Philip: The First Missionary

John 1:43-45

Jesus Christ prudently chose twelve men to join Him in changing the world. Eleven of them became world class leaders. Emerging from the remote region of Galilee they penetrated foreign cultures, infiltrated seats of government, and saturated societies with good news of the Kingdom of Heaven.

They were the embodiment of admirable qualities of a leader penned by an unknown author:

Who cannot be bought;
whose word is their bond;
who put character above wealth;
who possess opinions and a will;
who are larger than their vocations;
who do not hesitate to take chances;
who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;
who will be as honest in small things as in great things;
who will make no compromise with wrong;
whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires;
who will not say they do it “because everybody else does it”;
who are true to their friends through good report and evil report, in adversity as well as prosperity;
who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning and hard headedness are the best qualities for winning success;
who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular, who can say “no” with emphasis, although all the rest of the world says “yes.”

To aspire to be such a person is to commit ones self to ridicule and rejection. By following the lives of these men they are revealed to have become such persons. Their eventual rejection did not eradicate the impact of the truth they embodied and shared.

They heard the words of their Master and obeyed unquestioningly. One of the twelve became the first missionary. The others followed his procession to impact the world.

Internal Scriptural evidences indicate how much of an effort went into training His disciples. An audit of the gospels reveals they cover a maximum of thirty-four days of Christ’s three-and-one-half-year ministry. The Gospel of John records the activities of only eighteen days. What were they doing the rest of the time? Evidently Christ was training them. They were going to His private school designed to disciple them.

Philip was from the small community of Bethsaida in the territory of Galilee.

He was the first person to whom the word’s of Christ were directed: “Follow Me!”

In doing so he set for us a worthy example.

Again an anonymous author speaks:
I heard Him call
“Come follow,” that was all;
My gold grew dim,
My soul went after Him
I rose and followed, that was all:
Who would not follow
If he heard His call?

Philip was a Jew with a Greek name. “Philip” means “lover of horses.” Before him the best known man in history with the name was Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Greek conquest left marks of their presence long after they departed. Alexander had dramatic influence on northern Galilee. Not only were children born of Greek fathers and Jewish mothers but the language of the people was impacted. Doubtless it was these influences resulting in this Jewish baby being named Philip long after Alexander departed.

There are Biblical evidences that Christ organized the twelve. It is stated Judas was treasurer. Philip was evidently the supply officer in charge of food. He is postured fulfilling that role on occasion.

It is inspiring to get to know him in three settings.

The first three gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels, meaning to see alike. They basically all write about the same events. John breaks from this and shares other insights not contained in the first three. Virtually everything known about Philip is recorded in John. John records that after calling Andrew and Peter, “The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ 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’” (John 1:43 – 45).

Philip was from the same community as Andrew and Peter. He was evidently a shy reclusive individual and reluctant to aggressively approach Jesus. Jesus “found” Philip. He went looking for him knowing he was a spiritual diamond in the rough.

Philip’s involvement should be an encouragement to all who are less aggressive and not so assertive. Often those who feel they have so little to offer have much to give.

Once Christ called Philip he went immediately and found his friend Nathanael. This is a case study of the fact “ONE LIGHTED TORCH SERVES TO LIGHT ANOTHER.”

Two interesting facts about being an effective witness are incorporated in this episode.

Studies indicate that most spontaneous genuine witnessing experiences occur in the first two years after a person is saved. Unfortunately many forget what it is to be lost and don’t remember the joy of coming to the Lord.

Secondly, a study of evangelical outreach reveals that 85 percent of converts are introduced to Christ by a friend, family member, working associate, or neighbor.

Both of these principles are seen in the Philip — Nathanael encounter.

John recounts a second occasion when Philip was an instigator.

“Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little’” (John 6: 5 – 7).

Philip knew math. He was about to get to know Jesus better. He calculated the cost of feeding the 5,000 gathered before Jesus. His conclusion, “No way, can we feed this mob.”

