“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-51)
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? The biblical definition for discipleship is to be a follower. In the Christian context, discipleship means to be a follower of Jesus. It means to not only follow Jesus’ teachings but also to emulate or mimic his character.
In Jesus’ day, discipleship entailed literally following one’s master. You followed him as he walked, you ate when he ate, you sat when he sat and you slept when and where he slept. We see this in John 1:35-42.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “The simplest definition of disciple is one who directs his mind toward specific knowledge and conduct. So, we might say that a disciple is a learner or pupil. The Greek philosophers—people such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—had disciples. Socrates described himself ultimately as a disciple of Homer, the person Socrates regarded as the greatest thinker of all of Greek history.”
Dr. Sproul continues, “Jesus was a rabbi and, of course, the most important peripatetic teacher and disciple-maker in history. Wherever He walked, His students would follow. At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, He chose particular individuals to be His disciples. They were required to memorize the teachings that He spoke as He walked. What’s more, people didn’t file an application to get into the School of Jesus. Jesus selected His disciples. He went to prospective disciples where they were, whether in the marketplace or at their place of work, and give this simple command: “Follow me.” The command was literal—He called them to drop their present duties. They had to leave their work, their families, and their friends in order to follow Jesus.”
In John 1:43-51 we see Jesus selecting two more disciples. Peter, Andrew and we assume John are already following Jesus. Jesus then finds Phillip and commands him to follow. The text tells us that Phillip was from the town of Bethsaida, which John mentions was the city, or hometown, of Andrew and Peter.
One commentator explains, “While Mark 1:21, 29 locates Peter’s house in Capernaum, John relates that he was from Bethsaida. Resolution centers in the fact that Peter (and Andrew) most likely grew up in Bethsaida and later relocated to Capernaum in the same way that Jesus was consistently identified with his hometown of Nazareth, though he lived elsewhere later (Matt. 2:23; 4:13; Mark 1:9; Luke 1:26).
The text indicates, or at least implies, that Phillip was unhesitatingly willing to immediately follow Jesus. Additionally, Phillip appears to immediately and unhesitatingly go to his friend, Nathanial, and compel him to become a follower of Jesus also. Unlike Phillip, Nathaniel is a bit more reserved and skeptical of becoming a disciple of Jesus. We’ll see why tomorrow.
Jesus uses all kinds of people to be disciples. He uses the timid, the shy, the brash and the bold. The key question is are you willing to follow Jesus no matter your personality? What is your answer?
Soli deo Gloria!