From last week’s message on Acts 8:26-40
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” – Acts 8:26-30 (ESV)
I love this episode from the early days of the church. Everything is new, the church is young, full of energy, just figuring things out, doing things and experiencing things she never would have dreamed up on her own. The church is realizing just how big the Good News is and just how inclusive the invitation is, and is just trying to keep up with the Holy Spirit. The church is going through hard times but is full of joy.
Philip has been preaching the gospel in Samaria, another one of those formerly untouchable lands populated by what the Jewish people would consider an unsavory people group. Signs and wonders begin happening, conversions, former magic-workers coming to faith, baptisms, receivings of the Holy Spirit, corrections, repentance. Read it, it’s all there in Acts 8.
In the midst of this an angel of the Lord tells Philip to go basically nowhere, otherwise known as the desert place to the south on the way to Gaza. Philip goes – I love the immediacy of obedience in the phrase “he rose and went” – and is confronted with probably the most “other” of all the others he has yet dealt with: a wealthy eunuch from Ethiopia, a worshiper returning from Jerusalem, in a chariot, no doubt surrounded by an armed entourage.
One quick prompting from the Spirit, and Philip runs to this man. Don’t you just love that? When he arrives at the chariot he hears the familiar words of Isaiah 53, Isaiah’s moving description of God’s Suffering Servant, Jesus. The rest is history; a conversation over the open Word, the good news of Jesus proclaimed, a heart reborn, water, baptism, joy. And then – boom – Philip is carried away to Azotus, a distance of probably thirty miles or so.
Lord, I want to be like Philip. He is quick, energetic and fearless in obedience. He lets the scripture breathe, and can explain the good news of Jesus from it.
He never sees an “Other”, he only sees one invited, just like he has been, into the wonders of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.