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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