For almost two years, now, I've been studying my way very slowly, very methodically, through the Gospel of John... I'm finally somewhere in chapter 9. As I literally crawl my way through this book of the Bible, the Holy Spirit is challenging me on what it means to be not just a wife, mom, missionary... but first and foremost a disciple of Jesus.
I'd like to share with you one of those "challenges."
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. (John 1.43-44)
Before looking too closely at these verses, I dove into a quick "crash course" entitled "Who was Philip, disciple of Jesus?" Where is he mentioned in the Biblical account, other than as the guy usually listed fifth in any recording of the disciples? Some speculate (based on church tradition) Philip was the one who asked to "bury his father" before following Jesus. The text doesn't specifically identify which disciple, however. In John 6, Jesus tests Philip, specifically asking him how they could provide a meal for the 5000 plus crowd listening to Jesus teach. Shortly after the Lord raises Lazarus, Philip helps some Greeks visiting Jerusalem for the purpose of celebrating the Passover Feast "encounter" Jesus. Philip is Greek name so possibly he spoke Greek and could function as a bridge for those foreigners desiring to interact with the Lord. Finally, Philip doubted the unity of Jesus and the Father, struggling to believe that in seeing Jesus, he had already seen God. This gave the Lord a beautiful opportunity to teach His disciples about the amazing-beyond-human-comprehension unity He shares with His Father.
I was surprised at how many times Philip actually came to the forefront of the Gospels. Apparently he was a more prominent disciple than I'd ever noted before.
Once I moved on to actually studying the verses above, I noticed immediately that the other three men (Andrew, an unnamed disciple - possibly John, and Peter) all sought Jesus. They had been looking and waiting for Him, finally finding Him and recognizing that He was the One for Whom they'd been searching, waiting, hoping...
Not so with Philip.
Jesus had made up His mind that it was time to return to Galilee, so He would be leaving Bethsaida and her environs - but before He did, He found Philip.
I was curious because you can find something - as in stumble across it... or you can find something - as in search extensively and locate it...
According to Strong's, in the Greek either meaning could be inferred by the use of this particular word. However, those really smart people who write concordances and know all about Greek think that this isn't a search, discover, find scenario. Rather, it is more like Jesus was on His way and in the process fell in with... started walking alongside, if you will, Philip. That bothered me at first. A lot, in fact.
I hoped... wanted actually, to dig deep and discover that from the text, I could infer that Jesus had actively, persistently, sought Him out. (Which is, by the way, a dangerous Bible study habit - because then I can tend to try and make the Bible say what I want to say, informing the Lord what I think He should be teaching... rather than letting Him teach and lead me.)
And I couldn't. And so I had to stop there and think and pray for a bit - actually for more than a bit. The "box" I had pre-constructed for the Lord, at least in this particular scenario, limited Jesus to actively, unceasingly seeking out those He wants to follow Him. That may be the case other times, but it doesn't appear to be so here. Instead, Jesus was going about doing what His Father had Him going about to do and "fell in with" Philip.
To fall in with someone means to become involved with that individual, to concur with or harmonize with. Jesus was on His way elsewhere, but He took the time to walk alongside and join with Philip for those moments. And after those moments, He offered Philip an alternative to his present path. He invited Philip to follow Him.
I pondered the implications of that thought.
Jesus walked along with Philip - perhaps only He and Philip know for how long - experienced Philip's path and direction and then with no criticism, He offered Philip a different possibility. He asked Philip to take a new road and to begin following Him. And when He offers Philip the opportunity to follow, Jesus offers Philip the path of steadfastly clinging to Him, conforming to and seeking His example in both living and in dying.
What a powerful model for evangelism!
What an incredible missionary strategy because it isn't one. (How's that for an oxymoron?!)
It is entering into community, falling in with, learning about, investigating new cultures, opening your heart and mind to new thoughts, investing in lives and conversation... becoming a part of - and then offering the opportunity to follow a different path.
Possibly, God will direct me to "fall in with" someone for a time, understand their life, their world... travel their road together for a bit BEFORE inviting him/her to join me walking the "Jesus road" as a fellow disciple of the Lamb of God.
I call myself a missionary. This idea certainly bears further contemplation and discernment for application!
What do you think?
How do you see this idea of "falling in with" prior to inviting others to "follow" Jesus playing out in your life?
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