Matthew 4:12 & John 1:26-51 by Robert Dean
"Who does He think He is?" "I knew Him when He was just an ordinary kid." Listen to this lesson to see how His family and old acquaintances in his hometown found it unbelievable that Jesus was the promised Savior. Hear about those who did accept His Messiahship and those who rejected it. Discover the meaning of the word "believe" and whether a special kind of faith is needed or if the object of what we believe is what counts. See how Jesus threw Phillip for a loop when He revealed He had seen him under the fig tree and the significance of this. Consider the challenge of discipleship in your own life and see if you are willing to be a student of the Word of God for the journey of a lifetime. Also includes Luke 4:14-30.

Receiving and Rejecting the Messiah
Matthew 4:12; John 1:26-51; Luke 4:14–30
Matthew Lesson #014
December 1, 2013

Matthew 4:12 NASB "Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee."

That gives us a chronological note, but if we were to take the time to look at the Gospel of John we would note that in John 3:22ff Jesus and His disciples go into Judea and baptize, and John is also baptizing nearby. Those who come to Jesus are becoming more and more and those who come to John the Baptist less and less. So by the end of John chapter three John the Baptist has not been arrested yet and is still freely engaged in his ministry. His arrest does not come until after those events. All of the events that take place in John 1-4 take place before John is arrested. That covers a whole year.

There is the baptism of John and the recognition of Jesus as the Lamb of God, the initial acquaintance of Jesus with the five disciples in John chapter one, followed by Jesus' trip back to Galilee where He turns the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, then he goes south again to Judea where He observes the first Passover—many believed in His name. In chapter three He has a conversation with Nicodemus, then there is information given about both Jesus' and John's disciples both baptizing at the end of chapter three. Then Jesus heads to Galilee, but He goes through Samaria and there is the episode of the Samaritan woman in John chapter four. Then in John 4:43, 44 NASB "After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country."

Matthew 4:12 is what happens at the end of John chapter four. Then in 4:13 we read, "and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali." He went back to His home town Nazareth to begin with but something happens there. He is rejected by His home-town crowd. So what we are looking at now takes place in between this brief summary that Matthew gives us.

In John chapter one we are introduced to Jesus as the Word, verses 1-5. Then we are introduced to a second man in John 1:6, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John." Now we are introduced to John the Baptist who states that he is not the Light [Logos], the incarnate second person of the Trinity who is the Light. But John is a witness to the Light. That is his role. John 1:10 NASB "He [the Word] was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him."

Then we come to three significant verses, John 1:11-13. Verse 13, "He came to His own …" That would be the Jewish people. His initial mission was to bring the message of the kingdom to His own, the Jewish people. "… and those who were His own did not receive Him." This is a summary statement by John. What we are going to see is that there are two responses to Jesus. One is a response of rejection; the other is a response of reception.

The reception. John 1:12 NASB "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, {even} to those who believe in His name." We need to zero in on that word "believe". What we see here in the structure of these verses is that the word believe is used synonymously with receive. Receiving Jesus is just a rhetorical way of talking about believing in Him. The word "believe" is used some 95 or 96 times as a verb in the Gospel of John. The noun "faith" is not used. The verb to believe is used and it is never qualified. There are never qualifications with adverbs like truly, genuinely or sincerely, there is just the word believe. Because all that is required of salvation is to simply believe Jesus is the Messiah who died on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins. There is nothing that goes along with it.

There are some people who think that that faith has to be of a certain quality. But it is not the kind of faith that saves, it is the object of faith that saved. It is the person and work of Jesus Christ that saves and is the object of faith in salvation. Often we look at some person who has committed certain sins and we say: Oh, how can that person be a Christian? Well folks, we are all sinners, every single one of us. And sometimes we commit sins that shock us, sometimes we commit sins that we become rather used to in our own lives and so they don't shock us too much. But we all commit sins. That is why we have promises like 1 John 1:9, that of we confess our sins God is faithful and just forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There is forgiveness in the Christian life and we can go forward. So we can't look at somebody and say they must not be a believer because of something they did. The best we can say is that they are not living like a believer when they do that. They have yielded to their sin nature and have committed sin, but that does not mean they are not a believer. Being a Christian is simply a matter of faith alone in Christ alone.

