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Summary: This text teaches us that we are not whole unless we are connected to God through Jesus Christ.

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26Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea (Acts 8:26-40).

This text presents an encounter between Phillip, the Deacon turned Evangelist, and a man from Ethiopia. We do not know his name, but his profile is impressive. He was employed as a court official for the Queen; he was in charge of all of her treasure. That was a position of intelligence, visibility, accountability and trust. That means that he was also paid very well. For when you give someone control of the ruler’s treasure, you have to compensate them well enough not to be tempted to steal from the ruler.

The fact that he traveled from Ethiopia to Jerusalem (about 3000 miles round trip – the distance from New York to Los Angeles one way) just to worship God is admirable. We also see that he had a personal copy of the scriptures (and actually read them on his own). Since the printing press was not invented yet, books were not readily available to everyone; usually people of means had their own copies.

Another remarkable component of his profile is that he was humble. Although he was a person of status and was educated (if you could afford books, then it is likely that you were highly educated), he was willing to set aside his male ego, professional development and social rank to ask for help in understanding what he was reading.

So if we step back, we see a man with an impressive profile, but a problem. His problem was that he was a eunuch, in that he was cut off from God. He was on the right road and not far from the kingdom. He loved God enough to travel a distance that we see as flight-worthy. He loved God enough to read the scriptures. But he was still cut off from God because he did not yet have a relationship with Jesus Christ. The eunuch read Isaiah’s words about Christ, but he did not know that the words were made flesh. This man had most of the things that comprised a complete life except a relationship with Christ.

We see that Phillip served as the bridge across which the eunuch became one with Christ. Phillip explained the scriptures, the Holy Spirit convicted his heart and the eunuch asked to be baptized. Some of your bibles may have a textual variant of Phillip’s statement and the eunuch’s response. Specifically, the King James Version, the Catholic Douay –Rheims Version and perhaps a few others, contain verse 37 in which the Ethiopian proclaims his belief in Christ. Academically we may question why verse 37 was not found in some of the better manuscripts, but we cannot question what was in the eunuch’s heart. His heart was overwhelmed and he rejoiced on his homeward journey.

What does this text mean for us? This text reminds us that we can have the best things in life, be basically good citizens, really love God at some level but still be incomplete without Jesus. We can have good lives, be good people and still be cut off from God. Think of the irony – to be whole in one’s body and still be a eunuch; to be a church goer but disconnected from God. Think of the scope of the eunuch concept – even a female can be a eunuch; the faithful church attendee can be a eunuch, the trustworthy and talented can be eunuchs. We can be physically able to reproduce but unable to produce the fruit of the spirit.

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