Robert F White

John 1: 43-46; 6: 5-7; 12: 20-26; 14: 6-11

         I have been interested recently in noticing how the Lord deals with Philip in this gospel.  We do not read of the Lord’s dealings with him in the same way in any other gospel, but in the verses we have read in John we might trace, in the way that the Lord deals with Philip, a certain course of instruction, leading him into the knowledge of the Father.  He was a good Jew, you might say, an orthodox Jew, but the Lord leads him along a certain moral way as He would desire, I believe, to lead each one of us.  He takes us up where He finds us and leads us in our soul exercises into relationship to Himself, and to bring us to know the Father.  It is a great and blessed thing to know the Father.  How wonderful it is that the Father is known in this dispensation in this distinctive name of grace, and that we can be brought to a knowledge of that blessed, eternal One and find that we have not only a knowledge of Him but a relationship to Him and that, I believe, brings stability into our souls.

         So in chapter 1 it says that Jesus finds Philip.  He is the only one in this chapter whom the Lord finds in this way.  Others find Him, but Philip was marked out in that the Lord Jesus finds him.  Many of us will remember that in this gospel the Lord does things Himself which in other gospels are attributed to the disciples.  For example, the Lord Jesus finds the young ass Himself in this gospel, chap 12: 14.  In other gospels the disciples go and fetch the colt at the Lord’s bidding.  We are in days, I believe, when the Lord Jesus is doing things distinctively Himself.  He may do things through others in His grace, but I think we may say that we are in days when the Lord Jesus is finding us individually.  Have you some experience of being found by Him?  Has the Lord put His hand upon you in that way and found you?  It says, “and Jesus finds Philip, and says to him, Follow me”.  What a word it was.  Think of the Lord Jesus finding this particular person, Philip.  He was going to be an apostle but it says that he “was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter”.  Already Andrew and Peter had some experience of being with the Lord Jesus in this day of which John writes, but the Lord does not delegate to them the service of finding Philip, although you might think that He might have done so.  He finds him Himself.  They were of the same city, but the Lord finds Philip Himself.  Others may have influenced you in your pathway as a believer, but I think it is a blessed thing to have some sense that you have been found by the Lord Jesus individually.  He has found you, and His word to you, as it would be to me, would be, “Follow me”, - simple, direct, piercing.  This place, Bethsaida that Philip was from was not a very big city, as we would understand.  However, it was a difficult city.  It is one of the places of which the Lord Jesus says, “Woe to thee”, “Woe to thee, Chorazin! Woe to thee Bethsaida! for if the works of power which have taken place in  you, had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they had long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes”, Matt 11: 21.  Think of the character of the cities in which we live and what is going on in them, and yet in the midst of them, dear fellow-believer, the Lord Jesus might find you or He might find me, and He would say to you, “Follow me”.  No matter what is going on around you, no matter what is going on in the places where you live, no matter if there are rejecters of Christ there and persons who despise Him, the Lord, as it were, would put His hand upon you as He would put it on me in the midst of these circumstances.  Mark tells us about a blind man in Bethsaida.  You remember that the man in Bethsaida required a second touch; so perhaps it was a place where men featured largely.  The Lord spat upon his eyes and laid His hands on him and asked him, ’What do you see?’.   “And … he said, I behold men, for I see them, as trees, walking”, Mark 8: 24.  So perhaps Bethsaida was a place where men and the things and the affairs of men loomed large.  Such is this world in which we live.  What a world it is!  The affairs of men are blazoned about on every side, all that men are after the flesh is celebrated, men made popular, men made famous, and women too, earning enormous amounts of money for very little.  And yet, in spite of all that characterised the place that he came from, the Lord found Philip and said to him, “Follow me”.  He was going to lead him, into what is eternal in character in the knowledge of the Father.  How wonderful it is to think of that, dear brethren.  The Lord Jesus would take us up as well and bring us along with Himself into relationships that are eternal in character.  Philip was an instructed man, one who knew the scriptures.  How good it is if we are exercised to have a knowledge of the Scriptures!  Philip says, “We have found him of whom Moses wrote in the law, and the prophets, Jesus, the son of Joseph, who is from Nazareth”.  He was a reader of the Scriptures.  He read from Moses and the prophets.  You are impressed, are you not, with what these persons could say as recorded by John?  I am thinking, for example, of what Andrew said, “We have found the Messias (which being interpreted is Christ)”.  Think of a Jew saying that to another Jew, that he had found the promised One, of whom the prophets had written!  And here is Philip, who says, “We have found ... Jesus”.  You might well say the Lord found him first, but how blessed it is to be able to say something about the One who has found you.  Philip expressed his appreciation of this blessed One, and the Lord was going to lead him on in his knowledge of Him.  I think it is a wonderful thing that, having been brought to Christ, we are brought to One in whom everything resides for God’s pleasure and in whom every thought of God in blessing can be known.  I might know very little, and I do, but everything is there in Him.  So Philip says, “We have found … Jesus”.  Have you found Jesus?  Philip says, “... Jesus, the son of Joseph, who is from Nazareth”, but there is more; there is always more about Jesus, there is more than you have found out already.  So how blessed it is to be found by Him!   There are three who are found by the Lord in John’s Gospel.  Philip was one of them, and here he is, he is found and the Lord would lead him on.  Has the Lord found you?  If so, He would desire to lead you on also.

