St. Philip and St. James – May 1, 2016

SCRIPTURES: Isaiah 30:18-21; Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27; John 14:1-14

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

 Today we remember and thank God for the apostles James and Philip. The James we remember, by the way, is the James who was known as “the Less” or “the younger.” He was not the apostle James who was the brother of John, nor was he the James who was the brother of Jesus and who eventually became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. Both of those James’ are referred to a number of times in the Bible, and many of their words and works are recorded. Of James the Less very little is mentioned. We know his parents’ names: Alphaeus and Mary; he is included in the list of the apostles; and his mother was one of the women who went to the tomb on Easter Sunday to anoint Jesus’ body. Other than that, nothing. None of his words or deeds are mentioned. James is certainly “the Less”; the insignificant.

 We know a bit more about Philip. He is from Bethsaida, where Peter and his brother Andrew were from. Jesus personally called him to follow Him, and Philip did so immediately. He also brought Nathanael to Jesus, and Jesus made him an apostle. And, a few of his words to Jesus are recorded for us in the Bible. But, he always seems uncertain. “We don’t have enough money to buy food for all of these people!” he told Jesus before the feeding of the 5,000. Today we hear him plead, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough.” And Jesus responds, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me?” Why are you so uncertain, Philip?

 James, the less. Philip, the uncertain. They are the everyday man, the average believer; the ones like you and me. Are we not “the less”? How many great works have you done for the Lord? For which of them have you been recognized and honored? In fact, are there any things you have done which you would hold up before the Lord, or hold up before your fellow believers and say, “You also should do this”? You might be more inclined to say, “Don’t do this.” And, as far as being uncertain and having questions: wouldn’t you like to have God work a little more obviously in your life? “Lord, show us the Father” – I’d certainly be a better preacher and would have no doubts about God’s presence and work among us if He did so! Wouldn’t you be a better Christian yourself and speak more freely about Jesus if you saw the Father?

 Everyday men; average Christians; sinners, just like us – that’s James and Philip. And yet, Jesus says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.” He says this to you, also, for do you not believe in Him? Whoever believes in me” – you! – “will do greater works than the works I do.” Really?! What could these possibly be?

 Before we get to the what, let’s begin with the how. How can we, average Christians like James and Philip, do greater works than Christ’s works? “Because I am going to the Father,” Jesus tells us. He’s not just talking about 6 weeks later, when He will ascend into heaven. He’s talking about the next day, when He will be crucified. Jesus goes to the Father as you, and worse than you. He goes to the Father bearing your sins, along with the sins of every person who has ever lived or ever will live. The holy Father sees all this sin, this refusal to love and honor Him and this rebellion against Him, and He pours out His anger and punishment upon it. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Jesus cries out in his anguish. But then, before he dies, he cries out, “It is finished! Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Take this to heart. The seeing, and hating, and punishing of your sins is finished! Jesus finished this with His death for you.

 And so, God now looks upon you – you who believe that Jesus is His Son and your Savior by His death for you – with nothing but love and mercy. You are so very precious to Him; and so is all that you do! He’s not going to hear voice of worship, or your attempts to speak of Him to someone else, and say, “Boy, that was weak. You could have said a whole lot more.” He’s not going to look upon your works and say, “Well, you could have done better.” Does a bridegroom, seeing his bride coming down the aisle, say to himself, “I could have done better”? “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb,” the angel says to us in Rev. 21. This is how God looks upon you who believe in Jesus!

 And how He loves to listen to you! Your prayers: they are perhaps the greater works that Jesus spoke of to Philip. For notice: immediately after He said that we would do greater works He said: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Asking the Father in His name: this is great work!

 You probably don’t think of praying as something great. I have often heard homebound and elderly people lament that they can’t do anything anymore except pray. “The Lord waits to be gracious to you,” Isaiah tells us. “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.” This is an amazing thing. The Lord who rules over all things is bending down to you and has His ear turned to you! How precious are your prayers to Him! How eager He is to hear and answer them!

 But, how can our prayers be greater works than Christ’s? Jesus also prayed, after all. Surely His prayers were greater than ours, for He is infinitely greater than any of us! Yes, that is true. But, are not the works of one who is lesser often seen as greater?

Ø  Recently a couple of Norwalk Police Officers were honored by the Chief and the Mayor for going into the freezing Norwalk River to rescue a man whose car had gone off a bridge and landed upside down in the water. It was right to honor them, for they endangered themselves by doing so. But, they also were doing what was expected. What if it had been an average citizen, especially a child or an older person, who had gone into the river and rescued the man? The rescuer would be praised throughout the state and the nation!

That you pray, and believe that the Father will hear and answer because you believe that Jesus “is in the Father and the Father is in [Him]” – they are one – is a great thing. Your prayers of faith honor Him! He considers your prayers great, and is pleased to hear and answer you. This is what matters.

 That James was known as “the Less” and Philip was uncertain did not matter to Jesus. He comes to seek the lowly and is not ashamed to be called their Savior. He made James and Philip His apostles through whom He spoke and worked. He has chosen you and lives in you to speak and work through you, also.

 Everyday people? Not James and Philip. And, not us who believe in Jesus. We are children of the heavenly Father! We are the wife of the Lamb! Great are we, and great are our works! - all through Jesus our Savior, in whom the Father is honored forever. Amen.