Summary: When I give my life over to Jesus, it is not about me anymore, it is about Jesus Christ. Every event, every problem, every victory are about Jesus Christ. Simon is the personification of the person who does not understand this concept.
When NASA first started sending up astronauts into space, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and 12 billion dollars to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 degrees Celsius.
The Russians used a pencil.
Sometimes the answer is so obvious, it eludes us.
Here in our Scripture today, from Acts chapter 8, we see this. Philip heads out to Samaria and shares the good news of Jesus Christ and many believe...but for one man, Simon, a clear understanding of Christianity is impossible to grasp.
Simon continues to interpret spiritual things through his pagan understanding, and so he cannot comprehend Christian spiritual concepts. Simon seeks to understand and explain events around him by a pagan spiritual worldview, and so, he just doesn’t get what is obvious to everyone else.
Jesus is all we need.
Last Sunday, we saw that Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest religious court in the land. The whole encounter didn’t end well. Stephen explained how Jesus Christ was greater than any temple, Stephen said that we didn’t need the Temple, we only needed Jesus Christ. The council took Stephen out and killed him by stoning him to death.
There standing by was Saul, who would now lead the persecution of believers of Jesus Christ. Philip along with other believers, leaves the city because of persecution. Notice that the Apostles stay. The persecution, at this point, appears to be against the Hellenistic Jewish believers, which are, as we learned, are people of Jewish origin who speak Greek and not Aramaic like the local Jewish population did. Philip speaks Greek and believes in Jesus so he leaves, the Apostles speak Aramaic, so they stay. Perhaps the persecution is only against the Hellenistic Jews at this point because Saul may have believed that the Hellenists were the root of the Christian thought that a Temple is not needed anymore.
However, not all Hellenistic believers left Jerusalem, still, most appeared to have fled the city. Another reason Philip may have left, isn’t simply just fear of persecution, he may have believed as many of the Hellenists believed, that by rejecting Stephen’s testimony, the city of Jerusalem had sealed an irrevocable doom - therefore the wise would abandon Jerusalem for it was doomed to destruction.
Whatever the reason, Philip heads out to Samaria….HOLD ON, stop right there. We have seen in chapters 1, 2, 3, 4567, that only people of Jewish origin are believers in the new church, in other words, every single person in the church, and there are over 25,000 at this point, every single person is of Jewish origin. Christianity was of Jewish origin, and was only presented to people of Jewish origin - but here we see Philip heading OUT of Israel and into Samaria.
Did the Apostles think of this? Are the Apostles taking the Gospel to the Samaritans? No, it is this man Philip, who first appears in Chapter 7. Now remember, the Apostles did lay hands on Philip, and as we saw this laying on of hands was a sign of a transfer of authority. So Philip, though not an Apostle, has authority, don’t ever listen to folks who tell you that you cannot speak of the Gospel and use the name of Jesus in any location.
Many years ago I was asked to pray at certain a city function. As I was walking to the podium to pray my short prayer, a man grabbed my arm, pulled me over to the side and sternly whispered in my ear, “You absolutely cannot use the name of Jesus at a city function.”
He would not let go until I gave him some kind of indication that I understood exactly what he had just said. Wiggling free, I stepped up to the podium, addressed the audience saying, “Let us pray,” bowed my head, gave the guy a quick look with one eye, and proceeded to say the name of Jesus at least 13 times in a 45 second prayer.
The event went on without a hitch, the city remained stable, the world did not end. In fact, I was asked to come back, probably because it was the shortest prayer they had ever heard at a city event.
The Gospel is for everyone, the Gospel is for all places, there is not a place where the Gospel should not be, there is not a person who does not need the Gospel - Philip understands this, so he goes to the Samaritans.
Who were the Samaritans? Originally, the Samaritans were identified with the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 King 17:29). The Assyrians had conquered Israel and they took the people of Israel into exile - but they did not take everyone, a remnant of Jewish people remained in the land. The Assyrians then resettled the area with other conquered people, “People from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim”(2 Kings 17:24). The Assyrians did this to help reduce the treat of rebellion within their empire. Some of the Jews left behind in Palestine intermarried with these newly arrived people and this intermarriage eventually led to worship of foreign gods.