Dispatch One Hundred Forty-Seven

Posted: April 23, 2015 in Thirty-Fifth Bundle
Tags: , , , ,

ACTS 8:26-40

26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.)27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside 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 silent before its shearer,
        so he does not open 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 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, 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 snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

This passage gives us a look inside what may be the earliest Christian creative reflection on the salvation found in Jesus. We know that during the decade following his crucifixion the community of disciples was turning the stones in nearly every available tradition, searching for the images, prophecies, and other clues that might help place the tragic death of Jesus within a larger frame of divine purpose.

Attempting to bypass the “offense of the cross,” some had elected to concentrate only on his teachings as comprising a new ethic to live by, while others were centering on the Spirit of Christ present in the worshiping community. But the cross wouldn’t fade into the background; somehow it was not only not to be avoided, but it represented the core truth of Jesus and his gospel.

That’s when the Servant Songs of Isaiah suddenly burst upon the Christology of the early Church, and with an energy that transformed their memory of the suffering Jesus into a picture of redemptive fulfillment. Philip opened the eyes of the Ethiopian eunuch to see how in the passion and crucifixion of Jesus, the sovereignty of God broke into the fallen world with a love that heals, welcomes, and forgives all. The eunuch understood immediately what all this meant for him personally: he got “cleaned up,” turned his life around, and entered into the joy of salvation.

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