Text – 26 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside 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 silent before its shearer, so he does not open 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 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 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?” 37 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.” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 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. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Summary – This Ethiopian eunuch was a gentile worshipper of God of Israel. He had gone to the Jewish temple to worship, perhaps as part of a biblical feast. While he was returning to his homeland, he was reading scripture. He was reading from Isaiah 53, which is a passage that predicts the suffering and death of Christ. The eunuch did not understand who this passage was referring to. He asks Philip if he could explain the passage to him. Philip explained to the eunuch, that Jesus Christ was the lamb who was slaughtered, it was by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). The eunuch, having these scriptures explained to him, had his heart opened to realize that Christ is the Son of God. He desired to obey the command of Christ and be baptized. Philip took him down into a river, baptized him, and the eunuch went away rejoicing. There is nothing more we know about the eunuch from the Bible, but Christian history tells us the eunuch became a missionary among the Ethiopian people.
Insight – Although this man was worshiping in Jerusalem, his status as a eunuch prevented him from fully participating in Jewish worship (Deut 23:1), and he could only worship at a distance. With his question “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” he was asking if his status prevents him from fully entering the New Covenant as it did under the Old Covenant. Philip responded that if he had faith, he could be baptized. His status as a eunuch does not prevent him from comming to Christ. The eunuch was reading Isaiah 53, and just a few chapters later in Isaiah 56:4-5, there is a prophecy about a time when eunuchs would not be cursed any longer. As someone once said, at the foot of the cross the ground is level. There are no first, second or third class Christians. In Christ there are no Jews or Greeks, slave or free, eunuchs or non eunuchs. We are all saved by grace and grace alone. Everyone who is able by faith to say that “Christ is the son of God,” is accepted into the household of God.
Catechism – Q: What requirements did the eunuch have to fulfill to be baptized?
A: The only requirement is that he had to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Discussion – Do you believe that everyone comes to Christ solely by faith? If there are no first, second third class Christians, how should you treat other believers, including those you may not like?
Prayer – God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who for us was like a sheep led to slaughter. We praise you for His death and resurrection. We praise You for You are calling all nations to Yourself. It is a glorious thing that those who were formerly unclean, are now accepted in Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.