Last Sunday, in many of our Churches, we heard the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch from Acts Chapter 8. This is one of my favourite stories in the Bible, as it wonderfully shows the heart of God for us.
In the story, the Ethiopian eunuch has travelled to Jerusalem for worship at the temple. Remember that this is the only temple on earth for Jewish worship. When you study the history of Israel, you learn that a eunuch is not allowed in the inner court of the temple because of what has been done to him physically to make him a eunuch. So the man in this story has travelled hundreds and hundreds of miles from Ethiopia, from his “top job” as treasurer to the Queen, only to stand outside the door of the temple.
There is a parable here for any reader who might wonder about their place before God. Often people make the joke that if they went into a church, “the roof might fall down on them”. But this is not what this story of the eunuch tells us about the heart of God for us.
In the story of the eunuch, the Lord sends the deacon Philip to the eunuch’s chariot. The eunuch is reading the Old Testament, still unsure about the grace of God, but Philip uses the scriptures to tell the eunuch the good news of all that our Lord Jesus has done in his life, death and resurrection. The eunuch hears the Gospel for the first time.
This all happens on the “Gaza Road” in the desert, south of Jerusalem. The eunuch stops his chariot and they discover water beside the road and he is baptised. At the end of this story we are told that the eunuch went his way “rejoicing”.
The Lord sends Philip to this man to share the gospel, even out in the desert. The Lord provides water for baptism for this man, even in the desert on the Gaza strip, where there is no water. The Lord provides the gospel for this man that he would know that the death of Jesus on the cross is God’s declaration of God’s heart of love for all people, even for eunuchs.
And the “happily ever after” is the report that the man went his way rejoicing, knowing that God does not give up on anyone.
The delight at the end of the story is the actual history of Ethiopia, to which this man returned to share the Gospel of Jesus. Ethiopia is one place on earth that has a continued tradition of Christian Community, from the time of the apostles, probably beginning with this unnamed eunuch.
“As 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?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When 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.” (Acts 8)