Today (May 1) is set aside to remember the lives and witness of two of the Twelve original disciples, Philip and James, Son of Alphaeus. These were ordinary men called to an extraordinary task: to follow and learn from Jesus. After the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and said “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22, NRSV) With these words, Jesus commissioned them to go into the world and spread the Gospel.
From Scripture, we know more about Philip than we do about James. Philip came from Bethsaida in the Galilee. In his excitement, he invited his friend Bartholomew to come and follow Jesus with him. Philip was the disciple Jesus asked where to buy bread for the feeding of the 5,000. (John 6:1-14) He was asked by a group of Greeks to be introduced to Jesus, but passed that task on to Andrew. (John 12:20-22) In the Upper Room, during the Last Supper, Philip asked our Lord to show him the Father, to which Jesus replied “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” (John 14:9-11) The Apostle Philip is not the same Philip chosen to care for the needy in Jerusalem in Acts 6 and converted the Ethiopian eunuch recorded in Acts 8.
We know even less about James, son of Alphaeus, also known as James the Less or James the Younger to further distinguish him from James, Brother of John (the sons of Zebedee) and James the brother of Jesus. His mother, Mary, was one of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. The only other mention of James is in Acts 1:13-15 which records the gathering of the disciples in Jerusalem after the Ascension of Jesus.
Although the Bible records very little of their lives and actions, the simple fact that they were personally chosen by Jesus to be in the inner circle, the first to whom the Lord revealed himself, reminds us that God chooses the ordinary to do the extraordinary.
Almighty and gracious God, you equipped Philip and James to bear witness to the saving action of your precious Son on the Cross for a world in need of redemption. Grant us the same courage to boldly proclaim the Gospel in our lives. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen
In Faith alone,