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From the editor: "So long time…and yet" (John 14.9)

J Grant

In the four lists of disciples in the Word of God Philip is always in the fifth place. Apart from these lists, nothing is known of him outside of John’s Gospel. There we learn how he was called by the Lord (1.43), that his home was in the city of Bethsaida (1.44), and that he brought Nathanael to the Lord (1.46-47). It was Philip who was asked by the Lord, "Whence shall we buy bread?", when in excess of 5,000 had to be fed, and who replied, "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient" (6.5-7). The Greeks who asked, "Sir, we would see Jesus" (12.20-21), addressed their remarks to Philip. During the solemn proceedings which took place in the Upper Room when the Lord Jesus stated that "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me", it was Philip who made the request, "Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us" (14.6,8).

There is a note of pathos about the reply from the lips of the Lord Jesus: "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?". If we only read that verse we would consider Philip to have been with the Lord over a long period of time. Yet the "long time" was but some months in excess of three years. The words of the Lord are a mild rebuke. In that period he should have understood more.

This month marks the turn of another year. Time passes with increasing rapidity so that we can agree with the words of Job when he stated, "My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle" (7.6). At this appropriate time to pause and reflect can it be said of us, "So long time…and yet"?

In Judas Iscariot we see one who had been with Him "So long time…and yet not saved". It is strange to contemplate a man who saw what he saw and heard what he heard, yet was not persuaded to trust the Lord. We know that the Lord, who knew what his role would be in the sad events leading up to the Cross, chose him. Despite that, it causes wonder that his heart was not touched by the life, works, and teaching of the Lord. Perhaps the reader has been close to the gospel for many years and yet still does not acknowledge the Lord Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and so the words ring out to you, "So long time…and yet".

After feeding the 4,000 the Lord and His disciples sailed back from Dalmanutha (Mk 8.13-21). When He charged them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Herodians, they thought that He was censuring them for failing to bring sufficient bread. "Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?" Over this incident can be written, "So long time…and yet not understanding". Comparing what He said (v.15) with their interpretation of His words (v.16) illustrates just how much we fail, as they did, to perceive the meaning of His teaching. Hardened hearts were the cause of their failure. The clarity of His words is beyond doubt, but they chose to interpret them in another way. Let us ensure that we do not deliberately fail to understand the clear teaching of the Lord as we attempt to avoid its demands.

Despite having had power to cast out demons, nine disciples now stand powerless before a father who had brought to them his demon possessed son (Mk 9.14-29). Here we have men who had been with Him "So long time…and yet not effective". Their power had gone. Their failure to acknowledge by prayer and self-denial their need of Him led to this catastrophe. Perhaps the reader realises that the power once enjoyed in His service has fled. Their work is now routine and empty. Let us not forget that any power to serve comes from Him alone.

As the intense devotion of a woman, who understood what He had said about His death, filled the house, the disciples complained, "To what purpose is this waste?" (Mt 26.8). Their words cause us to cry, "So long time…and yet not fully devoted". What would have been our reaction? Do we give the Lord our best, as she did? Are our hearts so devoted that nothing is too good to give to Him and nothing is too precious to keep back from Him?

Let us seek to serve Him with such devotion that it cannot be said sorrowfully of us, "So long time…and yet".


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