Point of Reference
by Fred Price
If you are prone to seeing the obstacles in life rather than the possibilities ( John 6:5-7) and have trouble getting beyond the details that tend to obscure vision rather than expanding it ( John 14:8,9), then you may have more than a little in common with Philip .
No Jewish name is given for Philip – a decidedly Greek name – indicating a Hellenized background; thoroughly modern in thought and action (not always a bad thing, but not always a good thing either), based on Greek attitudes and philosophy – full of “foreign”, contemporary customs as opposed to the conservative ideology of Judaism. He would appear to have been a practical man of common sense although possibly overly analytical; expressed in part through his calculating nature in the face of need, contrasted by Andrew’s simple faith and desire to be of assistance. ( John 6:7,8) He depended more on outward appearance or “proofs” to guide his actions and build his faith rather than recognizing the spiritual aspects of a situation or opportunity. (See John 14:8,9; ‘Show us – again – and that will be sufficient.’ Not so much doubting as needing explicit proof and confirmation – repeatedly; as he had been witness to any number of sermons, private discussions and miracles beforehand.)
Yet church history indicates Philip had a thriving ministry, which was tragically cut short at his death by stoning in Asia Minor; he being one of the first followers of Christ to suffer martyrdom just eight years after James’ execution in Jerusalem. However, his potential for success in ministry was hinted at in his initial response to Jesus; he simply but purposefully went and found his friend Nathanael, telling him of his discovery of, “…the one Moses wrote about… Jesus of Nazareth, …” Encouraging him to , “Come and see.” John 1:43-46
Thomas seems to have been inclined to negativism; moody and melancholy by nature. He anticipated failure, pessimism being his trademark rather than doubting; which is how most people identify him. ( John 11:16) He found it difficult to accept the testimony of others, needing something more to bolster his acceptance and faith. ( John 20:24,25) Yet the same can be said of most of the other disciples as well, they just didn’t express it so openly. ( Matthew 28:16,17; Mark 16:9-11)
And why not? How many times had this happened before? In spite of the love and respect they had developed for Jesus over the span of thee intense years of association with him, he was asking them to believe and respond to things that transcended everything they knew to be the norm; being supernatural in theory and fact. (How many men had claimed to be God’s Son and foretold their own death and resurrection – backing it up by doing just that?)
Indeed, sometimes the wisest course of action in difficult situations is to be absolutely sure of the facts before and during your involvement, exercising caution in regard to what you are asked to believe, guarding against acting on rumor or hearsay; especially when so much depends on the truth of what you are being told and asked to do. Asking questions, seeking confirmation and requesting proof is at times the trademark of a serious student rather than an indicator of weakness or a lack of character. ( John 14:1-7)
It’s important to note that Jesus didn’t always respond to a seeming lack of understanding or faith with a reproof and rebuke, rather he often gently offered further evidence to confirm his word and actions. ( Luke 12:22-31, John 20:26,27) Thomas responded to this patient prodding by being forever changed, becoming steadfast in faith and faithfulness to his Lord. Consequently he became a renowned evangelist who is thought to have ventured as far as India with his message of salvation for all who would believe. ( John 20:28)
Primary resource material taken from John MacArthur’s, Twelve Ordinary Men – Subtitled: How the Master Shaped His Disciples For Greatness, and What He Wants To Do With You and Follow Me, Christ’s Call, Our Response
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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