Scripture

Acts 8:26-40

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,

    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,

    so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.

    Who can speak of his descendants?

    For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” [37]  38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.


Reflection

The book of Acts opens with Jesus’ promise to his disciples that the Holy Spirit would empower them to be witnesses in “Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In today’s reading, Philip, the bold boundary crossing deacon who had already evangelized Samaria (Acts 8:4-8), says yes to another assignment (Acts 8:27) and finds himself riding in the chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch who had just left from a visit in Jerusalem to worship at the temple. Now, the eunuch was on his nearly five month return journey to his homeland far south of Egypt--a location, ironically, that was considered by Roman geographers to be the end of mappable territory. You might even call it from their view, “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

I suspect this man’s visit to the temple may have been disappointing, perhaps even frustrating. Eunuchs were barred from full participation in the temple (Deuteronomy 23:1), and even if he got past that barrier he may well have faced additional scrutiny as a foreigner with darker skin than other pilgrims to the temple. Little wonder that he is intrigued by a character in the scroll of Isaiah, called the suffering servant of God (Isaiah 52:13), who suffered humiliation and was deprived of justice (Acts 8:33/Isaiah 53:8). Who is this servant who carried our pain and suffering, and by whose wounds we can be healed (Isaiah 53:4-5)?

It just so happens that his new chariot companion, Philip, has an answer: “Philip began with that passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). Before long we have a joyful, baptized believer in Jesus (and an important court official at that) headed home to share this good news to the Ethiopian ends of the earth. And that’s how it goes in God’s mission: sometimes if you say yes, like Philip, to that Holy Spirit nudge, that prompting to share a kind word, share a meal, share the good news you never know where that impact might end. It may even go to the ends of the earth and perhaps beyond!

Who might the Holy Spirit be prompting or nudging you to pray for, speak a kind word to, or share the good news with?

Prayer

Now, Lord, enable your servants through the empowerment of your Spirit to speak your word with great boldness. (taken from Acts 4:29)