Follow Me

John 1:43-46

“Follow me.”

It was during his return trip to Galilee from the Jordan, when Jesus called his first disciple. And although he had just spent the previous afternoon with John, Andrew, and Peter, it was not one of them. It was Philip.

Philip seems almost to appear out of nowhere, like a non sequitur in John’s narrative. The only clue we have tying him to the others is that he was from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter. But somehow, while on his way back to Galilee, Jesus found Philip and called him to discipleship.

The Bible does not tell us how or where this took place. We don’t know if it was Philip who had gone looking for Jesus, or if it was Jesus who sought out Philip, or whether they just happened to cross paths along the way. And we have no record of any of their conversation other than the one simple request by Jesus, “Follow me.”

“Follow me.” – This is the call to true commitment.  It bears so much more weight than the casual invitation of “come and you will see” that Jesus offered to Andrew and John on the preceding day.  The implication here is twofold: to follow and to abandon.  In order to follow Jesus, Philip must abandon his former life – leave his family, friends and occupation, and surrender any aspirations of inheritance or legacy.

But Philip wasn’t just acting on impulse, he had genuine faith in Jesus.  He may not have had a complete understanding of Jesus’ deity, or of his future atoning work on the cross, but Philip had a genuine God-given faith that Jesus was the promised Messiah, for he later goes on to testify to his friend, Nathanael, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)

There is a similarity here to the faith that was displayed by Abraham, who “when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8)  In Genesis 12:1 the Lord says to Abraham, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” Just like Abraham, Philip obeyed and followed Jesus by faith, even though he did not know where this would take him.  And time would later prove that Philip was faithful to this call, even to the point of martyrdom.

You Will Be Called Cephas

John 1:40-42

“You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.”

Andrew and his older brother, Simon, were from the town of Bethsaida near the Sea of Galilee. It was a small fishing town, and Andrew and Simon were both fisherman. In fact, the name “Bethsaida” means “house of fishing” in Hebrew.

Before he met Jesus, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. His brother, Simon, may have also been a disciple of  the Baptist, but the Bible doesn’t say so specifically. However, we know that Simon must have been hanging around somewhere close by to where John was baptizing on the day when Andrew first met Jesus, because Andrew managed to fetch him that very afternoon and bring him to the place where Jesus was staying. Upon meeting Simon, Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.”

“You are Simon son of John.” – People did not really use surnames in Bible times. So when someone wanted to distinguish someone from others who shared the same name, they would link the name with another identifier, such as their relative, or the town they came from, or their occupation. “Simon” was a very popular name in those days. In fact, the New Testament contains references to at least nine different individuals with that name!

“You will be called Cephas.” – “Cephas” is an Aramaic word that means “stone” and is translated as “Petros” in Greek.  The name “Peter” is just the English form of “Petros.”  “Cephas,” “Petros,” and “Peter” can all be used interchangeably, for they all mean exactly the same thing.

In giving Simon this name, Jesus demonstrates yet another divine characteristic, that of forecasting someone’s future by giving them a new name. The Bible provides us with several examples where God has done this – Abram (“high father”) was changed to Abraham (“father of a multitude”), Sarai (“my princess”) was changed to Sarah (“mother of nations”), and Jacob (“supplanter”) was changed to Israel (“power with God”). As God, Jesus could look at Simon and know who he was, where he came from, and where he was going.

It is interesting to note that, even though it was Jesus who declared that Simon would be called “Peter,” there are only two examples in scripture where he actually addressed him by that name (Matthew 16:18, Luke 22:34).  And all the gospel writers continuously reference him as “Simon” or “Simon Peter.” However, this new name definitely served as a framework for Peter’s future life and identity, for the old name rarely occurs in any of the New Testament accounts which take place after Pentecost. From thenceforth, he is just “Peter.”

I think Peter must have spent a lot of time throughout the rest of his life pondering the deeper implications of his new name. It is Peter who refers to Christ as “the Living Stone,” and who goes on to encourage other believers in his epistles, telling us that we, also, are like living stones, and that together we are all being built up into a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2:4-8).

Come And See

John 1:35-39

“Come, and you will see.”

The Gospel of John stands apart from those of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are known as the “synoptic gospels” due to their similarities in arrangement and content. Their accounts are written from an objective perspective, while John’s gospel is written from a very personal and intimate perspective, almost like a memoir. He has written of things seen with his own eyes, heard with his own ears, and touched with his own hands. (1 John 1:1) But John is careful to never allow himself to be the focus; instead he continuously shines his personal spotlight away from himself and onto Jesus Christ. In fact, John never once refers to himself by name, but rather as “the other disciple” or “the disciple that Jesus loved,” etc. Naturally, John would want to include an account of the very first time that he met Jesus, which occurred shortly after Jesus’ time of temptation in the wilderness.

