Today I want to look at the passage from Johns gospel. And I’ve given this talk the title Forgotten followers, now that’s got nothing to do with the fact that I’ve been away for a week and you’ve all forgotten who I am!!! No the reason I’ve called it Forgotten followers, is that there are many characters in the bible that we meet for very short spells then seldom hear of again. Yet each character has an important role to play and we can learn a great deal from them. I firmly believe that God’s word in scripture is God breathed and that every sentence, every word and therefore every character was intended to be there for a purpose. So today, I thought it would be good to think about things in this way. Its often difficult when a church goes through change, the focus is perhaps not quite the same as it was. So today I thought we’d focus our minds on Andrew and let this ‘forgotten character’ speak to each one of us and allow ourselves to be taught by how God has used him for his glory.
I was thinking about the title forgotten followers and it reminded me of this joke to do with forgetting things!
A few couples, getting on in years, used to get together once a week to talk about life and reminisce . One day one of the men, Harry, started talking about this fantastic restaurant he went to the other night with his wife. “Really?”, one of the men said, what’s it called? After thinking for a few seconds Harry said, “what are those beautiful smelling flowers called again?” “Do you mean a rose? the first man questioned. “Yes that’s it,” he exclaimed. Looking over at his wife he said, “Rose, what’s that restaurant we went to the other night?”
Today’s reading is one of my favourite readings in the bible. In it we are confronted with the total power, the complete authority of Jesus, yet also we see his overwhelming attractiveness that is able to draw complete strangers in.
So let’s take a closer look at this wonderful passage.
We begin in verse 35, where we read that John, that’s John the Baptist, is present with two of his disciples, Andrew and his friend. In using the word disciples we are aware that John is conforming to usual Jewish traditions, it was normal for teachers to have disciples, those people who came to them to learn from their teachers. Note that important phrase, people or students, came to them, they sought out their teacher. So we must assume that many people over John’s short ministry had sought him out as a teacher. He had a significant following, yet in the reading today which is entitled ‘Jesus’ first disciples’. We see Jesus straight away challenging the norms, here we see Jesus taking the initiative, he goes out to find his disciples, he doesn’t wait for them to come to him. He is the one who does the searching. And isn’t that still the same today, Jesus is the one who still does the searching, Luke 19:10 states ‘The son of man came to seek and save what was lost’. He seeks us out and calls us to follow him. And I wonder perhaps today, are you aware that if you don’t know Jesus as your personal saviour, that he is searching for you. He is seeking you out. Maybe your feeling a little lost at the moment, maybe your thinking about all this God stuff, whats it all about? Maybe your feeling something stirring inside that you can’t explain, well I want to suggest that that is God working in your life, he is seeking you out. The question is how are you going to respond to him.
In the next verse we see John the Baptist directing his disciple’s attention towards Jesus, symbolically he is turning the focus from himself to Jesus, who he hails as the lamb of God. Clearly hinting that his own ministry would be superseded by that of Jesus.
Lets now turn our focus onto Andrew, I always find it fascinating that when we read the bible we sometimes just skip over a sentence without actually focussing on what it is saying. Verse 37 seems a very straightforward sentence but it is hugely significant. Andrew upon hearing John the Baptists remark, immediately turned and saw Jesus, then come three very simple words which can be easily over looked, ‘they followed Jesus’. No words were spoken, they hadn’t before seen this Jesus, yet instantly something made them follow. Let’s get things into perspective, Andrew wasn’t a man with nothing else to do, he wasn’t a man with bundles of time on his hands, he was a fisherman in the family business. He was very probably a tough mans man; he wasn’t some kind of weak person who was looking for the next spiritual craze. Yet something made this hardened fisherman turn and follow Jesus without as much as a word of conversation. I’m sure we’ve all met people who have the ability to draw us in, People who have something which makes them different, something which makes us want to know more. One thing can be guaranteed Jesus had this, his authority and presence was enough to draw these men in. To turn from what they knew and follow him.
