Saturday, June 02, 2007

Apostles, Pt. 1: "I Will Follow Him"

Have you heard of the “The Pew Potato Prayer”? The lazy man’s prayer goes like this:
“Dear Lord, please leave me alone! Just let me sit here in my pew on Sunday.

And Lord, guard my seat, the last seat here in the back row. Please don't let anyone else try to sit here. Lord, you know that's my seat. And precious Lord please get me home quickly after the church service on Sunday, before all those church people try and recruit me to actually do something that I don't want to do.

Lord, make them understand that I'm happy and content to just show up on Sunday. Heavenly Father, thank you for hearing my prayer but I've got to go - kickoff to the football game is only a minute away. You understand Lord. Thanks God for putting some great games on this week, and thank you for that all-sports cable channel.

See you next Sunday, Lord. Amen.”

At the onset of his ministry Jesus chose carefully and wisely twelve apostles and spent three years of his life with them. In fact, He spent more time with them than with unbelievers and taught them more than he taught others. After training them, he passed the baton of the gospel and the leadership of the church to them. They were strong and weak men, ordinary and extraordinary men, flawed and fine men, imperfect men perfect for the job God entrusted to them. They had different backgrounds, personalities and journey.

Almost forgotten to readers due the coverage given to the inner group of three – Peter, John and James, is that the first apostle mentioned in the Bible is the exemplary, energetic and evangelistic Andrew. Jesus chose him first because he was a religious, receptive, reliable, resourceful and respected person, the kind of person that would make a good mentor, friend and brother to others.

What kind of followers is Jesus seeking? What does He expect of His followers? What is His strategy of reaching men?

Be a Listener in the Path of Life
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29-34)

Two psychologists meet at their twentieth college reunion. One of them looks like he just graduated, while the other psychologist looks old, worried and spent.

The older looking one asks the other, “What's your secret? Listening to other people's problems every day, all day long, for years on end, has made an old man of me.”

The younger looking one replies, “Who listens?”

Psychologists and communicators differentiate between hearing and listening. Hearing is a bequest; listening is a skill. Hearing happens at birth, listening is by choice. Hearing involves sound, listening requires concentration. Hearing is passive, but listening is active and attentive. Hearing is instinctive but listening is intentional; the former is coincidental and the latter is conscious.

Of the twelve apostles, Jesus chose as his first the best and finest listener of all. Also, Andrew was the most religious of them all and had been listening to Jesus’ forerunner for a long time. No wonder Jesus chose him as the first disciple. Besides his day job as a fisherman (Matt 4:18), he was a disciple of John (v 35). Only a person like Andrew, who appreciated John’s teachings, could understand and grasp who Jesus was and why He came.

Why did Andrew initially follow John the Baptist? Andrew followed John because he believed in John’s testimony and the Messiah’s coming. John was the original and foremost witness. There are at least twelve references to John’s testimony and work in the book of John (noun - John 1:19, 5:31, 5:34, 5:36; verb - John 1:7, 1:8, 1:15, 1:32, 1:34, 5:32, 5:32, 5:33). You see, for four hundred years that passed between the completion of the Old Testament and the commencement of the New Testament, God was silent about His purpose for Israel and His plan for men. Not a letter, a word or a phrase, never mind a sentence or a sound. However, John’s appearance shattered the silence with great eloquence, colorful language and troubling words. Jesus called him “my messenger” (Matt 11:10, Mark 1:2, Luke 7:27), a stunning reference to Malachi 3:1, which claims two things: Jesus is Lord and He has come: “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.”

Andrew listened to John because John was the greatest born of women (Matt 11:11), the representative of the Prophets and the Law (Matt 11:13), a burning and shining light (John 5:35), though he never performed a miraculous sign (John 10:41). Everyone held that John really was a prophet (Mark 11:32). In fact, people were waiting expectantly and wondering endlessly in their hearts and in the streets if John was more than a prophet, if he might even possibly be the Christ (Luke 3:15). Andrew, of course, could repeat John’s answer to those who asked: “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20). John came to show the way of righteousness (Matt 21:32). Of course, that answer was frustrating not only to the priests and Levites who asked him who he was (John 1:19), but even to disciples like Andrew.

