How Not to Reach People and John 1.35-51  

Every spring he arrived, like the weeds. He carried a huge ten-foot wooden cross all over campus (with wheels on the bottom for easier travel), and verbally assaulted any curious onlookers. Whenever he came to town the whole campus thought Christianity was about avoiding sin, and that Christians were mean people who thought they were better than everybody else. I think it is safe to say, do not do that! That is not how you reach people. John 1.35-51 is the birth of the church. It is the historical record of the first people to be reached directly by Jesus on the planet. Our plan is simple, to look at how to reach people by looking at how not to reach people. 

If you do not want to reach people, then avoid preaching (verse 35): “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!” “Again” refers to John the Baptist’s regular practice of preaching and teaching. The Apostle is highlighting how the church began. It began by preaching. Notice, however, not any kind of preaching, it is “Lamb of God” preaching, Jesus as Savior preaching. Preaching Jesus and his salvation reaches people (verse 37): “The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus…”

If you do not want to reach people, then avoid making friends (vv.40-42): “One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon…He brought him to Jesus.” Each time we meet Andrew in John’s Gospel (i.e. four times), he is bringing someone to Jesus. “He first found his own brother” is highlighting the quality of the relationship. In other words, you can have a brother and not be friends. We can have neighbors, employees, classmates, teammates, children, acquaintances, and not be friends. Notice how reaching people by making friends is so normal, natural, and ordinary in this passage. It is simple invitations to “come and see” (verses 39, 42, and 46).

If you do not want to reach people, then avoid gospel conversations (verse 38): “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’” Jesus simply asks Andrew and his unnamed friend a most fundamental question of life: “What are you looking for in life? What do you really want out of life?” In other words, “What is your salvation? What do you think will save you?” Well, that is a conversation starter! It hits the heart, touches reality, and awakens the human condition. Notice how both Andrew and Philip start gospel conversations that are intelligible to their hearers, one being religious and the other being skeptical. Each gospel conversation is normal and natural. No one is being weird, stupid, fake, or hokey. No one is freaking out, getting defensive, acting like a know-it-all, and needing to be in control. The simple refrain is, “Come and see. Come check it out for yourself.”

If you do not want to reach people, then avoid seeing greater things for yourself (verses 50-51): “Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under a fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these…Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” Jesus is Jacob’s ziggurat. Jesus is the Heavenly-Human Hero connecting God and sinners together in friendship in himself. Come and see, and then go reach people by making friends and having gospel conversations.