Don’t be too hard on Philip for his impudent, albeit confused, demand in next Sunday’s gospel (John 14:1-12). Isn’t it true that from all our hearts – if not from our lips – the same mixture of impudence and confusion has risen countless times to our Savior’s ears?
In John 14 Jesus was preparing his disciples for Good Friday through Easter morning by speaking some of the most comforting words we hear from him on the inspired pages of Scripture. But somehow that just wasn’t enough for Philip.
Here’s what led up to his request for more. Jesus had just finished answering another confused disciple with the glorious words that the way to the Father’s house was actually standing tangibly before him. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (6). Jesus then added that not only through him do we come to the Father (to find rooms prepared and ready!), but that already now in him we’ve seen and known everything we need to see and know of the Father.
But, apparently, all this was still not enough for Philip. “Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us’” (8). “Sorry, Jesus,” Philip was saying, “What we have seen and heard from you so far isn’t quite enough. But a little glimpse of the Father’s glory right now would do it. That’d be enough for us!”
Really, Philip? Would that be enough? Or if Jesus had granted that request would your heart have thought of new demands for what would be enough? Philip, if you can’t rest in what you already see and know of the Father in Jesus, will anything ever be enough?
Do you recognize when Philip’s demand is echoing in your heart? Even if we’ve never demanded that the heavens briefly part for an amazing glimpse of glory, that doesn’t mean we’ve never shared Philip’s confused impudence. It seems to me that on an almost daily basis my heart make demands like Philip’s.
“Lord, it would be enough…if you showed just a bit more of your glory by taking away this aching I feel by removing the suffering my child is enduring.”
“It would be enough, Lord…if you stilled at least for a few days what seems to be the endless storms of conflict that seek to tear up the delicate bonds of Christian love within the family of faith I shepherd.”
“It would be enough Lord…if you finally put an end to that temptation with which I struggle again and again.”
“It would be enough Lord…if….”
The examples are endless. If my heart will not be content with the glory of the Father’s grace we’ve already seen and known in Jesus, it will never be enough.
Now, I don’t say that because it’s wrong to pray for our children’s health or our congregation’s outward peace or for strength against temptation. Jesus is about to make wonderful promises (14:13-14) about God’s power that can do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
But the prayer of faith quickly becomes Philip’s impudent demand when I believe this lie of the devil: “Unless I see [fill in the blank with the particular glimpse of the Father’s glory we are asking for at that moment] I cannot rest secure in the Father’s grace to me.” Somehow, everything we’ve already seen and know in his Son is…well…just not enough.
But if that’s not enough, then nothing will ever be enough! Our hearts will simply day by day create ever new demands God must meet to be enough…until the next demand arises. And by that our eyes are being subtly directed away from the Father’s glory that we’ve already seen and known in Jesus. Each day we are tempted to set the bar in a different self-chosen place for God to prove himself glorious or faithful or gracious, rather than remembering that we have already seen and known all this to be true.
But isn’t that precisely why, as the disciples were about to view many troubling things, Jesus seeks to calm restless hearts by bidding us to find our rest in what we already know to be true in him? ”Do not let your hearts be troubled!” And with that he seeks to calm our hearts’ restless ocean by calling attention to what we have seen and known in him!
“My dear child, in me your name has been written already from eternity on a room in my Father’s kingdom! And my dear child, as if that wasn’t enough, I went there by way of cross and empty tomb to finalize preparations for that dwelling that will be yours forever. And my dear child, as if that wasn’t enough, by passing through your sins’ death to eternal life I have myself become for you the one way, the one truth, and the one life by which you can approach the Father unafraid – even if today all his glory did burst into view because this was the Last Day! And my dear child, as if that wasn’t enough, everything you have heard and seen in me is a glorious glimpse of that unseen Father whom you will then meet! In my compassion and forgiveness and patient kindness you are seeing a perfect eternal reflection of the Father who gave me everything I have said and done and accomplished. And my dear child, as if that was not enough, according to my Father’s will we are at work for you and through you to accomplish all kinds of wonderful things that will be the source of eternal thanksgiving! Yes, though it is hard to comprehend how it can be true, in a very real way what we will accomplish through you will be doing even greater things than I’ve done – even though you will often not recognize how that is unfolding before you!”
What happens when we pay attention to this heart soothing grace of our Father we’ve already seen and known through Jesus? Our prayers can remain prayers of child-like faith from lavishly loved child to their Abba Father, rather than morphing into confused and impudent demands for our Father to prove something to us.
For, you see, beneath those prayers, Jesus is at work to teach our calmed hearts to say this: “All this I’ve seen and known is already more than enough for me, Lord!”