Let’s lift up our voices (or perk up our ears) to the One who is indeed Mighty to Save
The three verses we will look at today highlight much of what growing in our understanding of salvation looks like: first, believing that we’ve found Christ, and second, growing to realize that we’ve been found by Christ. Years ago in my seminary class, I vividly remember my theology teacher speaking on John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” As he spoke about that particular verse, he stepped into an illustration on salvation that has stuck with me ever since. He talked about a piece of metal and a magnet (we had to imagine it, as will you). As the magnet got closer to the metal, something happened: the metal quickly moved in the direction of the magnet and affixed itself firmly to it. He asked us a question we’d all known since we were kids: “Why did the metal stick to the magnet?” The answer, obviously, was because it was drawn to the magnet; the metal did not attract itself to the magnet, but because of the magnetism was pulled into the magnet.
The question regarding this illustration does not require “rocket science” on an elementary level. Nevertheless, when “Christians,” real or nominal, speak of salvation, it’s often quite a different response. In referencing John 6:44, it’s important that we grow to understand that it was never us that made us desire Him; it was Him that made us desire Him. Were it not for His drawing, not only would we not come to Him, we could not come to Him (“can” ought not be overlooked in John 6:44; it stresses the ability or capability of people to come to Christ for salvation).
Andrew found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah.” Stop and consider what Andrew just said—we’ve found him. Found in this context is used in this way: “to come upon something (or someone) accidentally, without seeking” (BDAG Lexicon, Bibleworks). Imagine you are walking through the deep, dark woods on a lonely trail and as you pass some trees, you stumble upon an old wooden chest sticking out just shyly above the ground. You clear away the dirt, kick the rusted padlock to break it off and it comes right off. You slowly crack the lid and as you open it, light floods into the old chest. What do you find but a large amount of gold coins!? Eureka! You’re rich (maybe–we’ll just assume you get to keep it for sake of illustration). You have stumbled upon something you weren’t looking for and yet you’re rejoicing because you’ve found an amazing treasure. What has happened is basically Matthew 6:44: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” This is the heart of the matter as Andrew goes to tell his brother Simon that the Messiah (or Christ) has been found.
When it came to us finding Jesus, we need to be reminded of Scripture in that we did not stumble upon the Savior, ever. He came searching for us and He found us. God knew each of us would “stumble” over the treasure of His Son when He led us to hear His word, however our story took place. Does God owe us something for finding Him and not letting go? He doesn’t; He never did owe us anything and He never will. All that we experience in Christ, all the blessings and every second of eternity in Heaven, is purely of grace.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” John 6:63-65
After Andrew told Simon that they’d found the Messiah, we see Andrew bringing him to Jesus. The relative insignificance of who Simon is before meeting Jesus begins to get dispelled upon hearing the Savior say, “You are Simon the son of Jonah.” The name Simon was a rather common name of the time, and it means “to listen.” Simon’s father, Jonah, will only be mentioned twice: once here, and once near the end of the Gospel of John when Jesus asks Peter if he “loves him more than these” (John 21:15). We know Peter was a fisherman before being a follower of Christ but so much of Simon’s life up until meeting Jesus was quite obscure. This all changes in the Bible when Jesus looks at him and tells him, “’You shall be called Cephas’ (which is translated, A Stone).”
Peter (Greek petros=rock) would be well known throughout the rest of history, not only as a disciple and an apostle, but would be wrongly elevated in Roman Catholic tradition as the founder of the Church, regarded as the first Pope. Roman Catholic teaching in relation to this belief tends to come from these verses:
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:13-16
Careful study of this passage would help us to see that it was the truth claim that Peter said that was the rock, the foundation of the Church, and not Peter himself, even though his name means rock. A play on words it may be, but what Christ is pointing to is His own Lordship and the faith in Him that the church is built upon. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ is the rock, the foundation, of the church. The Holy Spirit worked in Peter to help him see that Jesus was not just anybody, or even a religious somebody; He was the Son of God. The gates of hell certainly cannot prevail against Christ for He died, was buried, and rose again triumphant over sin and death and has the authority to grant life to whom He pleases.
What made Peter great, in part, is what makes you or me great if we’re believers: we carry the message of life, the gospel, forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ. We find our identity in Christ and are united with Him. All of the opposition the gospel has faced over the years has at times been like a hand trying to hold down a log under the water, only to watch the log resurface as it always does. Truth works that way: it can be attacked, denied or defamed, but it can’t be ignored and it can’t be overcome. Equally true, neither can the faith or salvation that God imparts to His children be blotted out. If you are His, you will always be His.
If you’ve found life in Christ, remind yourself today that Christ found you, and the significance you carry is directly tied to the Jesus you serve. If you’re on the fence, I implore you to believe in Jesus for eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. He still offers that very much right now.
Prayer: Today’s prayer comes from Colossians 1:9-12:
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”