Critics have often tried to portray the apostles of Jesus as mindless followers who would accept anything Jesus said and did. Many times these men are depicted as people who simply desired a Messiah so badly that they would follow anyone who made the claim to be king of the Jews. But in our final two studies on people who Jesus befriends, we will examine two of the apostles who were clearly not people who were mindless followers or accepted faith blindly. Jesus did not choose the gullible to be his apostles. Nor did Jesus choose the desperate to be his apostles. As we have seen, these were average, normal men with occupations who were convinced by Jesus that he was the Messiah. In today’s study we will learn about the apostle Philip.
I. Feeding 5,000 (John 6:1-14; Matthew 14:13-21)
A. Jesus’ test
- Jesus and his apostles have crossed the Sea of Galilee. When they land on shore they see a large crowd coming toward them. Jesus has compassion on them and began to heal the sick. “As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food'” (Matthew 14:15). The disciples are being compassionate and thinking about how they need to go to the villages to get food before it was too late.
- “Turning to Philip, he asked, ‘Philip, where can we buy bread to feed all these people?’ He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do” (John 6:5-6). We have to realize what a seemingly impossible request Jesus is making of Philip. This was no small crowd that Jesus was looking to feed. “There were about five thousand men…besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21). There are thousands of people, perhaps 10,000 or more people. Imagine if Jesus turns to you and says, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” From our study of Revelation, I think the appropriate response would be “Lord, you know.” John gave that answers quite a few times when angels would ask him if he knew what was going on.
- It is also important for us to see what Jesus is doing with Philip and the apostles. John reveals to us that Jesus is testing Philip because Jesus knew he was going to perform a miracle to feed this mass of people. Rather than simply performing the miracle, Jesus is going to use this moment to test the faith of Philip. “Philip, how are we going to feed all of these people?”
- “Philip answered him, ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!'” (John 6:7). Philip is incredulous with Jesus, it seems. “How do you expect us to feed thousands of people? It would take a small fortune to try!” Philip does not see any way around this impossible obstacle and cannot believe Jesus is asking Philip to find the solution. Philip has thrown up his hands and declared that there is no way for them to feed the thousands.
- Chiming in along with Philip is Andrew: “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, ‘ There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two small fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?’ ” (John 6:8-9). None of the apostles are jumping up declaring that Jesus can perform a miracle. No one offers the suggestion that Jesus is the Lord and can do all things.
- The problem is that Philip is looking only at the physical aspect of the problem. He knows that there is no way for them to feed more than five thousand people. Unintentionally, Philip is limiting the capabilities of God. “God cannot work with what we have! We only have a boy’s snack here. Nothing can be done.” Philip and the disciples failed the test that Jesus presented. They should have realized that Jesus could do anything. We find out that Jesus continued to divide the five loaves and two fish until everyone had eaten, were full, and had twelve baskets full of leftovers. They ended up with more than they started with, even after everyone had eaten.
- How often we have the same reaction as Philip! We can be faced with what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. There does not seem to be any way to overcome the obstacle. Our first reaction is to go into “what are we going to do” crisis mode. We wring our hands “what are we going to do?” We cannot sleep at night wondering what we are going to do. You have an issue with money and cannot make ends meet and we react, “what are we going to do?” We have problems with the family and we fret about what we are going to do. We experience health troubles and we worry what we are going to do.
- How many times Jesus is simply asking us “what should we do” and we are responding with hysteria! God knows full well what he is going to do but we act like God has put these things into our hands to fret about. God is testing us to see what we will do. Will we limit the power of God? Will we think that God cannot deal with the obstacle in front of us? Too often we are merely looking at the physical dilemma and are not seeing that God holds the answers.
II. Feeding 4,000 (Matthew 15:29-39)
A. Failing to smaller obstacles
- But the problem only gets worse. Some time later during the ministry in Galilee great crowds came to Jesus again for healing. The crowds had been following Jesus for three days and Jesus did not want to send them away hungry. The disciples respond, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” (Matthew 15:32).
- It is the same problem as before, except one major exception. This time the disciples have a little more food (seven loaves of bread rather five and few fish rather than two) and less people (4,000 not including women and children, rather than 5,000). Rather than realize that Jesus solved a great problem last time so he can solve this lesser problem today, the disciples give the same response as they did last time. They again are only looking at the physical and had forgotten how Jesus had provided previously. The apostles were faith challenged people.
