Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near. Therefore, when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward Him, He asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread so these people can eat?” He asked this to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do.
Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.”
-John 6:1-7 (HCSB)
Are you looking at the circumstances of your life, evaluating them, and saying, “It doesn’t look possible to have the life I desire”? Let’s assume you want good, normal things, like: healthiness, nourishing food, safe shelter, a peaceful home, love, friendship, fellowship, and godliness; to name a few examples. And, everything you want is part of what you believe is God’s plan.
You are a believer after all, and you just want the life that God gives. You have a sense of God’s calling for your life. And I am not talking about a special, unique call; and we all indeed do have a unique calling, because God is so creative that He does have a unique call for each one of us. But I am talking about the general call that is upon all of God’s children, to live the life in Christ.
Jesus Christ calls us each and all to life in Him. But, it often seems impossible. We reason, “that’s impossible.” We look at our selves and each other and say, “we can’t do that“. But, the that is something that the scriptures tell us to do.
We may even say, “that is crazy!”, or “you’ve got to be kidding!”, or “leave me alone!”; if we dare personalize Jesus’ words, to us. It is interesting how we read the Bible as historical stories about other people and we pick out the principles for our selves or figure out an application that is acceptable. But, what if we take the red letters, the words of Jesus, and let him speak to us? What if we believe that Jesus is alive and still speaks and we listen?
If he tells us something to do, we have to respond, right? We can obey, if it is a command, and show our faith in him and love for him. If we do not obey him, it means we don’t believe, don’t have faith in him, or don’t love him.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands”(John 14:15, 23; 1 John 5:3). What if his commands seem too hard, outrageous, or impossible? One of the ways we don’t obey is to either rationalize, “he didn’t mean (couldn’t have meant) that”, or somehow say, “that was for the original disciples, but not for us today”. These sound ridiculous, but it is what we say.
So, we do not obey him and act like we’re cool, like everything is ok and we are on track: “Christians”, “walking with the Lord”, yet living in disobedience. Another variant is that we do this play-acting thing while trying to save everyone else. This is living in hypocrisy, and that is why Jesus talks so much about avoiding it.
But, what if you sincerely want to obey Jesus, but it seems impossible still? Rather than flat out disobeying him or playing pretend, either saying that “he didn’t mean that”, or “I am a special case and don’t have to do that”; what if we are just real and say, honestly, “I don’t see how this can work or happen”. This is the group of people, of who Philip was one of, that I want to talk about.
This group can be divided into two groups, separated by a “but”. The “but” goes like this: “This looks impossible, what you are calling me to, asking me to do; but I know that you can do it”, or, “But, I have faith in you to help me get there”, or “But, I have faith in you to do what you have called me to do”.
The other side, which is what Philip said, is to assess the situation, with your limited resources, just being honest, and saying, that, “it is impossible”. We evaluate or take account of a situation and say, that it is impossible.
In each of the three synoptic gospels, Jesus makes the statement that what is impossible to us is possible with God (Matt. 19:26, Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27), and in the instance of giving this word, he was referring to God’s ability to save a rich young man, who was living by his own means, while actually obeying God’s laws, rather than living totally dependent on God’s means.
This is a hard word for us, that it is hard for rich people to enter into the kingdom of God. The Bible does not condemn riches, but teaches against a dependency on wealth that blocks ones’s dependency on God. I always remember that it says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). It does not say that money is the root of evil or money is evil or having lots of money is evil. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. -Mark 4:19
In the opening words of John 6, we read that Jesus had been healing many sick people. He saw a huge number of people coming towards him and his disciples. They are outside of town and meal time is approaching.
We see here that Jesus has something in mind, but he asks Philip first, “What do you think we should do?” Jesus asks us, “What do you think?, to get us thinking with faith. Jesus is actually teaching or giving Philip the opportunity to learn by exercising is own mind, through faith.
One of my favorite verses is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). When we assess a situation, when we look at our resources and take account, and we use our logical problem-solving skills, do we apply this word of wisdom?
Even though the backdrop of this story is that Philip and the other disciples have been realizing that Jesus is Messiah (John 1:45) and they have seen him heal the sick, Philip uses his own mind to answer the question that Jesus is putting before him. It would be a nice story, if Philip said something like, “We know that Moses fed the people in the desert and You are greater than Moses”. He didn’t say that, even though he believed in Jesus.
He also could have said, “I don’t know how we can feed these people, but I know you can do it”. He did not say anything like that either. Instead, he matter-of-fact-ly calculated and surveyed the situation. I have not researched it, but the two hundred denarii, which I did read was 6 months wages, was maybe what they had, cash on hand, and Philip was saying that it would not even be enough to give everyone an afternoon snack.
Jesus put Philip on the spot, by asking him this question, which Phil tried to answer. Can we say, “good try”? If we read on, we find out the rest of the story. Jesus took a boy’s 5 loaves and 2 fish and multiplied them, with leftovers. Philip was there and witnessed this miracle and learned something that day, through experience.
Fast forward to the book of Acts, chapter 8. This is Philip’s chapter. Recorded there, we read of Philip preaching with signs and wonders following: demons came out of people and miracles and healings occurred. And Philip took part in the conversion of a notable sorcerer named Simon.
Later in Acts 8, God sent an angel to guide Philip to an Ethiopian man, to explain to him the gospel. Philip became a powerful evangelist. After chapter 8, Philip is mentioned one last time in Acts 21:8-9, where he is called an evangelist and it says that he had 4 daughters who were prophets. Jesus impact on Philip’s life resulted in not only power evangelism, but fathering 4 prophetess daughters.
Philip learned, caught, was trained in, and lived out Jesus Christ, Messiah, Lord and Savior; in his life. He is the same guy, who said, “Come and see”, to his friend Nathaniel (John 1:46), and was friendly enough with Jesus, that Jesus turned to him, and said, “What do you think we should do?”, perhaps knowing that he would get it wrong and Phil would be humbled into a teachable moment.
Phil leaned something and continued to be transformed by Jesus words and life. Remember another teachable moment, when at the last supper, Philip turned to Jesus and said, “Just show us the Father and that will be enough”, and Jesus said to him:
Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one 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 the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves. (John 14:9-11)
When Jesus insults you, it hurts, heals, and teaches you. Jesus was completely a straight shooter. His words are never sugar coated. He speaks the truth in love. This is the last time we hear about Philip, until 5 years later in the book of Acts.
In-between John 14 and Acts 8, for 5 years, Philip continued to be faithfully developed. And between Acts 8 and 21, he fathered for 19 years; resulting in 4 prophetic daughters.
Why would the Bible record the details of a conversation where Jesus asked someone a question he already knew the answer to or planned the answer to himself? It is the same answer as to why God puts us into or allows us to be in puzzling situations in our lives today.
Jesus asks us, “What do you think you should do?”, and he is not playing games, but he is teaching us something. He is teaching us something about him and our relationship to him. Every problem we face is really about our personal, intimate relationship with God.
The bigger the problem, the bigger God will be in my eyes and heart, when I let him handle it. Will I let go and let God be God? It is interesting that in the story in John 6, we see that Jesus cares about the people and their most immediate need, to eat.
Jesus sees the problem and the need and has a plan to meet it, before he asks Phil, “What do you think?” He really wants to know what Phil thinks, because Jesus is real and does not play games. Jesus really wants Phil’s relationship with him to expand.
When we have a problem and our solution is limited, Jesus invites us into relationship with him in the now and asks us to invite him into the equation and let him move. We serve the living Christ who is still on the move, shepherding and building.
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