Acts 8:26-40

 

Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?

 

Who is the prophet talking about?

 

The Ethiopian man in the reading for today would never have children.  He was a eunuch.  The Bible says that clearly and inescapably.  Why might we have to know that?  Well, the Ethiopian eunuch’s hope surely wasn’t in his family.  He had no children who would grow up in his house.  There would be no mother of his children.  He was a worker for someone else.  He was sterile.  It wasn’t something he had wished for himself.  Someone had done this to him.  He was faithful to his work.  He was like Joseph in this regard.  When sold as a slave to Potiphar Joseph still worked for the Lord.  This man did too.  The account goes out of its way to talk about the sterling quality of his work: “an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.”    In spite of the hard and bad things that happened in his life he was about being in the right place with the God who made all things and controlled all things too.  He had been to Jerusalem.  He had gone searching for answers to his questions about the big picture and the real world.  This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship.

 

And his worship was not an idle sitting on a church bench.  He couldn’t even get into the inner circle of the temple in Jerusalem because he was not a Jewish man.  He had to stay in the court of the Gentiles.  Nevermind.  He could read.  He could study.  And he did: “and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.”  You might want to know how you would compare with this baby Christian.  Have you read the book of Isaiah?  It is 66 chapters long.  If the man had started at the beginning, he had read 53 chapters because that is where he was when he asked his question.   It would even be hard to read the whole book bouncing down the road in a chariot that had no springs.  But he was reading.   He had stopped the chariot.  He was sitting in it, reading.  And God led him both to the question and to the answer to the question.  He provided the question: the kept book of the Prophet Isaiah (the very scroll found in the cave of Qumran).  And God provided the answer: The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”  There Philip was trotting along, standing there, waiting.  Kind of like pastors who know and want to talk to you might be doing.

 

God really wanted this man to get it.  He wanted to support him in his quest.  He wanted to give him answers to his questions and to this one question in particular: “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”.  He wanted him to be saved.  He made a way too.  It wasn’t an easy thing for God and it wasn’t an easy thing for Philip.  They were in desolate and empty country.  This was the desert road and the Bible calls it that.  This wasn’t a place of water.  This was a place where foreigners hurried through on their way from Israel to Egypt. And this man was a foreigner to Philip...not to God, but to Philip.  This was someone who very possibly was a black man.  Through his Word, God wanted to talk to this man and answer his questions.

 

Philip ran up to the chariot.  He had to!  He wanted to!  This was too good.  Here in the middle of nowhere he found someone reading out loud about his God and Savior.  This was Philip’s Bible the man was reading.  Philip knew something about this.  He spoke as the Spirit who had led him to the chariot led him to speak.  He spoke about Jesus, and he knew Jesus too.  He knew him very well.  This man needed to hear about Jesus!  He needed to hear about the one who loved the world and died for the world.  He needed to hear about the one who was with the lonely and the alone.  He needed to hear about the one who comes to people in truth and comes to people in love.  Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?  He’s talking about Jesus!  He’s talking about your Savior.  He’s talking about the one you went to Jerusalem to see.

 

The Ethiopian man had the right book.  He was in the right place.  He was with the right man.  He asked the right question.  And God gave him the right answer.  All of these things can be duplicated today.  We can still hold the right book in our hands.  We can be with the right people…believers in Jesus.  We can head the word of Hebrews, “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together as some are in the habit of doing.”  No, we need to be in the right company, in the company of believers.  And we too can ask the right question… Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?

 

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

 

Friends, this is the right book, the right place, the right company, the right way.  This whole story of faith depends on the Book and the One it speaks of.  It was this book that God used to talk to his son here, this Ethiopian son who would never have a family of his own in this world.  This Bible (Isaiah the Prophet is one of its sacred books…66 in total) is in a class by itself.  What other book is in so many languages?  What other book has survived so long?  What other book has such a singular message?  What other book speaks from beginning to end about one person?  What other book so clearly shows God and his Son Jesus?  What other book inspires our question, Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?

 

God’s Word, the Bible, is talking about Jesus!  That’s the answer to the question.  All the men who wrote the 66 books of the Bible had this same answer: What I am writing to you is talking about Jesus.  Jesus is God’s Son.  Jesus came into our world.  Jesus is this One who walked and talked and lived and died…and rose again.  This Jesus.  Jesus is the one with that particular DNA.  As we heard this past Lenten season, Jesus is the one with the hands and the eyes and the heart and the feet and the mouth and the ears.  This Jesus.  This is what it is all about.  This is what we are talking about.  This Jesus is the One who saves you…Ethiopian or American, Black or White, great or small, successful in this world or not successful.

 

And this man got it.  He got Jesus.  And when he did and when the light went on, he got the reason for baptism too.  This is the connection these words show us.  When the man got Jesus, he very quickly got baptism.  When he thought of Jesus and when he came to know Jesus, he couldn’t help but think of baptism.  We just heard, “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”  And it was in this lesson of Jesus and in finding out who the prophet was talking about that this man said, “Look, here is water.  Why shouldn’t I be baptized.”  Here is water in this desert place.  Here is water…God has provided a way for me to be baptized like Jesus was.  Jesus wants me to be baptized.  Jesus is my Savior.  Baptism is all about Jesus being my Savior.  Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins.

 

It was a “good” message and it was “good” news.  It still is.  It is good.  What better thing is there?  What can speed us on our way rejoicing like it did for this man?

 

Jesus is that One!  Jesus is the answer.  Jesus is the special and hand crafted answer of God to all your questions.  Jesus is always the answer.  To every big and vexing question.  Who knows you?  For whom do you live?  Who can’t stand the thought of you being lost?  Who died for you?  Who saves you?  Who loves you when you are not lovable?  Who promises to be with you always in a way you wife and husband and family and children and friend can never do?  With whom do you want to spend eternity?  All those questions are answered, “Jesus!”  So you see, he really is the answer to the question.

 

We began by saying this Ethiopian had no children.  You would have to say though that this Ethiopian man did have a family.  He found it that day.  He found the family of God.  He had inheritance rights in that family.  Believers for as long as the world stands will continue to be inspired and moved by the devotion and will of this man.  This man found his Brother Jesus.  Jesus was the one whom Philip spoke of.  This man found his Heavenly Father who loved him and saved him.  This man became acquainted with God’s Holy Spirit.  This man could look at Philip and come to realize very quickly that here was his flesh and blood.  Here was a kindred spirit.  Here was someone of the same family as he.

 

Can you see why a man who was like this Ethiopian man would be so moved by the words he read about Jesus, “In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.  Who can speak of his descendants?”  In spite of what the wretched book, The d’ Vinci Code implies, Jesus didn’t have earthly descendants.  But he did have a huge family…without number.  And he has placed you and me and the Ethiopian into this family of his.

 

It is as Psalm 68:6 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.”

 

It’s Jesus!  He’s the One who not only answers the question.  He fulfills it.  Amen.