May 22, 2011 (Easter 5 A)
“Open up your EYES, and see what is right in front of you!”
You’re out on a walk by yourself – and, all of a sudden, a spotlight from heaven shines down on you – and you hear the voice of God: “My child, I love you very much and have been watching over you all your life – ask me for anything you want, and I will give it to you.”
So . . . . what would you ask for? You don’t have to share it, but choose something. “Ah – come on pastor, this is crazy!” No, it’s not. Check out 1 Kings 3 and you’ll see how God appeared to Solomon and told him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon asked for WISDOM – if you could ask for anything, what would you want?
OK, now put that thought on hold for just a minute, because we’re going to consider Philip – one of Jesus’ disciples. He had a very rare gift: he got to personally follow Jesus / see what He did / hear Him speak / witness a whole bunch of miracles. But, on THIS night, their whole world was shaken. Jesus had just celebrated the Passover with them, Judas had already left, He had given them this new gift of the Lord’s Supper . . . . and, Jesus told them he was going to be leaving them, and returning to His Father in heaven – soon. Something really bad was about to happen, and the disciples could tell. Let me gather their comments for you so you can get a sense for their mood that night:
· 36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
· 37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
· 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
· 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (The first verse of our sermon text today)
· 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
· 17 Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” (John 13:36,37; 14:5,8,22; 16:17-18)
They were TERRIFIED. They were filled with doubts, uncertainty, questions . . . . Philip, on that night, wanted to see something that would erase all his doubts and fears, and allow him to face whatever lay ahead. So, he asked Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and that would be enough for us.”
That was Philip’s request, but I don’t think he was expecting the answer he got. Jesus seemed disappointed, and maybe even a bit upset by this request – notice how He responds to it: verse 9-11:
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
Jesus essentially says, “Hey Philip – open up your EYES and look at what is right in front of you! You’ve seen me; so you’ve seen the Father! You’ve heard my words – guess what, they are the Father’s words. You’ve heard Him speak through me! You’ve seen miracles – you’ve witnessed the power of God at work in me!”
That would be quite enough to put Philip back in his place right there – he wanted to see God, Jesus told him to open his eyes – he already HAS! But, then Jesus goes on to say something quite mysterious and incredible in verse 12: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
WHAT?! He healed people born blind and raised people from the dead! Well, guess what happened about a month and a half later . . . 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead. When the Spirit of God came in power at Pentecost – THEN the disciples were able to do supernatural miracles as well. Notice what Acts 5:12 tells us: “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. . . . and [many of them] were healed.”
But still, one might object, NOTHING is greater than what Jesus did! Well, I don’t think Jesus is referring to what He did by dying on the cross for the guilt of humanity and rising from the dead – He and ONLY He could do THAT, for that is why He came. I think Jesus is referring to His earthly ministry that had come to an end on this very night he was speaking to his disciples. Why did Jesus do miracles in the first place? So people would believe in Jesus and have eternal salvation. Why did the disciples / apostles do miracles? So people would believe in Jesus, and believe their testimony about how He died for our sins and rose again . . . . and, therefore, have eternal salvation. Through their ministries (after Jesus had completed his work and returned to the Father) MORE souls were reached and MORE people were brought into the family of God. What could possibly be MORE powerful than that? Nothing . . . . so, God would give Philip something a billion times bigger than the sign he was asking for.
Now let’s skip back into our world and get back to what you would ask God for – if you could ask for anything you wanted. Do you think Jesus would be disappointed and frustrated by some of the requests that popped into our minds? I think so. “Great – thanks a lot pastor! You’re causing me to irritate our Lord, just as Philip did that night!” Well – I don’t think you need my help in irritating Jesus; I think you do that quite well all on your own. How so? Every time we focus on (and can’t help but see) the things we don’t have: “Oh, if only I had . . . . . limitless wealth – that would be enough for me. . . . . perfect physical health – that would be great. . . . . all my problems solved – that would be sufficient.”
I think Jesus might respond to us in the same way he responded to Philip: “Don’t you know me after all these years? Open your eyes people and look at what is right in front of you! Look at what I have done for you and what you have right now!” So – what would be a good response to God’s question, “Ask me for whatever you want.”? The best response I can think of would be this: “Lord, you know more than I do. How about you give me whatever it is that you think I should have!” He might respond, “Well my child – more than anything else, you need all your sins forgiven so that you can live forever in heaven – there, you have it! Your sin and guilt is atoned for. You need something to remind you throughout life that your sins are forgiven and that you are indeed my child – here’s baptism, it’s my priceless gift to you. You are going to need struggles, challenges, and weaknesses – in order to keep you humble and close to me throughout life. You are going to need promises that will sustain you – here you go. You are going to need truth from God to lead and guide you; to grant you wisdom – here, you have it. You are going to want an eternity in my perfect heavenly home – guess what, it’s yours!”
WOW! Open up your eyes Christians and look at what you already have – it’s all yours!! And, beyond all that, right here – today, with whatever time we have left on the planet, we get to be doing the greatest, most powerful job in the universe – the same job Jesus did, and the Apostles did, and that every believer is a part of: building up the family of God by spreading the message of Jesus Christ – around our homes / our community / and out to the whole world.
Open up your eyes and see all the lost souls around you who don’t know who Jesus really is, and who can’t see their need for Him, and who can’t see that He really is the Son of God who died for all our sins. Help them meet Jesus and you’ve just been part of what God considers the most powerful, supernatural, miraculous work in the universe.
If you still think it’s a little bit crazy that God would come to us and let us ask for anything we could possibly want – I would direct you 2 verses down from our Gospel Lesson where Jesus says to us, “You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Jesus is GOD – and He has just spoken those words to you. Now, what you might want to do is learn from Solomon: ask for wisdom, and He will give it to you. You might want to learn from Philip – you want to see God, you already have. You have seen His Word and heard Him speak on the pages of Scripture. That means you have heard Jesus speak. Since you have met Jesus – you have met God.
Open up your eyes and see what He has already given you: You are forgiven. You are His child, and baptized in His Name. You have truth, wisdom, and power from God. You have heaven to look forward to . . . . and, you get to be a part of the greatest work of all while you wait for that day to arrive: reaching more souls with the supernatural, powerful, Gospel message of Jesus Christ – that brings life and salvation.
Guess what my friends; nothing you could ever dream up could even begin to compare with what He has already given you!!