11 May 2011

Acts 8:1b-8

"That day a severe persecution begain against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." (v. 1b)


My Dad used to say, "It is an ill wind that does no good". By that he meant that even in the most difficult of circumstances some good can come. This passage is an illustration of that. For those first followers, imprisoned and traumatised, it must have been like the end of their hopes. Stephen's death however triggered two important events:

  • the followers of Christ are scattered throughout Judea and Samaria
  • the first time the name of Saul is mentioned in the New Testament.

The result was that the Church was spread and the person who will one day influence its development was first engaged with the gospel. Saul, who will one day change his name to Paul, witnesses and approves of the death of Stephen - the first Christian martyr.

It feels like Walt Disney's  Fantasia's Sorcerer's Apprentice where the striking down of the one broom leads to the multiplication of more brooms. There appears to be an inexorable movement forward and whatever attempts that are made to stem it are to no avail.

The time for Saul will come later. For now, Luke (the writer of Acts) gives us a cameo picture of Philip in Samaria. Scattered by the persecution, he preached and healed wherever he went. It was like a bonfire in Jerusalem being disturbed and hot sparks flying in the air and starting fires all over the region.

The contrast between the cities of Jerusalem and Samaria is great. The passage concludes, "there was great joy in that city". Jerusalem's loss is Samaria's gain. The wind of persecutions that blew through Jerusalem were doing good elsewhere.


To Ponder

For you, when have times of good come out of very difficult experiences?

Philip preached and healed. Has your church got the right balance between words and action? How might it improve?

Bible notes author

The Revd Tony Morling

Tony ministers in the Methodist Forest Circuit of London. He has a particular interest in making connections between faith and contemporary culture.