How do people come to Jesus?
If people are to come to Jesus we need to see the reason that they come. If I wish to bring people just how should I do it? What do I say?
The question arose from a sermon at Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield where Vicar Mike was preaching on the I am the bread of life passage in John’s Gospel where Jesus says, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37) I am using the ESV here simply because my study Bible is ESV.
It is good news that Jesus will never drive away anyone who comes to him but it leaves the unanswered question of how do they come. Seeing as the question is from John’s Gospel I thought I’d look at that Gospel to see how people came to Jesus then and think about how that applies now.
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. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
‘Come and you will see.’ said Jesus. No sermon, no four spiritual laws, nothing, just a simple invitation, ‘Come and you will see.’ Are you curious? A lot of churches run courses that talk about the basics of what Christianity is, under names such as Christian basics, Emmaus or Alpha. They are non commital–you can leave the course at any time and even at the end you can walk away. They are usually free. If you are curious you can find an Alpha Course here. Come and you will see.
Because Jesus asked
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip got a direct request to follow from Jesu himself. Today that still happens. This is a report of Muslims coming to Christ through visions and dreams. I learnt of this through the Open Doors charity a few years ago, but here is a more recent version. This is happening too frequently to be dismissed.
A friend or relative asked them
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
John 1:40-42, 44-46
Andrew brought his brother Simon, Philip brought his friend Nathaniel. Again there was no explanation, Philip’s answer to Nathaniel was the same as Jesus answer to Andrew; “Come and see.”
They had philosophical questions
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Nicodemus came with philosophical questions, he was interested in Jesus as a teacher, he was not looking for a saviour. But Jesus accepted him, giving him an answer about being born again that Nicodemas, a trained Pharisee and ruler, did not understand. Jesus was in the process of turning it around and making it personal but managed to throw a little philosophy back. There are people who regard Jesus as being a great teacher, understandably, it is great teaching, but Jesus takes it deeper, not rejecting the philosophical argument, but asking for more than intellectual assent. Jesus is looking for commitment.
A chance encounter
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
As far as the woman was concerned, this was a chance encounter. Whether Jesus knew it would happen is not recorded, but it looks as if he is as surprised by the meeting as the woman was. he was, after all, coming at that time to avoid meeting anyone, and didn’t really want this one she deflects all of Jesus’ questions avoiding each one until Jesus displays knowledge of her background.
They were asked a question
No quote here, there are too many. All the instances above except the last one have people coming to Jesus with questions. Jesus often asked questions. sometimes rhetorical, sometimes to get an answer and sometimes in response to someone else’s question; sometimes he got a reply, other times not.
“Who do men say that I am?” he asked his disciples, followed by, “Who do you say that I am?” A question we need to ask ourselves.
“Do you want to be healed?” he asked a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. A valid question as the man may have become so used to being disabled that he identified as such and was happy that way.
“Do you want to go away as well?” Full circle, and back to John chapter 6 where this blog started. When Jesus said, “whoever comes to me I will never drive away,” he was aware that the crowds in front of him were going to do just that. After feeing the 5000, crowds gathered wanting to be fed as well. Unlike those across the lake, there were not in danger of hunger. Jesus had dealt with a need, now people who were not hungry were wanting the same food. They were after a miracle for their own wants, they were trying to set the agenda as to how Jesus would act rather than following Jesus and his agenda. In the end Jesus does not reject them, they reject Jesus because Jesus will not conform to their selfishness.
Jesus accepts all
Jesus accepts all who come to him. all who will listen to him. It does not matter where you are coming from, people came to Jesus for all sorts of reasons and all kinds of backgrounds. Those of us who follow Jesus should be just as accepting. The answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this blog, how do people come to Jesus, the answer is: From all sorts of places in all kinds of ways.
We could easily extend Galatians 3:28 to read, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no black or white, there is no gay or straight, there is no straight or transgender, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Words in italics are mine.) If we try to restrict who can come to Jesus we do the Gospel a disservice.