An Eunuch Situation

May 17, 2009

It’s a unique story, actually it’s an eunuch story as well but we’ll stick with unique. We don’t know the exact reason he had travelled the miles that separated his home land from Israel, it may have had to do with his job, after all he was the treasurer of Ethiopia, we are also told that he was a eunuch which really doesn’t have a lot to do with the story as a matter of fact the term eunuch was used to refer to someone who had been castrated but was also used in reference to government officials but we aren’t going to go there, although it couldn’t have been a compliment. The important thing to understand here is that he had a high standing in the court of his country.
So perhaps it was business that brought him from his home. And well we don’t know the primary reason that he came we do know part of what he did while he was in Israel. We are told that as part of his trip that he went to Jerusalem to worship. We don’t know how he had heard about the God of Israel but at some time in his life he had discovered the one true God and had embraced him and now he had the opportunity to worship in Jerusalem and had jumped at the chance.
His religious beliefs may not have been that big of a mystery though, in the Old Testament in the book of 1 Kings chapter 10 we read about a mysterious visitor that King Solomon had. She is only identified as the Queen of Sheba and we are told that she had heard about the great Wisdom of Solomon and had come to see for herself. She brought with her a pile of expensive gifts (pile being the technical term for many expensive gifts) including nine thousand pounds of Gold. She also brought along a number of what the Bible called “hard questions” for Solomon, and he answered them all. Even though we don’t know exactly where Sheba was located four thousand years ago tradition tells us that it occupied the area that we now know as Ethiopia, and again tradition tells us that the Queen returned to her country having embraced the God of Solomon. This is probably the reason why the highest award that can be given in Ethiopia is referred to as The Most Exalted Order of The Queen of Sheba and if you were to look at the medal you would see that it is fashioned in the shape of a Star of David. So perhaps the fact that the Treasurer had more then a passing knowledge of Judaism isn’t all that strange.
I’m sure that while he was in the holy city he had taken the opportunity to do some sight seeing. Wandered around the temple, checked out the scenery and now was on his way home and as he travelled he had his carriage on cruise control and was reading aloud from the Old Testament. Which really isn’t as odd as it may sound, traditionally we don’t read aloud unless we are reading to someone else, however historically we are told that in that era when people read, they were more likely to read aloud then read silently even when reading to themselves. Go figure?
And as he bounced along reading from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, a man began to walk along side of his carriage and struck up a conversation about the scripture that was being read. It wasn’t long before the stranger showed the traveller how the Old Testament Prophesy had come alive in Jesus Christ. We don’t have the entire text of the conversation, but we do have the result because when the traveller had heard the entire story he asked to be baptized and he was, right there and then and went on his way rejoicing. And so we have to assume that he had embraced Christ as his Saviour and experienced the forgiveness that goes with that. As a matter of fact if you have been following along in the book of Acts you may notice that next to vs. 36 there’s probably a little star after the words “Why can’t I be baptized?” that little star means that in some but not all of the ancient manuscripts there were additional words and they are usually noted at the bottom of the page of your bible. In this instance those additional words read this way, “You can,” Phillip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
So what can we learn from this story? Up to this point the gospel message had been preached to Jews and Samaritans who were like second cousins once removed. Jews didn’t consider Samaritans to be Jews but Samaritans did. They were of mixed linage the results of when Jews had intermarried with gentiles during the exile. This story is the record of the first non Jew, Non Samaritan who embraced Jesus Christ as Saviour. It’s interesting to note that the first person outside of the this Jewish circle of influence who is invited to participate in the new covenant was in all likelihood black.
So what can we learn from the story?
1) A Story of Obedience If we were to go back a little bit in the book of Acts we would discover that as the church had grown in Jerusalem that opposition broke out and the church came under persecution. Some were imprisoned and others were killed. As a result Christians moved away from the city in order to escape persecution. It was kind of interesting that the last words of Christ were a command to the church to preach the gospel beyond Jerusalem but they had become very comfortable and it took the threat of death for the early believers to actually do what they were supposed to do in the first place. And so we read this in Acts 8:1. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.
One of the people who fled to Samaria was Philip who was one of the seven men who were chosen to be deacons in Chapter 6. By the way if you haven’t read the book of Acts how come? It’s a fascinating story of how the church began. When Philip arrived in Samaria he began telling people about Jesus, and an incredible revival broke out. People were getting saved, demons were being cast out, sick people were being healed. If that happened today they’d write a book, produce a CD and 60 minutes would do a show about it. 2000 years ago what happened was that the Apostles visited. And in the midst of all this excitement was Philip. You can’t even begin to imagine the excitement he is feeling being in the middle of this great work of God.
And then suddenly we read in Acts 8:26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
I wonder how Philip felt? All that is happening and all of a sudden he is told to leave. Perhaps he protested “But God, this is good, people are being saved, miracles are happening shouldn’t I stay?” “No you must leave.” “But God, Jerusalem is dangerous, they killed Stephen there you know.” “I know but I want you to go, now.”
And the Philips reaction is summed up in the next verse which begins with these words Acts 8:27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship,
Let’s pull up one of our trusty maps again. Put in those spots of recognition, the Dead Sea, down here in the green is Egypt. Here is where all the excitement was happening in the region of Samaria, here’s Jerusalem where the persecution against the church was happening and here is Gaza. And it was somewhere along this road that Philip was commanded to go and where he met the Eunuch.
