4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. 12 But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”
25 After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
Remember, at the beginning of Acts, Jesus said to the apostles, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." In today’s reading we learn how Phillip, one of the original seven “food distribution team” members (Acts 6:5), was given that really tough mission to go to Samaria.
Jews avoided Samaritans. Jews would walk extra miles, just to stay out of Samaria. Phillip was sent where no one wanted to go.
The Samaritans have a fascinating and tragic story, as told in 2 Kings 17. Samaria was part of Israel when Israel fell captive to Assyria. We read In 2 Kings specifically about Samaria, where the King settled in people from other countries as he exiled Israelites from Samaria to those countries. This confusion of people groups helped control uprisings. To keep control, the king also brought one of the exiled Israelite Samaritan priests back to Samaria to teach the people “what the god of the land requires.” Unfortunately, each newly settled people group also made its own gods and set them up in the places where the Samaritans had previously worshipped the one true God. From this point forward, the Jews viewed Samaria as an entire country of mixed-race people who attempted to worship God, but mixed it with the worship of idols.
Can you imagine what it felt like to be a Samaritan? To know how your heritage was taken from you? To be rejected and looked down upon by “cousins” with whom you shared the same ancestors? For the Samaritans, to hear Phillip’s message, that God came back to save them, to redeem and restore them as children of God, must have healed a deep, deep longing in their souls.
How have you experienced God coming back for you?
Do you know someone who is longing to experience God coming back for them? How could you share the Good News with him or her?
Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart. - Charles Wesley
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.