Reflections on Discipleship {The Gospel of John Study}

Recapping the study of John’s Gospel from this last week on Celebrities & Saints, John 1:19-51, Metzger pp.43-55:  (For more information on this study go here)

This new thing that God is doing is weird. There’s John the Baptist, dressed like Elijah in the wilderness. There’s Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” There are the disciples, who all but one, choose Jesus, rather than be chosen by Him. It’s an unusual beginning. Or is it?

  • The Jews were awaiting Elijah’s return (Malachi 4:5), now here is John at the Jordan River where Elijah had been raptured.
  • The wilderness was where insurrectionists planned their revolts, but what about resurrectionists? Hmm.
  • “Lamb of God”—a very odd statement for John to make. It makes sense to us in retrospect, but probably very befuddling for those who first heard it in reference to a person.
  • Disciples were always looking for the latest and greatest hero to follow. Don’t you wonder why only two of John’s disciples followed Jesus? Why not more? Well, if we look at the extra-biblical sources, John was much more popular in his day. A good warning to not think that crowds offer credibility. John knew he wasn’t THE ONE, but it appears that others thought he was where it was at.

Discipleship is designed to challenge us—don’t confuse its goal. Popular Christianity will tell you that following Jesus will make you ‘happy, happy, happy.” It will bring you joy, but it will be a joy born out selflessness and suffering.

  • The question always begins with Jesus asking, “What are you looking for?” Have we honestly answered that? Our call to discipleship comes from “The Lamb of God.” We approach Christ first for forgiveness; not fame, fortune, or any other words that begin with ‘f.’ It’s easy (at least for me) to forget that my discipleship is made possible only by the blood of the Lamb, not by my own doing.
  • Jesus doesn’t approach us all the same. He knows us individually. We can’t compare our journey to another’s journey of discipleship. In doing so, we take our eyes off Jesus and then we are prone to find a substitute…and soon, we’ll be following (and worshipping) an idol. Discipleship is always about worship.
  • There’s no formula for discipleship. If you’re looking for it, you’re bound to be disappointed. Like Samantha, in the Monday Study pointed out, Jesus calls us to discipleship within our story (excellent point!). All the disciples discussed in the passage were found inside the story God was telling in their lives. We have a tendency to think that discipleship is only “spiritual” (example: disciples pray), but in fact, discipleship is also emotional, physical, intellectual, etc. Disciples wash dishes, go to work, get married, long for babies, raise babies, sometimes lose babies. The most remarkable thing about the incarnation is that Jesus demonstrates we do not follow an ascetic, hermit god. He came and dwelled in the real-life stuff we live in and it’s in these ordinary, painful, messy places where He is calling us follow Him. Even if that deeper place is a change of attitude in the way we approach a difficult friend…or job loss…or health challenge.
  • Discipleship is done in community. These first disciples found Jesus and then went looking for others. The found find.
  • The only disciple called in this account is Philip. The slow-on-the-uptake disciple. Remember, he’s often found asking Jesus really silly questions and acting like he’s not sure what to do next. Yet, as Acts 8 (I think) tells us, God uses him to bring salvation to the Ethiopian Eunuch. What a comfort this is for those like me who don’t always readily “get it”–Jesus goes out looking for this man and invites him to join the group and be important to its flourishing. There’s hope for me too!
  • What is God’s goal for discipleship? Follow Jesus. Risk the unknown to “come and see.” (Even when that is all the answer He gives you.)  We all want more details…Jesus won’t call us to a way of following that doesn’t require faith.

And then there’s Nathaniel, the fig tree, and Jacob’s ladder…

Nathaniel’s a seeker, maybe even a cynic. When Philip tells him about Jesus he responds with reservation, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.” “Come and see,” he’s told (already the disciples are repeating Jesus’ words.) He goes to see, but “Jesus saw” him first. “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (Note the reference to ‘Israel’/Jacob, ‘the deceiver.’) Nathaniel takes special note of these words; Jesus is touching on something familiar to Nathaniel. There is an experience in his past that Nathaniel doesn’t understand how Jesus can know about. “Who told you that?” he seems to emphatically ask. Jesus goes on to tell him that he saw him while under the fig tree. The fig tree was a place the Jews used for spiritual searching//kind of a retreat of sorts. (I read this in Leon Morris’ commentary, just to site the source.) The tree was shady and offered protection while one dwelled for worship or sought the Lord. And it was there that it seems Nathaniel had been met by the Lord in his seeking. Possibly a spiritual experience like Jacob had at Bethel, ‘the place of worship/encounter.’ To this, Nathaniel gives Jesus a new title in John’s Gospel, “The King of Israel”—the true King is here! Jesus tells him, “You haven’t seen nothing yet!” Nathaniel is about to be caught up in the revelation of Daniel’s Son of Man (Daniel 7). Amazing. When we seek God, He finds us. Jesus meets us in our seeking and when He says, “Come and see” be ready to see what you have never seen before.

As we follow Jesus, He might be calling us to some deeper, more honest, more ‘scary’ places. Are we willing to “come and see?”

What insights have you had from this passage?

Next Week: Best for Last

Reading Prep: John 2:1-25, Metzger pp.56-63

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

1) As you read John 2:1-25, look for the special elements to which John is calling our attention. Why do you think he adds these details? There is a theme of purification in this chapter. Why do you think John places this as the first miracle to share of Jesus’ ministry?  (Keep in mind that the John the Baptist has declared Jesus as the “Lamb of God.”)

2) What new insights do you gain from the water to wine scene in Chapter 2? How is this insight meaningful to you?

3) Metzger tells us that this wine-changing miracle is reminder that Jesus saves the best for last. Where in your life is there a hopeless place that requires you to resist the lie that “nothing good is coming to you?”  Read Revelation 21. How does our future hope serve us in our waiting?

4) In what way does John desire this story—and all of his stories—to get to our heart? Are they? If not, have you asked the Lord to show you why?

5) On page 59 Metzger says, “You can’t commodify and prepackage Jesus. In fact, you can’t package him.” In what ways are we apt to do this? In what ways do these practices/attitudes hinder worship?

6) “Maybe the real robbery goes on deep inside our hearts: zeal for Jesus’ Father’s house often gives way to other things consuming or killing us spiritually, such as spiritual complacency. I rob God—and the church—and myself—every time I go to church to go through the religious motions rather than meet with God.” (Metzger, p. 61). Respond in prayer to this quote. Is there any repentance needed?

7) What does it mean to you that Jesus is the ultimate Temple? What response does this require of you

Can’t wait to hear what you will learn!

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Discipleship {The Gospel of John Study}

  1. I like how you said, “Popular Christianity will tell you that following Jesus will make you ‘happy, happy, happy.” It will bring you joy, but it will be a joy born out selflessness and suffering.”
    That is so true and I still see that struggle in my mind today. The idea that Jesus=happy all the time is certainly not the reality, and yet, I find myself trying to pursue that and wondering what is wrong with me and my relationship with God when the state of “hapiness” isn’t there. This seems like a simple concept to eradicate, and identifying the false teaching certainly helps to know when those feelings of dissatisfaction creep in and the hoplessness that can come with it, that the struggling and the suffering and the laying down of our lives daily are all part of the refining walk that brings us closer to Him.

    I know this isn’t really what the rest of the blog was about, but thanks for the insight 🙂 It blessed my day.

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