Those who have the right to become children of God are those who believe in His name. That idiom "in His name" indicates who a person is in terms of his person and work.

John 1:13 NASB "who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." It is not their racial or genetic heritage or a product of their own will as something meritorious. God is the one whose plan of salvation it is and God is the one who creates a new life in a person when they trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.

There are those who receive and those who will not receive. In the context we go back to John baptizing down near Jericho on the Jordan River. But this is at least six weeks since Jesus came down and was baptized by John. We will see in John's description of Jesus that he heard the Father identify Jesus, and he saw the dove descending upon Him from heaven, and he said he saw this happen. It had happened sometime previously, not in these four days that are mentioned in John chapter one. There are four days that are mentioned consecutively here. The first day is a day when the religious leaders from Jerusalem send a team to enquire of John who he is. Earlier in Matthew there was a sort of an initial fact-finding group that heard the message that John was baptizing down on the Jordan where huge crowds were going and they needed to find out what was going on. It was approximately at that same time that Jesus came and was baptized. Then we have at least six or seven weeks that transpire between that event and this one, and now the religious leaders are sending out a second team. They begin to ask John specific questions because they want to identify who he is.

John 1:19 NASB "This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?'" John's first answer is: "I am not the Christ [Messiah]". So they ask him the second question: "Are you Elijah?" They were aware of the fact that the Old Testament predicted in Malachi 4:5 that Elijah would come before the Messiah. He said: "I am not". That was the second answer. They ask him a third question: "Are you the prophet?" This term "the prophets" comes out of Deuteronomy 18:15, where there is a prediction of a prophet who will rise up who will be greater than Moses. This is again a messianic term. John says, no, he was not the prophet. Then they ask a fourth question: "Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us?" John answers: John 1:23 He said, "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said." He is quoting from Isaiah 40:3, identifying himself as the forerunner of the Messiah. They then ask him a fifth question: John 1:25 NASB "They asked him, and said to him, 'Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?'" He then gives an explanation of why he is baptizing, in terms of his message, which is, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand".  

Then we have the second day. John 1:29 NASB "The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'"

This imagery would have been well known to the Jews. It is the imagery of the sacrifice of the lamb on the day of atonement: the imagery of the sacrificial lamb at Passover, and a lamb that is without spot or blemish. It is that lamb on the day of atonement that receives the imputation of the sins of the people. He will say it again in verse 36. Here it is a longer statement. He is identifying Jesus as the Messiah, the savior who would take away the sin of the world. In conclusion, in verse 34 he says, "He is the Son of God". John is very clear in identifying who Jesus is as his role was the be the forerunner and the announcer of the Messiah.

On the third day we see that John is now standing with two of his disciples while He is teaching them. The word "disciple" basically means a student, a learner. In the Jewish context if you wanted to follow a rabbi and be part of his school, part of his teaching, then you would be following him. So here are the students and they are with their teacher, John the Baptist. John looks up and Jesus is coming toward them. He says to his disciples, "Look, the Lamb of God." There is an implication there that they should follow Him and so the two disciples (v. 37) heard him speak and they followed Jesus. This is the group that is receiving Jesus. We see a picture of the fact that they are accepting who He is and they are going a step further and becoming disciples. It is important to understand that. The term disciple is not a synonym for believer. There are those who became believers but they kept it secret. We know that Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee, and another Pharisee named Joseph of Arimathea, were both believers but they kept is secret.  

John 12:42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing {Him,} for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue." They were secret believers, but that doesn't mean they weren't believers. There are perhaps many who do that to this day. [43] "for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God." Clearly they have some motivation that is wrong, but they are still believers.

