A Holy Spirit Itinerary
by Pr. Dave Mann
The family of God differs from how we normally understand the term “family.” Our families typically look alike, sound alike, and eat alike. However, in today’s passage, we see that Philip, one of the first preachers of the Word of the Lord, was directed by the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus with people very different from himself.
First, Philip went into Samaria and shared the gospel in many Samaritan villages. The Samaritans were on the “no-go list.” They were of mixed ethnic lineage. Many Jews, desirous to travel from Galilee to Judea, would take a longer route, out of their way, to avoid traveling through Samaritan territory. Jesus had made a Samaritan the hero of a well-loved parable in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus also received water from a Samaritan woman and had an extended conversation with her (John 4).
Then, Philip, following an angel’s directive, went to the deserted road leading to Gaza, where he met an Ethiopian eunuch. Not only was this man from another ethnic group, indeed from another continent, but he was also maimed and deformed. The priestly law forbade such a person from drawing near to the Lord at the tabernacle or temple in holy worship (Leviticus 21:18). But now the Lord drew near to him, to share the good news of Jesus and that he might be baptized and welcomed into the family God.
Finally, Philip was whisked away by a mysterious means of transportation. He appeared in Azotus, quite close to Ashdod, one of the five chief cities of the Philistines—yet another shunned ethnic group. Holy Scripture does not tell us what exactly Philip did there. However, we can surmise that his ministry was effective, because later in the book of Acts (16:7ff.), we read that the Apostle Paul was hosted in the home of Philip in Caesarea, a Phoenician city just north along the Mediterranean coastline. It seems the ministry of Philip was successful enough that he put down roots in this Roman, Phoenician port city.
It seems the Holy Spirit-inspired itinerary had Philip sharing the good news of Jesus with all misfits, deformed, mixed-lineage, former enemies of the people of God as possible. God told him and us, “It’s time to bring together as many sinners as possible at the foot of the cross.”
Holy Spirit, I cannot imagine what excitement must have been in the heart of Philip as you moved him from place to place to encounter the most unusual set of people, whom you loved and died for. I pray you give me some of that inspiration. Grant me the same enthusiasm and expectation as I set forth on the itinerary of my days. In Jesus’ name, Amen.