Perhaps the most famous introduction in our American lives is this – “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.” Or if you’re not so fond of that one, try this on for size – “Here’s Johnny!”
If those are outdated or simply unappealing, a few years ago there came a story from Newport, TN, about a little 7-month-old named Messiah Martin. It seems a judge changed his name and, in the process, saved the boy lots of awkward introductions and explanations. Imagine the scenarios.
Speaking of famous introductions throughout history… there was an introduction made back in the first century so profound, powerful and transcendent that it continues to this day around the world. And you don’t have to use much imagination to figure out the person about whom I’m speaking. Let me introduce you to Jesus! So simple, yet profound, powerful, and potentially life changing for the one who takes heed and wonders – Who is Jesus?
As we put a wrap on 2020 and enter 2021, we’re going to take a look at a basic foundation of evangelism that, while simple, is also profound and powerful – introducing Jesus to others.
Yes, evangelism is many things. Yet understanding and applying this one concept can help us focus as His witnesses in the coming year.
In John 1:35-51, note two kinds of people who follow Jesus in this narrative, the seekers and the skeptic. You and I have met them and know them.
In verses 35-42 seekers are introduced to Jesus; a skeptic is introduced to Him in verses 43-51.
Here’s the progression in the passage. First, there’s the testimony of the believer, then the initial response of the unbeliever, and finally the Lord Himself bringing the unbeliever to a point of following Him The result is a beautiful portrait of the Lord convincing both the seeker and skeptic to follow Him.
First, notice the seekers in John 1:35-36, “Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
On the previous day John had also given testimony about Him in John 1:29, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and testifying that Jesus is the Son of God!
After John points them to Jesus, the Lord does the rest.
The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus (John 1:37-42).
This key phrase, “come and see” is important for us as His witnesses. There ought to be a crossroads in witnessing encounters or in relationships where we ask people if they’re interested in learning more about Jesus. Their response is going to be “yes,” “no,” or “later.” We can all go from there because at the end of the day, the Lord calls people to seek Him. Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be open to you” (Matthew 7:7). In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” It’s certainly appropriate to encourage people to ask God (if they believe in God) to show them the truth about Jesus. Additionally, point them to His Word. Point people to God and His Word, and if they won’t go there, what can you and I do? We’re just people.
Knowing that when people go to the source, the Lord can and does open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, and do the wonderful work of salvation! Praise God!
After the seekers (the disciples of John the Baptist) meet and begin following Jesus, the skeptic, Nathaniel, in a moment, by the supernatural power of God, becomes a follower! Look again at John 1:43-46.
Notice it’s Jesus who finds Philip, who, in turn, follows Him. Philip, from the same town as Andrew and Peter, goes to Nathaniel and basically says, ‘We’ve found Messiah!” Nathaniel’s not impressed – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth!” Now we might call that response snarky or skeptical.
Have you ever shared your faith and the response was like this? I know I have. Sometimes people have asked me what it was like to be a missionary to my Jewish people for many years. And occasionally I respond, “Well let’s just say I was in the rejection management business!”
While Nathaniel was a Galilean like these other disciples, Jesus was from Nazareth. And back in the day, Galileans generally despised Nazarenes, hence the ridicule! But this doesn’t stop Philip, who says, “Come and See.”
At this point if we didn’t have the narrative, we might assume after Nathaniel’s response that he would have bolted. You know – something like, “I’m out of here.”
But Nathaniel doesn’t bolt, even after scoffing. Instead we see a divine appointment where Nathaniel is met by the Lord and his whole perspective of Jesus is changed in a moment:
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:47-49).
How does the Lord know Nathaniel? The same way He knows all things about all people! When Jesus says, “I saw you under the fig tree,” He reveals His supernatural nature.
The mystery here is that Nathaniel is moved from skeptic to believer supernaturally in a moment as he experiences the living Word, Jesus. And as that transaction occurred exclusively between him and the Lord, so it is with all who believe. In one moment he scoffs, “Can anything good come out Nazareth!” and the next moment he looks at Jesus and exclaims, “You are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel!”
Nathaniel illustrates the fact that there is no such thing as a ‘lost cause,’ because God can penetrate the hardest of hearts, even the skeptic – so be encouraged.
For the believer, we need not be discouraged by the scoffing or even outright rejection of Jesus. Remember, everyone is on a journey and in process. Love and respect people enough to let them scoff or reject Jesus and the message. Keep loving them, praying for them, and keep imploring the Lord to reveal His true identity to them.
If someone doesn’t want to talk about Jesus today, respect their wishes. Pray that some soon tomorrow they will be willing – always being ready to give an answer or a word aptly spoken.
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, provides a wonderful definition of successful witnessing that will strengthen your witness, stating, “Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.”
Introducing others to Jesus is God’s will for us as His followers. Simple – it is. Easy – it is not. So pray for great faith, boldness, and courage along with open doors to share good news of Messiah Jesus.
Never will a person who comes to faith ever say they were sorry that someone introduced them to Jesus! Rather, they will be eternally grateful.
May the Lord richly bless our witness as His people in 2021, providing you and me many opportunities to introduce people to Jesus! Happy New Year!