Holy Tuesday - who brings you to Jesus?

A sermon preached in St George's by the Revd Neil Evans on Tuesday 15 April 2014

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. John 12:20-22

I wonder how many unremembered people in your life have, as it were, pointed you in the right direction. Teachers, colleagues, neighbours, strangers, friends. It may be a quite deliberate response to a question or a prompt, an inadvertent comment or simply being in the right place at the right time.
What is absolutely certain is that we didn’t become who we are without reference to others – for good and ill – whether it was our parents and familial background or those chance encounters along the way. Each has a contributory factor as we become (and continue to become) who we are.

We are relational beings. Whether we are introverts or extraverts; whether we enjoy the company of others or shrink from it; whether we are party animals or quiet stay-at-homes; whether we are married with a large family or single; we are relational beings. It is the human condition.

And we are influenced, profoundly, by those around us. There is, in my opinion, no such thing as a ’self-made man’ (or woman). The crucial thing, it seems to me, is what we do with those relationships and who we are within those relationships.

Jesus was profoundly relational in his ministry. He was open to encounter and chose a fascinating – and rather bizarre – group of people to be his disciples.

One of those disciples was Philip. We can write what we know about Philip on the back of an envelope. There are precisely 14 references to Philip in the gospels, and 11 of these are in St John’s Gospel (the other 3 – one in each Gospel – he appears simply amongst the lists of the 12 disciples).
John’s ‘use’ of Philip in the Gospel narrative is fascinating. Every time he’s mentioned he is pointing towards Jesus, bringing someone to Jesus or, as it were, feeding Jesus the lines.

• Philip is called and immediately finds and brings Nathanael to Jesus (John 1:45-48)
• Philip answers Jesus’ (rhetorical?) question about the feeding of the 5,000 giving Jesus the opportunity to explain what he is to do (John 6:5ff)
• Philip says to Jesus, Let us see the Father and we shall be satisfied, giving Jesus the opportunity to explain his relationship with the Father to all the disciples (John 14:8ff)
• And in today’s Gospel we see Philip bringing others to Jesus and, once again, creating the opportunity for teaching (John 12:20ff)

In the first part of the Acts we hear a number of references of Philip proclaiming the Good News and bringing others to Jesus. This culminates in the other significant reference with him explaining the Good News of Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, baptising him, and immediately disappearing (Acts 8:26ff).

What – or rather who – brings you to Jesus? Who are the – perhaps countless, and often anonymous – people who have shown you something of Jesus? You may not be aware of them, know their names or remember the circumstances. Who are the Philips who have been signposts in your life; who have said a word, performed an act, in season.

And if others have brought us to Jesus… how can we be, how are we, a Philip. How can we, do we, make connections for others. Each of us is called to make those small connections, often anonymously, generally unremembered. But each of us is called to be an ‘Ambassador for Christ’.

And importantly we should be aware that we are often unaware when it happens. We are ambassadors for Christ at unlikely, off guard moments – chance interactions; answering the phone, a conversation at the back of church with a newcomer, or in a shop with someone who happens to know that we go to church. As signposts to Jesus we are never off duty.

Research suggests that is takes an average of seven positive encounters with church and Christians before someone becomes committed follower of Jesus. We will already in our lives almost certainly have been one of those seven encounters for someone who is now has a living faith in Jesus. And we may well be again. It is a huge, and joyful, responsibility to be an anonymous signpost pointing to Jesus; to be an Ambassador for Christ. And as followers of Christ we are never off duty.

We thank God for those who have brought us to Jesus and pray that we may be agents of the Good News of Jesus Christ in a broken world.

What (or rather, who) brings you to Jesus?
Holland Park Benefice