Tuesday of Easter V – Acts 8:26-40

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 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 before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Several years ago, a young man showed up in my university classroom, asking he could just sit in. His name was Daniel. He was from Eritrea, a country in eastern Africa. We became friends. He had fled the country, threatened by the regime of its dictator, and been granted asylum. Daniel was a film maker, an astute observer of people and images.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch – Art and the lectionaryI think of Daniel when I read this story, and the many others whom I have come to know from that part of the world. Daniel’s ancestors likely would have lived in the kingdom of Candace. This story is noteworthy for us because it describes the first truly cross-cultural mission of the Christian movement. Peter had preached to people from different places in in Acts 2, but they were all Jews there for the festival. The Greek widows who complained of unequal distribution of food in Acts 6 were probably Hellenized Jews, not Greeks. Even the Samaritans of earlier in this eighth chapter of Acts were in truth cousins of the Jews. They despised each other, but that hatred was even more intense for their similarities. This story is the first story of the Gospel leaping across a culture. Before Paul starts preaching to the gentiles, Philip spoke to the man from Ethiopia and baptized him.

We have done a great disservice to the people of other cultures, imagining them to be backward and primitive. This man was a servant of a great queen. He was sophisticated and educated. At that time, my ancestors were probably part of a horde of barbarians riding out of the north and east of Europe, terrorizing people.  My friend Daniel knew far more about films and metaphors than I did, and I taught courses about those things. But even a technologically unsophisticated culture can surprise you with its complexity and sophistication. But no matter the level of cultural sophistication, color of skin, or any other factor that might distinguish us, there are some things that remain common to all cultures and people. They fear some of the same things, they love their children, they get sick and die. They need this same Jesus who has come to die for their sins and rise again for their justification. Pray for a missionary today.

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 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 before its shearer is silent,
    so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Several years ago, a young man showed up in my university classroom, asking he could just sit in. His name was Daniel. He was from Eritrea, a country in eastern Africa. We became friends. He had fled the country, threatened by the regime of its dictator, and been granted asylum. Daniel was a film maker, an astute observer of people and images.

Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch – Art and the lectionaryI think of Daniel when I read this story, and the many others whom I have come to know from that part of the world. Daniel’s ancestors likely would have lived in the kingdom of Candace. This story is noteworthy for us because it describes the first truly cross-cultural mission of the Christian movement. Peter had preached to people from different places in in Acts 2, but they were all Jews there for the festival. The Greek widows who complained of unequal distribution of food in Acts 6 were probably Hellenized Jews, not Greeks. Even the Samaritans of earlier in this eighth chapter of Acts were in truth cousins of the Jews. They despised each other, but that hatred was even more intense for their similarities. This story is the first story of the Gospel leaping across a culture. Before Paul starts preaching to the gentiles, Philip spoke to the man from Ethiopia and baptized him.

We have done a great disservice to the people of other cultures, imagining them to be backward and primitive. This man was a servant of a great queen. He was sophisticated and educated. At that time, my ancestors were probably part of a horde of barbarians riding out of the north and east of Europe, terrorizing people.  My friend Daniel knew far more about films and metaphors than I did, and I taught courses about those things. But even a technologically unsophisticated culture can surprise you with its complexity and sophistication. But no matter the level of cultural sophistication, color of skin, or any other factor that might distinguish us, there are some things that remain common to all cultures and people. They fear some of the same things, they love their children, they get sick and die. They need this same Jesus who has come to die for their sins and rise again for their justification. Pray for a missionary today.

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