After the crucifixion and resurrection, there was strong persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and followers of The Way were scattered out into Judea. For both the Romans and the Pharisees, the unintended consequence was that believers began sharing the good news wherever they were. In one such instance, Philip encountered a eunuch from Ethiopia who was reading from the OT Scriptures. “The Eunuch was reading this passage (Isaiah 53:7) of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth… The Eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:32-35, NIV)
At one time it was pretty common for kings’ courts to have a resident eunuch or two. They were men who looked after the royal harem, and they were emasculated so they could look after the king’s harem without being tempted to make advances to them. In many ways a eunuch probably had a pretty good life (got to live in the palace, eat well, hang out with pretty women all day…) but they paid a high price to be the harem’s bodyguard. I would think most eunuchs would have to be somewhat philosophical, because they experienced something terrible for a man, but then had to consider that, well, life is still not so bad after all…
This Ethiopian eunuch was riding along in his chariot, reading the Scriptures, and asked Philip to explain Isaiah’s metaphor about a lamb being led to slaughter. This conversation is really key in understanding something very important about Jesus. If you just take Jesus at face value, and consider only his teachings, he is at the very least an amazingly gifted Rabbi who taught revolutionary things about interpersonal relationships, the Kingdom of heaven, the law, forgiveness, priorities…
The truth of his teaching resonates not only for first century Judea, but also down the corridors of history and into today, and stands brilliantly at odds with all of the “me-first” humans in a selfish world. But consider this: when you look at the Hebrew Scriptures (OT), they provide a lens through which Jesus of Nazareth must be viewed. Peter quoted them in his first sermon; Stephen was stoned to death while expounding upon them; Philip used them to tell the eunuch the good news; Paul logically connected Christ’s work to the Hebrew Scriptures.
In every case these Scriptures create a context that makes it impossible to dismiss Jesus as a mere brilliant Rabbi. He is the one who the Old Testament foretold with detail and accuracy. He was the one about whom Isaiah was speaking, as well as Moses and Micah, and David, and Daniel. You can rightly be impressed with Jesus if you just read some of his teachings; but you’d be rightly amazed if you study even a few of the ways his life and mission were accurately predicted by men who lived hundreds of years before. If you think Jesus was only a good Rabbi who taught good things, think again: The Scriptures said he was coming, and that he would be our Savior. To paraphrase Philip, that’s pretty good news indeed!
The Eunuch in the chariot was reading from Isaiah;
(His life had been adjusted so he couldn’t be a playa),
But when he had an inquiry about Isaiah’s lamb
Philip helped him see that Jesus was the great “I am.”
Jesus was a Rabbi, yes, whose teaching was so bold,
But more than that, he was the one Isaiah had foretold,
And who the Scripture said would come way back in days of old.
Ask the questions. Search the Scripture, and I bet you’ll see
That Jesus was the man the Scriptures and he claimed to be!
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