Out of the hundreds of things that a preacher could focus on in the Gospel of John, I am strongly influenced in my selection by John 1:14–16, “And the Word [that is the eternal Word who is God, John 1:1] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
I believe that this Gospel was written by the eyewitness John so that, through his inspired testimony, we could join him in the “seeing” of verse 14. “We have seen his glory.” It’s the glory of the only Son of God—that is, the one who is himself of the very same substance or essence of the Father, very God of very God, the image and radiance of the Father who is eternally begotten, not made, by the Father.
And this glory of Jesus who is God incarnate is full of grace and truth, and we receive grace when we see his glory. Verse 16: “And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Seven Glimpses of the Glory of God’s Son
So as I study this Gospel, my choices about what to say to you are governed in large measure by this: What in this text is going to show the glory of the only Son from the Father? And how is it that seeing this will give grace to you?
So today that is what I am asking as we walk through John 1:35–51. I see at least seven ways John wants us to see the glory of Jesus—and receive more grace.
1. Jesus Is the Goal of John’s Ministry.
First, just briefly—since we have seen it before several times—John shows Jesus to be the goal of John the Baptist’s ministry. Verses 35–37: “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.”
These are John’s disciples. And suddenly they are gone. They follow Jesus. This is very humbling for John. His following and his ministry are vanishing. And Jesus will one day be named as the Leader of 2.1 billion people worldwide. The point of John’s ministry was to call our attention to the superiority of Jesus.
I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:28–30)
The increase of Jesus is the goal of John’s ministry. That’s the first pointer to the glory of Jesus in this passage.
2. Jesus Is the Sin-Removing Lamb.
Second, Jesus is followed as “the Lamb of God,” the sin-remover of the world. John had already said in verse 29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” To call Jesus the Lamb of God meant that finally, at the climax of Israel’s history, God was sending the final sacrifice for sin that would end all other sacrifices. Jesus would die in our place the way the Lamb was sacrificed in the Old Testament in place of the sinner.
But there is more implied here. The connection between verses 36 and 37 means that the reason that John the Baptist’s disciples left John and followed Jesus is because Jesus is the sin-remover. Verse 36: John said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And so in verse 37: The two disciples “heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” This means that discipleship is first and foremost the expressed need for a savior from our sins.
Not the Righteous, But Sinners
In other words, following Jesus is not heroic. We follow him not the way David’s mighty men followed him to serve him and protect him as their revered sovereign. No. We follow him the way sheep follow the shepherd—because we need to be protected. We need to have our sins forgiven. We are weak, and he is strong. We are foolish, and he is wise. We are hungry, and he is bread. We are thirsty, and he is living water.
The point of the connection between verses 36 and 37 is that following Jesus calls attention to his strength, not ours. His goodness, not ours. His wisdom, not ours. Jesus made this crystal clear, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). The reason these two disciples of John left him and followed Jesus was because Jesus is the Lamb of God. They are sinners. And he is a sin-remover.
That’s part of the fullness of his divine glory, and that’s why his glory is full of grace and truth. This grace is coming to you right now. I pray that you will receive it.
3. Jesus Is the Giver of Spiritual Sight.
Third, Jesus is the giver of spiritual sight.
Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour [that is, about 4 p.m.—the tenth counted from 6 a.m.].
Here we begin to see the multi-leveled meanings in some of John’s simple language. Regularly in this Gospel people are talking at the physical level, and Jesus is taking their language and leading them deeper to the spiritual level using the same language. For example:
- Nicodemus is talking about physical birth, and Jesus is talking about spiritual birth (John 3:3–8).
- And the woman at the well is talking about water from the physical well, and Jesus is talking about spiritual water that he will give (John 4:7–14).
- The crowds asked for physical bread, but Jesus meant that he was the living bread (John 6:30–51).
- The Pharisees deal with a man who was given physical sight in John 9, and Jesus speaks of spiritual sight. Verse 39: “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
So when Jesus says in John 1:37, “What are you seeking?” he was asking something deeper than they think. There were people who followed Jesus, seeking the wrong thing. In John 6:26, he says, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” So he is asking John’s disciples here: What are you seeking? I think he would ask you the same question. What are you seeking?
They do not go to that level. They simply say (in verse 38), “Where are you staying?”—we are seeking your address. As usual, Jesus is patient with this kind of response, and he gives them another chance. Only this time, it’s not a question; it’s a command and a promise. Verse 39: “Come and you will see.” On one level, it could mean simply: You will see where I am staying. But in the mind of Jesus and the mind of John this meant: If you will truly come to me, you will see spiritual reality. You will have spiritual sight.
Seeking Jesus, Finding Christ
Coming to Jesus in John’s Gospel means again and again entrusting yourself to Jesus, and receiving his promises (5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 7:37). So they come to him, and they stay with him the rest of the day. The next two verses (40–41) show that they have indeed “seen.” “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ).”
Jesus began the relationship by saying, “What are you seeking?” (verse 38). And now we hear Andrew say to his brother, “We have found the Messiah.” At first, they were only seeking where he was staying. Then because they came to him and spent time with him, they saw. The point is that if you come to Jesus, you see. You see spiritual reality. You see the key that unlocks the ultimate meaning of all things.
