The eighth chapter of Acts explains how the good news about Jesus began to move out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
It is very much a halfway mark in the mission set out by Jesus in chapter 1,
where he calls the disciples to be
“witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
The first half of chapter eight tells us how Samaritans came to believe and trust in Jesus.
The work there was remarkably effective,
with miracles happening and many people converted.
The Samaritans were like half-Jews,
who accepted the writings of the Law but not the prophets.
And in our reading we have another account of how a eunuch –
another sort of half-person perhaps –
is brought to know the good news of Jesus Christ.
And we see in this account the operation of the Holy Spirit;
the obedience of Philip;
and the openness of the Ethiopian.
Let us first look at the overseeing of the Holy Spirit.
It seems that Luke equates “an angel of the Lord” in verse 26
with “the Spirit” in verse 29.
So we see that God the Holy Spirit is the one who initiates Philip's mission.
What is more, the mission goes against all our natural assumptions.
After all, Philip has been very successful in Samaria,
with a wonderful preaching ministry
and many signs and wonders done.
He is in the middle of a city,
in the middle of his work,
with many people wanting to hear more.
And yet the Spirit tells him to leave that place.
And not only does he tell him to leave,
but rather than going to another city,
Philip is sent to the desert road between Jerusalem and Gaza – about 40 or 50 miles of travelling.
And he is not only sent to a desert place,
but to a single person.
And when his work is done, the Spirit whisks him away again –
no follow-up course,
no long-term relationship building.
What we learn from this is that God's ways are not our ways.
His definition of success is very different from ours.
His priorities are often the opposite of ours.
What might God's priorities be for you, here in Oddington?
He does not require great crowds or astonishing miracles
to carry out his work.
But he does require obedient disciples.
So let's look at the obedience of Philip.
As we have said, the Holy Spirit oversaw the mission,
but Philip was his instrument.
And Philip was obedient.
We read in verse 26 that Philip was told to “get up and go”.
And then in verse 27, “So he got up and went”.
There was no great discussion,
no pointing to the success he was having.
He simply obeyed.
And then we read in verse 29 that the Spirit said
“Go over to that chariot and join it”.
And then in verse 30, “So Philip ran up to it”.
speedy obedience to God's direction.
We are not told of Philip's courage in this mission.
We do not hear of his long, arduous walk
from Samaria to the desert road.
We see only his obedience.
And God asks us for that same obedience.
He may direct us to a place we think is deserted.
Perhaps we will think he is taking us away from success.
But God's plans are not in vain.
Philip met only one man,
but in doing so began the spread of the good news of Jesus
Simple obedience might not seem like much at the time,
but who knows what our obedience in small things might lead to?
And thirdly we see the openness of the Ethiopian.
He was a worshipper of God,
perhaps a convert to Judaism,
perhaps simply a God-fearing Gentile.
But in spite of his beliefs, he was confused.
He was earnestly reading the Scriptures,
but he could not understand them.
But although he was an important official,
he was not a proud man.
He willingly admitted his ignorance to Philip
in his desire to know God truly.
And once he understood the good news about Jesus,
he was ready to be baptised.
We must not be afraid of admitting our lack of understanding
when we come to read the Bible.
But we also see in verse 35 the key to understanding -
“Philip, starting with this scripture,
proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.”
The whole of Scripture points to Jesus and his work.
And the Ethiopian's openness to learning
led him to know Jesus
and this brought him great joy.
And so God shows us his way of working.
He oversees the entire mission
and sends his obedient disciple
to a single person
who is open to hearing the good news of Jesus.
Let us then put all our faith in God's wise guidance,
let us obey his calling,
and let us seek to be open
both to his teaching about Jesus
and to the opportunities he gives us to tell others that good news,
that we and others might be filled with his joy.