         Now in chapter 6 the Lord is going to try him.  Have you been tried by the Lord Jesus?  He is going to try Philip; He is going to bring out what he is thinking.  Here the question about food comes up, and it says, “Jesus then, lifting up his eyes and seeing that a great crowd is coming to him, says to Philip, Whence shall we buy loaves that these may eat?  But this he said trying him”, and then you have these wonderful words, “for he knew what he was going to do”.  The Lord Jesus is never surprised by anything that might come up in your life or my life or the history of the assembly or of your local meeting, or your circumstances, whatever they might be.  There is always resource in Him.  He knew what He was going to do. It always impresses my spirit that there was never a circumstance that arose in the gospels that found the blessed Saviour unprepared or unable to act.  You will remember that Peter says to Cornelius and his household that He “went through all quarters doing good”, Acts 10: 38.  I think of what might turn up in those “quarters”, all the different circumstances and conditions of men that He found, but were there any whom He could not help?  And so, as to Philip, the Lord is “trying him, for he knew what he was going to do”.  I think that is a word for us at the present time.  Many things have come upon us in the way of sorrows and testing and trials, and yet the Lord knows what He is going to do in them all.  How blessed it is to think of that One who has infinite resource!  We are linked with One who has the ability to help us in every circumstance.  Faith would lay hold on that.  It says in Hebrews that “he takes hold of the seed of Abraham” (chap 2: 16); that is, He takes hold of us to help us in the pathway of faith into which we have been called.  Here in John 6 He takes what is little in itself and uses it to feed this great crowd.  It is another of the incidences when the Lord Jesus does things Himself in this Gospel.  It says, “And Jesus took the loaves, and having given thanks, distributed them to those that were set down”, v 11.  The Lord distributes the food Himself.  I think, from one point of view, the way that John records that the Lord did certain things Himself that are attributed to the disciples in other gospels, emphasises the greatness of the loss, when He was taken from them.  On the other hand, it emphasises the greatness of the provision that He has made in the presence here of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, in the time of His absence.  But remember that the Lord always knows what He is going to do.  He has infinite resource to bring to bear in every condition.  I sometimes think, in that connection, of the One that John sees in Revelation chapter 1.  You remember, he hears a great voice and he turns to see One like the Son of man, and he describes certain features of the One that he sees, v 12-16.  In speaking to the assemblies the Lord Jesus refers to some of those features, but then, how wonderful it is to think that when He comes to speak to Philadelphia He brings out something that not even John saw!  He is called, "he that has the key of David, he who opens and no one shall shut", chap 3: 7.  There is always something more; there is always resource with the Lord Jesus.  How wonderful it is to think of it. 

         So Philip is being led on, and when you come to chapter 12 there is another test when the Greeks come up.  Here were persons who had a certain importance in the world of that time.  The Greeks come, “these therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and they asked him saying, Sir, we desire to see Jesus”.  Now, this might have seemed a very auspicious move.  Here are the Greeks, perhaps the most sophisticated people who were on the earth at this time, with all their history of philosophy and art and sculpture and all the rest.  This will make something of Jesus, surely.   You can almost sense Philip thinking, ’Something great is going to happen now, the Greeks are coming.  He is going to become famous, He is going to become world famous.  This is wonderful, the Greeks want to see Him!’.  And it says, “Philip comes and tells Andrew, and again Andrew comes and Philip, and they tell Jesus”.  How good it is to be able to bring things to the Lord Jesus Himself!  There is an answer, and the answer might not have been the one that they expected.  They come and tell Jesus, and He says, “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified”.  How was He to be glorified?  He was to be glorified through death.  He was not to find glory here amongst men, He was not to find fame, He was not to find a place of honour and distinction here.  He says, “Except the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abides alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit”.  Think of what was before the Lord Jesus at that time; not earthly fame, not the adulation of the Greeks, nor the Romans, nor even of His own nation, but that lonely Corn of wheat which, falling into the ground, dies.  Think of how the great fruit was to be secured, secured through the death of one blessed Man, “Except the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abides alone”.  There was to be no earthly glory for Him.  That time will wait.  “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.”  Where is that glory known?  It is known now in the assembly.  It says later on, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him”, John 13: 31.  He is not now glorified universally on this earth.  That time will come, but now He finds His place of glory and honour and distinction amongst those who have been secured through His death.  How blessed it is to be secured through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Had He not gone this way there would be no life for us, there would be no place for us.  We would not have formed part of this “much fruit” had He not gone this way.  And then He says this challenging word, “He that loves his life shall lose it, and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.  If any one serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall be my servant”.  So Philip, like ourselves, was instructed and adjusted, not now to be seeking a place of glory and distinction in this world.  I trust none of us are looking for a place of distinction here where Christ has been rejected. He says, “If any one serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall be my servant”.  What a One we have to follow!   One who has gone this way, who has gone out of sight as far as this world is concerned.  The Grain of wheat has fallen into the ground and died.  That Grain of wheat would never be seen again in the same way, and it says, “but if it die, it bears much fruit … If any one serve me, let him follow me”.  Do you desire to be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ?  It is open to all of us.  Do you desire to do something for Him, to serve Him?  Do you desire to yield Him something for what He has done for you?  Well, the Lord says, “let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall be my servant.  And if any one serve me, him shall the Father honour”.  He is drawing Philip on and He would draw us on into the enjoyment of what is greater and fuller and eternal in character, the enjoyment of the knowledge of the Father.  How precious, how blessed it is! 