There are some today who teach forms of salvation and say if you are truly saved you will make a public confession of your faith. If you are truly saved you will live a certain kind of a lifestyle. If you are truly saved you're not going to be embarrassed about Jesus and keep it secret. But this is not what John tells us. John tells us that if we want eternal life we believe in Jesus as the one who died for our sins. That is one issue. At that instant you are born again, you become a new creature in Christ. But then you have another decision to make. After salvation what are you going to do? Are you going to just keep living the same way you were before, or are you going to live in light of this new life that you have in Christ. In other words, are you going to be a disciple? Are you going to follow Jesus? This is the example of these five that we see at the end of John chapter one.

John 1:38 NASB "And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' They said to Him, 'Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?'" This would have been typical. This would have been later in the day. This was typical of how rabbis in the second temple period increased their following. They would find some students who wished to join their school. The disciples were following Jesus at a respectable distance. They were not pushing their way into His life, they are not hiding in the background, but by going with Him and listening at a close distance they are indicating by their actions that they are interested in being disciples. At this point once a rabbi noticed that someone was following him that was interested in becoming a student of his, he could either accept them or reject them. This is what is going on here when Jesus says, "What do you seek?"

"Where are you staying?" We want to come with you is the implication. This was the idiom of how this connection between a rabbi and a student developed.

John 1:39 NASB "He said to them, 'Come, and you will see.'"  That was a form that the rabbi would say to them as his students come and follow him. If not he would say, "It is none of your business." That would be a sign of rejection. Jesus accepts them. "So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour."

We are then told who they were. John 1:40 NASB "One of the two who heard John {speak} and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother." Andrew appears to be rather outgoing. Every time we find him mentioned in John's Gospel he is going out and bringing somebody to Jesus. [41] "He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which translated means Christ)." This tells us that these brothers are positive to the Word of God. They had been following John the Baptist and they are seeking the Messiah.

John 1:42 NASB "He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas" (which is translated Peter)." The Greek doesn't have a soft C; in the Greek it is K—kephas, translated a stone or a rock. This is related to the Greek word petros—Peter. kephas is the Aramaic term that is equivalent to Peter, i.e. a rock or a stone. This would indicate something of his character.

John 1:43 NASB "The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, 'Follow Me.'" This is day four. Philip was from Bethsaida, a fishing village not far from Capernaum. This is where Andrew and Peter lived at this time. Peter will move to Capernaum. The three of them know each other.

John 1:45 NASB "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.'" There is an interesting response from Nathanael. [46] "Nathanael said to him, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'" Nazareth was just a backwater little village of a couple of hundred people, and it didn't have the greatest reputation.

John 1:47 NASB "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!'" This is a pun that is taking place here and Jesus is catching his attention by doing this. The name Israel is the name that God gave to Jacob at a place that was later described as Peniel, the place where Jacob met God face to face. Jesus uses the word Israel here because the new name for Jacob was Israel but Jacob before was known as a deceiver.  

John 1:48 NASB "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.'" According to the Mishnah, and according the teaching of rabbis at this time, the best place to sit and read your Bible in the morning and to meditate on the Word was under a fig tree. This is what the rabbis suggested. So when Jesus says He saw Nathanael under the fig tree the sub-text is: "I saw you meditating on the Word this morning". What was the passage that Nathanael was meditating on? It was from Genesis 27 and 28, a section that precedes Passover. Jesus was saying, "Look, you are an Israelite but you are not deceitful like Jacob." Nathanael had just been reading that context. What Jesus is letting Philip know is that He knew that Nathanael was sitting under the fig tree and was meditating on the Genesis passage, and He was letting him know what He knew what he was thinking about and focusing on that morning.

Philip's response: John 1:49 NASB "Nathanael answered Him, 'Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.'" He knows by the fact that Jesus knows precisely what he was doing that morning that this was not something that any ordinary human would know. It was the product of omniscience and Nathanael identifies Him as the Son of God. 

