Summary: Peter’s response to Simon seems a bit harsh... until you realize what Simon really needed in his life.
OPEN: In February 2001, Adam Burtle, a 20 year old student at the University of Washington put his soul up for auction on eBay.
The ad read: "Hardly used. I make no warranties as to the condition of my soul. As of now it is near mint condition, with only minor scratches. Due to difficulties involved with removing my soul (he wasn’t dead yet), the winning bidder will either have to settle for night of yummy Thai food and cool indie flicks, or wait until my natural death."
The bidding started at a nickel; his ex-girlfriend bid it up to $6.66, the mark of the "Beast."
In the final hour of bidding, the price rose from $56 to $400, placed by a woman in Des Moines, Iowa…
But then eBay officials learned of the auction and removed the listing before bidding closed - not because auctioning a soul over the Internet is improper, but because eBay requires that EBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove explained "you have a piece of merchandise that a seller can deliver to a buyer,". (eBay also forbids the selling of drugs, alcohol, guns and body parts).
APPLY: People will do all kinds of things for money… some are apparently even willing to sell their souls on E-Bay
Here, in Acts 8… we find a man - Simon the Sorcerer - who was in danger of doing just that.
For the price of power and prestige, he nearly endangered his relationship with God
BUT… let’s back up a little and examine what kind of man – this Simon – was
I. When we 1st meet Simon, we find that he is described to us as a Sorcerer. He is a magician - capable in the art of prestidigitation. In other words… sleight of hand.
Now, we don’t know if he made rabbits appear out of thin air.
Or cut lovely assistants in two.
Or made large buildings seem to disappear.
But – as with every magician – he specialized in fooling his audience - making them believe he was doing something that he wasn’t.
ILLUS: Now… this practice (of using magic to manipulate a religious audience) wasn’t something unique to Simon.
Rod Cameron is now retired from managing Rainbow Christian camp. But when he was a missionary in Africa – one of the ways he would grab the attention of his audience was to pull out his wooden dummy (Gabby), or his snake sock puppet (Oscar) and amaze the Africans that had gathered to hear him by making these puppets talk. He was a ventriloquist.
Part of his presentation included explaining HOW he threw his voice. He would explain that it was not magical, and he’d have them come close and watch as moved his tongue around in his mouth to create the words they heard.
Now, this didn’t entertain everyone… in fact this would absolutely infuriate the tribal witch doctors in the area because they practiced ventriloquism too! But when they did it – they tried to convince their people that these voices were voices from the Spirit world that only they – the witch doctors – could summon forth.
In other words… just like Simon the Sorcerer, they gained their religious following by deception.
Now, look again at Acts 8:9-11 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic.
For a long time, Simon fooled people into thinking he was more than he was. And he made a good living by deceiving people.
BUT THEN, someone “real” came to town. Someone who didn’t fake it. Someone who didn’t try to deceive people. Someone named Philip.
Now (like Simon) Philip did miraculous things too. We’re told in Acts 8:13 “ Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.”
You can’t kid a kidder. Simon was a man who made his living by fooling people, and he obviously realized that these miraculous deeds that Philip did were NOT magic
… they were NOT slights of hand
… they were NOT deceptions
When Simon saw Philip… he realized this was the real deal.
And Simon – along with hundreds of other Samarians – believed and were baptized into Christ
Upon hearing of this great Revival in Samaria the Apostles sent Peter and John to lay hands on these new converts so that they would “receive the Holy Spirit”
Acts 8:18-19 tells us that “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."