About Whom Does the Prophet Speak?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. The Good News of Easter

I know that for many of us, Easter was several weeks ago, it’s a special time where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And it is probably one of the most special days in the life of the Church. However, that day of resurrection is more of a resurrection season, so we as the larger church are still in this Easter season, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is not the specific date of Easter, but we are still in the season where we celebrate the joy of our risen Lord.  We celebrate the good news of Jesus Christ, and we are so overcome with joy about Jesus granting us new life, that we seek to spread it to all the world.  Our scripture this morning takes place after the death and resurrection of our Lord.  It is situated at a time when the disciples were going around to share the good news of Jesus Christ, in a time after the resurrection, ushering in a new time where God’s grace was extended to both Jew and Gentile.  They were sharing with the world, their genuine experience with the promised messiah, the risen King, that he had transformed their lives through his teachings.  Jesus taught the disciples great new things that taught them love and transformed the societal norms that had shaped the structure of their religious rules and tradition. They were sharing their witness, that they had seen him sit with the social outcast and heal the sick that many had given up on.  They were sharing with the world that they had seen him nailed to a cross and crucified, they had witnessed his death.  But that was not the end of the story. They had to share the continuation of the story, they had to proclaim that even though they had witnessed his death, that they had laid him in a tomb this was not the end, not by far. The good news of the story is what comes next.  They were sharing with the world that they had witnessed his death, but also his resurrection which brought about new life for all who accept it.  This means that the gospel is not only reserved for a set group of people, but offered to all people, near and far.  The good news was extended to all people, all people are included, Jew and Gentile alike.  It is extended to the Jew, the Gentile, the Roman, the Greek, the man, the woman, the non-binary individual, the white person, the black person, the brown person, the indigenous person, the Asian person, those in the LGBTQ community, the rich, the poor, and so many more because the gospel is for all people.  All people in the world.  And many of the disciples were so faithful to God and the spread of this good news birthed through the teachings, life, and death of Jesus Christ that they were willing to endure such persecution, some even giving their very lives, just so that all might have the opportunity to receive God’s grace.
And as we look to our scripture, we see a story in which there is a follower of Jesus Christ, a disciple, one of the 12, who continues his witness by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to someone who was searching for truth. Philip stands faithful in his following Jesus Christ, going where the Lord has told him, to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.  May we as the church be so faithful.

 II. Something Is Missing

As we enter into our story, we come into contact with an Ethiopian eunuch.  He has come into Jerusalem to worship at the temple, which is likely an indication that he is a Diasporic Jew, who was making in his yearly journey to the temple.  This means that somewhere in his history, most likely through ancestral tradition, he is likely a historical Jew whose family has moved throughout the land and now resides in Ethiopia.  The eunuch had come to the temple to worship, he had done his yearly obligation as a Jew by coming to the temple in Jerusalem. He had traveled the long journey from Ethiopia, the land of Cush, the land of the Nubians.  The journey he traveled, was likely long and tiresome, some parts were likely dry and exhausting, other parts may have been dangerous and risky, and some parts showed off God’s creation with such grandeur and picturesque scenes.  The eunuch was a court official to the queen of Ethiopia, he was in charge of her treasury.  However, his status as a eunuch likely put him on the edges of Jewish society, he likely would have been denied full participation in the full assembly of the Israelites.  He had traveled all this way, journeyed such great lengths because of his dedication to his religion and yet, because of his situation, he is pushed to the margins of society with the people that are supposed to be his people, the same people of faith, who worship the same God, but because of his status, they do not fully accept him.  He can participate in worship, but he is still pushed to the margins.  How often do we cast people to the side?  Yes, you can join us, but if you are too different you can remain over there, away from the rest of us.  Yes, you can join us, but only from afar.

The eunuch has worshipped and now he is headed back home. He has worshipped in the temple and something was different about his worship experience.  It wasn’t that he did not feel the captivation of worship, but that something about his worship experience left him wanting more.  There was something missing.  He was exploring the scriptures because he was searching for something more.  He had followed this religious path for his entire life, but there has got to be something more to it.  There has got to be some sense of love, some sense of peace, some sense of salvation, some sense of fulfilment of the prophecies.  There must be something about this faith that makes it come alive.  There must be something more.  Because according to the law, even he, was pushed to the margins, made to feel as less than.  Something about this did not feel like God.  How could he come on this long journey, and when he comes out of worship, fulfilling the task he came to do, feels less than a person?

