When we have good news, what do we do? We tell people, usually, unless it’s some ridiculously shameful secret I suppose. We don’t even just tell our best friends, or our families, but we tell everyone we know, because it’s exciting and it’s changing our lives. We never wait to tell people either, because the news is just too good to contain. We can’t even wait to act on the good news because the good news promises a life that is so much better than what we have now.
What is the gospel? The gospel literally means “good news” in Greek. So why do we treat it differently from all the other good news in our lives? Why do we hide it like some shameful secret, afraid that other people will judge us for finding it to be the best news we’ve ever heard? Acts 8:26-40 outlines the story of Philip’s obedience to telling an Ethiopian eunuch the gospel. I realize it’s a long passage, but bear with me here please. It’s a somewhat ridiculous story, when we really break it down and analyze each component.
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. [Acts 8:26-40]
Our lives are unpredictable. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes [James 4:13-14].The only thing we can know for certain is that we will die someday. That may sound morbid, but I like to think it’s not. It puts into perspective how short our lives really are, and therefore how consequential our actions are now during this temporary physical life because of it determining our eternal spiritual lives. We live believing and having faith in a tomorrow, placing all our efforts and investment into a tomorrow that we don’t know will happen for us for sure.
Looking at the Ethiopian eunuch, he lived like there was no tomorrow. He did not waste a single second getting baptized – when they came upon some water, he said, ‘See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ He didn’t hesitate, and acted on what he knew was the truth – the good news he had just heard from Philip. Additionally, we know that he’s hungry for the truth from how he’s reading Scripture on his long journey to Jerusalem, which he doesn’t have to do, and he’s humble in acknowledging that he doesn’t know everything – he doesn’t even get offended when Philip asks if he understands. Every news we hear demands some kind of action; not taking concrete action is an action in and of itself. The Ethiopian eunuch knew he needed to be baptized, and instead of procrastinating and waiting to be “ready” like many of us do (we will never really be “ready”), he jumps ahead and gets baptized, ready for his new life.
Philip is the perfect example of God’s perfect, obedient servant, always ready to put aside his own agenda so he can be right where God needs him. When the angel of the Lord appears to him and tells him to go to Gaza, Philip readily obeys. Back in the day, that was a very long trip to make, as they didn’t have the convenience of cars, trains, and planes like we do. When the Spirit tells Philip to join the chariot the Ethiopian eunuch is in, we see that he immediately runs up to a chariot. I’ve never been in a chariot before, but I imagine a horse runs pretty fast. Philip was willing to do anything not to miss the slim window of opportunity to preach to this man that was so ready to hear the gospel, and God knew that.
God orchestrated it all, for Philip to be there at that exact moment – we must be ready to carry out His plan at His pace because God’s timing is perfect. We must never hesitate to share the light that is within us. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house [Matthew 5:15]. We cannot serve both ourselves (usually our own laziness and ego) and God. If you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair [Luciano Pavarotti’s father].
A man by his sin may waste himself, which is to waste that which on earth is most like God. This is man’s greatest tragedy and God’s heaviest grief. [A. W. Tozer]