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. – John 1:35-37
In these verses we witness John the Baptist openly proclaim the presence of Jesus Christ and his standing as the Lamb of God. Before understanding the significance of these verses, it’s important to know the depth of discipleship and what it meant in first century Judaism.
A disciple was usually a young man who closely followed a Rabbi, or teacher. These young men would first approach a desired Rabbi with a request to be his disciple, and had to be accepted or approved by the Rabbi. Once the approval ensued, the disciple’s close following of his Rabbi was serious – it often meant leaving relatives and friends in order to submit to the lifestyle and teachings of his Rabbi. It was a move that required total commitment, submission, and sacrifice. Disciples were known to look up to and even emulate their Rabbis as an outward sign of unshaken devotion.
As we see in these verses, John the Baptist was a Rabbi himself and had his own disciples. (Also seen in John 3:26 as some of his disciples openly refer to him as Rabbi.) It is reasonable to believe, therefore, that the two disciples referenced in John 1:35-37 had a very intimate, committed following of John. After the remarks John makes upon seeing Jesus in this scene: “Behold, the Lamb of God!,” we can begin to see true discipleship unfold.
The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
The actions of these two disciples were remarkable, considering what discipleship meant during this time. With such an intimately linked connection to John as his disciples, you may not expect these two immediately leave John and follow Jesus. If you didn’t know any better, you would think they were only casual acquaintances to John.
John 1: 29-30 – The next day, he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘after me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’
This is he of whom I said delivers a clear picture of how John not only anticipated, but previously proclaimed the truth of Jesus’ arrival – in a manner that his disciples would surely have noticed. Before this remarkable moment of John’s disciples leaving him to follow Jesus, he had already spoken of Jesus unashamedly and repeatedly pointed to him.
It was never about him, it was always about Jesus.
This is a mark of true discipleship. In a posture of complete humility and reverence to the Lord, John diverted attention from himself and actively pointed to the Lamb of God. Even when some of his other disciples were actually concerned that he was losing followers to Jesus – yes, this really happened in John 3:26 – he responded with the famous words “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Believers are familiar with the term making disciples, but what does that really mean to us? Does it mean we give all the right answers to our mentees? Go about and produce copies of ourselves? Encourage others to lean on us for all guidance?
John the Baptist shows a different example.
As believers, we should be pointing people to Jesus; never ourselves.
When thinking back to the moment when two of John’s disciples immediately left him to follow Jesus, it now makes sense as to why they were able to part from him from so quickly. Their Rabbi/teacher/mentor, if you will, was not in the business to attract disciples to himself, his great character, or his perfection- his sole being and purpose was to point to the source of true Light.
We have a calling and charge from Jesus himself to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), so it’s worth it to seek the Lord and understand what it really means. As we go about and fulfill this Great Commission, let’s remember what this is all about. It is not our job – or place – to make people lean on us, seek for us, depend on us, adore us – it is our duty to point people to Him. Let us never forget that we are just a voice, an arrow, a point, to Him.
John 1:38 – Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to Him “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
And after John’s point to the Messiah, we see these two men become disciples of Jesus. Intimately devoted to emulating and forsaking all for the true Rabbi.