Monday, August 8, 2011

Why Dead People Matter Part 1 - What It Means to Follow Jesus

Last week archeologists announced the discovery of what is believed to be the tomb of St. Philip the Apostle. The discovery of an Apostle's tomb is amazing!

The Apostles' tombs

Throughout the history of the Church, the veneration of saints' tomb, e
specially the Apostles has been done with great devotion. For instance, in the middle ages, Christians flocked to the tomb of St. James in Spain. People would travel from all over Europe and spend a considerable amount of time and money just to come to see his tomb. This is still done today. FOCUS Missions leads a trip on the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) each year. The tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul are also very popular pilgrimage sites today.

Does it matter?
But, in the wake of the discover of St. Philip's tomb, there has not been too much news or excitement about the discovery. If you search "St. Philip's tomb" in Google News, just 49 articles appear. As a comparison, a story about an asteroid in Earth's gravitational pull garnered over 400 news stories.

I think it's important to ask: Is the discovery of St. Philip's tomb significant? In other words, does finding a dead person's tomb still matter?

In this first part, I want to look at the story of St. Philip and its ability to bring to mind the historical reality of Jesus. St. Philip is a man who followed and lived with Jesus. A man who witnessed Jesus' miracles, death, and resurrection. A man who lived out Jesus' commission to make disciples of all nations. And, a man who would be martyred for his witness to Jesus Christ.

St. Philip's story
St. Philip was one of Jesus 12 Apostles. He was from Bethsaida, a small and insignificant town in the backwaters of Galilee (also, the home of Sts. Andrew and Peter). The account of when Philip first started following Jesus is found in the Gospel of John (John 1:43-51).

St. Philip is mentioned a few times in the Gospels but mostly in passing. We do have a significant amount of information about St. Philip outside of the New Testament although not all of it can be trusted historically. It is believed that St. Philip preached in Greece, Syria, and Turkey. Most sources claim that St. Philip was eventually martyred in Turkey in the city of Hierapolis (where his tomb was recently found).

While we are not exactly sure about all the details of his life, his witness and martyrdom still echos as a testament to his dedicated following of Jesus. In the video below (especially the first three minutes) Rob Bell*, a Protestant pastor, does a great job of capturing some of alleged details of St. Philip's life. He describes what it meant for St. Philip to follow after Jesus 2,000 years ago and what it might mean for us today as we follow Jesus.

What do you think about the discovery of St. Philip's tomb? Why do you think that there has not been much news or excitement about this discovery?

Rob Bell on St. Philip

* I personally find Rob Bell to have a incredible ability to bring the past come alive. At the same time, neither I nor FOCUS endorse or support all of Bell's teachings.

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