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Christ is Revealed in the Word

5th Sunday of Easter

April 29, 2018

Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church

Christ is Revealed in the Word

 

Acts 8:26–40 (NIV84)
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Dear Friends in Christ,

In this season of Easter we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. He appeared to Mary and Peter. He walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus and broke bread with them. He appeared in the locked room with the disciples that very night and the next Sunday too. They saw him, talked to him, touched him and ate with him. They knew that Christ had burst his three day prison! Their sense of sight, hearing and touch all told them that Jesus is alive.

They could have known and believed that Jesus would be alive on the third day after his death without ever seeing Jesus alive. The angel told some of them that Jesus was not in the tomb but had risen from the dead. But the word of God through the angel did not convince them. They could have believed Jesus’ own words. He told them more than once that he would die and on the third day rise again. But they did not understand or believe him. They could have believed the words of the Savior recorded a thousand years earlier in Psalm 16: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Psalm 16:9–10). But it took the appearance of Christ to reveal his resurrection to them.

Paul stood by at the trial of Stephen. He knew what the Christians claimed and what Stephen said. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He was killed and yet now lives, seated at the right hand of God. Paul did not believe the testimony, instead giving his consent to Stephen’s execution by standing nearby as others placed their cloaks at his feet. Paul believed when Jesus dramatically appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

For Paul and the disciples, Christ was revealed in both his word and in visible and tangible ways. However, for almost every other believer in the history of the world and for the remaining future of this world, Christ is revealed as he is in our account from Acts today. Christ is revealed in his word. The Ethiopian had the word of Christ. Phillip explained the word of Christ. To have and to explain the word of Christ are still how Christ is revealed to us today.

The Ethiopian Had the Word of Christ

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet.

In the next chapter of Acts, Paul is blinded by the appearance of the risen Christ on Paul’s way to persecute believers in Damascus. Our account today begins with something out of the ordinary too. An angel instructs Phillip to go to a certain place. But the similarities in the stories of Paul and the Ethiopian end here. There are no spectacular miracles performed, visions seen or voices heard by the Ethiopian. It is a simple conversation. God arranged the meeting of these two men but the conversation is not miraculous.

There are some surprising things in this account. First – An Ethiopian man went to Jerusalem to worship. We hear in Acts 2 how Jews and converts to Judaism came to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost from all over. Jews and converts came from what we know as Italy, Greece, Turkey, Arabia, Libya and Egypt to name a few. Now we hear of a man traveling from south of Egypt to worship in Jerusalem. Ethiopia in the Bible is not exactly the modern country of Ethiopia today. The queens who had the title of Candace (like the title of Pharaoh for the kings of Egypt) ruled just south of Egypt. It would mostly be in modern day Sudan (not South Sudan but the north) around the city of Khartoum. Somehow God had brought his word to this man and he believed and attended the Jewish festivals in Jerusalem.

The second surprising thing that happens is what this man is reading on his journey. He had a scroll of Isaiah’s prophecy! As head of the treasury for the queen, he was very important and must have had some wealth for himself too. To be able to have a scroll of any book of the Old Testament in your home would be amazing. But to have one you can travel with would be even more amazing. This man used his wealth to buy a scroll with writing on it. Regular people did not have their own scrolls of the Old Testament at home. Communities and synagogues would hold the copies for the group. But this man had his own copy of Isaiah.

And he was reading it. Even though he did not understand everything in it, he was reading it. This important man chose to read Isaiah on his journey. He treasured God’s Word.

Of course, the Word of God is not nearly as expensive today as it was then. You can buy Bibles for less than $10 now. You can read many different translation free online at places like Biblegateway.com. Does the abundance of the Word of God lead to people placing less value on it? Perhaps. But we also have lots of other choices when it comes to what to do. This treasury official was not able to pull out his smart phone and play games, text and listen to music all at the same time as his chariot driver brought him home. He did not have an in flight magazine to keep him occupied. And his journey was going to take days. He had lots of time and he chose to read Isaiah the prophet.

Here is the application for us: The next time you are on a multi day chariot ride with nothing else to do, read the Bible. A good idea but not applicable to us today. When we do have free time, do we first think, “Now I can read God’s Word” or is that time quickly filled by other things? Do we treasure and guard our time with God’s Word or only spend time with the Bible when it works out? I know it is difficult. Don’t look to me for a perfect example of this. The Ethiopian man puts us all to shame in how he treasures God’s Word.

Lord, forgive us for neglecting your word and treating it as something common. Help us to value your word as a most precious treasure because your word reveals our Savior.

Phillip Explained the Word of Christ

The Ethiopian man was reading this from Isaiah:

He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Our God gave his most precious treasure to save all who have not treasured him. Jesus is the lamb led to the slaughter at the cross. He did not object. He did not try to escape but willingly went to his death to forgive all people. Christ gave up his right to justice and instead took the punishment we deserved so we can receive the gift of God we do not deserve. His life was taken to give us eternal life.

What a beautiful passage this man was reading. He knew what it said but did not know who it was talking about. Phillip has the wonderful opportunity to tell him about Jesus. The Scriptures testify about Jesus. When Jesus walked along the road to Emmaus, he told the two men how the Scriptures all pointed to him. About the best part of being a pastor is getting to be like Phillip. I get to help people see Jesus in the Bible. I love showing little ones Jesus. I wish I could teach Sunday School. What a joy to help children see Jesus in God’s Word. I enjoy Catechism because those students are beginning to think and analyze and I can help them see Jesus all throughout the Scriptures. Teens and adults will often help me see Jesus clearly too as we study God’s Word together. Christ is revealed in God’s Word.

However, don’t let the pastor have all the fun and joy in being like Phillip. Every believer can have this joy of explaining the Word of God to others. Read a Bible story to your child, grandchild, nephew, niece or neighbor and tell them about Jesus’ forgiveness in that story. Help with Sunday school or Vacation Bible School. Talk about the Word of God you read with your spouse or friend. Christ reveals his love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, patience, compassion and more to us in his Word. Rejoice in talking about that with the people in your life.

The Ethiopian rejoiced in the message of Christ as the Savior promised by Isaiah. Phillip must have taught him many things from the Word because the man asked to be baptized when they saw some water. So a miracle did happen on that road. It was not flashy. Jesus did not appear visibly. There was no loud noise. But the Holy Spirit washed away this man’s sins in baptism and brought him to believe in Christ through the gospel. May the Lord lead you to rejoice in Christ as the Ethiopian did when Christ was revealed to him for Christ continues to come to us in his Word.

Amen.