Before he met Jesus, John was actually a disciple of John the Baptist, as was Andrew. One day, the two of them happened to be with John the Baptist as Jesus passed by. The Baptist, true to his holy calling, pointed Jesus out to them, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When John and Andrew heard this, they started to follow after Jesus as he walked along. Jesus turned around to see them following behind and asked them, “What do you want?” They answered, “Rabbi, we want to see where you are staying.” Jesus said, “Come, and you will see.” So they went to see where he was staying and ended up spending the rest of that day with him. (John 1:35-39)

The sparseness of John’s account of this momentous occasion sparks our imagination with unanswerable questions: Where was Jesus staying? What did it look like? What did they do? Did they eat or drink anything? What did they talk about? A modern author might tend to describe in detail every nuance of place and posture, but the writers of the gospels did not record such trivialities. Not only were they limited by the types of writing materials available at the time, they were also writing under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the seemingly trivial details that they do include are not really trivial, such as the fact that it was about four in the afternoon when they went and spent the day with him. What this really tells us is that they would have had only a couple of hours to spend visiting with Jesus that day.

“Come, and you will see.” – This is not the call to discipleship that will occur later on, but rather an invitation to acquaintanceship. A chance for these future disciples to discover a little bit about what this man, Jesus, was really like.

Worship The Lord Your God

Matthew 4:8-11; Luke 4:5-8

“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

The third temptation of Jesus is also the most mysterious, in my opinion, for somehow Satan was able to transport Jesus up to a high mountain and show him all of the kingdoms of the world in one moment. The devil told Jesus that he would give it all to him, all of these kingdoms with their power and glory, if Jesus would only fall down and worship him. But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”(Luke 4:5-8)

I used to wonder how the Lord could ever really be tempted by this offer. Some have suggested that the devil was tempting him with a way to sidestep the cross, but even if that were true, I don’t see how such an offer could produce anything other than immediate revulsion on the part of Jesus. But then it occurred to me that, perhaps, I had been giving the devil too much credit. Why would I assume that the devil could ever possess any insight into the heart of the sinless Lamb of God?

However, the devil does possess insight into the hearts of men, for he has been deceiving, entrapping, and enslaving mankind for centuries.  And he always uses the same “playbook” – namely, the lust of the flesh1, the lust of the eyes2, and the pride of life3. (1 John 2:16) The book of Genesis provides us with a perfect example of this three-pronged strategy in the story of Eve’s temptation by the serpent.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was 1good for food and 2pleasing to the eye, and also 3desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1-6 [emphasis added])

This strategy was successful in causing the fall of Adam who, up until that point, was sinless. It was not successful, however, with Jesus, whom the Apostle Paul refers to as “the last Adam.” (1 Corinthians 15:45) For although Jesus was fully man, he was also perfectly submitted to the will of his Father; he did not harbor any independent desires of his own.

Jesus is the only one who has ever truly and perfectly obeyed the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) He came into this world as a baby, weak and helpless, and he grew up under the authority of godly, yet imperfect, parents. As he matured, he grew in wisdom. He lived the life of a man, but he never wavered in his love for his heavenly Father. That is why the writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

It Is Written

Matthew 4:5-7; Luke 4:9-12

“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

The gospels of  Matthew and Luke record three distinct attempts by Satan to tempt Jesus. These were (1) to turn stones into bread; (2) to test God by throwing himself off of the pinnacle of the Temple; and (3) to fall down and worship Satan in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world. And since there were no other eye witnesses to these temptations, we must conclude that it was Jesus himself who later described them to his disciples.

In all three instances, Jesus resisted the temptation by quoting from scripture. However, in the second temptation, Satan actually did some scripture quoting of his own. Satan was quoting from the 91st Psalm when he said, “For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” (Psalm 91:12) Jesus responded with a straightforward command from the book of Deuteronomy, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

It is interesting to note that all the Bible passages Jesus quoted from during his temptation can be found in the book of Deuteronomy. It is in Deuteronomy that Moses instructed the people of Israel to keep the commandments of God upon their hearts, and to impress them upon their children.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Jesus did not quote from the prophets or the psalms, or other more obscure portions of the Bible, but instead drew from the rudimentary passages that every Jewish child would have learned from infancy.

Jesus, who is our example in all things, has provided us with a valuable object lesson in “spiritual warfare.” When the enemy tried to confuse and complicate the truth, Jesus made no attempt to refute his arguments by engaging him on his own terms. Instead, he demonstrated that reliance upon the simple and basic commands of God is enough to resist the lies of the enemy. He has shown us how important it is to have the word of God hidden in our hearts, and that we can always take refuge in his faithfulness and truth.