Unfortunately but intentionally, John was a big tease; a boring letdown, the biggest no-no in the world, famous for his “no” than “yes” in the Bible:
He himself was not the light (John 1:8)
“I am not the Christ.” (John 1:20, 3:28)
“I am not (Elijah).” (John 1:21)
“Not (the prophet).” (John 1:21)
“I am not worthy.” (John 1:27, Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16)
“I myself did not know him.” (John 1:31)

All that changed when Jesus suddenly appeared and John happily pointed his disciples to Him (v 35). Up to that point, people knew they had to repent (Matt 3:2, Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3), but they did not know who to believe in; they knew they had to repent of their sins but they did not know who could take it away.

Be a Learner in the Path of Life
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. (John 1:35-39)

One day a man comes home from work to find total mayhem at home. The kids were outside still in their pajamas playing in the mud and muck. There were empty food boxes and wrappers all around. As he proceeded into the house, he found an even bigger mess. Dishes on the counter, dog food spilled on the floor, a broken glass under the table, and a small pile of sand by the back door. The family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing, and a lamp had been knocked over.

The man headed up the stairs, stepping over toys, to look for his wife. He was becoming worried that she may be ill, or that something had happened to her. He found her in the bedroom, still in bed with her pajamas on, reading a book. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, “What happened here today?” She again smiled and answered, “You know everyday when you come home from work and ask me what I did today?”' “Yes, was his reply.”She answered, “Well, today I didn't do it!”

Andrew not only listened to but did something about John’s testimony. He was the only apostle who did something about John’s revelation and wanted to learn more by initiating contact with Jesus. The phrase “Lamb of God,” exclusively uttered by John the Baptist, pricked his ears. There are close to 200 references to “lamb”/”lambs” in the Bible, but only two references to “Lamb of God” in the Bible, both from John’s mouth (John 1:29, 36). Note that Andrew was not present the first time when John identified Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) sacrificed for the forgiveness of sins, so the last twenty four hours was certainly the most annoying and frustrating hours of his life.

There was certainly a lot of commotion and talk among the disciples of John the Baptist on the way home: “Do you know that the teacher identified for the first time the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world?” The only certainty from the text was the presence of John the Baptist and Jesus, others were not mentioned. One of John’s disciple said, “Is the prophet, serious?” Another chimed in, “I have never heard him tell a joke!” and they rolled on the floor laughing. They all agreed that they have never seen their teacher so excited, that pleased, sure, contented and relieved. It was like his mission was accomplished, his time had passed and the transition had begun.

The next twenty four hours (v 35), however, would become the most thrilling and crucial day in Andrew’s life, because he made a decision that would affect rest of his life. He had waited for John to reveal who the Lamb was – except they were not there when He did and now they did not know who the man was and where to find him. They kept asking, “Anybody got his name? Anybody asked him questions? Just as I thought! We let go of our biggest catch.” They could have knocked themselves on the head. None was sure if the man their teacher referred to was ever coming back again. They could have kicked themselves for the lost opportunity. John’s purpose was to come as a witness to testify concerning Jesus, so that through him all men might believe (John 1:7). The verb “believe” (John 1:7) occurs 100 times in John, but no one knew the details of who, when and where.

Another thing that stumped them was the utterance of their teacher. He did not say “A lamb of God,” but “The Lamb of God,” and he did not use the regular word for lamb “arnion,” which occurs 30 times in the Bible, but the unusual “amnon,” which occurs merely four times in the Bible. What an amazing, bizarre, unique and important day.

