Monday, June 12, 2017

June 12

I Kings 9:1-10:29; Acts 8:14-40; Psalm 130:1-8; Proverbs 17:2-3

I've always loved the story of the Ethiopian eunich (Acts 8:26-39).  It's such a perfect meeting of "coincidence" - Philip, running alongside at just the right moment (vs. 30), hears the eunich read just the right words from the prophet Isaiah (vs. 28, 30, 32-33).  He asks just the right leading question (vs. 30), to which the eunich responds eagerly (vs. 31) as they just happen to come alongside a body of water (vs. 36) - and boom! a conversion, a baptism, a new nation opened to the good news of Jesus.

This eunich is a powerful man - he's a direct advisor for the queen of Ethiopia, and he manages her treasury (Acts 8:27).  He's trusted by his queen (else why have control of the money?), and his decisions about spending affect his whole country. He's a wealthy man, too, as seen by his personal chariot and the scroll that he owns.  But he's also an outcast - he's forever barred from the most fundamental of adult relationships, that of marrying and fathering children.  His ability to serve was ensured by castration, but so was his ostracization.  He's neither fish nor fowl, having tremendous political power but not really considered a true man.  On top of this isolating issue, he's a follower of Yahweh (vs. 27).  Somehow, he has heard about the God of the Jews, and he has chosen to worship the one true God.  Even in Jerusalem, though, he would have been excluded.  Not only is he a foreigner, but the Law forbade anyone with damaged testicles from worshiping Yahweh directly (Dt. 23:1).  This man is definitely on the outside.

Not with God, though.  Just before this story, we see the Jesus movement stretching into Samaria; for the first time, non-Jews come to believe in the Jewish Messiah.  Now the next steps are taken with this man.  He, of all the Gentiles in the world, is the first convert.  He, though excluded from community after community, is welcomed into the new covenant under Jesus' blood.  "Why shouldn't I be baptized?"  he asks (Acts 8:36) and no answer comes.  For the first time, there is no reason to prevent him from belonging.  Neither his race, nor his physical mutilation, nor his political position matter.  He is completely acceptable and accepted.  Incredible!

And what is the result of this miraculous inclusion?  JOY (Acts 8:39).  The eunich never sees Philip again, but his life is changed forever by his encounter with the man who revealed Jesus to him.  What a story!

- Sarah Marsh

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