It defied the laws of science. How does a living, breathing human being disappear into thin air? But it happened. It happened the moment after Philip baptized the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch: “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away…” (Acts 8:39).
If it were you or me instead of the eunuch left behind, how long would we stand there not moving a muscle, trying to make sense of the impossible? Would the joy that we had known moments before ever return, or would we remain shaken to our core; unable to accept what had happened? Acts 8:39 tells us, “the eunuch never saw him [Philip] again but went on his way rejoicing.”
Let’s make sure we have the story straight. The eunuch saw a human being disappear into thin air. This had to be the most astonishing thing that he had ever witnessed, but it seems to have made little impact. How could this be? The only explanation is that the eunuch had experienced something more life-changing than the mere disappearance of a person. He had experienced a personal encounter with the Son of God, and his eyes had been opened to an awesome truth.
It began as the eunuch made his way back to Ethiopia from worshiping God in Jerusalem. Seeking to know God better through the Hebrew Scriptures, he was reading the writings of Isaiah. Suddenly Philip was running alongside his carriage, asking if he understood what he was reading. “The man replied, ‘How can I, when there is no one to instruct me?’ And he begged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him” (Acts 8:31). Good decision!
What words did Philip use to instruct him? They may have been similar to the words used by Peter when speaking to Cornelius in Acts 10. Words that never lose their power to change a life—words such as: “…there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name” (Acts 10:36,43). The eunuch, who had been reading Isaiah’s detailed prophecy about Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures, did believe that Jesus could forgive his sins. And his new commitment led immediately to his public declaration of this belief when he asked to be baptized. It was the assurance that his sins were forgiven that gave this prominent government official such joy and peace.
What about us? Are we rejoicing at what Christ has done for us? Do we remember what it was like when we first believed and knew that our sins were forgiven—when the burden of those sins was lifted from us and given to Jesus? When was the last time we felt sincere joy at the thought? Take time to remember and to be grateful.
And what of the second person in this story—Philip? Even more than the Ethiopian he must have been affected by what happened. Surely he, too, had to be in total shock. He was after all a man of flesh and bones and muscles, but in the blink of an eye he was miles from where he had been. What must it have felt like to be transported supernaturally and instantly to another place? He may still have been wet from the water in which he was standing as he baptized the eunuch! Was he overcome with terror at this strange thing that had happened to him?
No, it sounds like Philip brushed himself off from his unusual means of travel and got down to business immediately. Acts 8:40 says, “Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the city of Azotus! He preached the Good News there and in every city along the way until he came to Caesarea.”
It is hard to stop someone who is passionate about spreading the gospel. Philip was passionate, and he had a story to tell—a life-changing and life-giving story, the most important story that anyone can ever hear. Like Philip, we have the same story to tell. And as with the eunuch, there is someone we know who needs to hear it. Let’s get down to God’s business!
© 2010 Arlina Yates