Monday, June 12, 2006

Why was this good news?

So in Acts chapter 8, we read about a persecution of the church. The believers are scattered far and wide. Now Philip gets instructions from an angel. Very specific instructions:
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road--the desert road--that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (Acts 8.26)
That must have been exciting. I get the feeling Philip was getting used to this sort of direction by now. He sees a chariot and the Spirit tells him to "go to that chariot and stay near it." Yow!

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.

Acts 8.30-31
How exciting is that? Well, it sure would be exciting to me. This kind of thing doesn't happen to me very often. Anyway, Philip explains it to the guy, who then asks to be baptized. As soon as they're done with that...
When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
Acts 8.39-40
I wonder if Philip got used to traveling like that....

But now here is my question. The Ethiopian official had been in Jerusalem, and apparently had not heard much about Jesus. He didn't understand the passage in Isaiah's scroll as being a picture of Jesus. Why, then, was it good news when Philip told him about Jesus? What was he looking for, that he would be glad to hear about Jesus?

Here is what I think. This fellow was looking for God. Now for the past 50 years or so, evangelicals have talked about the Good News as being about heaven. However long you live, you'll be dead a lot longer, and where you go after you die... well, that's what we talk about.

But there's not a lot of indication here that Philip talked about that. I'm going to guess here that when "Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus," (8.35), what Philip talked about was about the kingdom of God. Because the Ethiopian official was already looking for God, trying to understand him, the fact that God had come to earth in the flesh, lived among us, and paid the penalty for our sins so that nothing would separate us from God any more... well now that would be good news to him.

Is it good news to you and to me? Are we seeking him today? When I remember that Jesus came, and why Jesus came, should that not bring a note of gladness to my day? May this good news be good news for me. And for you too.

No comments: