Lessons from the Life of Philip

Philip illustrates two lessons for us today from a handful of passages in John. These lessons may not be the primary points of the passages that we will consider, but they are nonetheless good reminders for us today.

Those who seek the Lord will find Him. 

Jeremiah 29:13 promises, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” When telling Nathanael about Jesus, Philip claimed, “We have found Him” (John 1:45). He must have been searching for Jesus to say he had found Him.

Perhaps we could say that Philip found Jesus in multiple ways.

First, Philip found Jesus through the message of John the Baptist. Philip was from the same city as Andrew (John 1:44), a disciple of John the Baptist. Philip likely heard John the Baptist preach and was waiting for the Messiah as a result.

Second, Philip found Jesus in the Scriptures. When Philip went to bring Nathanael to Jesus, he motivated him to come by identifying Jesus as “Him of who Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote―Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). Philip knew what the Old Testament said about the coming Messiah. Whether from the synagogue, John the Baptist, personal study, or all of the above, he believed truths and was waiting for the Messiah.

Third, Philip found Jesus in person. Jesus first “found Philip,” and when He did, Philip later said, “We have found Him” (John 1:43, 45). Philip’s wait was over. Now He followed Jesus who he found and followed Him in person.

Like Philip, we find Jesus in the Scriptures and biblical sermons. Though we do not presently see Him with our eyes, we love Him and will see His face one day (1 Peter 1:8–9; Revelation 22:4). May God help us to see Jesus now in the Word, and may we persevere until we see Him in person in time to come.

Jesus is greater than we often think Him to be.

As one of the twelve apostles, Philip learned many things about Jesus. From passages that specifically record Philip interacting with Jesus, we see Philip learned that Jesus was greater than he thought in three ways.

First, Jesus is greater in power. John 6:1–14 records Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Just before His miracle, He asked Philip where to buy bread (John 6:5). Philip apparently forgot Jesus’ power to turn water to wine at Cana and focused only on the magnitude of their dilemma—it would cost a fortune to feed so many (John 6:7). Then, Jesus performed His miracle, and Philip saw His power again.

Second, Jesus is greater in love. John 12:20–21 recalls the request by some Greeks to see Jesus. Perhaps unsure of whether he should let them meet Jesus or whether Jesus would want to meet them, Philip sought Andrew instead (John 12:22). Andrew knew Jesus would love these Greeks and gladly speak to them about how to have eternal life (John 12:22–26; cf. 1:41). Whatever doubts Philip had about letting these Greeks meet Jesus, they were laid aside when Jesus received them and gave them the words of life.

Third, Jesus is greater in person. In explaining His coming departure to the disciples, Jesus taught them that to know Him was to the Father as well, which further meant that they would one day be with Jesus again (John 14:1–7). Philip responded by asking to see the Father, prompting Jesus to teach on the matter again—to see Jesus was to see the Father because Jesus was in the Father and His Father in Him (John 14:8–11). Jesus was greater than Philip realized, and Jesus patiently taught him more of who He was.

Summary

Like Philip, we often forget how great Jesus is. We forget how powerful He is, how loving He is, and truths about Him in Scripture. May we often remind ourselves about His power, love, and person and know Him as the Bible reveals Him to be.

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Jesus’ Example for Evangelism in John 4:1–26

In John 4:5–42, we have two examples of evangelism—one in Jesus and the other in the Samaritan woman. She invited others to meet Jesus, they came, and many believed in Him. However, what follows below are five practical points for evangelism from looking at Jesus Himself in His example of giving the truth to the Samaritan woman.

First, speak to someone no matter who they are.

Jesus spoke to a woman who was a Samaritan. Her gender and ethnicity were two characteristics that typically would have resulted in prejudice and a non-conversation between a Jew and a Samaritan. She herself was surprised that Jesus spoke to her in light of these characteristics (John 4:9), and the disciples were surprised at the conversation as well (John 4:27). But Jesus looked past these matters and saw her for what she was—a sinner in need of salvation in Him.

Second, use something in your conversation to transition to the gospel.

The woman spoke of water. Jesus turned the conversation to living water (4:10). She did not understand right away, but He persisted in steering the conversation to dealing with her sin and what she thought of Himself as the Messiah. While we don’t want to rudely force an unwanted conversation onto someone, it may be that gently turning the conversation to the gospel is what God uses to save others through us.

Third, point out man’s alienation from God.

The woman could not drink this life-giving water and turn to God unless she also turned from her sin—a life of living with someone other than a spouse and that after having previously lived with five husbands (John 4:16–18). Jesus answered her request for living water in John 4:15 by focusing on her sin in John 4:16–18. No one finds salvation in Christ without repentance for his sins.

Fourth, answer any objections.

The woman tried to object that her heritage had its own religion at their mountain, and the Jews had their own as well in Jerusalem (John 4:20). However, Jesus cared nothing for geography. All men were to now worship the Father, wherever they may be (John 4:21–24). He even flatly denied any validity to her religion: “You worship what you do not now” (John 4:22 ESV). Answering objections may mean eventually stating that the reasons for an objection are simply wrong.

Fifth, point the unbeliever to Christ.

Jesus concluded by pointing the woman to Himself as the Messiah. She believed, brought others to Him, and they believed in Him as well (John 4:25–26). Evangelism is simply not evangelism if it does not point the sinner to Christ. Salvation is found in Him alone.

The above is condensed and follows the points from Don N. Howell, Jr., The Passion of the Servant: A Journey to the Cross (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009), pp. 48–51.

The Two Beatings of Jesus 

Each gospel records one instance in which Jesus was beaten just before His crucifixion, but it seems that a comparison of these accounts indicates that Jesus was beaten more than once. In trying to sort out the details, it is helpful to remember that a beating by the Romans could vary in intensity, and three Latin terms for their beatings show that one beating could be worse than the other.

First, a fustigatio was the least intense of these beatings for criminal but lesser offenses. Pilate’s suggestion to “punish” (paideuō) Jesus (Luke 23:16, 22) and his having Jesus “flogged” (mastigoō) in John 19:1 both refer to this type of punishment. Second, a flagellatio was “a brutal flogging administered to criminals whose offences were more serious.”1 Third, a verberatio was the worst of the beatings, a punishment given to those who had been sentenced to death. It was sometimes so severe that this beating itself could bring about death.

Along with noting the differences in these beatings, it is helpful to point out the timing of Jesus’ beatings. John 19:1 records a beating of Jesus before His being sent for crucifixion in John 19:16. Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15 record a beating that took at the time when He was sentenced in those same, parallel verses.

Putting the above data together in chronological order, we see that Pilate first said he would “punish” (paideuō) Jesus (Luke 23:16, 22). Pilate then made good on this promise and “flogged” (mastigoō) Jesus in John 19:1. Finally, when this fustigatio did not bring about the pity and release for which Pilate hoped, Jesus was sentenced to death and suffered the dreaded verberatio when “scourged” (phragelloō) in Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:15. Then He went to the cross.

Having been tried by the Jewish leadership throughout the night before and then having experienced a fustigatio and then verberatio, it is no surprise that Jesus was unable to carry the crossbeam for His own cross (Matt 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26) and that He died within six hours on the cross (Mark 15:25, 34, 37). The average time suffering on a cross was 36 hours.2

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).

  1. D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991), 597. Carson’s summary is very helpful on this issue. []
  2. For a couple of other helpful and brief articles see “Flog” by Ralph W. Vunderink and “Scourge” by David W. Wead in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ed., Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988). []