PHILIP: THE SKEPTIC MIND
John 14:8-14 (The Master’s Twelve- Part V )
One day while I was coming back home, I was stopped by an enthusiastic young woman from “The Nature Conservancy group” in Boston. She just wanted one minute of my time to explain what their group does to conserve nature. She asked me what I do, I said, I work for “Soul Conservancy” Her response was “Oh! Are you a priest? Which church? I said, “I am a pastor of a congregational Church! She said, “I was raised a Catholic, but since going to college, I don’t go to church! I said why not? She said, but I was confirmed, baptized, took communion, so I am still in the church, but I don’t go! May be thinking that she won’t get much out of this preacher, she directed me to their website to learn more about what their society does.
It was an interesting conversation with that young woman. That made me wonder, how many young people like her, once grew up in church, and were active in their faith but, when they come out of college, as young adults no longer attend church or practice their faith? Why do so many people stay away from church these days? Why is there so much skepticism in our times like never before in the History? How come even churches are filled with skeptics?
We have been learning about the lives of twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. So far we have learned about four disciples: Peter, the “Go-getter”, John the beloved disciple, Andrew the problem solver, James the ambitious but broken. Today we will learn about a disciple while called by Jesus to follow him and selected to be one of the twelve disciples yet regularly battled with skepticism. From time to time having doubts about God, and faith is quite normal, even for a seasoned believer, but if you are a perpetual skeptic, always criticizing then you have a real problem. Let’s look at Philip: The skeptic Mind
I. PHILLIPS EARLY LIFE: (John 1:43-45)
What do we know about Philip, his name, background and profession? First let me clear your mind. There are two people in the Bible with the name Philip. The first one was called by Jesus to be one among his twelve disciples. We call him Philip the apostle. The second one was chosen by the apostles to be part of a seven member serving team in the first Church. We call him Philip the Evangelist. For our study we are looking at the life of the first one, Philip the Apostle. The name Philip, in Greek, “Philippos” means "friend of horses", composed of the elements φιλος (philos) "friend, lover" and ‘ιππος (hippos) "horse."
Let me also define the word skepticism: an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object. It is an attitude of doubting the truth of something (such as a claim or statement). Doubt and criticism are the two main characteristics of a skeptic. Coming back to our story. We were first introduced to Philip in John 1:43-45, “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” What can we know by just reading this passage? We can know that he is from the town of Bethsaida. He knew about the writings of Moses, the law, and the writings of the prophets and also where Jesus came from and whose son he was.
By reading other passages we can safely conclude that Philip was educated, calculative, analytical and good with numbers. Just like Andrew found Peter, Philips found Nathanael and brought him to Jesus. We will learn about Nathanael next week. For now let’s see how Philip’s life was affected by listening to Jesus’ teachings, watching him do miracles and just by simply being with Jesus for three years.
II. PHILIP’S LIFE WITH JESUS
Philip was one of the earliest disciples who Jesus specifically called to follow him. From that point on we see Philip tagging along with the rest of the disciples. By his virtue of education perhaps, Philip became a prominent disciple who handled difficult and challenging situations. One such occasion was the feeding of the five thousand. Let me set the scene. Jesus healed a man paralyzed for thirty eight years on a Sabbath Day. For that reason Jewish leaders began to persecute him. Sometime after that incident Jesus went up to a mountain side and sat down with his disciples. Seeing huge crowds coming towards him, he turned to Philip and asked him, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat”? He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Immediately, Philip pulled out his calculator!
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half years wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bit.” What would that be in today’s currency? It is difficult to determine the value of a denarius today, it is estimated to be around $20 US in the early empire which would have been equal to the daily wage of a common laborer. Based on this estimate, 200 denarii would have been equal to 8 months’ pay and had an approximate value of about $4000 US. Philip was struck by the enormity of the problem and fixated on the limited resources available to address that problem. But he did not believe that Jesus actually can do something about it.