 III. Searching For The Missing Piece

Deep within each of us is the desire to connect with the Most High.  We search and we search the whole world that we might find some sense of God that makes sense.  Some are searching the world looking for something, not knowing what they are searching for, but they are looking for some sort of fulfillment, some sort of wholeness, some sort of love, some sort of connection that brings enlightenment.  At the onset of creation, humanity was separated from God, left with a hole within them, a void that leaves us empty.  So, we search the world trying to fill that hole that we might then be whole.  We look to fill it with drugs, sex, money, belonging, and fulfillment. We look all over, and we who have found the love that is in Jesus Christ, we know that this void is only filled in God, when we have received God’s grace and are made whole in Jesus Christ. But it cannot be denied that the world is searching for that thing, they are searching for that thing that brings about perfection in God’s love. I have even heard of atheists and agnostics coming together on Sunday mornings to gather together for a sense of community.  I would call that yearning for a fellowship of love that is found in Jesus Christ.  I have heard of chaplains for humanist and atheist students.  Again, something I would call a searching for the guidance of the Divine.  Most of these people would claim that their quest is unrelated to some sense of religion or connection to a Divine being, yet their actions seem to reflect a yearning that has been present within humanity from the beginning of time, a yearning to connect with humanity’s creator, a yearning to obtain the attributes that we know to be given by God, a yearning that fills that void and makes us whole in the one we call Jesus Christ.  And yet, from my years of working with young adults, I have also come in contact with quite a few people that called themselves spiritual but not religious.  In this instance I think that people are saying the are more connected to the ways of God and less to the religious doctrine or rules and laws that dictate our tradition and practice.  I think that people are searching in various places to find the love that is in Jesus Christ, and the meaning found in God.  And the reality is that often times those who label themselves as spiritual rather than religious are finding the essence of God in many places outside of the conventional bounds of religiosity.  But they are finding new ways to connect to the love that is found in Jesus Christ.  The one who was led like a sheep to the slaughter, the one who was beaten and bruised for our transgressions, torn apart and bled for our iniquities, stretched out and nailed to a cross that our sins might be forgiven, and resurrected that we might find new life, that we might be made whole.  It is all through Christ that we are made whole, that we find what we were looking for.  And just like the eunuch, who was pushed to the margins of society, many who have been rejected are searching for something that makes sense as well, something that gives them life, something that shows them the love of Jesus.  When those around them are supposed to accept them and nurture them, but instead reject them because of how much money they make, where they  stand in society, what they have accomplished, the color of their skin, their ableness, their sexuality, their gender, their class, or how society looks at them, it is no wonder that they are searching for love that affirms them and gives their life meaning. These people have experienced such heartache and such pain through society rejecting them, and now they are turning in every direction to find where God is, where the God of love who can make them whole resides.

 IV. Who Is The Prophet Speaking About?

And the Ethiopian eunuch is searching through the scripture to find the answers that he seeks.  And Philip must have seen it on his face, because Philip goes to the eunuch and asks him if he understands the scripture he is reading.  Philip is offering to help show him the enlightenment to the scripture.

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
    and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
        so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
    Who can describe his generation?
        For his life is taken away from the earth.”

“About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”  The one who sacrificed himself, seemed to offer himself with the greatness of love for everyone, who does the scripture speak of. Who is this man who went like a sheep to the slaughter, who is the one who did not open his mouth, who had been denied justice, who is the one who was killed?  He seems to have endured such difficulty, surely if one could even fathom the things that I am going through, it might be him.  Who does the prophet speak of? 

 V. Jesus Is The Missing Piece

At this moment Philip tells the good news of Jesus Christ. How Jesus was the one who endured such suffering, and because of his sacrifice our sins are forgiven.  Because we were separated from God in sin, and we search the world to reconnect.  And because of the sacrifice of Christ, we have been reconciled back to God.  But that is not the end of the story, because on the third day Christ rose from the dead and granted new life for all people.  And this news is not for the select few, but for the whole world to engage in.  It doesn’t matter if they are the rejected of society, because Jesus sees each of us, loves us all intimately, and grants us grace that gives new life.  This opened up clarity for the eunuch because the scripture came alive.  Jesus was the missing piece that brought such clarity.  When we look at the scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ it brings the wholeness that we search for, it brings clarity to the faith we hold onto.   Remember, even though Christianity developed into its own religion, the goal of Jesus was not to start a new religion but to bring fulfillment to the scripture, fulfillment to the law.  Jesus was the piece that showed how to live out faith fully. Through Jesus the scripture takes on new meaning, because Jesus is the living word that bring clarity.  About whom does the prophet speak? Its Jesus! Jesus is the missing piece that we have been searching for, Jesus is the love that we search for in the world. So, as we search the world let us say that Jesus is the one who shows us the love we seek, Jesus brings the peace we seek, Jesus is the one who declares justice for all, Jesus is the one who cares for others, Jesus is the one who calls the outcast his beloved.  As people are searching the world for God, let us show them to the ways of Jesus.

However, we learn something from both of the people within our story.  From Philip we see that we are supposed to listen to God and to be open to where God is calling us to. God is calling us to reach out to those God has called us to, that we might share the love of Jesus Christ. God has called us to reach into the community and to connect in unconventional ways to share the love of Jesus Christ.  We have been called to Grow in Faith, Serve Others, and Share the Love of Jesus Christ. We are called to be willing and able to share the good news of Jesus Christ at any time just like Philip. When searchers are coming looking for answers, we must share the good news of Jesus Christ that is able to answer their questions, fill their void, and share the love that the seek.

            We learn from the Ethiopian eunuch that as we must open ourselves to Jesus Christ.  As we search the world, let us open ourselves up to Jesus, to fill us, to guide us, and to meet us on the journey of life.  Remember, Jesus Christ is the missing piece that give life new meaning. We must seek out genuine relationship with Jesus Christ that transforms our life.  Without Christ we are still wandering on the journey, we are still looking for the thing that makes sense, we are still looking for the that missing piece.  But in Christ Jesus we find that piece, in Christ Jesus we are made whole. In Christ all things make sense, so we vow to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

About whom does the prophet speak?  He speaks about Jesus, the one who died for us reconciling us back to God and granting new life in his resurrection.  About whom does the prophet speak? He speaks about Jesus who taught us to love one another. About whom does the prophet speak? He speaks about the one who healed the sick and cared for the rejected and unclean. About whom does the prophet speak? He speaks of our one and only Savior Jesus Christ.  And it is Christ that we offer up our lives to.  It is Christ that we put at the center of any ministry we do as a church.  So let us proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, out into the world and to all people, because he is the one that the prophet spoke about. Amen.