Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
Education For Liberation
v30-31 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
I want to throw a hypothetical situation at you and see how you’d feel in it. Close your eyes and bear with me. You are riding on a train and you notice a man intently looking at you. He notices the cross necklace around your neck and your Mar Thoma parish shirt on. You see in his hand a book about faith and spirituality. You have this moment in time to engage and find yourself thinking what to do. You know he’s been reading intently and he has had a quizzical look the entire ride. What do you do? Some of us might feel trepidation or anxiety in interacting with the person. Some might be eager to start a conversation. Still others might feel the day is long and it’s not worth the difficulty. What would you do? Do we understand that truth is also the power of life because it embodies the God of the universe and life with Him? How does that very truth move us? Let us look at the story of Phillip speaking to the Ethiopian man and learn from their interaction from the book of Acts.
For some context on chapters 1 through 7 of Acts, the followers of Jesus Christ have been eagerly doing ministry and preaching after Jesus’ resurrection after death. Filled with the Spirit of the Lord, many had been performing miracles and proclaiming the Messiah. Ordinary men and women now felt empowered and became closer through the sharing possessions and fellowship and prayed fervently as explained in Acts 2. They spoke with wisdom and power and did things no normal man could do. At the same time there was mass persecution by Jewish leaders who rejected the message of Jesus. This included Stephen who was publicly stoned. Stephen was upright and served the vulnerable as did Phillip. Phillip after Stephen’s execution scattered with others all across the area where we get to our main passage of focus.
Even with the scattering of the disciples of Jesus due to persecution, that did not stop them from proclaiming the gospel message. An angel of the Lord directs Philip to speak to a man in a chariot, who happens to be a eunuch from Ethiopia. Eunuchs were people who had been purposely disfigured and were powerful allies and servants to royalty. Philip a Jewish man is now asked to speak to a Gentile of power and he follows the angel’s instruction. It takes courage to do this and yet he follows through.
Sometimes when we speak to others about topics, we often feel the need to force our opinions and become more of a proselytizer than a conversationalist. The verse of focus in 31-32 is interesting in the approach. Philip asks the eunuch a simple question- if he understood the prophetic writings of Isaiah pointing to Jesus. The eunuch says how could he if no one can explain and invites Philip. The Ethiopian becomes so enamored in Philip’s teaching and asks him to be baptized and is immediately is sent away by The Spirit of God to continue preaching. Philip may not have had time to see the future rejoicing, but one man’s life is forever changed. The eunuch’s sphere of influence to other Gentiles and authority provides the chance for others to be educated and changed by the life of Christ. What an incredible domino effect started by the willingness to listen and follow by Philip!
I find this passage so encouraging for the sole fact that the eunuch comes with a perspective of learning and invites Philip in. I am sure many of us have experienced stubborn and obstinate people who are closed to growing and learning, both unbeliever and believer. May we take courage from Philip in our own walk and daily experiences with others. I threw the hypothetical scenario in the beginning of the devotional to not only parallel the passage but to show us that the eunuch is potentially every person we meet. We should pray for divine appointments and speak to God’s greatness every chance we get. It is both our obligation to present the message of Jesus and His change in us. Not everyone will grow up in a faith following household or grow up in church, as our ancestors did not. However, St. Thomas met our people in India and brought the message to us, forever changing us. Philip here asked a question of assistance and in turn was met with eagerness. May we find the faith to teach in the midst of trial and find the curious seekers, and endure in the face of rejection. God bless you.
Lord please give us strength and wisdom to speak the truth to all peoples and nations; provide us with divine appointments and wisdom. May our whole life be worship to you, and may we experience the joy of seeing others come to follow you fully.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Who for the week can I speak to about where their hope comes from and speak to them on mine?
Arun Chacko, The Mar Thoma Church Staten Island
Christian Education Forum, Diocese of NAE of the Mar Thoma Church