John 01:35-51, “Finding the Messiah”


In John 1, everyone is looking for something.

Most people go through life, never finding what they are looking for. Most people never know what it was that they were looking for. They are born, grow up, live and die, without ever knowing what it is that they were missing.

Some people give up on the idea of ever finding that missing something. They talk about the journey. It’s all about the journey, they say, not the destination. They are going, but they don’t know where they are going, and they are okay with that, so they say. They have given up on knowing the meaning of life. It’s just a puzzle. It doesn’t have meaning. We are just here. We are accidents of nature. Going through the motions. Trying to find momentary satisfaction in the endless monotony of life.

Today, the theory of evolution and the existential philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre and others have left many adrift on an endless sea of meaninglessness, hopelessness, and despair.

Philosopher “Bertrand Russell was an outspoken atheist. He even wrote a book called Why I Am Not A Christian. When Russell was 81 years old, he was interviewed on a British Broadcasting Corporation radio talk show. The interviewer asked him what he had to hang onto when death was obviously so close. Russell responded, “I have nothing to hang onto but grim, unyielding despair.” What an honest yet hopeless response. You see, when you live only for this life, … when you think that this is all there is, you can’t help but live in despair.”[1]

The motto of the person without God is:

Only one life,

‘twill soon be past.
Forget about tomorrow,
Let’s have a blast!

What are you looking for?

For some people it is the endless pursuit of success. Doing better than your neighbor. Climbing to the top of the ladder. Looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The one with the most toys at the end of life… wins

For others it is the temporary pleasure of the bottle, the high, the party, only to be followed by the emptiness of the morning after.

What are you looking for?

At the end of the day, we are all looking for the same thing. We are looking for a sense of completeness, peace, joy, contentment. As Augustine put it, “Our hearts are not content…”

What are you looking for?

Some people don’t really know what they are looking for. It is the lack of contentment that pushes them to seek, to look for something to relieve the emptiness, to fill the vacuum of their hearts and lives.


Most people don’t know what they are looking for. Have you ever gone into a room to find something and not been able to remember why you are there? Not yet, huh? Wait for it. It will come. But for most people, that is the story of their life. They have no idea what they are looking for. They are lost in the dark and have no idea where to find the light.


StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism
StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That was not the case with John the Baptist. He knew what he was looking for. He was looking for the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God. God had sent John the Baptist to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Lord. And God had told John that he would recognize the Messiah when the Holy Spirit came down and stayed on him.

That’s exactly what happened when John baptized Jesus.

10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy” (Mar 1:10-11 NLT)

John was a witness! He saw it happen!

Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the [Son of God, ESV] Chosen One of God” (John 1:19-34 NLT).

John knew what he was looking for. He was looking for the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God.


John’s disciples were looking for the Lamb of God:

The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus (John 1:35-37 NLT).

John came to point people to the light. So when John saw the light, he pointed others to the light.

He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light (John 1:7-8 ESV).

The Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

“Look! There he is! The Lamb of God!”

When John’s two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. But why? They had been faithful to John. Why do they now follow Jesus?

They followed Jesus because they knew what they were looking for. John had said in verse 29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Like you and me, John’s disciples had a sin problem.

We were made for God. We were made to know him, and to glorify him by enjoying him forever. But our sins, the Bible tells us, have separated us from God. God is holy. There is no sin in Him. Our sins have built a wall between us and God. Our lives are empty. Our hearts are agitated, troubled, empty, looking for that missing something. Looking, rather, for that missing Someone.

Yes, as Augustine said, “Our hearts are not at rest until they find their rest in you.”


Some children are born with a hole in their heart. It is called atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect. It is actually a hole in the chambers so that the blood is not pumped correctly. Sometimes it heals by itself and sometimes it has to be corrected by surgery.

But there is another kind of hole in the heart that everyone of us is born with. It is an emptiness that will not heal itself and cannot be corrected by surgery. It is a hole that is so big that only God himself can fill it. And until He fills it, our hearts are not at rest.

So these two disciples of John began following Jesus. They were taking the first steps of becoming disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple means to be a follower, one who follows Jesus. One who follows the teachings of Jesus. One who obeys the commands of Jesus. These two disciples of John the Baptist, who were Andrew and probably John the beloved who was the author of this Gospel, these two disciples began following Jesus.