Jesus aware that Andrew and his companion are following him, turns and asks the simple question, what do you want? Yet again we see Jesus taking the initiative, he is the one who reaches out. Yet this question, ‘what do you want’ which seems so simple has a deeper implication. Each one of us at some stage in our life must ask this question of Jesus, what do we want from him? There comes a point for each one of us when a realisation of who Jesus is suddenly hits us. And we then have to make a decision about what we do with this realisation.
It’s similar to learning to drive, there are so many different elements to try and remember so many different functions that seem to be alien and separate, when suddenly one day, all these separate actions click, everything begins to flow and all of a sudden the sequence of movements makes sense, things begin to feel right. You gain a deeper understanding. This is similar to Andrew and his friends realisation. They suddenly realise that Jesus is the person they have been searching for. He is the one who they had been waiting for, a messiah. All of a sudden things must have started to click into place.
Interestingly Jesus does not demand an instant response from Andrew and his companion. He simply suggests that they follow him. He gives them time to respond to the realisation of who Jesus is for themselves. In this there is lesson for each one of us. There is a temptation when we are involved in mission and evangelism, talking about our faith to others, that we expect an instant response. We want them to commit instantly. However, we need to take our cue from the master himself. He allows people the time to make a decision for themselves, we shouldn’t always force the response. Everything is in Gods perfect timing.
After spending the day with Jesus Andrew raced to find his brother Simon, later to be called Peter, and brought him to Jesus, telling him that he had found the messiah. The rest as they say is history, we have all read and heard of the many wonderful passages involving Peter. But seldom hear again of Andrew.
So what of Andrew? Well as we have seen he is the first follower of Jesus to be named, but after that he is mostly referred to as Simon Peter’s brother. He lived the majority of his life in his brother’s shadow.
The same is true for many of us, many lives are lived in the shadow of another, whether thats a sibling, a spouse or a parent. However regrettable that is it is a fact but what is important is that Jesus has no favourites, we are all unique, special and loved in his sight. he loves you more than you could possibly ever imagine. I mean, just think of the most amazing love you have for something and then multiply that by infinity and your still not even close to how much God loves you! . And God has great plans for you and for me. How incredible is that, that he actually has plans for our lives. He wants to use us. He first called Andrew and through Andrew God was working his purposes out because without Andrew their would be no Simon Peter as we know him, Andrew brought Peter to Christ.
You see Andrew followed the classic pattern for new Christians, he began witnessing with his immediate family – witnessing, like charity begins at home. Looking back, Andrews bringing Peter to Jesus was perhaps as great a service to the church as any man ever did. Andrews first response to his realisation of who Jesus is was to tell his family and friends, and this is the challenge that we are left with through this story.
On this anniversary Sunday, the Sunday when we remember that for 176 years people have been doing exactly that, worshipping God and bringing others to meet him here in this place. Do we have that enthusiasm, that desire, that joy to share the gospel message with those around us, are we willing to tell them about Jesus. Why don’t we make a pledge on this anniversary Sunday to follow the good example of those who have gone before us, those who have kept this church going and made it what it is and lets bring someone to church. Why not bring someone to our all age service next week, that’s an easy one to invite someone to. Invite someone to join you. That takes courage but God blesses those who honour him!
Statistics repeatedly demonstrate that while gospel preaching is important, personal witness and friendship continue to be the main way in which people are brought to Christ. It is through a life lead as a Christian example that we can make a difference. By making a stand when it counts, by refusing to follow the crowd, by standing up for what is right we can begin to show God’s love in action to those around us.
The challenge from this passage is a simple one, are you doing your bit? Andrew did his. Andrew brought Simon Peter to faith and look at what he went on to achieve! Who knows what impact you could have on someone’s life, we need to follow Andrews example and tell others that we have found the messiah! And the rest as they say is his story!