26 An angel from the Lord spoke to Philip, “At noon, take the road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he did. Meanwhile, an Ethiopian man was on his way home from Jerusalem, where he had come to worship. He was a eunuch and an official responsible for the entire treasury of Candace. (Candace is the title given to the Ethiopian queen.) 28 He was reading the prophet Isaiah while sitting in his carriage. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Approach this carriage and stay with it.”
30 Running up to the carriage, Philip heard the man reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you really understand what you are reading?”
31 The man replied, “Without someone to guide me, how could I?” Then he invited Philip to climb up and sit with him. 32 This was the passage of scripture he was reading:
Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent
so he didn’t open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was taken away from him.
Who can tell the story of his descendants
because his life was taken from the earth?
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, about whom does the prophet say this? Is he talking about himself or someone else?” 35 Starting with that passage, Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus to him. 36 As they went down the road, they came to some water.
The eunuch said, “Look! Water! What would keep me from being baptized?” 38 He ordered that the carriage halt. Both Philip and the eunuch went down to the water, where Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Lord’s Spirit suddenly took Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.
This is the story of an outsider being brought into the center of God’s love.
Here is the story of black-skinned Ethiopian man, a eunuch, no less – a man who, according to Deuteronomy, should not have been recognized as a citizen in Israel or welcomed as a worshipper of Israel’s God (Deuteronomy 23:1).
And yet, the Spirit said to Philip (one of Jesus’ disciples): “Approach this man and stay with him.” The Spirit was already stirring up something in this man, an individual who was clearly intelligent (most could not read in those days) and influential, a person of standing in the court of Candace. The Spirit was inspiring a hunger for God, a curiosity about the scriptures, and a desire to know a deeper meaning in life. All he needed was someone to talk to, someone who could answer some questions, someone who cared. Philip did all those things. But he never would have shown up without the Spirit’s leading.
This is a remarkable story because it’s the Spirit who breaks all the rules. The Spirit has a way of prioritizing grace. It doesn’t matter the color of the Ethiopian’s skin, it doesn’t matter whether he meets the conditions of the scriptures…none of it matters. The Spirit sends Philip to be an agent of God’s love, to welcome the outsider in. And God’s family gained a new member that day.
When the Ethiopian asks, “what’s to keep me from being baptized?” the answer is “nothing.” Absolutely nothing!
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
Can you recall a time when you felt like you were on the outside, and someone took the time to welcome you in? What did that feel like?
How have you made welcoming others a priority in your life, in your work, in your ministry?
Prayer: We thank you that your Holy Spirit breaks all the rules in order to welcome in those others would reject – including us. Today, help us to do the same for someone else. Amen.