Jesus, with a small boys lunch a mere five loafs and two small fish was able to feed over five thousand people. Not, just one bite on the contrary to Philip’s skeptic and rather sarcastic answer, all of them had enough to eat. That is the power of our God. If you and I try to feed five thousand people today, at the most we may be able to give each one a single bite, where as if we trust God, it is going to be an abundant and satisfying meal. What can we learn from Philip’s response in this miracle? When God asks you or leads you to do something that may be beyond you or you may have never done it before, what will you do?
Remember God may be testing you, like he did with Philip. Will you shrink back by looking at your limited resources and even become sarcastic towards God? Or will you take whatever steps he shows or asks you to take? After doing your best will you believe him to complete the rest, since he has already decided how he is to meet that particular challenge?
Let me share my faith journey. When we felt that God was opening a door for Joanna to go to Boston Trinity Academy for her high school, we had to pay a nonrefundable deposit which was nearly half of my pay check from the church. We wondered how in the world we were going to support her education with our limited resources. It was a tough decision, but we took a first step by faith and the rest is history. Looking back we praise God all three of girls have been going to BTA and two of them have now graduated and are pursuing colleges.
The lesson we learned here is that when God asks you to do something, don’t embarrass him by looking into your limited resources. Instead believe in his promises, and take the steps of faith and obedience, at the end of the day God gets the glory, and your desires are met.
On another occasion we see Philip’s skepticism and unbelief taking hold him, for which he received a stern rebuke from Jesus. John 14:1-12, in this passage, Jesus shared with his disciples that he was going to his father to prepare place for them.
He said, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip, said, “Lord show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus responded to him rather in a rebuking manner. Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the father. How can you say, “Show us the Father? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”
What is going on in this passage? In spite of seeing all the miracles, hearing all the explanations of Jesus regarding him and father are one and the same, Philip remained a skeptic. He just could not bring himself to a realization that there is no one greater than Jesus and, if he has seen Jesus then indeed he has seen the father. Not, only Philip became skeptical and unbelieving, he was acting like as if he was the voice for the rest of the disciples, by saying, “Lord show us the Father and that will be enough for us?
Do we see this playing out in our lives? How many of us after having seen many miracles of Jesus, after having read and heard his powerful teachings remain skeptical? Coming back to our story, though Philip had read what Moses, the law, and the prophets had written about Jesus for some reason he could not fully trust him at least while Jesus was still on the earth. But all that has changed during his later years.
III. PHILIP’S LATER YEARS
It is not until after witnessing the powerful resurrection of Jesus, and receiving the promised gift of the Holy Spirit did Philip and the disciples overcome their tendency toward skepticism and unbelief. Philip’s Greek name, his multilingual abilities, and his outgoing personality all combined with his now vibrant faith in the risen Christ equipping him to be a powerful messenger of the gospel in his later years. One of the unique features surrounding the apostle Philip is his connection with the area we now know as France. He is the only apostolic figure who claimed to have carried the gospel.
Philip paid with his life in order to spread the good news. Crucifixion was a favored punishment by the Romans for anyone who was preaching Christ. In Philip’s case the religious establishment apparently arranged for him to be crucified and stoned but that did not stop the gospel from spreading all over the world. Philip became a martyr for his faith
If Philip were to come to our church this morning what would he say to us? He might say: when God asks you to do something, don’t assume that he doesn’t know how to do that thing. He might say, do not look at your limited resources instead look at God’s abundant resources and provision. Don’t rely upon your smartness but trust God with all your heart.
My friends some of you may be facing big challenges and wondering how to meet them? Some of you have seen God’s miracle time and again yet remain skeptical? Some of you may be simply struggling to believe that God can change your situation. If that is who you are this morning, look up, smile and trust. God is trustworthy. Put your hope in him. Scripture tells us that anything that does not come of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23). If you are given to skepticism and unbelief you must repent, there is no place for skeptics in God’s Kingdom. Rev 21:8.
Let me close with this scripture, Hebrews 10:38-39, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Amen