Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 6 - Philip, Evangelist, Deacon, Father of Prophets

On the day that Stephen the deacon was martyred a terrible persecution of the Church broke out in Jerusalem. All except the Apostles were scattered through the countryside while some of the devout took care of burying their brother Stephen and mourning their loss in his death. All the while Saul was ravaging the Church of his eventual Lord and breaking into homes of those accused of being Christian. When he found people still in the city, he was dragging them to prison and preparing them for a specially selected death of their own.
However, because of this great persecution many Christians were dispersed through the countryside and they took the Gospel they carried within them with them as they went. Philip the deacon, one of the six appointed alongside Stephen, went to the city of Samaria to preach the message that made his life worth living and sharing. The crowds gathered to hear him and were amazed not only at the things he said but, also, at the miraculous works he worked among them in the name of his Lord Jesus Christ. He exorcised demons and made the lame to walk by God's power. This was an amazing thing and many converted to the faith of Philip and found Jesus through him.

But there was a man named Simon who had previously enchanted the city by means of magic and deception.They had thought he was a man of divine power and had not only respected but supported him. His works had enthralled the people but his power over them was broken by the faith and teachings of Philip. Simon could recognize another con artist but sensed an innate authenticity in what Philip was doing and proclaiming. In fact, Simon was one of those converted by Philip's teachings. Many were baptized that day and soon thereafter Peter and John came to pray for the Holy Spirit to be upon these new keepers of the Faith. Simon had his own interaction with Peter and John but that's a story for another day.

An angel told Philip to leave Samaria and go to the road that led through the wilderness from Jerusalem to Gaza. There was much going on in Samaria and he could have argued that he deserved to stay and receive some admiration and credit for it but, instead, Philip went because he wanted to be where God was working and calling him. Peter saw an Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot reading a scroll. He recognized the eunuch as the man in charge of the entire treasury of the queen of Ethiopia. This was an important man with much influence but Philip followed the Spirit's guidance and approached the man to see what he was reading. Philip recognized the text as a portion of Isaiah as the eunuch read it aloud to himself. Philip asked him, "Do you get it? Do you understand what it's talking about?"

The eunuch replied, "How am I supposed to understand it if nobody will teach me its intricacies and nuances?" Then, recognizing why Philip asked the question he invited Philip to join him in his chariot so that he might hear Philip's interpretation. Philip looked at the text and saw the particular passage that vexed the eunuch:

"Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth."

Then, the eunuch asked an important question of Philip, "So here's what I don't get. Who is the writer talking about? Himself or somebody else?" Philip took this opportunity and this invitation to share the Gospel message of a God who loved the world enough to die at its hands for its sins. Philip interpreted the passage within the larger story that he had learned to trust and believe. They traveled a little ways further as Philip continued to share the way of love, mercy, and grace with him but the eunuch stopped the chariot and Philip when he saw a little water. Having begun to believe the Gospel that Philip preached, the eunuch asked if there was anything to stop him from being baptized at that very moment. So, with one conversation and one great story, the eunuch was converted and baptized. As they came up out of the water, though, Philip was snatched away by the Spirit of the Lord and the eunuch was left to go on with his life--never again seeing Philip who had served his role in God's great work in the eunuch's life. Philip ended up at Azotus and knowing that God was still working great things, he continued to preach the Gospel that had changed his life.

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