A Baptism on the Side of the Road

Look! Here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?

Ah, to worship in Jerusalem. Yes, I’m one who will travel 700 miles, by caravan, just to spend time with the Lord in the city of David. I love the One True God. At least once each year I’m allowed leave to travel from the land of Cush to the Land flowing with milk and honey. It takes about a month to get there. I stay for a few weeks and then travel another 30 days back home.

My name is Zenabi and I am a eunuch. Because I work for the Queen, I’m permitted to take a full entourage for my annual pilgrimage. I’m thankful for that. We were heading back home to Meroe. It was a pleasant Spring afternoon, the third day since we left the city. My scribe had procured a copy of the Septuagint and I was reading as we traveled along.

Since it is preferred to read the Text out loud, that’s what I was doing. So, imagine this… the noise of my carriage along the rocky road, chains and wheels clanking, along with the animals ridden by my escorts — harnesses and leather straps, snorts and braying, I was reading at the top of my lungs; honestly not understanding much of anything.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a young man jogging alongside of the chariot. This was a strange site in the middle of the day, here on this desert road. He heard me reading and shouted: “Kind sir, do you understand what you are studying?” “How can I?” I replied back. “I have no one to explain it to me!”

The stranger asked if he might join me and I nodded in affirmation. He jumped onto the landing and made himself comfortable as we bumped along.

The section of God’s Word that had me puzzled was from the prophet Isaiah:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth.”

Now, what did that mean? Who was this lamb?

My new friend, whose name was Philip, explained the lamb was Jesus, the Nazarene. The Messiah. He is the One whom Isaiah said was pierced for my sins, and by his stripes we are all healed.  He was condemned to die recently and he offered no defense at his trial. He was brutally crucified. Philip said Jesus had risen from the dead — he had seen the Messiah alive! There were new followers all throughout the Land.

My teacher also noted the author spoke of the flood waters of Noah and God’s great love for His children. And he talked about the baptism of the earth, and the baptism of man. Philip suggested that baptism was like being buried with Jesus and rising again like Jesus.

At that moment, we crossed over Lakhish Stream. I said to him, “Look, here is water. What prevents me from being baptized?”

Philip laughed with delight. He told me he had baptized many people just recently in Samaria.

I ordered the caravan to stop. We climbed down from the chariot and entered the cool water. The sun reflecting off the surface caused me to squint my eyes quite a bit.  He asked me if I believed with all my heart. “Yes!” I jubilantly replied. “I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.”

And with my confession of faith, Philip lowered me into the water. And I rose up out of the river as Jesus came out of the tomb! I’ve never been so full of great joy as I was that sunny day.

My friend Philip disappeared. I never saw him again.

My entourage continued on back to Ethiopia. I told many friends, and even the Queen, of my new faith in Jesus. And following Philip’s example, I had the privilege of baptizing many others in Africa who began to follow the ways of the Messiah as well.

Some of the words, actions and thoughts perhaps, of the Ethiopian and Philip from Acts Chapter 8.

I have to confess, this story for me has always been about the Ethiopian and the baptism. Only recently did I really see that this is more a story about the Evangelist Philip.

When the Upper Story assignment to reach the continent of Africa comes up, God chooses Philip. He’s the one who gets the call to head out to the desert road. He’s the one who obediently shares the Gospel. He’s the one who brings to faith the Ethiopian eunuch. He’s the one who gets to share in the joy of baptism!

 

 

(c) 2017 Rich Ronald.
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When You Meet Jesus, Your Heart Will Change. 

Walking along the Road to Emmaus when suddenly…

It truly was the saddest season of my life. Everything had come crashing down. We had believed in Jesus. We had followed Jesus. We loved him! We knew that He would bring peace to Jerusalem and to our people. And yet, he died. He was brutally murdered.

My name is Cleopas. My friend Thadeous and I had just left Jerusalem for Emmaus. We were talking about the past seven days.  Last Sunday we were cheering and rejoicing over the Nazarene as he rode into the city on the back of a donkey. A week later, with the afternoon sun casting long shadows along the rocky path, we argued back and forth about a very bleak future without Jesus. Our shoulders were slumped. Our gait was slow. We kicked up the dust as we shuffled along.

A stranger approached us as we walked west among the rolling foothills. He asked what we were talking about. I looked at my friend Thadeous as if this man was crazy. He encouraged me with his eyes and so I queried the outsider: “Are you the only man alive in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what just happened?” His blank stare in reply prompted a nervous babbling. “Surely you know,” I stammered.  “About Jesus. The prophet. He did many miracles. With great power. We believed he would free Israel. But our leaders handed him over to be killed. And now it’s the third day…”

“Calm down,” he motioned to me with his hands. Then starting with Moses and all the prophets, this very ordinary looking man patiently explained everything ever written in the Ancient Text about the Messiah and how he must suffer.

We invited the man home for supper. He asked if He might offer the blessing. He lifted his eyes to heaven, broke the bread and began to pray. “Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.” Praised are you, Lord God, King of the universe, who brings froth bread from the earth.

We took a piece. And at that very moment we realized it was the Master. Jesus!  The loaf fell to the table as he vanished.

Oh, how our hearts burned inside us as He explained the scriptures. He was so graceful, so patient. It showed His great love for us.

The Story IS true. It has happened indeed, just as it was written in the Canticles of old.

Some of the words, actions and thoughts perhaps of Cleopas and Jesus, from Luke 24.

Corrie ten Boom used to say, “When the train goes through a tunnel and the world gets dark, do you jump out? Of course not. You sit still and trust the engineer to get you through.” Why did Jesus tell the story to Cleopas and his friend? So they’d know the Word is true. They could trust that God is in control. He says: “I’ve got you.”

You can trust Him, too.

Once they realized it was Jesus, the two ran back to Jerusalem. Knowing the story changed everything!  Knowing that Jesus was alive, just as He said, meant every other promise in the Word is true! They lifted up those slumping shoulders and their slow gait became a sprint.

How about you?

Whenever you meet Jesus, your heart will change.

 

(c) 2017 Rich Ronald.