The ‘wow factor’ (featuring Philip and Foreigner)
I think the disciple Philip was a big Foreigner fan.
But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, remember when Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and Sadducees for asking for a sign from heaven? Jesus says, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:3-4).
I’d bet Philip felt a little knot in his stomach when Jesus said that.
Why? Because Philip’s been waiting years for that one thing, that “wow factor,” that je ne sais quoi from Jesus. “One day,” Philip thinks. “One day, this guy’s gonna blow us disciples away. We just need that sign.”
But he hasn’t seen Jesus’ “wow factor” yet.
Sure, he’s seen Jesus perform miracles and teach radical things about being the Son of God. But has he really shown himself to be the Christ? I mean, just look at all those prophecies about the Messiah — those are some really big shoes to fill.
After he ponders his rabbi’s words that an “evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign,” Philip’s nausea turns to defensiveness as he thinks, “Ok, but c’mon, Jesus. I’m not evil or adulterous; I just think you gotta show us something.”
We see Philip get the confidence to speak his mind to Jesus in John 14. Philip entreats Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (14:8). That’s all. Just show us the Father. Then we’ll finally be content; we’ll finally know that you’re the big man on campus.
I imagine that Jesus is shaking his head as he replies, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?” (14:9).
How many of us doubt Jesus’ authority because we are unsure of the idea of his unending, persistent love? I’d argue that all of us feel this aching question to some extent. Can he really love me to that extent? Me?
Had Foreigner been blasting its tunes around AD 30, Philip would’ve been holding up his iPhone flashlight and waving it back and forth with the sway of crowd, echoing the chorus, “I wanna know what love is / I want you to show me.”
We need experiential signs that show Jesus loves us (“I wanna feel what love is / I know you can show me”). We need to read about his miracles, his kindness, his gracious words. Then, those signs will be “enough.”
Philip was so focused on the tangible, present signs that he forgot the whole gospel of Jesus was the sign. The “sign of Jonah” that Jesus refers to — that Jonah’s experiences inside and outside the fish symbolize Jesus’ experiences inside and outside the tomb — didn’t make any sense to the disciples. But what a blessing it is to know now what Jesus meant. To die for sinners is already too much. To resurrect and prove to be the authority over death is just downright insane.
And yet, out of his perfect love, Jesus performed the greatest, most important sign in all recorded history. He suffered in love, died in love and resurrected in love.
All throughout my life I’ve searched for things that make me content. But I’ve realized that nothing but Jesus will ever make me content. In faith I believe in Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection; through faith he gives me contentment.
So every time I find myself telling Jesus I want him to show me what love is, I am forgetting the most crucial piece of the gospel: Jesus’ “wow factor” is his love. And, whether we think it is or not, that love is always enough for us.
“Gotta take a little time / A little time to look around me / I’ve got nowhere left to hide / Looks like love has finally found me.”
Gilmer is the opinion editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X