Isaiah 53: Philip’s Intro

DSCN2695Do you have that one person in your life that tells you the same story over and over and over?  The congregation where I preach is probably thinking of me right now.  I’ve got a buddy who tells me the same story about his dog getting its head stuck in a fence about once a month.   Hyperbole and exaggeration aside, seriously its once a month.  He always begins with: “The other day…”  The problem is that he has told me this story once a month for the last four years.  “The other day…”, like when the Royals were still terrible?  When Twitter was on the fringe of society?  The story Philip told over and over and over, was Jesus’.

Philip’s life revolved around talking about Jesus.

He started out by letting others talk about Jesus.  Acts 6 tells the story of the overwhelming aspect of ministry.  Sometimes I think we get a glorified view of the Apostles.  We look at their ministry and think: “Sure, if I had walked with Jesus, I would have things figured out too!”  We know they suffered at the hands of persecution, that we will likely never experience; but we assume that their day to day ministry was fairly simple.  Rather, Acts 6 shows that even the Apostles were stretched thin, worn out, over-worked, and struggling to do the day in and day out ministry.  So the Twelve Apostles picked 7 men from among the people to wait on tables, to serve the meals and take care of the people.  For what purpose?  So that they could focus on “the ministry of the Word of God.” (Acts 6.1-4)  The chosen men would serve…so others could talk about Jesus.

Philip was one of the 7 chosen.

Then Saul showed up and the home base of Jerusalem was under attack. (8.1-3) The disciples were scattered among the surrounding cities and Philip went to Samaria.

In Samaria, he talked about Jesus.  He “proclaimed” (gk. kerysso) the Messiah and did signs there for the people. (8.5)  He started doing apologetics, showing the errors of Simon’s ways (8.12).  He was baptizing people (8.12).  There are many ways that Luke chose to describe the telling of Jesus story; some “preached”, some “proclaimed”, and some “evangelized”.  Occasionally, these words had different nuances and if your interested you can study them here. Nevertheless, the impact caught the attention of the disciples in Jerusalem, so Peter and John came down to check out his ministry.  When they arrived, they gave the Holy Spirit to the ones Philip had baptized (16.17)  His preaching ministry was quite successful.

On the road, he talked about Jesus. (Acts 8.26-40)  Concluding his ministry in Samaria, Philip was sent to the road that linked Gaza and Jerusalem.  It was a pretty good hike from where he was located in Samaria.  Driving down the road was an official from Ethiopia.  He was reading from the scroll of Isaiah.  Philip overheard him and asked: “Do you understand what you are reading?”  Years back a Jehovah’s witness caught Aaron Jones and I reading our Bibles at Qdoba and asked us the same question.  We answered “no” and it led to some fascinating conversations over the next few weeks at the Mexican grill.  That aside, the Ethiopian answered Philip’s question: “How can I understand if no one explains it to me?”  Then Philip “began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (35)  I wonder how he did it.  Did he use apologetics to defend the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus?  Did he tell about his own conversion, his own journey to faith?  Maybe he did in Haiku’s…I dont know, but it is fun to think about!

The rest of his life, he talked about Jesus. Philip baptizes the Ethiopian man and is then whisked away (gk. harpazo) like the way a wolf attacks quickly (John 10.12) or soldiers take a prisoner into custody (Acts 23.10).  God snatched him up and took him to Azotus.  There he “preached the Gospel” (gk. euangelizo) to any one who would listen.  He headed north along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea until he settled in Ceseara.  The last mention of his life in Scripture, Acts 21.8, Philip is known as “the Evangelist” with 4 daughters who knew the Lord.  That’s an obituary goal worth chasing.  His title came from how he lived his life; he did not live his life based on his title.

Isaiah, as mentioned before, is the “Messianic Prophet”.  The arrival of the Messiah, God’s chosen one, is worth celebration and news worth spreading.  The hebrew word for “proclaiming good news”, basar, is used 7 times in Isaiah.  He has news that is worth announcing.  Paul quotes Isaiah when talking about preaching the gospel, when he says: “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Isaiah 52,7; Romans 10.14)  The LXX translators used the greek word euangelion to translate the hebrew word basar.  Of course according to Paul’s next thought in Romans 10.16, “not all the Israelites accepted the good news”. (gk. euangelion)   

Jesus also showed the connection between Isaiah and the pronouncement of the gospel.  Near the beginning of his ministry, Jesus is asked to teach in his hometown Synagogue.  The text he chooses is from Isaiah 61.1:  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news (hb. basar) to the poor.”  The LXX and Luke use the word euangelion, to translate the hebrew basar.

The connection is clear that Isaiah is concerned with getting the good news out!  Philip is happy to hop on board.

“Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news (gk. euangelion) about Jesus” (Acts 8.35)

The Ethiopian was baptized that day.  Philip had spoken to yet another person about the power, love, and sacrifice of Jesus.  Using Isaiah as a starting point, an introduction, Philip changed one man’s eternal destiny.

Epilogue:  Have you thought about how you would tell people about Jesus?  One way is just to simply tell your story and how accepting Jesus into your life has changed you.  If you don’t know where to begin…start here.


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