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”

There it is, that question again: What are you looking for?

This is the first time in this gospel that Jesus speaks. The first time that he speaks in his ministry, he asks a question. It is the most profound question that all of us must answer: “What are you looking for?”

A simple answer was not possible.

And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” (John 1:38 ESV).

This is not a quick fix. This is not a matter of repeating some magical prayer or even of being baptized in water. Christ came to reconcile us to God, to put us into a right relationship with the Father. He came to restore the fellowship that was broken by sin in the Garden of Eden. God wants a relationship with you, but as Isaiah says in 59:1-2,

Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. 2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore (Isaiah 59:1-2 NLT).

Our problem is our estrangement, our separation from God. God made us for himself, and there is a hole in our hearts and lives until God comes and fills our lives with himself.

But the sin problem has to be dealt with and only the Lamb of God could take away the sin of the world. Christ alone came to bear your sins on the cross. Christ alone can take away your sin.

That’s why Andrew and John were following the Lamb of God.

“Teacher, where are you staying?” You are the Lamb of God. We want to be with you.

Christ gives the gracious invitation: “Come and you will see.” Jesus invites you to come.

“Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day (John 1:39 NLT).

Coming to Christ is not a matter of doing something that will put us into right relationship with God and then going back and living our lives without him. Christ invites us into a permanent, ongoing, continuous, growing relationship. Being a Christian is not a Sunday morning affair. It is an invitation to continual fellowship with Christ for a lifetime. It’s an invitation to continuous fellowship for now and for eternity:

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV).

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3 ESV).

They had found the Lamb of God.

Andrew and John had spent the day with Jesus. We don’t know what he said to them, but Jesus had had a profound effect on them. The first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother Simon: “We have found the Messiah!” he told him.

CHRIS TOMLIN: JESUS MESSIAH (4:50) – 22 second lead

The Messiah was the one who had been promised for 4,000 years. John tells us in 1:41 that Messiah means Christ. Now we must not confuse all the titles of Jesus Christ and say that they all mean the same thing. We must not say that Christ means Son of God and Son of God means Son of Man and Son of Man means King of kings, and so forth. He is given many titles in Scripture and they mean different things. In this first chapter of John alone, Jesus is identified as

  • The Lamb of God
  • The Son of God
  • The Messiah
  • The King of Israel
  • The Son of Man

We must not imagine that all these titles mean the same thing. They all refer to Jesus, but they mean different things. They tell us different things about him, who he is, what he came to do.

But the titles Messiah and Christ do mean the same thing. They both mean “anointed.” The word Messiah comes from the Hebrew word “mashiach” while the word Christ comes from the Greek word “christos.” So Messiah and Christ are the Hebrew and Greek words meaning “anointed.”

Anointing oil was a symbol of the blessing of the Lord or of the Holy Spirit’s empowering. When prophets, priests, and kings were consecrated to their office, they were anointed with oil, symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s enabling, the ability that He gives. But Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One, would be consecrated as Prophet, Priest, and King. As Prophet, he speaks the Word of God. As Priest, he offers his own body as a sacrifice for our sins and sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. As King, he will rule the nations and everyone will recognize that he is King of kings and Lord of lords.

That is what Andrew meant with he told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew and John had found the One who had been anointed by God the Father as Prophet, Priest, and King! That’s why they had followed John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the lamp that led them to the light. They were looking for the Messiah.

What are you looking for? You may not know it, but you are looking for the Messiah too.

Then Andrew brought Simon [his brother] to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John– but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”) (John 1:42 NLT).

The Word of Transformation

Every time we see Andrew, he is bringing someone to Jesus. First he brings his brother Simon Peter. Later he will bring to Jesus a small boy who has five loaves and two fishes. Finally, he will bring a group of Greek worshippers to Christ.

When Andrew brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, Simon had never been called Peter. But Jesus tells him that his nature will be changed. He will become stable, like a rock. It would not be instantaneous. It would not happen in a moment. But he would be transformed by Christ.

Christ takes you where you are. He knows what you are and what you’ve done, and he knows what his plans are for you. He knows how to change you from what you are to what you were meant to be.

