Note from Jesus
Two powerful themes from the Bible converge in this one story in today’s Scripture about Philip and the Ethiopian dignitary:
- After My resurrection, I poured out the Spirit at Pentecost and the good news message about Me spread throughout the Mediterranean world, and then far beyond this part of the world. My message spread out from Jerusalem just as I had promised (Luke 24:45-49; Acts 1:8). The early disciples reached three of the Mediterranean area’s four major cities to serve as hubs to send My message down the major highways and seaways to the nearby regions and to the rest of the world. The four largest cities at this time were Antioch in Syria, Ephesus, Rome, and Alexandria. Acts tells the story of how the good news of the kingdom of God reached the first three. Just as My disciples took the good news to all the Mediterranean region when they left Jerusalem because of persecution (Acts 8:1-4; Acts 11:19-22), Luke hints that the “dignitary from Ethiopia” took My message with him as he returned home to Ethiopia (Africa).
- The last half of the prophetic book of Isaiah has a series of prophetic songs calling My people (Israel) to be the servant of the LORD — the servant who would lead the nations to follow the great “I AM” of Israel. In your day, these prophetic songs are called the “Servant Songs” of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-9; Isaiah 49:1-13; Isaiah 50:4-11; Isaiah 52:13-15 with Isaiah 53:1-12). When Israel did not fulfill the call of these prophetic songs, I came as their complete fulfillment. The Ethiopian was reading from one of these songs (Isaiah 52:13-15 with Isaiah 53:1-12) when the Spirit sent Philip to share My story with him. The passage the Ethiopian was reading has been known to most of My followers over the centuries. They have recognized this song as speaking about My sacrifice on the cross for them. Philip began with this song that looked forward to Me as the suffering servant and taught him about Me and then baptized him.
I want you to recognize several important principles from the Ethiopian’s conversion:
- Long before I came to earth (1 Peter 1:20), the Father had the plan to save the lost world He loves (John 3:16-17).
- The Spirit inspired the prophets with messages that were intended to convict the people in their time, yet the messages also pointed to the Father’s plan to send Me to the world to save the world (1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:19-21).
- This plan always included the salvation of all people, just as Israel was to be a blessing and bring all people to honor the great “I AM” as the only true and living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Genesis 12:1-3).
- The fulfillment of this world-wide salvation began to unfold through the leading of the Holy Spirit and the willingness of My disciples to share My story with all people (John 12:20-33).
The Father has the plan to save the world. As the primary part of that plan, I came as the Savior of the world. After My sacrificial death and return to the Father, the Spirit empowered My disciples to share that message with the world. Acts tells how My story was initially told to the Mediterranean world.
Verses to Live
As the book of Acts unfolds, you read about the Holy Spirit leading My disciples to share the saving message about Me (Acts 1:8). They began, first, to share that message with those in Jerusalem and then those in all of Judea. In Acts 8, you see the message shared in Samaria. In future readings from Acts, you will see the message go throughout the Mediterranean world. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, nothing had the power to stop that message. As Luke tells this unfolding story, the events in Acts 8 are huge stepping stones in the triumph of the good news about Me. Just as those early disciples fearlessly shared My message with their world, I want you to share that same message with your world. As you do, the Holy Spirit will lead and empower you, too!
A heavenly messenger brought this short message from the Lord to Philip during his time preaching in Samaria:
Messenger of the Lord:
Leave Samaria. Go south to the Jerusalem-Gaza road.
The message was especially unusual because this road runs through the middle of uninhabited desert. But Philip got up, left the excitement of Samaria, and did as he was told to do. Along this road, Philip saw a chariot in the distance. In the chariot was a dignitary from Ethiopia (the treasurer for Queen Candace), an African man who had been castrated. He had gone north to Jerusalem to worship at the Jewish temple, and he was now heading southwest on his way home. He was seated in the chariot and was reading aloud from a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
Philip received another prompting from the Holy Spirit:
Go over to the chariot and climb on board.
So he started running until he was even with the chariot. Philip heard the Ethiopian reading aloud and recognized the words from the prophet Isaiah.
Do you understand the meaning of what you’re reading?
How can I understand it unless I have a mentor?
Then he invited Philip to sit in the chariot. Here’s the passage he was reading from the Hebrew Scriptures:
Like a sheep, He was led to be slaughtered.
Like a lamb about to be shorn of its wool,
He was completely silent.
He was humiliated, and He received no justice.
Who can describe His peers? Who would treat Him this way?
For they snuffed out His life.
Here’s my first question. Is the prophet describing his own situation, or is he describing someone else’s calamity?
That began a conversation in which Philip used the passage to explain the good news of Jesus. Eventually the chariot passed a body of water beside the road.
Since there is water here, is there anything that might prevent me from being ceremonially washed through baptism and identified as a disciple of Jesus?
[If you believe in your heart that Jesus the Anointed is God’s Son, then nothing can stop you.]
[The Ethiopian said that he believed.]
He commanded the charioteer to stop the horses. Then Philip and the Ethiopian official walked together into the water. There Philip baptized him… When they came out of the water, Philip was immediately caught up by the Holy Spirit and taken from the sight of the Ethiopian, who climbed back into his chariot and continued on his journey, overflowing with joy. Philip found himself at a town called Azotus (formerly the Philistine capital city of Ashdod, on the Mediterranean); and from there he traveled north again, proclaiming the good news in town after town until he came to Caesarea.
1 The brackets indicate material not found in all manuscripts.
Response in Prayer
O Father, awaken us, Your people, the church that Jesus bought with His blood, to share Your message of grace and the Lord Jesus’ triumph over death and sin. Empower us by the Holy Spirit to be wise, courageous, gracious, and persistent in sharing this message. We want in our day, O God, to be your servants to the nations! In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.