9–15 April 2017.
Today’s text starts with a strange command from an angel of the Lord who tells Philip to walk out into the desert. What a strange thing to do! But Philip listens, and when he gets out there, he finds a strange person: an Ethiopian.
In the Bible days, people thought of Ethiopians as so exotic. They were strange “barbarians” who lived at the very ends of the earth. But we remember that Jesus had commanded the apostles to spread the gospel even to people at the ends of the earth. So is that why Philip was here?
Maybe Philip thought that he’s not an apostle, so he wasn’t the right person to do this job. That’s an easy feeling to understand, after all we get nervous about sharing our faith too. Can’t someone else do it?
But Philip does something very right here: he waits for the Spirit to prepare just the right moment to speak with the man. When we force the gospel onto people who aren’t ready for it, that’s rarely helpful. But here the Spirit prepares just the right time for Philip to share the story of Jesus.
As Philip approaches the man and starts talking with him, he discovers a few interesting things. First, the man is an important official who already has an interest in knowing God; he is already reading the scriptures. But second, Philip discovers that even though the man wants to give his life to God, the Jewish leaders had pushed him away. As a eunuch, Moses’s law didn’t allow him to come close to God (Deuteronomy 23:1).
Philip then tells the man the good news of Jesus, and he accepts it straightaway. But when they pass by some water, the eunuch asks (maybe nervously): “Is there any reason why I can’t be baptized?” Does his race or his body stop him from being accepted? Of course not! Christ’s kingdom welcomes all people. No one is pushed away. So the eunuch is baptized, and is finally welcomed into God’s family. He then goes on his way singing loud praises to God.
Isn’t it amazing what can happen when we reach out to people who have been rejected. Some people, like the eunuch, are pushed to the edge of society and of faith too, even though they really want to be with God. It’s these people at the edges that Jesus accepted as his own. And they are the ones Christ especially wants us to draw into his kingdom.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis