ACTS 8 = PHILIP AND THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH
Bible Background: This is not the strangest story in the Bible, but it is crazy-in a wonderful way-how this encounter happens, and how the circle of those following the risen Christ grows bigger and bigger! Philip is one of the 7 deacons, chosen with Stephen. He too, does more than serve food!
Digging Deeper: 1. Acts 8 begins with Saul approving of the stoning of Stephen. Then the spotlight is on Philip, who goes to Samaria, and heals and teaches like Jesus did! In spite of persecution, the early Christian leaders are getting the message out into the world, and people are taking note and rejoicing!
2. In v. 26, an “angel of the Lord” directs Philip to a ‘wilderness road’ on the way to Gaza! (No indication Philip planned to go there!) He goes! And who does he run into? An Ethiopian court official, who has been worshipping in Jerusalem-and yet is not allowed to be fully part of the Jewish community because of the status of his gender! What’s the chance of this kind of encounter? When have you experienced one of those God-incidences, which brought you and an unlikely stranger together?
3. The eunuch is reading from the Prophet Isaiah, about God’s suffering servant. He asks a good question, “who is this referring to?” Philip, who knows the scriptures, is able to make a connection to Jesus-as God’s servant.
4. Philip’s new friend asks to be baptized! (That was a sign, early-on, of full inclusion in the family of God.) Philip baptizes him, and Philip is whisked away by the Spirit to his next assignment. Wow!
5. Almost every detail in this story seems like a crazy God-incidence! What might this remind us about opportunities to meet Christ in the face of a stranger? Or to share a bit of our faith with a stranger? Do we trust that the Holy Spirit will put us and use us in the right place at the right time? How can we be open to such opportunities? Prayer? Knowing the scriptures? Being attentive?
6. And here’s a BIG thought: If a complete outsider like this Ethiopian can be included in the family of God, who would we dare to exclude and what would our reasoning be? What kind of witness do you suppose this person gives back in his homeland, and to the Queen? Isn’t it amazing how the Good News of the gospel spreads and adapts and fits in every culture and every time and every place? Thanks be to God!