2 May 2015

Acts 8:26-40

"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." (vv. 34-35)

Psalm: Psalm 100


This is an unusual story with some rather strange elements. Philip has fled north from persecution in Jerusalem and has been successfully proclaiming the good news about Jesus to the people of Samaria. His mission has been endorsed and supported by a visit from two of the Church leaders from Jerusalem - Peter and John.

Suddenly, Philip was instructed by 'an angel' to get up and go down south to the road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. On the road he was then instructed by 'the Spirit' to approach a certain chariot. The occupant was a rather high up official in the court of the queen of the Ethiopians (probably in modern day Sudan rather than modern day Ethiopia) and as a eunuch, was someone who had been castrated.

Eunuchs were usually excluded from Jewish worship, but here was a devout man who had been up to Jerusalem in order to offer worship in some form. Philip seized the opportunity that presented itself and told the eunuch about Jesus, starting from the passage he was reading from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53:7-8) in the Old Testament.

The eunuch was clearly impressed and convinced by Philip's words, as at the earliest opportunity he asked to be baptized. Philip was happy to oblige, showing what a pioneer he was in taking the Christian message out into the wider world and removing any barriers in the Christian Church to those who have faith. The strange framing of the story is completed as "the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away" and he continued his missionary work northwards up the coast from Azotus to Caesarea.

Whatever is made of some of the stranger aspects of this story, one clear message can be drawn: the Holy Spirit was initiating and directing the mission of the early Church - a recurring theme in the book of Acts.

To Ponder

  • In this story, God communicates with Philip in a rather direct and unusual manner. What are your experiences of communicating with God? How do you discern the voice of God?
  • Philip started with where the person was - with the passage of Scripture that the eunuch was reading. What might this mean in the broader context of trying to communicate any message?
  • Which pioneers (in any field) have inspired you, and in which areas of Christianity do you feel pioneers are most needed at present?
  • How might you discern whether work you are engaged in is inspired by God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Graham Jones

Graham Jones is a Methodist presbyter serving as a member of the Discipleship and Ministries Learning Network in the Yorkshire Plus region of the Methodist Church, with particular responsibility for ministry development. Graham is committed to developing ministry in its broadest sense, enabling both lay and ordained to live out their vocations, and to share in God's mission in the most fulfilling and effective ways.