Discipleship-making is the center of our teaching, making disciples for the transformation of the world. We have to remember, by this time the disciples were scattering to all places. Some of this was due to persecutions while others felt called to move out and spread the word of God. In our story today, we meet Philip and you might remember that he was the one who identified the boy with two pieces of bread, as well as five little fish that were used to feed over five thousand people. It was Philip who saw the Greeks looking for Jesus and he took them to him. We can easily say that Philip had a gift of reaching out, even to those who were not part of the inner circle.
Philip is, then, lead by the Holy Spirit to go on this desert road where he met this Ethiopia Eunuch who, was coming from his annual pilgrimage in Jerusalem. This man was connected to the Ethiopian queen of Sheba who we read from other sources had actually met with Solomon at one time. Nobody can tell what relationship went on with Solomon and the queen but the relationship has been documented in many ways.
The Ethiopian Eunuch was reading from an Old Testament book of Isaiah and he never seemed to understand. He needed help and that’s where Philip comes in. In this story we can draw the following lessons:
1. God may send us on desert roads: We are told that this road lead to Gaza and it was a wilderness road. This reminds us of the road travelled by the man who was attacked by robbers who was helped by the Good Samaritan. Sometimes God will call us to the very unfamiliar setting to do his work. What he expects of us is the obedience to go and he will do the rest. This journey may not even involve the physical distance but rather an unfamiliar setting like talking to your boss about Jesus or that neighbor that you have never spoken to for years. How about your mechanic, the beauty salon lady or gentleman. This list can go on as long as we wish to expand it.
2. God will always prepare ahead: When Philip was called to go on this road, he never knew who he was going to meet. We do not know the mode of transportation that he used. But what we know is that God had prepared the Ethiopian Eunuch to receive him. What a coincidence that he was reading a passage in the Old Testament that was really talking about Jesus. Philip had the first-hand information about Jesus because he was his disciple. There are many that read the word of God and yet they don’t fully understand what it really means. In this case Philip was helping this Ethiopian man to understand this passage.
3. Baptize if need be: Baptism was a practice that welcomed non-Jews to the family of God. By this man wanting to be baptized, it meant that he was committing himself to a faith that brings him to the family of God. It was a baptism through immersion and we do not know if there was any litany used, but what we know is that it made a difference to him. In those days baptisms were only meant for adults and it was through emersion. Baptism, therefore, symbolized: a) the cleansing of the soul. One’s soul was bathed in the grace of Christ; b) It marked the clean break from the old. One became new born. You are a baby in Christ; c) It was a union with Christ. That is, one dies to sin and rises to Christ (Romans 6:1-4). Tradition says that when the Ethiopian went home he evangelized his country. He shared the good news that he had gotten from Philip.