This is the glory of the Son of God. This is the grace we receive.
4. Jesus Is the Messiah.
Fourth, Jesus is the Messiah. Verse 41: “He [Andrew] first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ).” We will say more about this next time. The glory of the only Son of God is the glory of the Messiah, the long expected one of Israel.
5. Jesus Can Change Our Identity.
Fifth, Jesus has the authority to change our identity. Verse 42: “He [Andrew] brought him [Andrew’s brother Simon] to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).”
There is no explanation in John’s Gospel why Jesus changed Simon’s name to Cephas (Aramaic), that is, Peter (Greek)—no explanation as in Matthew 16:18 that Petros means rock and you will found my church. That’s not the point. The point here is: Jesus has authority to give you whatever name he pleases and, in giving you a name, determine your destiny. The point is the glory of Christ, not the glory of Peter.
A Jesus-Given Identity
And the truth is that he does this for all of us. Jesus says in Revelation 2:17, “To the one who conquers [and the power that conquers is faith, 1 John 5:4] I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
Don’t miss the implicit authority in what Jesus does here in John 1:42. “You are Simon. You shall be called Peter.” Period. Not “if you like it,” or “if it works out.” This is the absolute authority of Jesus to choose Simon and name Simon and determine Simon’s destiny.
And there is no identity for your life better than the one Jesus gives you. We receive grace upon grace from this fullness of authority.
6. Jesus Can Command Allegiance.
Sixth, Jesus has authority unilaterally to command allegiance. Verse 43: “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’”
Notice how things have developed. In verses 36–37, John the Baptist gets the ball rolling by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and his disciples follow Jesus. But here in verse 43, Jesus simply says to Philip: “Follow me.” Jesus is now taking the initiative.
He Chose First
So we see the only Son of God assuming the authority that he has to command allegiance unilaterally. And later on, he will say to his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Don’t make the mistake of thinking you don’t have to choose him. You do. But what Jesus is saying is, When you choose me—really come to me and receive me as you Lamb and Bread and Water and Shepherd—then you will know that I chose you first. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
So the glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth, is glorious as the one who says with full authority to Philip, “Follow me.”
7. Jesus Knows Us Inside and Out.
Seventh, Jesus knows our internal and external condition. Verse 45–48:
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” [there’s the same pair from verse 39]. 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.”
He Knows Our Circumstances
Jesus knows two kinds of things about Nathaniel. He knows what’s going on inside, and he knows what’s going on outside. The first thing Jesus says is, “You are a man without deceit.” That’s the truth about the inside. And the second thing he said was, “While you were out of my sight I saw you. You were under a fig tree when Philip found you.” That’s the truth about the outside. Nathaniel is astonished and says in verse 49, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
It is a great grace to us that Jesus today, as the Son of God and the King of Israel, knows our condition inside and out. If you are alone and get into trouble and no one knows what is happening to you, Jesus knows. You will never be in a situation where Jesus is not fully aware of what’s going on in your life. And if you believe that he loves you and that he is stronger than any force in the world—even all the terrorists in Mumbai or all the terrorists in the world combined—then the fact that he knows your circumstances is a great grace.
He Knows Our Heart
It may be even sweeter that he knows your inner condition. When Philip said to Nathaniel in verse 45 that Jesus was from Nazareth, Nathaniel answered bluntly from his heart without any posturing (in verse 46), “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” What will Jesus think of that?
Jesus says in verse 47, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” I don’t think that is a statement out of the blue with no connection to the context. I think Jesus means: Now here is someone who tells it like it is. What you see is what you get. He’s not two-faced. He doesn’t like Nazareth; that may not be good. (Jesus isn’t commenting about Nathaniel’s sinlessness.) But at least he’s not coy. He’s not deceitful. Jesus knew this about Nathaniel’s heart—his particular inner life—before he ever met him.
I have been thinking a good bit recently about how good it is that Jesus knows my inner condition. He knows it better than any of you know it. Better than Noël knows it. Better than I know it. I’ll tell you how this has meant much to me recently.
You know the old African-American spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” There are two senses in which you can mean that. One is: Nobody has experienced my circumstances. That’s probably not true. But the other is: Nobody has ever been me in these circumstances. Nobody has ever brought my weaknesses and my sins and my experience to this moment of sorrow or anger or desire. And not only nobody has been me in this experience, but nobody can be me—nobody can know this. And when I think of that, it frightens me how alone I am in this particular sorrow or anger or desire. The circumstances may be as old as the world. But my experience of them is utterly unique.
And then I think, No, I am not alone in this experience. Jesus knows my heart and my mind and my body and everything about me. And there comes a sense of relief that this utterly unique sorrow, that nobody else can share, Jesus totally, fully, completely understands.
Seeing Glory, Receiving Grace
We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father full of grace and truth.
- The glory of being the goal of John the Baptist’s ministry.
- The glory of being the Lamb of God who takes away our sin.
- The glory of being the giver of spiritual sight.
- The glory of being of the Messiah.
- The glory of being the one who changes our identity.
- The glory of being the one who unilaterally commands our allegiance.
- The glory of knowing our external and our internal condition.
And from the fullness of this glory we have received grace upon grace.