Summary: A look at Phillip and the Ethopian Eunuch
It’s a unique story, actually it’s an eunuch story as well but we’ll stick with unique. We don’t know the exact reason he had travelled the miles that separated his home land from Israel, it may have had to do with his job, after all he was the treasurer of Ethiopia, we are also told that he was a eunuch which really doesn’t have a lot to do with the story as a matter of fact the term eunuch was used to refer to someone who had been castrated but was also used in reference to government officials but we aren’t going to go there, although it couldn’t have been a compliment. The important thing to understand here is that he had a high standing in the court of his country.
So perhaps it was business that brought him from his home. And well we don’t know the primary reason that he came we do know part of what he did while he was in Israel. We are told that as part of his trip that he went to Jerusalem to worship. We don’t know how he had heard about the God of Israel but at some time in his life he had discovered the one true God and had embraced him and now he had the opportunity to worship in Jerusalem and had jumped at the chance.
His religious beliefs may not have been that big of a mystery though, in the Old Testament in the book of 1 Kings chapter 10 we read about a mysterious visitor that King Solomon had. She is only identified as the Queen of Sheba and we are told that she had heard about the great Wisdom of Solomon and had come to see for herself. She brought with her a pile of expensive gifts (pile being the technical term for many expensive gifts) including nine thousand pounds of Gold. She also brought along a number of what the Bible called “hard questions” for Solomon, and he answered them all. Even though we don’t know exactly where Sheba was located four thousand years ago tradition tells us that it occupied the area that we now know as Ethiopia, and again tradition tells us that the Queen returned to her country having embraced the God of Solomon. This is probably the reason why the highest award that can be given in Ethiopia is referred to as The Most Exalted Order of The Queen of Sheba and if you were to look at the medal you would see that it is fashioned in the shape of a Star of David. So perhaps the fact that the Treasurer had more then a passing knowledge of Judaism isn’t all that strange.
I’m sure that while he was in the holy city he had taken the opportunity to do some sight seeing. Wandered around the temple, checked out the scenery and now was on his way home and as he travelled he had his chariot on cruise control and was reading aloud from the Old Testament. Which really isn’t as odd as it may sound, traditionally we don’t read aloud unless we are reading to someone else, however historically we are told that in that era when people read, they were more likely to read aloud then read silently even when reading to themselves. Go figure?
And as he bounced along reading from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, a man began to walk along side of his carriage and struck up a conversation about the scripture that was being read. It wasn’t long before the stranger showed the traveller how the Old Testament Prophesy had come alive in Jesus Christ. We don’t have the entire text of the conversation, but we do have the result because when the traveller had heard the entire story he asked to be baptized and he was, right there and then and went on his way rejoicing. And so we have to assume that he had embraced Christ as his Saviour and experienced the forgiveness that goes with that. As a matter of fact if you have been following along in the book of Acts you may notice that next to vs. 36 there’s probably a little star after the words “Why can’t I be baptized?” that little star means that in some but not all of the ancient manuscripts there were additional words and they are usually noted at the bottom of the page of your bible. In this instance those additional words read this way, “You can,” Phillip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”
So what can we learn from this story? Up to this point the gospel message had been preached to Jews and Samaritans who were like second cousins once removed. Jews didn’t consider Samaritans to be Jews but Samaritans did. They were of mixed linage the results of when Jews had intermarried with gentiles during the exile. This story is the record of the first non Jew, Non Samaritan who embraced Jesus Christ as Saviour. It’s interesting to note that the first person outside of the this Jewish circle of influence who is invited to participate in the new covenant was in all likelihood black.