The next day, seeing Jesus passing by, John repeated his statement, and Andrew did not pass up the chance. He followed Jesus (v 37). Then Jesus asked them a strange question, but not as strange as Andrew and his friend, who answered a question with a question. They all knew what they meant and the connection was made, and in the mind of Andrew, he was determined to follow Jesus, to spend the next few hours with him. Andrew was the earliest apostle to believe. The word “follow” comes from the noun “keleuthos” or “road.” A disciple therefore is one who is traveling “on the same path with another person.” Unlike other disciples such as Matthew (Matt 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27) and Peter (John 21:19), he did not need Jesus to say “Follow me” at any time to start following Him.

Andrew used to be John’s disciple, but now he was a follower of Christ; he never went back, because that was John’s wish all along. John was the friend who was full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice (John 3:29). The word for Jesus’ “saw” is “theaomai,” meaning “to look closely at.” This is more emphatic and intense than the regular “optanomai,” which means “to gaze.” They were invited to stay with Jesus, an invitation to spend time with him. Jesus wanted to know them more than for them to follow him. They called him Rabbi, indicating they were willing to learn from him, and they also wanted to know where to look for him in the future (v 38). They did not want to risk the chance of losing touch again. Jesus invited them right there and then. He loved nothing more than for them to stay with him and deepen their ties.

Be a Leader in the Path of Life
40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). (John 1:40-42)

George Foreman shared about an incident in the early 90s, when he was making his comeback into boxing. After he had lost a fight to Evander Holyfield, he was hungry and he went with his wife to an IHOP, ordering a big stack of pancakes. Just when he had just started digging into his pancakes, a man came by and asked him to sign something. He told the man to let him finish eating his meal first. At this, the man started to walk away.

Foreman’s wife looked at him and challenged him, “You just can’t be nice just sometimes, or when it is easy. If you’re going to be nice to people, you’ll have to be that way all the time.” And so Foreman called the man back and signed with one hand while he ate with the other.

The story of Andrew, however, has not reached a climax yet. In fact, Andrew became the unquestioned leader of the apostles in his own way. How can that be? He was the leader and leading person known not for addressing large crowds like his brother but by leading people to Christ one by one. Inviting himself into Jesus’ inner circle and private quarters was not Andrew’s main concern. Andrew was probably the glue in the apostolic band, the nicest and most accessible person in the group. The record of Andrew does not stand much of a chance against the dramatic record of his brother Simon, the original Rock, one of Jesus’ three closest disciples. Andrew was a leader of another kind – in friendship and lifestyle evangelism.

Simon was defined by his larger than life personality but Andrew by his down to earth “personability.” One thing that defined Andrew in the Bible was his personal affinity with unfamiliar people and lost souls. He was not intimidating, unlike his brother. People can go through him, talk to him and be with him. Just as in this situation, Andrew, along with somebody, followed Jesus. There was always somebody with Andrew. Andrew was not a finder’s keeper kind of guy. The next thing Andrew did was to find his brother and tell him. Andrew was a humble man, definitely not as eloquent as his free spirited brother. He did not claim he was the one who found the Messiah; he used the word “we” (v 41). The new disciple was not sure how to convince his fiery brother, so he did not just do the next best thing, but the only sure thing: he brought him to Jesus. Andrew was not pushy, threatening, condemning, feisty and argumentative. That is as good a definition of evangelism as any – to bring people to Jesus, not himself or John the Baptist.

Andrew will forever be known in the Bible as the one who brought others to Jesus: brother or not, young or old, Jews or Gentiles. The apostle John seemed to hold Andrew in the utmost respect, especially for his personal touch with people. The book of John gives us more details about Andrew not recorded in other gospels, such as Andrew finding a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish to feed the five thousand (John 6:8-10) and the Greeks going through Andrew for the opportunity to see Jesus (John 12:20-21). In that sense, he was like his mentor, John the Baptist, testifying and pointing to Jesus.

Francis of Assisi is known for a famous quote: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

Conclusion: Do you know Jesus as the Promised Son, the Perfect Sacrifice and your Personal Savior? He is the Messiah, the mediator, and the Master of our lives. Have you acknowledged Him? Do you follow Him? Why don’t you try Him and trust Him?


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