So I have a hard time asking for directions. I’m a man, after all. But, hey, since the invention of the GPS, I don’t have to. My man’s ego is protected by technology once again. (laughs)
Seriously, I do admit not being crazy about asking for help. It feels like weakness to me, and that plugs into all my own weaknesses and fears and pride. I guess that’s why I keep getting into situations where I have no choice but to ask for help. Hmm. There may be some insight here. I wonder what it is. Look at our lesson today in Acts 8:26-39.
In those days, 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 road. And he rose and went. And behold, an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of all her treasure, had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the scripture which he was reading was this: “As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken up from the earth.” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, pray, does the prophet say this, about himself or about some one else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.
Well, it seems our dear St. Philip is a busy apostle, traveling and preaching the message of the Kingdom of God. He was just in Samaria dealing with our dear Simon, and now we see the Lord sending him south toward Gaza. On the road, he comes across an Ethiopian eunuch.
Now you need to understand eunuchs were part of the ancient world’s system of either slaves or servants who carried out specific tasks for rulers as trusted advisors because they had no family or tribal connections of their own and no extended in-law relations since they were celibate. Eunuchs were usually highly trusted and important servants to the kings and queens of the ancient world. So, when Philip comes across this eunuch from the Ethiopian court, reading from the book of Isaiah, he begins to understand why the Lord sent him there.
I want you to notice three important insights about this story that inform us how we are to live today. First, sensitivity to the voice of the spirit only comes when you are serious about your relationship with God. How many opportunities have I missed or troubles I’ve stumbled into by not having a close relationship and sensitivity with Jesus Christ so that I can hear his voice? Second, obedience opens doors of opportunity. St. Philip’s obedience to the spirit’s voice meant he was in a perfect spot, not only to help this eunuch understand God’s word and receive baptism, but that eunuch went back to Ethiopia with his new-found faith and evangelized the whole nation. Finally, we can’t and won’t understand God’s message by ourselves. How can I understand unless someone guides me? This man was humbled and wise enough to realize that the passage he was reading was going to forever be beyond his ability to appreciate without someone to guide him. This same humility and courage is an absolute must if you and I are ever going to fully appreciate the message of the holy scriptures, the message of Jesus Christ. Everybody, and I mean everybody needs a guide.
Today, are you trying to go it alone in your spiritual life? Without a humble and courageous heart, you will never develop the sensitivity to God’s voice or the beauty of communion with God’s people with all the church that you truly need if you’re ever going to be Orthodox on purpose.