Every Word That Comes From God

Matthew 4:1-4; Luke 4:1-4; Mark 1:12-13

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Immediately following his baptism, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil. He spent the next forty days there, alone among the wild animals, eating nothing the entire time. At the end of the forty days, when Jesus was literally starving, the devil came to tempt him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

It’s interesting that the devil uses the word “if.” Was he trying to cause Jesus to doubt who he really was, or was it the devil himself who was uncertain? Either way, Jesus refused to engage him, but instead rebuffed him with a quote taken from the book of Deuteronomy, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” When we go back and read that verse in context with the rest of the passage, we can see some striking parallels between what Moses said to the people of Israel and what Jesus was currently experiencing in the wilderness:

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord [emphasis added]. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you . (Deuteronomy 8:2-5)

Although Jesus was alone in the wilderness and isolated from other people, he was not isolated from his heavenly Father. He was still able to commune with him. And Jesus knew that this was the time appointed by his Father for him to be tested.

So then, why was Jesus led into the wilderness to be tested by the devil? The writer of Hebrews gives us this answer: “It is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:16-18)

To Fulfill All Righteousness

Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21,22; John 1:32-34

“Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

John the Baptist was commissioned by God to prepare the way for the promised Messiah, and the message that he preached was, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Those who heard and believed John’s message demonstrated both their belief and their repentance by confessing their sins and being baptized. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. But one day, as he was busy baptizing repentant sinners, John looked up to see Jesus coming toward him in order to be baptized.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, and John’s mother, Elizabeth, were related to each other, which means Jesus and John were kinsmen. They might even have played together as children. But once he’d grown up, John took to living in the wilderness (Luke 1:80) so it’s not likely that the two men had seen one another for many years. Still, John must have recognized Jesus because he balked at baptizing him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus persisted, saying,  “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” So John baptized him.

John knew what his calling was. He knew that he was the one whom Isaiah spoke of ; “the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ”(Isaiah 40:3) But even John did not know who Jesus really was until that very moment when Jesus came up out of the water, and the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and alighted upon him, and a voice spoke from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (John 1:31-33)

But why must Jesus be baptized, when even the John the Baptist himself was not expecting it? This has been the subject of speculation among theologians and bible scholars ever since. Some believe that it was foreshadowing Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, others believe that it symbolizes the sinner’s baptism into the righteousness of Christ, while still others say that it was a ritual to inaugurate him into his priestly ministry.

While all of these viewpoints have some merit, Jesus has actually provided us with a very explicit and succinct reason for why he must be baptized; it was “to fulfill all righteousness.” So then it is really not so much the “why,” but rather the “how” that we don’t understand. How does this act of obedience fulfill all righteousness? And what, exactly, is righteousness? Is it justice? Holiness? Moral perfection?

Webster once defined righteousness as “conformity of heart and life to the divine law.” In other words, righteousness is pleasing God on his own terms. It is God himself, and God only, who determines what is righteous. As the psalmist says, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” (Psalm 115:3) So even though we may not understand the compelling reasons behind Jesus’ baptism, this much we do know: Jesus was baptized, his Father was pleased.

My Father’s Business

Luke 2:41-52

“Why were you searching for me?” Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

This verse, found in the second chapter of Luke’s gospel, contains the very first recorded words of Jesus, spoken when he was just twelve years old.

Jesus had journeyed to Jerusalem with his parents and other relatives in order to celebrate the Passover. But when his parents left to return home, Jesus stayed behind without their knowing. By the time they realized that he was gone, they had already been travelling for a day. It took them still another two days of frantic searching before they finally found him in the temple, sitting with the rabbis, asking questions and answering questions. The Bible tells us that when they saw him sitting there, his parents were “astonished.”

We can easily imagine Mary’s emotional state as she asks, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” In the King James version she says, “Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing,” which actually gives a little clearer picture of the emotional anguish that she had been experiencing. The Greek word, “odynōmenoi,” translated here as “sorrowing” is derived from a word that means “to suffer acute pain, physical or mental; to be tormented.” Provided with such descriptive terms in the text, we can almost picture the expression on Mary’s face when she finally sees him.

But the scriptures do not give us any such clues as to what Jesus’ demeanor might have been like. He responded to her anguished question with his own questions, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But there is nothing else in the text to indicate whether he was chiding or defensive, just the simplicity of the words themselves. Still, even these simple words can provide us with some early insights into his nature and character.

“Why were you searching for me?” – This practice of answering a question with another question is something that we see over and over again when studying the life and teachings of Jesus. It is a characteristic of his divine nature. The Bible is filled with examples of God asking questions, even though he already knows the answers. In fact, the very first recorded dialogue between God and man in Genesis 3:9 begins with a divine question, “Where are you?”

“Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Or, as the King James puts it, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” –  Surprisingly, in the original Greek there is no actual word that can be translated as either “house” or “business.” The literal translation is more like: “In the _____ of my Father it is necessary for me to be.” (See

We could fill in that empty space with “business” or “things” or even “anything and everything” because the entire focus of Jesus’ life and ministry was to do the will of his Father. Period. If we truly desire to know Jesus better, we must grasp hold of this concept first.