I have to admit when our guide pulled over to the side of the road at this unmarked, unremarkable looking place, I was underwhelmed. We filed out of the bus with a vague sense we were studying something in the eighth chapter of Acts.
There were no signs.
No other tourists.
Our teacher walked to a place covered with brush and pointed to a rocky path. We gingerly made our way behind him and soon came upon a road:
We walked down the road with our teacher pointing out for us to notice how the road was perfectly designed with the wheels of chariots in mind. The spaces between the gently descending, shallow stairs allowed for the wheels to catch and bump with the least amount of discomfort to the passengers.
With great enthusiasm the teacher said, “This road is where a man learned of Christ and received the good news!” We walked a little further and saw this:
“This place of water is where this man was baptized shortly afterward and went away rejoicing. We should rejoice! We should rejoice!”
And then we opened the Scriptures to Acts 8:26-39, the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch.
Can I admit something to you that I’m not very proud of? Even after reading the Scriptures I wondered why our teacher picked this spot. We had so little time in the Holy Land and we all wanted to see so much. I felt like there were much bigger events that had taken place in much more well-known places. Shouldn’t we focus on those?
Why this place? Why this story?
And then as quickly as we arrived, our teacher whisked us back on the bus with one final statement, “Individuals matter.”
Those two words have lingered in my thoughts and have honestly made this underwhelming stop one of my favorites to look back on.
This morning I opened Acts 8 again and re-read it. Here are three things from this Scripture that I want to let have their way with my heart and mind this week:
1. Go near.
Verse 29, “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’”
This Ethiopian Eunuch wasn’t like Philip. He wasn’t in his inner circle, comfort zone, or part of his immediate sphere of influence. And yet, the Spirit instructed Philip to go close.
God help us. We must break out of the boxes of our normality and dare to go close to those we don’t understand. We must not use words like, “those people” with pointed fingers and hard hearts and spiritually superior attitudes.
By going close, we see things we need to see. We hear things we need to hear. And our hearts become tender in the way we must be tender.
By going close, we might actually dare to let love guide our approach.
2. Gain understanding.
Verse 30, “Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.”
He ran. This took effort, energy, and intentionality. Then, instead of wielding God’s Word like a weapon and haphazardly throwing Truth at this man, he first listened.
Then based on what he heard, he asked this eunuch if he understood what he was reading. Philip discerned a felt need the man had and sought to meet that need. Philip let the man’s agenda come before his own.
God help us. Instead of running alongside people seeking to understand them, we sometimes have tendencies to run them over with our agendas and perceptions and points of view. We must seek to be discerning, not demanding.
3. Garner the right to share.
Verse 31, “…So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”
Philip earned the right to be heard and then was invited to share. Once he dared to go near and gain understanding then he garnered the right to share. Verse 35 goes on to reveal that Philip began where this man was and “told him the good news about Jesus.”
God help us. We must go to people. Listen to people. Start where they are, not where we want them to be. And from their point of need, lovingly share the good news.
And might I share one more thing I love that Philip did? I didn’t make it point #4 because for the life of me I couldn’t think of a “G” word to title it and I get all worked up with inconsistent word wielding. It’s an issue. Kind of like when a sock has that annoying seam across the toe and it just doesn’t sit well across your foot all day. You know what I mean? So, no point 4. But don’t miss this…
Philip continued to travel down the road with this man for a bit. Verses 36-39 reveal, “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water… Then Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” And the eunuch went on his way rejoicing.
Looking back, I’m so thankful our teacher took the time to bring us to this place. Remember, there were no signs and there were no tourists.
This was an uncommon stop in the Holy Land.
Might we all dare to be a little more uncommon, more often.