How many times has the “Philip complex” been expressed in churches. “We don’t have the money. We can’t afford it.” Prudence is always a practical fact. Faith is always a positive force. If the church of the Lord Jesus Christ always waited until they “have” the money Christ’s cause would be retarded even more. The church members always have in their keep the money needed for any task assigned by the Lord. It is merely a matter of releasing it by faith. It is for that reason our Lord let’s us get in extenuating circumstances. It is in order to be forced to exercise faith.

I had the pastor of a very large church in Texas say, “I cannot understand for the life of me how some of the most brilliant men in the business community of Dallas who make million dollar deals regularly can come to church and in a committee meeting become selfish little thinkers.”

Philip had a part in what happened. He was on this and other occasions the contact man. Andrew heard the conclusion of Philip and in essence replied, “Oh, yes there is a way. There is a lad here…” Philip blew a marvelous opportunity. Andrew capitalized on it.

Because of his slow spiritual reflexes some scholars call Philip “the dullard.” Perhaps he was. That should give hope to others. Before we leave him it will become apparent how God can use dullards.

Near the end of Christ’s earthly life “other sheep, not of this flock,” a delegation of Greeks, came looking for Christ. Perhaps because of his Greek name they were attracted to Philip. Then this scenario occurred:

“Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. But Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified’” (John 12: 20 – 23).

Finding Philip because of his Greek name explains one thing. Why they came seeking Christ is another. The region helps our understanding. Along the shores of the Galilee ran caravan routes from Africa, Europe, and Asia. There were hot springs there that attracted additional people seeking health advantages. This made Galilee “Grand Central Station” or “Atlanta Airport” of the day. Doubtless they or some of their friends had been there before and had heard Christ. Now they returned desiring to make Him a king.

Once more Philip is a bit slow and indecisive. Uncertain as he was he shared the wishes of the Greeks with Andrew. Again Andrew recovers a fumble for the offense. However, Philip, the quiet one is a facilitator in making the contact.

Philip’s final speaking part in the gospel is in the setting of the Upper Room on the eve of Christ’s crucifixion.

“Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, Show us the Father’?” (John 14: 8 – 9).

The apostles had seen Jesus go through an emotional catharsis at the tomb of Lazarus. They had heard Him speak of His time not having come. Now He speaks of the end. They knew the climate in Jerusalem to be one of hostility toward Christ. They needed reassuring. Jesus knowing this takes them aside to encourage them. This is no mere pep talk. This is their final briefing for their world wide mission.

He tells them He is going to His Father’s house. There He will prepare a place for them. He assures them He will come again and receive them unto Himself.

While all this was being shared Philip appears to have been in a stupor. It just wasn’t enough. Philip speaks, “Show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

I should hope so!

There is a note of disappointment in the reply of Christ, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14: 9 – 11).

Two things reveal the presence and power of the Father in the Son: His words and His works. Both creditably reveal Him to be one with the Father. They are co-eternal and co-equal.

Take a short course in Jesus 101. Philip saw Him walk on water, calm the stormy sea, feed 5,000, heal the sick, restore the lame, raise Lazarus from the dead, give sight to the blind. Now, Philip, you pragmatist, open your eyes.

Philip heard Him preach the Sermon on the Mount, instruct them in the Lord’s Prayer, confound the wise of His day with His understanding of the Old Testament.

Soon the light will be turned on in the room of rationality for Philip. The event that was to do it was the resurrection. Click! It all came clear. Now he comprehended how the departed Christ could be with all of them at once. Now the mandate on the mountain made sense. It became the compelling influence in his life.

Now the dullard becomes the devotee. He now comprehended what Jesus meant when He said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3: 16).

That being true he realized he was accountable for helping tell the world of this love. Secular records reveal Philip took the gospel to what is now Russia and France.

He shared the love of the Lord at Hierapolis in Phrygia with those who worshiped Mars in the form of a dragon. His preaching incurred the wrath of the people who crucified him. His body was wrapped in sheets of Syriac paper and papyrus because he felt unworthy to be wrapped in linen as was his Lord. Though shy in life he was bold in death.

Allegedly Pope John the Third (560 – 572) acquired the body of Philip from Hierapolis and had it interred in The Church of the Holy Apostles Philip and James, in Rome. Bones alleged to be those of Philip and James can be seen there in a large sarcophagus.