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HYMN 297 When Philip, a Greek from Bethsaida/I have decided to follow Jesus

John 1:43-51

Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: James Clemens

Philip the Apostle from Ruben's series of Apostles 1611

1. When Philip, a Greek from Bethsaida

Where Andrew and Peter both lived,

Heard Jesus say, “Follow me, Philip!”

He ran to Nathanial and said,

“Come see the Messiah the prophets

And Moses have long ago promised.”

2. “Come see,” he said, “come see, this Jesus.”

Nathaniel could hardly believe

Messiah would come out of Naz’reth

With nothing much there they could see.

They went and found Jesus was waiting.

He knew them, they thought it amazing.

3. St. Philip would always ask questions

That gave Jesus reasons to teach.

Like “How will we feed these five thousand

They all need to eat while you preach?”

And then he asked, “Show us the Father.”

Christ said, “I’m the way, my dear brother.”

4. When Philip saw Christ resurrected

He knew he was truly God's Son

He gladly went out to tell others

The great things that Jesus had done

He preached to the eunuch from Sheba

And baptized him there in the river.

5. He died telling those standing by him

Of Jesus his Savior and Lord

And thousands believed in Christ Jesus

Because of his strong dying words.

The faith Philip preached and had lived in

Shines now like a star in the heavens!

Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andres by Duccio di Buoninsegna 1308

MEDITATION The calling of the disciples is one of the more amazing events in the life of Jesus. Here comes this young man out of Nazareth, a city from which nothing good will come, the prophets say, and commands, "Follow me!" and burly fishermen like Andrew and Peter stand up, leave their nets and follow. The voice they heard moved them, every part of them. This is not strange, I suppose, since Jesus was God and had created them; their very beings knew that this was God speaking to them, even if they could not name it, quite, at first.

In a conversation, Nathanial and Philip speak with Jesus about how he knew who they were. And Jesus remarks, cryptically, “I saw you under the fig tree.” And then when Jesus refers Philip to the story of Jacob, we get a sense of what it really means that the Lord has come down to this place.

Augustine says that “Good preachers who preach Christ are like angels of God, that is, they ascend and descend on the Son of Man.” Jesus has come down to us to live among us, but he will continue to come down through his word, like the angels on the ladder Jacob saw in his dream.

We are all called to be preachers of the word and bring Christ to people from the heavens. But that is tough going for most of us to think about. How can my simple words be a ladder down from and into heaven?

Invitation to the King's Banquet by Joakim Skovgaard in Viborg Cathedral ca. 1901

Jesus tells Andrew and Peter, “I will make you fishers of people.” The salient word here is something Georg Sverdrup, early President of Augsburg Seminary, in his sermons on Matthew pointed out long ago. Jesus doesn’t say" I will send you out as you are and you will learn to be missionaries." He says, "I will make you fishers of people."

First of all, he changes their hearts so they want to spread the word, and gives them the desire to bring more and more to the banquet. He doesn’t just give them the desire, he also shows them how: "Invite them to the wedding feast!" Today he calls us to be his followers. The miracle is that he turns us into evangelists. The ocean is filled with fish, and there are more than ever needing to be invited. He makes us able to do so.

Christ does amazing things when his light is brought to shine. As the second hymn demonstrates.

Sadhu Sundar Singh

Text: Sundar Singh Tune: Assam, anonymous from Assam, India

1. I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, no turning back.

2. The world behind me, the cross before me; The world behind me, the cross before me; The world behind me, the cross before me, No turning back, no turning back.

3. Tho' none go with me, I still will follow, Tho' none go with me, I still will follow, Tho' none go with me, I still will follow, No turning back, no turning back.

4. Will you decide now to follow Jesus? Will you decide now to follow Jesus? Will you decide now to follow Jesus? No turning back, no turning back.


This hymn, sometimes called, "No turning back," a theme song for the Billy Graham meetings, gives Lutherans the willies. But its story may blunt some of those twitches. Welsh missionaries brought the gospel to Assam with much success. There was a fierce tribe there that violently persecuted the Christians. One family was chased down by the chief and forced to deny their Lord. As they stood before the chief and the people, the chief asked them to renounce their faith or die. The father, Nokseng, a man of the Garo tribe from Meghalaya, refused, and said something like the first stanza of this hymn. When asked again, his sons were killed, as he said the second stanza.

As they lay before him, he was again asked to deny his Lord, and he sang the third stanza, and his wife was killed. Then again, and as he was being shot, the father sang the last stanza. The chief having seen the strength of their faith came to regret his actions and himself became a Christian. Singh, a missionary to the Punjabi, and Tibet, is said to have written the text using an Assam tune. His story bears reading.

Whether or not you like “decision” theology, one has to admit that Nokseng, who was already a Christian, decided to follow Jesus by doing his will some time after he had become a Christian. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, he was able to give witness to Jesus Christ. No turning back.

William Reynolds, a Baptist pastor and professor of hymnology, heard the music to the song from India and set it in 1959 so that people at the revivals could sing it.

I wrote the above hymn for a book called Festivals and Martyrs which featured the life stories of the apostles and special festivals of the church year. I used extra biblical materials to tell the stories of some of the apostles and had a lot of fun. James Clemens caught my spirit and wrote tunes that had the kind of fun I was having.

LINKS Elevation Worship

Rampert and Meghala

Kathryn Scott

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