Philip was obedient to the call of God. Have you ever felt that nudge that you knew was coming from the Father? To go somewhere or to speak to someone about Christ? Have you ever questioned the command, maybe thought “what will they think about me if I talk to them about religion” or “I wouldn’t know what to say.” Bottom line has to be that we need to obey. Perhaps Philip didn’t know it but there was a soul at stake, there was an eternity riding on his obedience, and perhaps we need to understand that telling somebody about what God has done in your life isn’t a matter of embarrassment, it is a matter of eternity. And perhaps we need to acknowledge a couple of things, the first is that if a person doesn’t embrace Jesus as Saviour and ask for forgiveness then they are destined to spend an eternity without God. The second is that it is our responsibility to tell them. Romans 10:14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
But Denn, that’s not my gift, somebody else can do it. Every once in a while you will read in the paper where someone has rushed into a building to save someone from a fire or jumped into a lake to save someone from drowning. They don’t say “Well that’s not my gift I will wait for someone else who is more gifted in that regard than I am.” They were doing what anybody else would do. Something you would hopefully do if you were in that situation. And in many cases lives are saved, but here’s a news flash, the people whose lives are saved, someday they will die and if they don’t have someone rescue them spiritually they will die without Jesus and they will go to hell. And that same reality applies to the ones you hold dear.
2) It Was A Story Of Urgency. You understand that when Philip was commanded to go there was a certain amount of urgency to the request. If he was to meet the Eunuch he needed to be obedient right then. Obedience deferred is not obedience. “I will do it tomorrow.” Means that you won’t do it today.
There were probably several reasons why it had to happen right then. The road would have been quiet allowing them the opportunity to talk, the Ethiopian was just returning from worship so his mind and heart were attuned to spiritual things. Out of all of the portions of the Old Testament he was reading a prophesy that related to Jesus, they were traveling along a road that would happen upon a body of water allowing the man to be baptized. Later wouldn’t have been good enough, it had to happen right then.
Fred was very ill and the family had gathered around his bedside along with the pastor, as he struggled for breath he motioned to the pastor to get a piece of paper and pen. He scribbled some words and handed the note to his spiritual leader. Not wanting to look gauche the pastor slid the note into his pocket to read later, and Fred died.
A couple of days later as the Pastor stood in front of the crowd at the funeral about to deliver the eulogy he realized that he was wearing the suit he had on when Fred died, he reached into his pocket removed the note and told the congregation, “these are Fred’s last words, and even though I haven’t read them yet I’m sure there is a message here for each of us.” And with that he unfolded the note and began to read aloud “Help, you are standing on my oxygen tube.”
Sometimes we can’t wait. Life is fragile, we know that. The person you feel like you should speak to today may not be here tomorrow. Or perhaps it’s right now that they are thinking about eternity and their heart is open. But for whatever reason when God prompts you to speak to somebody be willing to do it. But don’t just be willing to speak to them, speak to them.
3) It Was A Story of Preparedness When the opportunity arose Philip knew what to say. Acts 8:35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
The traveller was reading from the Prophet Isaiah and Philip used that to tie in to the gospel message. Jesus was a master of this, do you remember when he was speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria and the conversation turned to water and Jesus offered her living water? He was talking to the crowd and the said Moses gave our people bread what will you give us? And Jesus offered them the bread of life.
Peter wrote to the early church and this is what he had to say in 1 Peter 3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
You don’t need to be bible scholar to turn the conversation to spiritual things. It may be a conversation about family values, or the fear that people are experiencing because of Swine flue and the economy and terrorists and global warming, or it might be simply inviting a friend or family member to experience Cornerstone for themselves and invite them over to have lunch afterwards.”
We hope that you are always ready to invite people to Cornerstone but there are definitely certain times of the year that opportunities are more evident, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, at Christmas people will talk about how we’ve lost the true meaning of Christmas, and that will give you take that opportunity to invite them to one of our regular services or to our Christmas Eve Service.
4) A Story of Celebration. Don’t you just love a story with a happy ending. They are riding along in the chariot. Listen to the story, Acts 8:35-36 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” Hot dog, the man got saved. You gotta love it when a plan comes together. That’s what it’s all about. And do you know what he wanted to do? He wanted to get baptized. I sometimes wonder if we have neglected that in our church today. When you become a Christian there should be a desire to be baptized, that’s what the Bible tells us we are supposed to do remember Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. If you have accepted the forgiveness of Christ and have turned your life over to him but have never been baptized you’re forgetting something and you need to talk to me about getting baptized. You alright?
Do you remember how you felt when you suddenly realized that your sins had been forgiven, the joy the excitement? The Bible tells us that after the traveller was baptized that Philip left and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. But even though it doesn’t say it I would imagine that Philip went away rejoicing as well because of what had happened. And we are told that there would have been a great celebration in heaven. No I could end the message here, and probably should, but I won’t.
5) A Story of Disappointment Historically we are told that Christianity found it’s way to Ethiopia in the fourth century, when a Christian philosopher from Tyre named Meropius was shipwrecked on his way to India. It was through his influence that the Gospel was introduced to the country. Four Hundred years after the Ethiopian Eunuch had returned home a changed man.
We know that when Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia that it had a huge impact on the country, probably because of the Jewish influence from a millennium before but why hadn’t it had the impact 400 years before? Could it have been that the Eunuch remained silent about his newfound faith out of fear of alienating others. You understand don’t you that Christianity is always only one generation away from extinction. If we don’t tell others then what? Will our faith die with us as it died with the traveller?
This morning as I was preaching someone came to your mind and God spoke to you about them. Listen again to Paul’s words Romans 10:14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
Now let’s read it again but this time you in fill in the blanks with that persons name Romans 10:14 But how can ______call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can _____ believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can ____ hear about him unless someone tells them?
Don’t ignore that, it could be tragic if you do. I want you to write their name in the blank in the scripture on the bottom of your note sheet and pray that God will first of all give you an opportunity to speak to them about your faith or invite them to church. And secondly I want you to pray that you will be obedient when that happens. Let’s pray.