Philip the Realist

Daily Reading for May 2 • St. Philip and St. James, Apostles

The last time we see Philip is in that great passage at the Last Supper, when Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was about to come. . . . In spite of all that Jesus had taught them, Philip asked for more: “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus’ response must have been filled with genuine frustration and sadness as he asked, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” We may think of Philip as a slow learner to have been with Jesus for three years without understanding that he was in the presence of God, but the idea that the Messiah was both man and God was a radically foreign concept to first-century Jews. We owe Philip a debt of gratitude for his dogged inquisitiveness, because Jesus’ response to him has blessed Christians for twenty-one centuries: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:1-9). . . .

In time, these words must have worked their way into Philip’s consciousness. It is generally accepted that he became one of the great missionary preachers of Asia, and was martyred for his faith in the Roman-Greek city of Hierapolis in Phyrgia. There are many legends about Philip, but there is considerable doubt that any of them are true. The only other mention of him in Scripture is that he was part of the group that met in the upper room in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension. . . . Philip had a long way to go when he first encountered Jesus, but the invitation to come and follow began a remarkable pilgrimage through which his life was transformed by the grace of Jesus.

From “Philip, the Careful Realist” in The First to Follow: The Apostles of Jesus by John R. Claypool, edited by Ann Wilkinson Claypool. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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