Acts 8:26 – 40
26Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
An angel came to Philip, and gave him a message, a mission – now, we all hear from God in various ways, sometimes even just sensing God’s presence with us, but few of us get a message this direct, or a visit from an angel. The angel told Philip to get up and go to a specific road in the wilderness. So – Philip did what the angel told him to do. When he arrived, he saw a man in a chariot, and the man was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. Now, this man was Ethiopian – a black man from Africa – and an officer in the court of the queen of Ethiopia. He was also a believer in the One God, and had been to Jerusalem to worship God. Interestingly, however, he would not have been allowed into the temple – first, as an African, he could only have gone into the Court of the Gentiles; but he could not even have done that, because he was a eunuch, and no one with such an alteration of the body, no one who was considered “imperfect”, was allowed into the temple at all. After traveling all that distance, he could not even enter the temple! Still, he was trying to understand the scriptures, and was reading Isaiah. This was one of the first men to whom the Spirit specifically sent the Word.
Philip came alongside the chariot and asked, do you understand what you are reading? And the man said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And so, Philip climbed into the chariot and explained how Christ fulfilled the scripture. The wilderness through which they traveled was a dry and barren country, and yet, they came upon some water – and the man said, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” And he and Philip went into the water and he was baptized. Philip was immediately snatched away, but the eunuch went on his way rejoicing.
The Bible says no more about this man – but there is an ancient and active Christian church in Ethiopia which claims him as its founder.
The thing to remember here is that the Spirit sent Philip to minister to this man who was an outcast, unwanted in the Jewish temple. While Jesus was alive, he loved, ate with, and called the outcasts and oppressed. The church today must also include and reach out to those who are today’s outcasts.