THE TIME HAD COME (Jn.1: 43-44; 6:55-7; 14:8-9; 12:20-23)
I was not lost, nor had I strayed from home as my introduction may suggest. The reason I was found was that Jesus, the Teacher, had come looking for me. He found me because He wanted me on His team. What I am saying is, Jesus specifically came my way. I am “Philippos,” (Philip), the fifth disciple. The name is Greek and means, “friend” or “lover of horses.” It was a popular name among kings, generals, leaders and those who respected the influence of Alexander the Great, whose father happened to be Philip of Macedonia. For whatever reason I was named Philip, I found it to be convenient and practical. With my name, I could access places and individuals that people with Jewish names could not. Like Andrew, I too could travel about the country without raising any suspicion. I, too, looked for the Christ and when Jesus sought me out and asked me to follow Him, I immediately responded. I had no doubt that I, too, had found the One of whom Moses and the prophets had written. Like Andrew, I too came from Bethsaida and like him; I easily made friends and I knew my way around the country. I was a person who could bring people together and also find ways to meet human needs. And I believe that my name was quite useful in my Lord’s undertakings. I also believe that is why Jesus chose me to represent the people of non-Jewish descent.
You may wonder what my specific task was, in the group that Jesus had put together? I owe it to my friend John Zebedee, who became the beloved disciple, that I have been credited with certain deeds and functions. The other writers list me merely as one of the twelve whom Jesus had appointed as apostles and authorized to proclaim the Good News. Our job was to scout the country for Jesus. We were the disciples who were sent out to announce that Jesus was on His way. We were the men who secured shelter and found people that could provide for our Teacher and His followers. I did not belong to the inner circle of Jesus, like my friend John, his brother James and their cousin Simon Peter. My job was to enlarge the circle. Immediately upon following Jesus, I went looking for my friend Nathanael. Both of us had searched Moses and the prophets for the Messiah. Now, I was ready to tell Nathanael that we had found Jesus of Nazareth, who met the description. Nathanael was skeptical as to whether anything good could come from Nazareth. I knew that arguing with him was futile. I told him to come and see. His encounter with Jesus opened up a dimension of Jesus we had never expected. Jesus told my friend that he was a genuine Israelite and that He saw him under the fig tree before I called him. Nathanael was the first to call Jesus, “Teacher, you are the Son of God, the King of Israel.” Jesus then told him that he believed because he saw him under the fig tree, but that was nothing in comparison what we were going to see in the future. Heaven would open up and the angels of God would ascend and descend on the Son of Man. We got all of this insight because I introduced Nathanael to Jesus. Nathanael was one of the rare people who had insight about Christ when no one among us had.
Another one of my tasks was to secure provisions. I belonged to those who believed in a full stomach. Our Teacher felt that we required a lesson on trusting Him. He asked me where we could buy bread to feed more than five thousand stranded people? I stammered that eight month’s wages would not even offer a bite. My friend Andrew suggested that there was a lad with five buns and two fish. It all sounded so ridiculous. To the surprise of all of us, Jesus managed to feed the crowd and have a basket left over for each of us. For me, the lesson was that as long as I was with Jesus, I would not go hungry and that there was a direct line between Jesus and heaven. I had yet to learn, along with the others, how close Jesus was to heaven. We were in Jerusalem when Greeks asked me to introduce them to our Teacher. I told Andrew about them and then both of us told Jesus. That triggered another disclosure we did not have. Jesus announced that the hour had come for the Son of Man to be exalted. We did not link the exaltation with the crucifixion until after His return from the dead. He kept telling us that the Son of man had to be raised up so that all man, including Greeks, would have access to God. That day we were blessed with a voice from heaven confirming the elevation of the Son of Man as the One who would draw all men unto Him. We knew then that we were about to lose our relationship with the “Man” Jesus on earth, but we also were introduced to a greater relationship, which was with the Son of God in heaven. All that revelation was disclosed because of my friendship with Greeks.
There was one more lesson Jesus had in store for us. Again, I was the one who initiated it. Jesus had talked about the Father and a place in heaven for us. I felt that with His supernatural insight, He could satisfy my longing to see the Father. I knew the others had the same wish but did not dare to ask. Thomas had asked where Jesus was going, but I wanted to see the Father. This turned out to be the most crucial of all Jesus’ disclosures. Jesus asked me, “Philip, how can you ask me to show you the Father when you have known me and been with me for such a long time? Don’t you see that the Father and I are one and the same?” Without Jesus direct answer, we would not have connected Jesus with the Father. He represented the Father and the Father represented the Son. I was more puzzled than ever. Jesus had no problem reading the doubts on our faces. He went on to tell us that the link between Him, the Father and us would be a “Spirit.” The Spirit will be Holy, of God and from Him. He will help us see and understand our relationship with God, the Father and the Son in heaven. This too was all a matter of faith or trust in Jesus’ words. That was the only answer that appeared to satisfy me. Faith did not clear up the mystery for me. It took me beyond it. Henceforth, I lived believing what Jesus promised He could keep. I was blessed with asking the right questions at the right time.
Jesus’ talk about leaving us, depressed us deeply. We were in desperate need to hear some encouraging words from our Master and Lord. He did not disappoint us. He told us not to fill our hearts with sorrow but with joy. He promised that for our trust in God and in Him, we would be rewarded with a place in His Father’s house. The reason He was returning to the Father was so He could prepare places for us. He promised to come back and take us to Him so we could be together forever. During His absence, the Holy Spirit would direct us and keep us on the narrow road, the one our Lord Jesus had traveled on. We were scattered into the world to be a light to the nations and make disciple that would also continue the good news that Jesus, the Christ can save us from our sins and eternal separation from God, the Creator.