commentator had this to say, “Here in John 1, the focus is...on the Jesus who knows people thoroughly and not only ‘sees into’ them but so calls them that He makes them what He calls them to be.” That commentator captured it well but Isaiah captures the truth of the Father’s heart toward us even better in Isaiah 62:1–4

[1] For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, - I’M GOING TO KEEP NAMING AND REFRAMING 

and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet,

until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,

and her salvation as a burning torch.

[2] The nations shall see your righteousness,

and all the kings your glory,

and you shall be called by a new name

that the mouth of the LORD will give.

[3] You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,

and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

[4] You shall no more be termed Forsaken,

and your land shall no more be termed Desolate,

but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her,

and your land Married;

for the LORD delights in you,

and your land shall be married.

So again, who, in this world are you? If you’re in Christ, you’re no longer rebel, you’re redeemed. You’re no longer failure; you’re a follower. You’re not just a sinner, you’re also now a saint. He has given you a new name. Life in Christ consists then, of being who we are, being the identity we’ve been redeemed into by the power of Christ’s Spirit.


With a new name and reframed identity comes a reframed purpose, a new mission. Jesus died and gave us new names so that we’d no longer live for ourselves in our small stories, but that we’d live lives of greatness in pursuit of His kingdom.

Our world and the people around us are aching. They’re hurting. Apart from Christ, they stand condemned and will suffer eternally, separated from the love of the triune Father, Son and Spirit. God hasn’t called us into a holy huddle or to be the frozen chosen. He hasn’t called us to just enjoy the peace and comfort of knowing Him and to keep that for ourselves. When Jesus tells Philip in v43 “Follow me”, that could be literally translated, “Keep on following me” Don’t just stop once your emotional needs are met Philip. Keep on following me”.

And to keep on following Jesus is to do what Philip did in v46 - which is to go and tell others “come and see”. Come and see the One you’ve been hoping for. Notice in our passage today that five guys start following Jesus. How many did Jesus call himself. One. Just 1! Jesus followers were responsible for other followers starting to follow. John was responsible for the first two, one of which was Andrew, who went and told Peter. Jesus called Philip and Philip shared with Nathanael. Church that’s how the good news of the gospel has spread from the beginning and will keep on spreading to the end.

There is no plan B. We the church are Jesus body and mouth piece that he’s commissioned to be continually going into the world - into our neighborhoods, into our kids sports teams, into local nonprofits, into our workplaces and into foreign lands, to saturate the earth with the gospel and see disciples and churches raised up multiplied. This is the greater calling and greater story that Jesus invites us to live in and be a part of. But why don’t we.

For starters, we’re overly self-conscious. If I tell someone my trust and joy and hope are in the person and work of Jesus, what will they think of me. Maybe they’ll think I’m a Jerry Falwell homophobe or a goody two shoes. Maybe they’ll think I voted against their candidate or I’m narrow minded. I don’t want to be seen unfavorably in their eyes!

Three quick responses to that objection: 1) Don’t forget your new name and your identity! We just talked about it. Who’s approval do you and I need more. God’s or man’s? God’s! He’s the one whom we should have holy reverence and fear for, not another person’s opinion of us.

2) This isn’t a game. It’s literally a matter of life and death. Carly and I are big game fans. One game we love that we’ve played with many of you is called Times Up. There are 3 rounds and the 1st round has everyone seated down trying to guess the names of famous people based on verbal clues. But by the 3rd round it’s charades and charades only to get them to guess those famous names.

When we invite people to play for the first time, we mention the charades round knowing that aint everyone’s cup of tea. And so some opt out and I get that. Not everyone is comfortable putting themselves out there in that way

Now imagine you’re in North or South Carolina with the rain and flooding that hurricane FLorence brought them. You have to go out driving at night to get to a loved one who needs you right now. Imagine there’s a car ahead of you about a quarter mile and a car behind you a couple miles. As you’re driving down a road at night, the car a quarter mile ahead of you disappears all of a sudden, causing you to slow down and then slam on the brakes as you realize they drove into a flooded section of road and were swept away.

Once you remember there’s another car coming down the road who could possibly foolishly try to pass your stopped car, even with flashers on, would you be concerned with what the passengers of that on coming car thought of you, or would you maybe jump up and down and wave your hands around to try and alert them to certain danger? You know the answer. Saving others lives would be your only concern, not if they thought you had a screw loose. It’s no different for sharing with others our story of salvation. It’s a matter of life and death.

