St. Luke's Church Faribault
- This morning, we have the next reading form the lectionary as Acts 8:26-40.So please turn with me to page 1086Going into this section it is helpful to mention that the direction from Jesus to apostles before to ascended into heaven was found in acts 1, you don’t have to turn there...8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”We remember early in Acts at Pentecost they witnesses to the people in Jerusalem, and Judea. And in Acts 8.4-Philip the evangelist went to Samaria- and now it appears that there will witnessing to the ends of the earth.How will God begin to accomplish that? Let’s see in Acts 8 starting at verses 26, but first let me start with a word of prayer.prayer26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 37 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.The first point I want us to notice is God’s involvement in the conversion of the Ethiopian man.26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”At the start of monumental events-things that change the way God does things, we sometimes see things of the supernatural.Generally, people do not like change. Faith change should be verified, so when God steps in to move the way the has been He usually verifies that it is from Him through a miracle, or a theophany - that is where God appears-or some other sign.In this case at the beginning of the passage- God sends an angel to communicate with Philip This is a bit unusual. We do not often see angles, so this marks this start of the new ministry “to the ends of the earth”.This angel gives Philip very odd instructions for an evangelist- Go south to the desert road- Go to the desert.Ok…perhaps God had to send an angel to get Philip to go, becasue who would go to the desert to evangelize? There is nobody there? No big church-no gathering-no crowds in the town square go to the desert.God was involved in the very beginning, so things get interesting.Acts chapter 8 verse 27.27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship,So by air from the center of Ethiopia to Jerusalem you are talking 1400 miles. That is substantial.This rich Ethiopian a member of the “royal court” went to Jerusalem to worship.He went a great long way to worship. And he is not a jew. You are a jew by birth into the nation of Israel.That means that at the temple, you are excluded to the outer courts, the court of the gentiles. Now, the text also says that this man is a eunuch. According to the Mosiac law found in the book of Deuteronomy this man was excluded also becasue of his physical defect.He is not allowed in to worship on 2 counts.1 No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.He travels with his entourage 1500 miles to go and worship and he is excluded.That is heartbreaking-and at least a little unjust. Imagine how he felt.Let’s read on.28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet.And on his way home he was reading the Book of Isaiah. This guy loved the Lord right. He is traveling and he brought his bible. We should all bring our Bibles when travelling it is a good time to catch up on God’s word. So He is reading from the book of Isaiah.Why Isaiah- In our troubles- in the desert-in our rejection God comes to us through scripture- and here I’m going to speculate and other people have made this observation is perhaps he had the book of Isaiah open to find hope.Now, don’t jump ahead of me- the man asks Philip about chapter 53, but perhaps he was reading Isaiah in the first place becasue of chapter 56.See Isaiah 56 speaks to his situation. Remember he was most likely excluded from worshipping God up close, because of being a foreigner and a eunuch and Is 56 says this.3 Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.”Do you think this guy is sitting the desert saying to himself, I’m excluded-I’m a dry tree as he sits in the desert?4 For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant—He probably said- I did that God-I kept your sabbath-I travelled 1500 miles? What are you promising God?5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.Really? It doesn’t feel like it…It feels unjust, exclusionary-like a desert.6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”The eunuch has to wonder how this will be. In the middle of what he is feeling… God knows…God personally knows this guy…before he even becomes a believer, God is doing the groundwork.God is creating in his heart a need, and yes perhaps a pain, perhaps a longing. perhaps a grave unfairness and injustice.What would posses a man to bring all the gear it would take to travel 1500 miles across an open desert to try and worship and to get turned down.Maybe he even prayed? Maybe he was hoping the exclusion would end and he would come to be able to worship who knows. But God knows...He knows this guys heart and his pain, and God moves heaven and earth and readies the angles for battle, and sends an angel to Philip the evangelisit to call him on a personal mission to the wasteland of the desert becasue there is a soul to save.One of the 100 sheep is lost and Philip-go -go and get him for me, and bring him back.So, with the work done in the heavenlies, and with