Philip & the Ethiopian Eunuch

This is one of my favorite passages in Acts because it carries a special place in my own journey of faith.

And much to my surprise it turned out to be the subject of this Sunday’s sermon at my church. I so much needed a sermon that really spoke to my heart this week, and God provided! Amazing how that works.

So, given that this is already a favorite passage of mine, I might have expected to just lean back, listen to a familiar story, and feel the love. But what actually happened was that I learned a lot about this passage that I’d never noticed before. Well of course God never wastes an opportunity to grow His budding disciples — I should have already known that. Nope, church is not a time to just lean back & relax, catch up on the weekly distractions of mind, etc. Ha. And praise God that it’s not!

So some things that really struck me about this passage this week:

  • Philip’s total commitment to letting the Holy Spirit lead. I mean, Philip had just been chosen to be one of the additional seven – led by Stephen who’d just been stoned to death – whose job was to fix the problems with food distribution. He had work to do. He’d been sent to Samaria and had been preaching the gospel, apparently with considerable success, after the execution of Stephen. He was a busy man with lots of new responsibilities and much work to be done. But when an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” he did as he was commanded, no questions asked.
  • The instructions he was given weren’t exactly easy to follow. But he did it anyway. I mean, think about it. The Ethiopian was in a chariot – the whole purpose of which was to travel faster than a person could on foot. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” So Philip ran up to the chariot – can you just picture Philip jogging alongside the chariot as he asked the Ethiopian, “Do you understand what you are reading?” It wasn’t until then that he was finally invited into the chariot (out of breath, sweating profusely? It was the desert. Shin splints?? Undoubtedly he was a better runner than I…) to explain the passage from Isaiah to the Ethiopian.
  • He knew his stuff. Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
  • The Ethiopian Eunuch was clearly “not from around here.” He was a Black guy from the sub-Saharan African continent (that’s what “Ethiopian” meant in those days – well before the modern nation-state called Ethiopia). That wasn’t exactly Philip’s assigned target population but he didn’t even skip a beat. Holy Spirit had told him to minister to the Ethiopian on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza, so that’s what he did.
  • The Ethiopian Eunuch was … well … a eunuch. There is much medical literature these days on the effects of castration on a man’s body, and in part it depends on when the castration occurred. But it’s safe to say that there were likely noticeable physical differences between a eunuch and a non-castrated male. And God was making it clear that skin color, ethnicity, external appearances, or what part of the world a person is from aren’t what matters when spreading the Gospel of Christ Jesus. It is the acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior by faith alone, not what a believer may look like or sound like or what reproductive organs they may or may not have, or where they’re from that’s what matters.

So — the special place this passage has in my own spiritual journey … I came to Jesus right at the beginning of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. Because of the need to keep people safe from contracting the Covid-19 virus, my local church had stopped conducting baptisms and didn’t have any plans to resume any time soon when the time came that I was ready to be baptized.

So the way my thinking went was: Hey, if the Ethiopian Eunuch could be baptized in a mud puddle on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, then no reason I can’t be baptized in a local lake. So I was baptized in a local lake when the time was right, and it was an important and memorable step in my own faith journey.

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