John 1:14-16 And the Word 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. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
The call of God is spoken through the human proclamation of the gospel. The call of God is not simply human words but requires a saving faith on the part of the person who hears the call. Paul asked the question of the Roman believers. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14). It is very important that the lost world hear the gospel and understand the love of God that’s found in Christ Jesus. You and I have the responsibility to share the good news that we have received for ourselves. Jesus calls us to invite our friends and family to come to Jesus, and with that, to come to a church where they will hear the Bible taught and can worship God in spirit and truth!
The call of God in Jesus Christ is found throughout the gospel of John. John the Baptist (not John the gospel writer) began the process of calling. He came to be a witness to the light that would come after him. The Baptist understood that he was not what it was all about! He knew, from the very beginning, that it was all about Jesus! Remember, when he was still in his mother’s womb and she met Mary who was carrying the baby Jesus in her womb, John jumped excitedly at the presence of his Lord. (Luke 1:39-42). John, who would later be called the Baptist, recognized his Lord before either of them were born!
We need to carry on with exactly that same theme. It’s not about us! It’s about Jesus! Let’s look at a few of the times that Jesus extended a call.
First of all…
Jesus extended the call to disciples. Let’s look ahead to John 1:40-42. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
These two disciples were first of all disciples of the Baptist. They had often heard John say that he was not worthy to tie the sandals of the one coming after him. One day, the Baptist looked across the crowd and saw the subject of his ministry. In my mind’s eye, I see John standing by the river Jordan. He was baptizing people as they repented of their sin. Suddenly he felt an unseen presence and lifting up his eyes he sensed that the One had come! I believe he pointed across the crowd and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29b). His recognition was made complete when he saw the Spirit descending from heaven and remaining on Jesus.
His disciples observed all this and must’ve had long conversations about what they had seen that day. The next day two of his disciples stood near him when he said again, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). Immediately, John’s two disciples graduated from his school and moved on to graduate school. They followed Jesus. One of these men was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. Immediately he went to find his own brother with the good news — the gospel — “We have found the Messiah”. It’s important to recognize that Jesus immediately knew who Simon was. Jesus gave him a new name, Cephas! The name translates as “Rock”! He was not to be the stone foundation of Christ’s new church but he was a chip off the block so to speak.
In looking at all of the gospel records we can see that Jesus ended, what was essentially his first day of ministry, with four disciples: James and John the sons of Zebedee, Andrew, and Simon, his brother.
The very next day he found Philip and commanded him to follow. Not only did Philip follow Jesus but he went, immediately, to invite his friend Nathaniel. He told Nathaniel that he had found the Messiah — a man named Jesus from Nazareth. Nathaniel doubted that anything good could come out of Nazareth. He was quickly set straight.
Going on with his new group of disciples Jesus attended a wedding in Cana with his mother as well as his disciples. There John, the gospel writer, tells us that Jesus did his first sign when he turned the water into wine. As we follow on in the gospel of John we see that…
Jesus called a Pharisee. Let’s move ahead to John 3:11-15. Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
I have heard many explanations of why Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Usually, the explanation has something to do with wanting to hide from the crowds. I think that’s part of it but not for the usual reasons. Both men, Jesus and Nicodemus, had a very busy ministry. In order to have an uninterrupted conversation, they needed to get away from the crowds. Nicodemus revealed his growing faith in Jesus by saying the obvious. He calls Jesus “Rabbi” which means teacher and he affirmed that the source of Jesus’ teaching was none other than God himself!
Nicodemus met the first test of faith. That test is described by the writer of Hebrews as, “whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6b). Before he ever heard of Jesus Nicodemus believed in the existence of God.
Later, Nicodemus would challenge the other Pharisees with these words, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” (John 7:50). This certainly showed his willingness to speak on behalf of Jesus. Finally, Nicodemus was one of two men who came to take the body of Jesus from the cross and prepare him for burial. I think it is interesting, but not essential, that Jesus came into the world with the adoption of a man named Joseph, and at the end of his life, he was buried in a tomb borrowed from Joseph of Arimathea, the other man who was with Nicodemus. Jesus only had need of that tomb for a part of three days. On the third day, he rose from the dead. Well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
After calling his disciples, and a Pharisee Jesus did the unexpected…
Jesus called a Samaritan. Let’s move ahead to John 4:10-11. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
Jesus’ disciples were growing in number faster than the growth of John’s disciples had been. The Pharisees were very unhappy about this. So he left Judea and went north through Samaria. Now, this was highly unusual. In order to go from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north, most Jews would never go through Samaria. Because they had no dealings with Samaritans!
I believe Jesus intentionally set out to meet one particular Samaritan that day as he traveled north. As they came to the middle of the day they stopped by Jacob’s well. Jesus sent his disciples into the nearby town to buy food. The first taboo had been going into Samaria the second would have been eating Samaritan food. The disciples must’ve left him with some uneasiness but he did not need their protection. As soon as they were gone a woman came to the well. Remember, it is the middle of the day. Most of the women would have gone to the well in the early morning to draw water for the day. Or they might have gone in the evening to draw water for the cleanup before going to bed. It was not likely that many of them would have gone there in the middle of the day. I think it is very likely that this woman intended to go at a time when no other women would be there because she was a woman with a tarnished reputation. Jesus did not reject her instead he asked her for water! She immediately questioned why a man who was obviously a Jew would accept water from her, a Samaritan! Jesus’ response was to offer her living water.
He convinced her that he was the Messiah and she dropped her water pot and hurried back into the town to invite her friends and neighbors to see a man who had told her all that she had ever done. Well, we know he didn’t talk about everything she had done, but he did tell her the significant events in our life. He called a Samaritan…
And many more. John 4:39-40 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.
She must’ve been obviously changed in some way causing her friends and neighbors accept her testimony. Many of them believed in Jesus because of her words. The situation was so convincing that they asked Jesus to stay with them a while. He stayed there two more days and many more believed in him! Might this have laid the groundwork for Phillip’s successful ministry in Samaria as recorded in the book of Acts? Since the Bible does not explicitly tell us we can’t know for sure.
As we move forward through the gospel we find explicit teaching that…
The Father enables the call. Let’s look at John 6:35-37. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Jesus had healed the son of an official in Cana and in Jerusalem a man who had been paralyzed all his life. In doing so, Jesus had asserted the truth that he was the Son of God! As far as the Pharisees were concerned he deserved to die because he healed on the Sabbath and claimed to be the Son of God!
This gave him the opportunity to tell them clearly that he was only doing what the Father wanted him to do. He came to meet their spiritual hunger and thirst assuring them that they only had to come to him and believe in him. But this was not something they could do on their own. The ones who would come and believe were those that the Father gave to him. Looking ahead we see that…
The call includes a promise. In John 6:38-40. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
His promise that he would never cast out anyone who came to him was reinforced by the fact that he came from heaven, and would soon be returning, only to do the will of the Father. Repeatedly, Jesus asserted that anyone coming to him would be coming because of the Father’s work in them. In fact, it is the will of God the Father that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him will never be lost.
God’s call is effective because he has spoken to all aspects of our human nature. He speaks to our intellect by explaining the facts of salvation. He speaks to our emotions by giving an invitation to respond. He speaks to our wills by asking us to hear and respond in repentance. Our repentance involves a decision to turn from our sin, receive Christ as Savior and cast our cares on him in all matters.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.