Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Ethiopian Eunuch

At our Bible study last Sunday we looked at the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. This story comes right after the account of the Samaritans embracing the Good News about Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit (thus demonstrating that, although generally despised and rejected by Jews of the day, the Samaritans were accepted by God and by the disciples of Jesus).

Right after the Samaritan account, we have the tale of the first Gentile convert to Christianity recorded in the book of Acts. And isn't it interesting the degree to which this convert is an outsider? And not just nationally and ethnically and culturally. He is also a sexual minority, and his sexual status--according to the Torah--explicitly excludes him from being counted among God's people; for Deuteronomy 23:1 states, "He that is a eunuch by crushing or mutilation shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD."

The Good News that Philip tells the Ethiopian Eunuch is that he is loved and accepted by God, despite what the Torah says. When Philip encounters him, the Eunuch is reading Isaiah 53 and is puzzled by it. The Eunuch is returning to Ethiopia from Jerusalem where he had gone to worship the Jewish God. What the Eunuch would have encountered at the Temple in Jerusalem would have been a wall that blocked Gentiles (and, even more so, Gentile eunuchs) from entering beyond the exterior Court of the Gentiles. The Ethiopian Eunuch would have only been allowed to worship from a distance.

I believe that, in explaining Isaiah to the Eunuch, Philip probably first took him just a few paragraphs farther, to Isaiah 56. Take a moment to read it--it's a mind-blower.

The Book of Acts, like the Gospels, is an account of a God and church that practices radical inclusion, rather than exclusion--that erects welcome signs, rather than barriers.

1 Comments:

Blogger Peggy Senger Parsons said...

I really love this post.

10:10 AM  

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