Jesus Finds Philip

This is an interesting turn in the story. Andrew had announced to his brother Simon Peter that they had found the Messiah. John had probably announced to his brother James that they had found the Messiah.

Andrew and Peter were from the same town as Philip. They were probably all disciples of John the Baptist. But they had not thought of Philip. It was no brother who went looking for Philip. No close friend thought to bring him to Christ. “According to the record, nobody went after Philip.”[2] Nobody? There was One:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me” (John 1:43 NLT).

Now it is the Messiah who is doing the finding. Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me” (1:43).

We might wonder why Jesus went and found Philip. Philip had been looking for the Messiah.

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” (John 1:45 ESV).

Philip knew what he was looking for. He had read the promises and prophecies concerning the Messiah. He too had been looking for and hoping for the Messiah. Jesus is looking for those who are looking for him. And when Jesus came, Philip recognized that Jesus was the Messiah.

Those who seek for God are found by God. Philip had been looking for the Messiah, and the Messiah found him.

What are you looking for?

It is important to note that this was not some new religion. This was not some new theology or philosophy. This was not some new interpretation. Philip told Nathanael, “This is the one that Moses and the prophets wrote about.” Jesus himself said,

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose (Matthew 5:17 NLT).

The Apostle Paul began his letter to the Romans by insisting that the gospel was not new:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, (Romans 1:1-2 ESV).

This gospel is not a new teaching or a new religion. If it is new, it is to be condemned. But it is not new. It is what God promised long ago by his prophets in the holy Scriptures. Jesus was not some prophet who showed up without credentials or without any proof that he was from God. He had been promised hundreds and thousands of years before. Over 300 prophecies pointed to him.

Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” “Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied (John 1:45-46 NLT).

Nathanael was prejudiced against Nazareth. Nazareth did not have the best reputation. When Nathanael heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he made up his mind: Jesus could not be the Messiah.

What do you think? Do you think this whole thing is just a sham, a deception, a lie? Are you prejudiced against Christ because of what people have told you? Perhaps by what you have experienced by people who claimed to be disciples of Christ?

Well, I can only tell you what Philip told Nathanael: “Come and see for yourself.” Investigate the claims of Christ for yourself. Make up your own mind instead of depending on someone else’s opinion. Come and see.

Philip had found Nathanael and was bringing him to Jesus.

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47 ESV).

This surprised Nathanael: “How do you know me?”

Jesus does know Nathanael, but Nathanael does not know how. Nathanael had been under a fig tree when Philip found him. Perhaps he was meditating on the story of Jacob and the ladder. It was Philip who had found Nathanael. Jesus was not even there. But Jesus had seen Nathanael before Philip had even found him. Jesus knew that Nathanael was a man of integrity because he knew all about him. Jesus knew what Nathanael was doing even when he was not physically present. Jesus knew what Nathanael had been meditating on under the fig tree.

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” (John 1:48 ESV).

Jesus knows you. He knows what is in your heart. He knows what kind of a person you are. He sees you even though you cannot see him.

Nathanael’s doubts were removed. There is only one way that Jesus could have known Nathanael’s heart:

Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God– the King of Israel!” (John 1:49 NLT).

Nathanael recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, but he spoke better than he knew. Jesus is the eternal Son of God and the only way to God:

Jesus asked him, “Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth” (John 1:50-51 NLT).

Jacob had seen a stairway between heaven and earth. That stairway is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus is the link between heaven and earth. He is the one and only mediator between God and man. John the Baptist declared that Jesus is

  • The Lamb of God
  • The Son of God
  • The Messiah
  • The King of Israel
  • The Son of Man

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV).

Jesus is the Son of Man whose Kingdom will not pass away.

What are you looking for?

The motto of the person without God is:

Only one life,
‘twill soon be past.
Forget about tomorrow,
Let’s have a blast!

The person who has found the Messiah has a different motto:

Only one life,
‘twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ
Will last.

John the Baptist came that Christ the Messiah might be revealed.

Christ came to take away your sin and mine.

When Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael found Christ, they found what they were looking for.

And Christ is looking for you. He knew Nathanael, and he knows you. He knows your heart. He knows your thoughts. He knows your name. He is calling you to come and follow him.



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