Wednesday, May 11, 2016


My perpetual dislike of the never-ending Last Supper discourse in John may be clouding my judgment, but I suspect that very few preachers will focus on John 14 when they have the opportunity to preach on Acts 2. They are, of course, connected. And, even if the preacher won't focus on another speech by Jesus to his disciples--for the fourth week in a row!--it is worth allowing Jesus' teaching on the "Advocate" to shape our preaching on the Pentecost moment in Acts.

This time, as I read Jesus' dialogue with Philip, I am drawn to the word "satisfied." Philip says to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." And Jesus responds, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?" Jesus' response--another "I in you and you in me and we in them" kind of thing--gets a little heady, but I think a quick review of the word "satisfied" can help us make better sense of Jesus' explanation.

Satisfied. Satisfactory. When I was a kid in elementary school, our local bank would give students cash for a good report card. I don't remember the whole amount, but it was something like $3 for all As and $1 for As & Bs. Every six weeks, when report cards came out, my friend and I would walk to the bank and collect our cash. I made As in all of my core subjects--science, math, reading, etc.--but my handwriting was (and still is) abysmal. Instead of a G for "Good," I consistently received an S for "Satisfactory." Now, that isn't a B. It isn't even a subject. It's an exercise. It's like P.E.. What college is going to care whether you made a G or an S in third-grade P.E.? But, to my banker, that S was a ding on my record. "Well done," the teller would say. "Here's your dollar for making all As & Bs." I didn't have the vocabulary to express myself at the time, but, if I had the chance to go back and do it all over again, I think I'd call "bullshit" on that.

Satisfied. Satisfactory. "How was that dinner I made for you, Honey?" a spouse might say. "Oh, it was perfectly satisfactory," a well-meaning but apparently clueless spouse might reply. "Your work on that big company project was satisfactory," the boss might say to a now-disappointed worker, who was hoping to hear "excellent" or even "good." If your mother-in-law asks you how your marriage is, please don't say, "I'm satisfied with the current arrangement." You might mean that everything is "just fine," but "just fine" isn't all that good either.

Philip says to Jesus, "If you will just show us the Father, we will be satisfied." In today's English, that carries a demanding tone--an "unless you do this we won't be happy." The word "satisfied" necessarily conveys a comparison with "unsatisfied," which may be why "satisfactory" doesn't belong in a compliment. By saying, "If you...we will be satisfied," Philip seems to be drawing a line in the sand, but I'm not sure that's what he meant.

The Greek word is ἀρκεῖ, which, for you language buffs out there (Steve Pankey) is a dative impersonal form of ἀρκέω (thanks, Strong's). Used in this way, it means that the thing in question--the revealing of the father--will be enough, sufficient, contenting. That's not a difference in meaning--only in connotation--but consider how the passage might sound if Philip's statement sounded like this: "Jesus, show us the father and we will have all that we need." Even better, reverse the order and hear Philip say, "Jesus, we will be complete as you reveal the Father to us." There is no doubt behind Philip's question. Chapter 14 begins with Thomas asking Jesus to show the disciples the way to the Father, to which Jesus responds, "I am the way." Philip builds upon that "I am" statement with his follow-up remark: "Jesus, [merely] show us the Father, and we will be complete." Jesus has established that he is the way, and Philip is proclaiming in faith that when Jesus shows them the Father, everything will be as it should be.

But it's the "when" that gets him in trouble.

Jesus says, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." What Philip cannot yet see is that Jesus has already shown them the Father because the Father is fully in Jesus just as Jesus is fully in the Father. And that's why we wait for the Advocate who will lead us into all truth. The reality is that no matter how well the disciples knew Jesus they could not know what the Church would learn through the light of the resurrection and the fire of Holy Spirit--that Jesus of Nazareth is the Incarnate Word of God. That is too big an epistemological leap for any human being to know. It requires divine inspiration.

Don't hear Philip's request for Jesus to show them the Father as an conditional expression of satisfaction. It's a statement of faith. We will be complete when you reveal the Father to us. What we learn from Philip and Jesus and from the Holy Spirit, however, is that the "when" is "now."

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