Finally, we don’t need to be so concerned with how we’ll be perceived if our words and our lives are congruent. The invitation that both Jesus and Philip gave to the other disciples wasn’t just “come and listen”. It was “come and SEE”. See how everything you’ve heard and read in Law and the Prophets has found its fulfillment in the living, breathing flesh and blood of this Jesus of Nazareth.

No one likes a hypocrite. We all know that, sometimes wrongly but a lot of times rightly, Christians get a reputation for being hypocritical. We have to be living consistently with the gospel truth we proclaim otherwise our words just ring hollow. But if we’re walking in humility, practicing repentance, serving others, being generous...the apostle Peter says witnessing in this consistent and coherent way will just leave the slanderers likely ashamed of their slander.”

Since we’re talking about deeds and words and hypocrisy, this seems like a fitting place to bring up the very famous St Francis of Assissi quote that is often repeated. Paraphrased, it’s, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if you have to, use words.” On the face of it, this seems like a great quote. After all, we’ve all been taught that “actions speak louder than words”.

But here’s a little newsflash for ya. You have to use words! Author JD Grear says this saying makes about as much sense as, “give out your phone number; and if you have to, use digits.” Our actions on their own are impotent. But this Word of GOd about the Word made flesh is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Don’t let GOd’s glory get robbed by somebody attributing your wordless good works to buddhism, mormonism or some other source. Open your mouth and use words!

One final thought in closing out this section on sharing the gospel so that others become followers of Jesus. Take some pressure off yourself. It’s ultimately God who draws followers to Himself. Look back at v 45. Philip tells Nathanael, “We have found Him…” That’s one way to look at it Philip. Except when you look back at v 43, John records that it was Jesus who found Philip. We are called and commissioned to go into all the world and tell others to come and see the Savior, but Jesus is ultimately the one who does the finding.

You and I aren’t responsible for that. We’re merely called to be faithful to present the hope we have in Christ. So with that, don’t feel like you have to close the deal or score a touchdown. You don’t.

Christian apologist Greg Koukl compares evangelism with putting a stone in someone’s shoe. When you get a rock in your shoe, you can often ignore it for a short period of time, depending on what you’re up to, but you eventually have to stop and address it. If more of us thought of sharing our faith in that lower pressure way, I think those whom we invite others to “come and see” would feel more comfortable, it wouldn’t feel like a hard sell. And we’d be inclined to share more often.


So where do you and I go from here? You might already have some steps in mind to take, but here are 3 steps that I’d propose:

  1. Who are you? What names or behaviors do you identify yourself by as your core identity? Start believing and preaching to yourself the gospel truth that if Jesus has redeemed you, He’s reframed your identity and given you a new name. You’re a son or daughter of God whom He delights in and rejoices over. You’re a co-laborer whom He couldn’t be more thrilled to have by his side in spreading the gospel. Those aren’t just christianisms. That’s gospel reality
  2. Your hope in Christ should be intensely personal, but it should never be private. Who might the Holy Spirit be leading you to share a little bit of your hope in Christ with? A parent? Y child? A neighbor? Co worker. Don’t think of all the people He might want you to talk with, just identify one. Write that person’s name down. Share who that is with another member here to help hold you accountable. Make a plan to weave Christ’s kindness in your life into an upcoming conversation with that person.
  3. While ALL of us are called to share our faith with others in our life, not not all of us are called to go spread the gospel on the mission field. But some are called to go. And the GO-ers need SEND-ers. DRC supports a handful of missionaries, including Chad and Jamie Dimon who currently live and minister in the Congo. I’m also thrilled that we have at least 3 other couples who are at various stages of training and fundraising to spread the fame of Jesus in unreached parts of the world. That’s Drew and Betty Aungst, Justin and Addison Vaughan and Dan and Barb Holz. So on a Sunday where we’ve talked about evangelism, I’d encourage you to do something as simple as starting to support one or more of these couples with a regular monthly gift. Even just $10 a month would be a huge encouragement.

Church, the ladder of God, Jesus Christ has bridged the gap between us and the Father and has filled us with His Spirit. What could Christ do here in Marysville and beyond if we the household of God opened our eyes and hearts to truly believe that God is in our midst? He invites us to live lives of deeper meaning and significance as we step out to witness to His saving presence. Let’s live for the greater things He’s promised us.

More in REFRAMING JESUS | Portraits of Glory from John's Gospel

September 1, 2019

Reframing Restoration | John 21

August 18, 2019

Reframing Doubt | John 20:24-31

August 4, 2019

Reframing Security | John 20:19-23