“Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.” (Acts 8:26 – 28)
These vignettes of encounters with people who become believers is designed to inform the reader of Acts, Theophilus, of how the Presence of the Lord was supporting and under girding the disciples-now-apostles. There are, beloved reader, just as wonderful stories throughout history and up to current day. Faith circles that function under common leadership have such stories and make up their history and “coming to be” stories. Think of the stories from your own faith foundation; could those stories be told like this? That the hero/heroine was moved by the Spirit to testify and convert others?
“Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” (Verses 29 – 33)
Did you go running for your bible too, beloved reader? Wondering where in Isaiah this passage is? Or did you already know? I looked it up and found where in Isaiah it says this; my NRSV phrases it a little differently. But once I read it, I can image the confusion that the Ethiopian official might have had. Let us listen in to the conversation (as if that was not going to happen anyway!)
“The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.” (Verses 34 – 39)
What do you suppose the Ethiopian official’s story would have been of how he came to “new” faith? That an angel appeared to him and explained to him a difficult passage leading him to faith in Jesus Christ the Son of Yahweh? It is said by some that it might have been one of the ways that Christian faith came to Ethiopia. In seminary I met several people from Ethiopia, and there faith was (and is) very strong. In some important ways, stronger than Christian faith in the western hemisphere. However, this is the story (or stories) of the spreading of faith in Galilee and the surrounding areas. And as much as it would be interesting, we are not able to follow this Ethiopian home.
“But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.” (Verse 40)
May you, beloved reader, be privileged to spread you faith in both the usual & unusual ways! Shalom & Selah!