Friday, September 18, 2009

Called to Follow - Philip

I have the feeling that many of you will relate to today’s lesson about Philip. His story is much like most everyone’s story. An ordinary person, full of fault and failures comes to Jesus in spite of those things. He is used by Jesus even though he has flaws and little faith at first.

Philip, called to "follow", just like the other disciples we have looked at this week. We see his story begin at Bethabara beyond the Jordan River. As Jesus is on his way to Galilee, he finds the young Philip.

John 1:43 - The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me."

Jesus, once again sees an ordinary young man and decides "this one, I'll ask this one." Although, this scripture doesn't say "he followed", we know that he did. We know this because he was included in the list as one of the twelve in other scripture.

What we do know about Philip though, is he had the heart of an evangelist. The first thing Philip does after his encounter with Jesus is go find Nathanael. He brings Nathanael to meet Jesus and he becomes a follower himself.

Like Andrew, Philip knew right away that Jesus was the Messiah. He knew the importance of finding Jesus and wanted others to come to the same knowledge. He ran immediately to find his friend Nathanael and bring him to the Messiah.

Philip and Nathanael must have studied scripture together. The way Philip tells Nathanael indicates knowledge of the prophecies about Jesus. He says to him "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." (John 1:45) Philip had no doubt that he had encountered the Messiah written about by Moses and the prophets. He was fully confident of his decision to follow Jesus and willing to bring others to the same.

Confidence in his decision didn't change some of his character flaws though. He was still full of flaws as all of us are. Being pessimistic and the facts and figures type, Philip sometimes had wavering faith. We see this unfold in the story of feeding five thousand in John 6:5-7.

Jesus seeing a great multitude coming toward him said to Philip "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" Jesus knew what He would do to feed all these people; he didn't need the help of Philip. Instead, this was an opportunity for Philip to show his faith. How did he respond?

Instead of responding with faith, his bean counter mentality kicked in and he began to tally the cost and concluded it could not be done. He saw the impossibility of the situation not the possibility Jesus brought to it.

"Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little" was Philips response to Jesus.

How often do we do this ourselves? Assess the situation and decide that it’s impossible? Never once looking at it the way Jesus would. We approach the impossible situations in our life with a narrow focus, pragmatic and cynical instead of with vision and faith. Just like Philip, we can see only the here and now and forget the power Jesus brings to the table.

Philip missed the opportunity to step out in faith again in John 14:7-11.
We see him not fully getting the bigger picture when immediately after Jesus tells him something he makes the following request.

"Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us."

Jesus had just said "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him."

Hello! Philip, get a clue! Jesus has just told you that if you see Him, you have seen the Father. Evidently he was thinking of practical down to earth matters and missed what Jesus meant.

Once again, guilty myself! I have been in Philip's shoes, how about you? Missing the boat completely and not understanding what Jesus is telling me is familiar to me. Sometimes my rudimentary mind will wait until He slaps me in the face with it before I finally get what I am supposed to. Those of us with practical, simple, stubborn minds take a little longer sometimes.

Good news! It's those of us that are simple and full of weakness that God intends to use. It is the weak God can make strong.

I Corinthians 1:27 - But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.

Jesus did just that with Philip. God chose him not because he had great ability but because he had a moldable, pliable heart. He created Philip into a mighty warrior for the good news. Multitudes came to Jesus from the preaching of Philip. In spite of all his human frailty and faults, he was greatly used by God.

Like the rest of the disciples, Philip stood strong in faith in life and death. He too was eventually martyred for the cause of Christ. In AD 54 after laboring diligently, he was scourged, thrown in prison, and afterwards crucified.

That my friends, is a transformed man. Transformed from a pragmatic man lacking understanding and faith, into a bold, spirit filled man, faithful to Christ to the end.

Lord, I want to be like that!

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