I was reading about Philip and the man from Ethiopia. It’s a familiar story to many of us. The man is on his way home from Jerusalem. Philip was told to go to the desert road, then to stay close to the man’s chariot. Philip strikes up a conversation, tells the man the story of Jesus in a way that is directly connected to what the man is reading. The man believes in Jesus, asks to be baptized in water by the road, and Philip disappears.
The story is one of two in a row about Philip. It tells us what happens to the person in line behind Stephen, who had been stoned in Jerusalem. It’s a story about the first Christians fleeing the first significant persecution. It’s a story about being courageous and always being a missionary.
But there is another story. It’s a story of a man who traveled a long distance from his own country to worship God as much as he knew. He may have heard rumors about Jesus while in Jerusalem, but what he heard would have been the official position, about people disrupting the faith. He would have been on the edges of the crowd in Jerusalem, as a genetic gentile, as ceremonially and permanently outside the people of God due to his status as a eunuch.
After perhaps a month in Jerusalem, he was on his way home, reading the scroll that he picked up on his pilgrimage. While he was reading, puzzling out the text, a man standing by the road spoke to him about the very words he was reading. The man explained the text with confidence, responded to the request for baptism with willingness. The man had found the God he’d been looking for, provided in a miraculously random conversation. In the desert. On the way home.
Sometimes, we know we are sent. We need to go faithfully. But sometimes we know we are looking. We need to keep looking faithfully.
I’ve written before about Philip.