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John 1:35-51 Study Guide: A Call to the Curious

Community Group Study Guide — A Call to Curiosity
John 1:35-51

Main idea:
Jesus begins his ministry by calling his first followers. In our passage we see Jesus respond to the curiosity of two followers with an invitation to come and see and then Jesus call a cynic to believe. It is encouraging that Jesus invites the curious and the doubter to come and see because he came and knows and is God himself drawing near.

Study Information:
Our passage picks up after Jesus was identified by John the baptist as the Messiah and was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit which marked the beginning of his ministry. One of his first actions is to call people to follow him as disciples. A disciple is someone who was intent on learning to be like the person they were following with a good modern day synonym being an “apprentice”. They were not learning jobs skills or classroom info though, they were learning what it meant to live a God centered life and to live like their teacher. We learn in our passage today that Jesus invites people to come and see and abide in him because he fully knows them and is God himself drawing near. 

Come and See and Abide
John 1:35-42 
Two disciples of John the Baptist heard John call out that Jesus is the lamb of God and they respond by following Jesus, but the text appears almost humorous, it seems like they were slinking around in the shadows keeping their distance and Jesus turns to them and asks “what do you want?” Jesus is asking them about their desires, what they’re seeking, because that is the question we’re all confronted with when we first come to faith in Christ. We all come to Jesus with mixed motives and intentions and desires and if you look back on your spiritual life now to the point when you first began your walk with Christ you’ll hopefully have seen growth. These two disciples want to see where Jesus is staying because they want to be with him and see what he is all about, they’re curious. Jesus invites them to come and see and we’re told in the text they “stayed" with him. The word “stay” is the same word that will pop up later on in John 15 when Jesus tells his disciples to “abide in me and I in you.” We also saw the word earlier when in John 1:32 told us that the Holy Spirit “remained” on Jesus. These occurrences are all the same Greek word and indicate remaining or abiding. Overall the word is used more than 40 times in the gospel of John. What we should take away from this is that discipleship is not just about head knowledge or taking a class at church but rather it is being invited to life in Christ and a relationship that shapes our actions, mind and motives. These two disciples want to see where he is staying, they go and stay with him and that turns into 3 years of following Jesus during his ministry, followed by a lifetime of following Jesus; they came and saw and stayed with Christ. We also should see that God has open arms for the curious who are invited to come and see who he is, one of the reasons people can “come and see” is because God the son came and knows us better than we know ourselves. 

What is interesting is that as the passage moves forward we see these two new disciples use Jesus’ words to invite others to follow him. Notice verses 40-42, one of the two disciples was named Andrew and he goes and gets his brother Peter and says “we’ve found the Messiah!” Andrew did not have a head full of theology to explain that Jesus was God incarnate and he could not articulate the Trinity and he did not take an evangelism class at church; and yet he was still inviting others along and bringing them to Jesus. Look also at John 1:43-46, notice how Jesus calls Philip to follow him and then Philip spreads the word to Nathanael. Nathanael expresses honest doubt and cynicism around whether Jesus could be the Messiah with his statement “can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philips reply is “come and see,” which were the very same words Jesus used earlier. We do not see a systematic take down of Nathanael’s arguments or doubt but rather an openness to invite others to be curious about Jesus. This is not to say that evangelism classes are bad or that we should shy away from addressing people’s objections to faith in Jesus directly. Yet, we typically struggle with being inviters and bringing people to Jesus because we feel under equipped or under trained or even fearful; maybe we’re making it more complicated than it needs to be?

Jesus Came and Knows
John 1:43-51
Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves and has chosen to draw near to rescue and redeem. We get two examples of Jesus demonstrating this supernatural knowledge. First, Jesus renames Peter. Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus and Jesus calls him by his family name before it seems like Simon was introduced to Jesus and Jesus goes a step further and renames him Cephas/Peter which means rock or stone. In the other gospels this points to Peter’s future role in the church and how he’d be instrumental in what God will do through the disciples in the book of Acts. The second example is with Nathanael who comes to Jesus as a cynic and walks away changed because Jesus demonstrated supernatural knowledge about him. Jesus declares that Nathanael is an Israelite without deceit (keep that word “deceit” in mind). Nathanael balks at this statement and says “how do you know me?” We do not know for certain why Jesus replied the way he did, but Nathanael knew; Jesus replies by telling him that he saw Nathanael under the fig tree. We have no clue why that is significant or what Nathanael was doing but whatever it is triggered belief in him. Fig trees were a sign of blessing and often associated with spiritual practices like scripture meditation and prayer, so maybe he was thinking about the Messiah or praying for God to reveal himself but we just don’t know. Whatever happened left Nathanael amazed and Jesus says “just wait, you’ll see greater things than this, you’ll see angels ascending and descending on the son of Man.”Jesus points to a moment in the life of Jacob where he had a vision of angels going up and down this stairway or ladder. Jacob responds that “surely God is in this place” (Genesis 28:16). This is the second time Jesus references the Jacob story, the first being when he said that Nathanael had no “deceit” because Jacob’s name meant “deceiver.” In Genesis 28 we see God meet Jacob while he was on the run for his life, alone in the wilderness and fearful of what would come next and God meets him with this vision and promises to be with him and to keep him safe until he returned home. There are more connect points with why Jesus references the Jacob story and we’d encourage you to go read Genesis 25-28 and see what you learn from there, but we do not have space to cover that in this study guide. The main idea is that Jesus is telling us in John 1 that he himself is the ladder between heaven and earth and the presence of God to be with us and to bring us back to God. Jesus is the mediator between God and man and we can be invited to come and see and abide in Jesus because of what he has done to draw near to us.

Discipleship is about abiding in Jesus where we follow him to learn how to live as he lived and walk with God. Jesus invites the curious to come and see and to abide in him because he has drawn near to us. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 1:35-51

What were the two disciples of John the Baptist seeking and how did Jesus respond? How are they shaped by Jesus’ words later on in the passage?

How does this passage shape our view of evangelism and what it means to share our faith with others?

Read through Genesis 28:10-22, what promises did God make to Jacob and how does this story inform what Jesus is saying in John 1:50? 

How do the ideas that Jesus invites us to come and see and abide with him, and that he has drawn near as the presence of God impact your faith and relationship with God?