Monday, December 15, 2014

How Jesus gains his disciples through member missionary work


John 1 has two stories of Jesus gaining the disciples that were to become his apostles, but three stories about member missionary work and I don’t know that we usually look at them this way.

35 ¶Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
43 ¶The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:35-51)

I like these verses because they show how witness and invitation really work upon those prepared to accept Jesus as Savior. 

In the first one, John’s disciples hear his witness that Jesus was the Lamb of God, and they immediately began following Jesus.  This shows how the witness of a prophet is effective on those who are honest of heart and believing.

One of those two converted in the first story (Andrew) went and found his brother Simon Peter and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” and brought him to Jesus.  This shows how the excitement of finding brings converts to share with their family the significance of what they have found.  And Andrew brings Simon to meet Jesus, just as we are asked to take our friends and family by the hand and lead them to Jesus.

In the third story, Jesus found Philip and invited him to follow and Philip believed.  Then Philip went to Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the one Moses and the prophets wrote of!”   That shows us that they must have had a fair amount of discussion about the scriptures and prophecy of the Messiah and thought about how to recognize Him.  It also shows us it is possible to identify Jesus as Christ through the scriptures as He fulfilled what was predicted.  Nathanael was a little skeptical about Jesus’ origins from Nazareth, but he was still willing to come and see for himself what Jesus was like, and he believed pretty quickly.

We can see that pattern of people sharing their excitement of their new discovery, but what about those of us who have been members of the church for a long time?

I think what both John and Jesus do is a good pattern for long-time members.  First, when John saw Jesus walking by, he pointed him out to his disciples and testified of him.  That is something we long-time members can do.  For instance, if we were driving with coworkers to lunch and passed one of our church buildings, we could point out the building, identify it as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, say we belong to it, and share that it is the true church of Christ.  As another example, we do this when we identify for children when they are feeling the Spirit or when mentioning the need to pray in the middle of trouble.   This pattern is about taking advantage of circumstances to testify of related truths in a short, simple way. 

Second, what Jesus does is another part of this pattern that we long-time members can do.  Jesus asked, “What seek ye?” and also invited a man asking about him to “Come and see.”  We can ask people what they are looking for spiritually and we can invite them to come to church to see what happens there, to see if it is what they are looking for.