the hearts plowed and furrowed, and the wounds and pain fresh the Holy Spirit-is dispatched.29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”I told you last week The Holy Spirit is found near the word of God, right? and sure enough. Here He is.We don’t know how-but it some definitely discenerable way Philip knows to go to that chariot-and stay near it-Very precise- and very definite. No real question on Philips part like hemming and hawing-should I or shouldn’t I..Here he is in the desert, and there is a guy there is NO doubt that God is involved in this.30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.DO you understand what you are you reading? Notice something Philip starts by asking a question-Do you understand-very simple-He does not have a fancy Bible tract or a fancy prepared speech-just a simple question-He do you understand?Before you can come to faith-you have to understand there has to be a grasping of what is being talked about-while faith is miraculous, it does happen through ordinary means-like understanding what the message is. It has to be explained to us.31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.I like the NASB translation here better becasue it better capture the Greek and it says How can I unless someone-guides me..It is helpful to think of us as guiding people to faith. I’m not telling you what to believe. I’m guiding those that have had there hearts furrowed and softened and plowed.The Holy Spirit is our guide leading us to faith, and truth and righteousness.You are not “selling” people on Jesus-you are guiding them to a faith that God has prepared them for.Another point to notice here is he invited Philip to sit with him. If we are not invited, we can be sure God has not prepared them to be guided.There are often groups that show up uninvited, and attempt to sell us convince us argue with us on a certain teaching from this book or that book. Very different than guiding and inviting.32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”Now we are told the passage the eunuch has questions on is Isaiah 53. Perhaps he got stuck on why the promise of Isaiah 56 was not manifest in life, so he went back to look closer at why?And he reads from Is 53 verses 7 and 8. The famous suffering servant passage. He hears about this terrible injustice, and the eunuch could have been thinking, I know about injustice.So he has this question.34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”We know who the prophet is talking about don’t we-he is talking about Jesus, Isaiah 53 is about Jesus-but that is not obvious to everyone-it is not obvious to this man that is for sure.But Isaiah 53 speaks of Jesus and the crucifixion. If it not obvious to you-you don’t have to feel bad or stupid or slow, you just need a guide. Here is your guide. Read Isaiah chapter 53-Then read John 18 and 19.The Ethiopian did not have John to read.35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.Philip begins with where the man is at-Philip began with that very passage and....Told him the good news of Jesus. They did not have John 18 and 19 and 20. So Philip had to tell him the good news.That word for good news, you know it it is the gospel, SO Philip told him the gospel or Philip Evangelized to him. That is all it -telling someone the good news.God prepares the heart-the Holy Spirit leads-you are guiding by asking questions and being invited, and you tell them the good news of Jesus.36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”When someone comes to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit-genuine faith-there is action-they are a new life- something happens we talked about this before- there is commitment they are ready to take the next step whatever that may be. In this case for this man it is baptism.WHat can stand in my way of being baptised? What can prevent me.What can keep us from the love of Christ?28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.What shall hold back this man and faith any longer? The Holy Spirit of God dispatched angles to draw in a foreigner an outcast, one once rejected at temple is now brought into the kingdom of God, by ACTS OF GOD HIMSELF>He was known and prepared sought out and bought. One of Christs very apostles was sent into the desert place to pull him out of the wilderness. Wash him new, and give a new life, not a life defined by being a Eunuch or an ethiopoan foregner, but a a new life12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—ANd this man stepped into eternity that day.What was it like for you. What was that moment like when God prepared your heart. When you were sure it was God, when He called you by name. When he took your brokenb heart and your rection and he healed, When he poured the water of life on your thirsty dried up soul,Whn was it?Jesus said Come to me.14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”Do you know the giver life?Come to the cross come to Jesus lay down your burden be cleansed from your sins be washed by the blood of lamb today.Take time to pray and ask Jesus to cleanse you and give you new birth into his kingdom.
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