         Then, where we read in chapter 14, He speaks again to Philip.  Chapter 14 is an interesting chapter.  I sometimes think it is a bit like our reading meetings.  You have questions and answers from one and another, the Lord receiving questions and giving answers; not that we can give any answers like this perfect One, the Word, could give.  Think of that title, “the Word”!  Think of asking a question to the Lord Jesus Christ and knowing that the answer would be perfect!  It would be the word of God directly to you, not only perfectly spoken, but conveying a sense of all the blessedness of the mind of God.  That is the idea of the Word.  Here they were in His blessed presence and they were able to ask Him questions, and the Lord is speaking about the Father and He says, “No one comes to the Father unless by me”.  How wonderful it is that One has come from on high.  The Lord Jesus says in John’s gospel, “For I am come down from heaven”, chap 6: 38.  He has come to make the Father known and He has come to make it possible for us to come to the Father by Him, that we might be brought into a relationship with the Father that is eternal in character.  And so Philip says, “Lord, shew us the Father and it suffices us”.  That might have been a good request, “shew us the Father and it suffices us”.  Philip now is led on in his exercise.  The Lord is not only the One of whom Moses spoke, but now He is the One who can reveal the Father.  Would you like to know about the Father?  I would long to know more of the Father, the Father’s thoughts, the Father’s love.  The Lord says a wonderful thing here.  He says, “Am I so long a time with you, and thou hast not known me, Philip?  He that has seen me has seen the Father; and how sayest thou, Shew us the Father?”.  What a wonderful thing to be able to say!  This blessed Man says, “He that has seen me has seen the Father”.  In other words, all that the Father was was expressed perfectly in the Lord Jesus here below.  Perhaps it is going too far to say, and I speak subject to correction, if it had been possible for the Father to come into manhood, He would have been just like Jesus here below.  The Father’s grace, the Father’s love, the Father’s care, the Father’s words all were seen perfectly in this blessed One here below.  There was nothing unknown, you might say, that was to be known as to the Father.  He says, “He that has seen me has seen the Father. … Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?”  There is something, I believe, infinitely great in that expression, “I am in the Father and ... the Father is in me”.  There was perfect representation.  No prophet, no man of God, could have said this, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?”.  That was a perfect representation of all that the Father was, and the Lord Jesus says, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; but if not, believe me for the works’ sake themselves.  Verily, verily I say to you, He that believes on me, the works which I do shall he do also, and he shall do greater than these, because I go to the Father”.  So how blessed it is, dear brethren, that Philip, like ourselves, is led on in his soul progress.  We are brought to the Father.  We are brought to the One whom the Lord Jesus came here to make known, and when we come to some sense of that in our souls, we are brought, as it were, onto solid ground, because we are in the realm of what has proceeded from divine purpose.  When the Lord Jesus spoke to the Father in chapter 17: 6 about “the men whom thou gavest me” He was referring to what was in eternal purpose.  How great a matter that is!  We have been given by the Father to Christ in purpose.  It is something that my mind cannot take in, but I desire to apprehend something of the greatness of it, that we have been given by the Father to Christ in purpose, and everything works out from that.  All His labours with us, all that we have experienced of His grace, how we have come to know Him as our Saviour that our sins might be forgiven, how we have been brought to the appreciation of the Holy Spirit given to us, all these things really devolve from the fact that in purpose we have been given by the Father to Christ.  How blessed to think that we have been brought into matters which are eternal in character!  May our hearts be encouraged as we think of it.   For His Name’s sake.


20th November 2010