John 1:50 NASB "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.' [51] And He said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'" This is also from Genesis 28. As Jacob the deceiver is fleeing to live with his relatives in Haran because Esau wanted to kill him. His first night is at Bethel where he has a dream. In that dream we are told about the stairway to heaven (Jacob's ladder). He sees a ladder reaching down from heaven and the angels of God are ascending and descending upon it. And what this is an indication of is, because God told him afterwards, that He is reconfirming the covenant with Jacob and telling him that it is through him and his descendants that He would be revealing Himself—the angels are instruments of revelation—through Jacob and he would be an instrument of blessing to the world.

When Jesus has this encounter with Nathanael He goes on and makes this statement. "Most assuredly, I say to you …" This is a plural verb here, He is not talking specifically to Nathanael, He is talking to all the disciples. " … you all will see haven open …" So He is alluding to the Genesis 28 passage again and saying something more about it, but now He saying that "you as my disciples will benefit from the revelation that I will give you that will be even greater and will benefit all of your people." But the point of this is that He is identifying who He is to these disciples and they receive Him, they accept Him. In John 2:11 after the signs in Cana in Galilee that His disciples believed in Him. Their faith was increasing as a result of seeing the miracles. In John 2:23 Jesus goes to Jerusalem for Passover and many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. Salvation is by faith.

In conclusion we will look briefly at Luke chapter four. We have seen those who received Jesus but in Luke we see those who reject Jesus. After He spends a year in Judea He will then head back to Galilee. This happens when John the Baptist is arrested and put in prison by Herod Antipas. This is the signal for Jesus to get out of the limelight in Judea. He goes to His hometown of Nazareth.

Luke 4:14 NASB "And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. [15] And He {began} teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. [16]  And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read."

This was perfectly times because the reading that came out of the Law was usually accompanied by readings that came from the prophets. He was going to read publicly as was the custom in the synagogue. They stood up to read and then sat down to teach or explain what they read.

Luke 4:17 NASB "And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, [18] 'THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, [19] TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.'" This is a quote from Isaiah 61:1, 2. Jesus stopped reading in the middle of verse 2. There was no versification in the scroll at that time; it was just one passage.

Luke 4:20 NASB "And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. [21] And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'"

This passage in Isaiah goes on to say, "And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn {in} Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting…" This is indicative of what happens at the end of the Tribulation when the Messiah sets up His kingdom in the times of refreshing. Jesus is just talking about the first coming. That is what His focus is in verse 1 and the first line of verse 2. There is a gap of at least 2000 years between the fulfillment of the first part of this prophecy and the fulfillment of the second part of the prophecy. What Jesus is doing is reading from the first part of this prophecy, and He stops and says that this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.     

The people don't want to hear this.

Luke 4:22 NASB "And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, 'Is this not Joseph's son?'"

Jesus responds to them:

Luke 4:23 NASB  "And He said to them, 'No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.'" In other words, this is a sign of their rejection of Him. [24] "And He said, 'Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.'" Then He gives two examples.

Luke 4:25 NASB "But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; [26] and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath [Gentile], {in the land} of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow." He ministered there. Why? Because he wasn't honored in Israel. God sent him to the Gentiles.

Luke 4:27 NASB "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." What Jesus is indicating is that these people don't want to accept Him, so if they didn't want to accept Him, like they didn't accept Elijah and Elisha,  then the blessing is going to go to the Gentiles. This angered them tremendously.  [28] "And all {the people} in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; [29] and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff." They are in a rage. This is what happens when the truth is being rejected, when the truth is so real in front of people that they can't stand it. [30] "But passing through their midst, He went His way."

What we see here is that there are two responses to Jesus: one of rejection and one of acceptance. The rejection of Jesus as savior leaves us in a position of condemnation. There is only one solution and that is to accept Him, to believe in Him, and have eternal life. The decision after that is: Then what? That is the challenge of discipleship. And that is what we will see next time.