After the crucifixion and resurrection, there was strong persecution against the church in Jerusalem. Followers of The Way were scattered out into Judea. Both the Romans and the Pharisees tried to stamp out the Christian movement. However, 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)
Common, Yet Uncommon
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. They were emasculated so they could guard the king’s harem without being tempted to make any romantic advances to them. I’m sure, for the eunuchs, it was a life-changing career choice.
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 at some point most eunuchs had to be somewhat philosophical. They experienced something terrible for a man, but then had to consider that, well, perhaps life is still not so bad after all…
Unburdened by sexual entanglements, eunuchs apparently had time for travel and study. (Kind of like George Costanza in the Seinfeld episode where he gave up even thinking about sex, and freed up large portions of his brain…) This Ethiopian eunuch was riding along in his chariot, reading the Scriptures. When Philip showed up, he asked Philip to explain Isaiah’s metaphor about a lamb being led to slaughter. Philip then guided their discussion into the Hebrew Scriptures, explaining how they related to Jesus.
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. He spoke ground-breaking truth about interpersonal relationships, the Kingdom of heaven, the law, forgiveness, priorities, and love. He broke social barriers, elevated women, and reached out to the sick and marginalized people in his culture.
More Than a Rabbi
The truth of his teaching resonates not only for first century Judea, but also down the corridors of history. Even today his teachings stand brilliantly at odds with all of the “me-first” humans in a selfish world. But consider this. When you look at the Old Testament Scriptures, 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. And the Apostle 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 about whom 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 be impressed with Jesus if you just read some of his teachings. But, you’d be rightly amazed if you study just a few of the ways his mission was accurately predicted. Men who lived hundreds of years before pointed to details of his life. 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 is very good news indeed!
To Ethiopia and the World
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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