What Do You Want?
Read John 1:35-51
John saw Jesus walking by and told his disciples, “Look, there is the Lamb of God!”
Two of John’s disciples followed Jesus.
Jesus noticed these two following and turning asked, “What do you want?”
Would Jesus ask us this today? Would Jesus ask you this today?
The men who were asked this question were following Jesus. They were not committed disciples at this point. They were curious.
John told these men that Jesus was the Lamb of God. This was enough to stir up their curiosity.
In church, we talk about disciples. A disciple is simply a student, a learner. We say of ourselves, “We exist to make disciples.” This means our job is to produce students or learners. In order to become a student or learner, at some point our curiosity has to be stirred up.
These two disciples of John took action. These two were curious. These two sought to know more and were rewarded with the question, “What do you want?” Jesus was asking them what they desired, what they were seeking.
There were many people in Judea during Jesus' time. Great crowds followed him out of curiosity during the three years of His ministry, but only a small number actually became His disciples, His students. The invitation to come was always on Jesus' lips. On more than one occasion, He invited all who would to come.
In John 1:35-51, John tells the story of the gathering of Jesus’ first disciples, His first devoted followers. We see in this story that what these first disciples were seeking was vital to them becoming devoted students of Jesus. From this, I draw the conclusion that what we want is vital to our becoming devoted students of Jesus.
In this story we see that these first disciples came seeking different things. I will look at three of these today.
First, John the Baptist’s two disciples were seeking evidence.
They heard the testimony of John, but that was not enough. When Jesus noticed them and said, “What do you want?” they did not say, “John told us you are the Lamb of God, so we want to be your disciples.” They did not answer the question. They deflected the question. They said, “Where are you staying?”
Jesus has an advantage on us here. He knows what we are thinking. I am a very poor mind reader; in fact, whenever I try it I am wrong. I have a 100% failure rate at reading minds. Yet, how many of us say what we really want?
The Greek statesman, Demosthenes said, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” Even before Demosthenes, Jeremiah the prophet said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)[ii] We deceive even ourselves about what we really want.
This is a vital consideration. In chapter 6 of his book, John tells of a time when Jesus fed thousands of people with five loaves and two fish. The people wanted to make Jesus king and were ready to attach themselves to Him. However, His response was; “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs.” (John 6:26, NLT) Here were people following Jesus who never became disciples because what they wanted was not to be a learner or student, but they wanted free food.
The two disciples of John were seeking answers and perhaps they did not even know what they were seeking, but Jesus provided what they needed. They asked, “Where are you staying?”
Jesus responded, “Come and see.”
John stirred up their curiosity by saying, “Look, The Lamb of God!” Jesus invited them in so they could see the evidence for themselves. The text tells us that they spent the rest of the day with him. The evidence they observed that day moved them to faith.
The Lord invites the seeker in to see the evidence. He let these men into His private life so they could see for themselves that He was indeed the Lamb of God.
Later in the story, Jesus invited doubting Thomas to put his hand in Jesus’ side and his fingers in the nail holes. God is not stingy with evidence for the seeking heart.
Not everyone is in search of evidence. John tells us that one of the men who followed Jesus and was invited to spend the day with Him was Andrew. Andrew had a brother named Simon. When Andrew introduces Simon to Jesus, we see that Simon was seeking recognition or someone who would see him.
I know I am reading a lot into this passage. I am also pulling from knowledge of Peter’s personality and position among the disciples and early church.
The interaction between Jesus and Simon is brief if John is recounting the whole story. Andrew tells Simon that they found the Messiah, the One foretold by Moses. Andrew then takes Simon to Jesus.
Two parts of the interaction caught my attention. First is the way Jesus looked at Simon; and second, is the way Jesus spoke to Simon.
First, it says, “Looking intently at Simon. . .” There is special emphasis placed on the way Jesus looked at Simon. The word the translators rendered “Looking intently” has a dictionary meaning of: to stare (look) at with a "locked-in gaze"; look at in a sustained, concentrated way, i.e. with special "interest, love or concern. Jesus stopped and considered Simon.[iii]
In consideration of what He saw, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John--but you will be called Cephas" (which means "Peter").
Jesus shows a deep comprehension of Peter’s personality and what he is all about and renames him on the spot. Peter was a devoted follower from that point on. I believe it was because Jesus saw him, really saw him. For some, being recognized and accepted is what they need in order to commit to being a disciple.
Jesus put Peter in a position that recognized his particular gifts and personality. The name that Jesus gave him reflects this.
John’s disciples needed evidence, Peter needed recognition and Nathanael needed integrity.
This could be called consistency or justice, and I will attempt to show you how I came up with this from the text.
45Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
What are we to assume Nathanael meant by this question?
The Jewish people living in Judea despised those living in the region of Galilee. Nathanael came from a neighboring town. Therefore, he was from the same area. Some commentators believe that Nazareth had a bad reputation, but this seems to come only from Nathanael’s comment. Most extra Biblical histories do not mention Nazareth and those that do represent it as being a pleasant small town.
Matthew 2:23 says that the prophets said that Jesus would be called a “Nazarene.” There is much speculation as to the meaning of this statement and what prophecies it is referring to. The most popular one is Isaiah 11:1 which says, “Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot--yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.” The connection in this prophecy to Nazareth is the similarity of the word “branch” in the original language to the name “Nazareth.”
Nathanael’s exclamation seems to me to be shock and surprise. I think he was looking for hope and help for his people, but he expected it to come from Jerusalem, or some place farther removed from home. His question was a sincere puzzlement over how hope, help and salvation could come from a small, seemingly insignificant town.
In response to Nathanael’s question, Philip said, “Come and see.”
When Nathanael arrived Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”
This statement seems to have no context. Why would Jesus greet anyone like this? This is exactly where Nathanael goes. “How do you know me?”
Jesus replies, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”
I am still speculating, but I think whatever Nathanael was thinking about under the fig tree and Jesus' greeting were connected. Jesus showed Nathanael that He knew what Nathanael was thinking.
Two things are evident. One is that there was something significant to Nathanael about a genuine son of Israel. Being from the region of Galilee, one of the prejudices that Nathanael experienced was that the Galileans were not true children of Israel. The second thing that is evident is that integrity was important to Nathanael.
We know from Philip’s invitation and Nathanael’s response that he was looking for the Messiah, the hope of Israel. Putting all these things together, I think that Nathanael was concerned about things like justice, integrity, consistency and the related social issues that surround these issues. What was a true son of Israel? Where was hope and help to come from? When would help come?
Jesus showed Nathanael that He knew His concerns and thoughts, and Nathanael immediately believed.
What Nathanael wanted was integrity, something real. Peter wanted to be recognized, and John’s two disciples wanted evidence.
Do you know what you want today?
All of these men found what they were looking for by first responding to the “Come and see.”
When they saw they believed and then Jesus promised even more. He said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” (John 1:51, NLT)
To the one who believes, Jesus shows more.
The issue that makes the difference is “What do you want?”
What are you searching for?
If you will “come and see,” in other words, ask Jesus to show you himself, He will. But be prepared, He will be honest with you. If you just want free food, He will point that out.
In His day, Jesus turned many away, not by refusing them, but by them refusing Him. He was not what they wanted.
What about you? What do you want?
[i] Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.