- We also are faith challenged people. How many times God has helped us over an insurmountable obstacle in our lives! Then, a smaller and less significant obstacle arises, and we show the same lack of faith and the same dependence on the physical. If Jesus can feed more than 5,000, he can certainly feed more than 4,000. If Jesus can use five loaves and two fish to feed a multitude, Jesus can use seven loaves and a few fish to feed a multitude.
- I am surprised that God is not depressed with us. If people treated us the way we treat God, we would be depressed. How many times must God come through for us to realize that He will take care of the small problems and the big problems? How many times will God help us climb the mountains in our lives before we realize He will get us through the small bumps in the road?
- We have lost the innocent trust of a child to a parent. I love the way Paige thinks I can do anything. Something may be broken and I will tell her that I cannot fix it. But she will respond right back, “you can fix it.” I will tell her that there is something I cannot do and she will quickly respond, “you can do it.” God wants us to have that simple trust that realizes he can do it, even if it may not seem so.
III. Show Us the Father (John 14:7-11)
A. Seeing the Father
- Jesus is giving his final discourse to his apostles in the upper room. It would be this very evening that Judas would betray Jesus and Jesus would be arrested. Jesus is teaching the apostles about the coming of the Holy Spirit who will guide them after he was gone. As Jesus is explaining that he is leaving, Philip says, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8).
- How many times have you thought that faith would be easier if you had been alive in the first century and seen Jesus with your own eyes? How many times have you thought that if you could simply see the miracles or hear the teachings of Jesus that it would be enough to solidify your faith? I know I have always thought that it would make a difference in my life if I had been alive and had seen and heard him. But we are fooling ourselves. It would not have made any difference. Do you understand Philip’s words? “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
- We are a people who always want more. We are so dependent upon the things we can see and base our whole lives on this physical realm. This is the problem that Philip has within himself. He asks Jesus to show the Father to them. Perhaps Philip is thinking of the time God showed his backside to Moses. Perhaps Philip is looking for a greater measure of God’s glory to be revealed before their eyes so they can know.
- “Jesus answered: ‘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 are not just my own. 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 miracles themselves'” (John 14:9-11).
- The problem is that we never have enough proof. We think if we had another piece of evidence that we would be satisfied, but we are fooling ourselves. We are never satisfied. Gideon is an excellent example of this very problem. Gideon wanted to know that the Lord was with him before he went into battle. Therefore, he asked God to perform a sign so he could be assured. Gideon first wanted dew to be on the fleece he laid on the ground at night, but the ground all around to be dry. The next morning, there was dew on the fleece but not on the ground. But this was not enough. He then asked God to put dew on the ground and not on the fleece.
- The problem is that we cannot have enough proof. We do not want to have any faith at all in this life. We want to walk completely by sight. We think this is a reasonable request, but it really is not. If we need to see everything with our own eyes before we will believe it, then we honestly cannot know or trust in anything unless in happens within our own sphere of life. We cannot trust the news on the radio. We cannot trust the news on television (some people still claim we did not land on the moon in 1969). We cannot trust American history. We cannot trust world history.
- This is what Jesus is trying to get Philip to understand. We have enough evidence to see God, though He cannot be seen. If there is Jesus then there is a God. Many have called this the gospel argument for God. If Jesus lived, then we know there is a God. No one has ever denied the existence of Jesus. Historical records outside of the scriptures attest to his life and to his claims. The universe testifies that there is a God. Logic and reason testify that there is a God. The evidence is overwhelming yet we think we do not have enough proof. God is not asking for blind faith or irrational faith. God wants to us to have a logical and rational faith. We must simply recognize that there things we simply cannot see.
- Philip shows us the problem of living by sight alone. He could not see how Jesus was going to overcome the obstacle of feeding 5,000. Living by sight alone blindiedhim from seeing how Jesus could feed 4,000 even though he had seen Jesus feed 5,000. Depending upon human means we are limiting the capabilities of God in our minds. We simply do not trust God will help us overcome.
- Philip also shows us that we always want to see more and visible proof is never enough for us. People in the first century witnessed the miracles of Jesus with their own eyes and still rejected God and rejected Jesus. They saw Lazarus raised from the dead, but rather than believe, they simply wanted to kill him. We are no different. If we do not want to believe, that is our choice. But our decision to not believe is not because there is no evidence. If God reappeared right now, many would not believe and certainly future generations would not believe, though we wrote it down. God shown himself and proved himself for years. We are only faith challenged because we want to be.