This summer, we will have weekly studies available for each of 12 weeks from May 13 through July 29. Each week, we’ll focus on one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. We’ll look at a short passage involving that disciples (actions, words, attitudes, etc.); we’ll have a short paragraph or two putting the passage in context; and we’ll have some discussion/reflection questions that can be contemplated alone or discussed in a group (a youth small group, friends, family, etc.). One of the main questions we’ll be asking is whether what we see from the disciple is “good” (something to be imitated) as we try to be disciples today — and the answers will not always be as easy as we think.

This week, we look at the disciple Philip.

READ John 6:1-7 (NIV below)

1Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

READ this:

We first meet Philip in John 1:43-45, when Jesus calls him and then he immediately goes to find his friend Nathanael. There’s definitely a lesson to learn there in what should happen when we “find Jesus” — that we have this urge to share wonderful things with those we love.

This is the first of three times we hear Philip’s voice in the John’s gospel — Philip is only mentioned as one of the disciples, never actually heard from, in the other three gospels. Philip asks Jesus to “show us the Father” in John 14:8, failing to understand Jesus’ statement that He and the Father are one. But our focus for this lesson is on Philip in John 6:1-7.

Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus “feeding the five thousand” — this miracle is one of the few recorded in all four gospels. And in all four accounts, Jesus makes the suggestion that the disciples will help feed this mass of hungry people. In John’s gospel, he asks Philip directly, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” as if the only issue is finding a nearby store. If we were on a hillside with thousands of people and I asked you to get food for them, I doubt your only question would be, “Do you think they want Wendy’s or McDonald’s?”

Philip’s answer is incredulous, almost as if he thinks Jesus is being sarcastic. But it’s probably the kind of thing I would have said, because he’s just assessing the situation as he sees it: “There’s no way we can afford to even get one chicken nugget for everyone here.”

And here we find the trait of Philip we’re discussing today: practicality. Because before we dismiss his answer as a “lack of faith” in what Jesus could do, let’s remember that wanting answers to specific questions about real needs is not a “lack of faith.” In fact, we see Jesus point this out in Luke 14:28-30, when he says anyone building a tower will first sit down and figure out the cost, so they don’t look foolish by starting to build it and being unable to finish it. (In this context of choosing to follow him and the cost of it, Jesus doesn’t say, “Just start doing it and have faith that you’ll be OK.”) Later on in Acts 6:1-7, the Twelve disciples (including Philip) choose seven men to be in charge of distributing food to widows. (They don’t say, “Let’s just pray that the food gets distributed evenly and everyone has enough.”) Practical, reasoned, nuts-and-bolts, specific decisions are part of life and are part of the kingdom of God — as is faith in a God who transcends our understanding and our reasoning.

ANSWER these questions:

When has God worked in your life, or when have you seen God at work around you, through practical, real, “non-miraculous” means?

When have you seen God work through “miraculous” things you can’t explain?

When should we rely on our own “practical” decision-making and thinking? When should we pray for things that don’t seem practical or possible? How do we know the difference?

What are real, specific needs people have that you, as a follower of Jesus, can help fulfill today?

What are the intangible, complicated needs that people have that are too difficult for you to help fulfill? Pray for those people.

READ related devotional thoughts from Courtney Kleppinger here.

Disciples: Philip – Emerge Remote Lesson May 20

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *