John 1:35-39 (NIV): The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour.
From the beginning, Jesus’ ministry as the Messiah was one of invitation. The operative verbs in all of His interactions with prospective disciples were “Come” and “Follow Me.”
John seemed to know this, whether by instinct or revelation. When he saw Jesus passing by while he was with Andrew and John, he didn’t tell them to go and follow Jesus, pushing them after Him. “Go” was not the way to get someone to become a follower of Jesus. Instead, John merely pointed out Jesus, and told those followers of his who He was: the Lamb of God. The rest was their own decision. This also explains why John still had disciples even when he was in prison (cf. Matthew 11:1-3). John never told his disciples to “go” and follow Jesus. If it wasn’t their own idea to follow Him, it would never stick when the going got tough.
Andrew and John followed Jesus on their own initiative. But when they got close to Him, He asked them what they wanted. Their answer, while not a direct application to be adopted by Jesus as disciples, showed enough serious interest for Him to go ahead and issue His invitation: “Come.”
Over and over again, Jesus issued the invitations, “Come’ and “Follow Me.” And over and over again, people took Him up on it. And some did not. (For example, the Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-22, and the man who wanted to bury his father first in Luke 9:59-60.) But in any case, the invitation came from Jesus.
While these invitations were specifically given to individuals, after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the invitation became worldwide in its scope: “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32) Today Jesus’ “Come, follow Me” is an invitation extended to all mankind, so that whoever says “yes” by believing in Him “shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Father, this shifts the whole idea of the way we do evangelism. So often we spend a lot of time trying to drive people to Jesus, trying to persuade them to “go.” But in the book of Acts, the emphasis is different. It is more about “Come.” The disciples seem mostly focused on helping people to clearly see their sinfulness and their condemned and hopeless position. When they realize that, they become desperate for the solution: “Brothers, what shall we do?” Then the disciples pointed them to Jesus, not to argue them into accepting Him, but to show them that He has solution to their condemnation, that He is their Savior. The invitation is to “Come, and follow Him.” And when they do, when they aren’t “argued or pushed into the kingdom,” but invited to “come and follow Jesus,” the impact on their lives is profound. Amen.