Have you personally met Jesus? Do you know of someone who needs to meet Jesus? This is one of the most fascinating accounts of someone meeting Jesus for the very first time. He is introduced to Jesus by a follower of Jesus named Phillip. God intervenes in Phillip’s plans by sending an angel to communicate his instructions to Phillip. Let’s pick up with Acts 8:26-29
“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road-the desert road– (Desert means uninhabited, not dry barren sand.) that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, (So this man would have been a black man, a highly influential, wealthy black man) an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
So Phillip ran up alongside the chariot. Can you imagine how you would have felt as you are reading a scroll riding through this totally desolate area and a man comes running up alongside of you. He is reading from an OT scroll of the book of Isaiah. That, in itself, gives you an indication of the importance and wealth of this man. How many people in those days do you suppose had a copy of Isaiah or any O. T. book, for that much? All the copying would have been done very meticulously by hand. It would have been extremely valuable and very rare. Let’s pick up on the conversation.
Acts 8:30-34 “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. (That’s a good question to start with.) “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: (Actually from Isaiah 53) “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
There is both a note of anguish and frustration in the pleas of the Ethiopian. “Would you please explain who this scripture is talking about?”
So verse 35 states, Phillip began at that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about JESUS. He introduced him to Jesus. So let’s take a moment and go to the same chapter and meet Jesus just like he did. For some of you this might be for the very first time. There couldn’t be a better place in the O. T. to meet Jesus
Isaiah 53 begins with, vs. 1-2 “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He, (that is Jesus), grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”
1. The first thing we discover about Jesus is that he had NO BEAUTY.
He, the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Savior of the world, was just an ordinary child and person from all appearances. There was nothing about His looks that made Him stand out or appear to be special. He was not one of the “beautiful” people of his day. He didn’t win the Jewish Idol contest because of His looks or special talents. He was not a celeb. There was nothing about Him that deserved neither special attention nor abusive treatment. Yet that was exactly what he got.
Isaiah continues in verse 3, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
2. He was also DESPISED AND REJECTED
He was despised and rejected for no justifiable reason. He had done absolutely nothing wrong to deserve such treatment. The Bible actually says that. Literally, He never sinned. He never disobeyed the Father. He was morally and spiritually perfect. It’s not that He was never tempted to do so. He was tempted in the exact same ways we are yet He never gave in.
Now, let’s pause right there for a minute. What He was is the exact opposite of what man is like. Man is tempted and man gives in. Not just some or many or most, but all of us, all people from the beginning in the garden. The Bible clearly says, “all have sinned.” And sin brings with it a punishment. When there is disobedience there is a punishment due because, you see, God is a just God. He is fare and when He tells us not to sin or else we will have a price to pay, He must stick to his promise.
In fact, the price or punishment for sin is death. Not physical death. Everyone will die physically. But spiritual death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Death is eternal separation from God in a place called hell. Everyone sins and all of us are deserving of and face that future.
There is one way, however, to avoid that consequence. Are you ready for it? Live a perfect life. That’s right, never sin. Obey God perfectly from birth till death. Does anyone qualify? Has anyone lived the perfect life to this point yet? There is one though, who does. His name is Jesus, the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Savior. Though perfect, He offered Himself as a Savior by taking man’s punishment for him.
Isaiah continues in Vs 4-6 “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
3. He was PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS
We are guilty. We face a punishment. We deserve to die. We have earned eternal separation from God in hell. Yet Jesus says, “I will take your place. I will pay your price for you because it is impossible for you to pay it. I will meet My Father’s requirements of a perfect sacrifice on your behalf. I will die so that you won’t have to die. You won’t have to face eternal separation from My Father.”
Can you hear Phillip say to that man of immense royalty, “This is what Jesus did for you.”? And can you also hear him say to you, “This is what Jesus did for you too?”
4. He did it to bring PEACE AND HEALING. Verse five says, “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
I know, you are thinking, “How does punishment bring peace?” He took our punishment for us so that we could be at peace with God. He met God’s requirement of a perfect sacrifice on our behalf so that there need not be anything that stands between us and God. He did all this so that we could be reconciled with God. You see, sin alienates, it separates, it makes one at odds, it destroys harmony. But Jesus took our place so that our relationship with God could be brought back together, made one again, so that we could know His peace.
And be heals. How do wounds heal? Well, in the same way. He took our punishment so that with His wounds God’s requirement of a perfect sacrifice could be met and our broken relationship with Him could be healed. He was hurt so that we don’t have to keep on hurting. Being at odds with God hurts. He took the hurt for us.
No sooner had this man from Ethiopia heard this than his heart just overflows with excitement. “This is what I want. This is the explanation I have been looking for. This is the answer I have been needing all along. What’s keeping me from being baptized?” That’s what he actually said. Back in Acts we read, (Acts 8:35-37) “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Like we have just done. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
Phillip had been telling the Ethiopian about Jesus. So where did the man get the idea that baptism was something he needed to consider? What in the world does baptism have to do with the message of Jesus from the book of Isaiah? Maybe Phillip had given a summary of Jesus’ life and ministry that included an account of Jesus’ baptism by John. More likely he had mentioned some of Jesus teachings on the subject of baptism. Or maybe he told him about the beginning of the church and how that 3000 were baptized. We don’t know exactly what he said but we do know that he taught him the urgency of being baptized and that no response to Christ is complete without baptism.
So, this elated man sees this pond of water and says, “Hey, let’s get on with it. I’m ready. What are we waiting for?”
So what did he do? Acts 8:38-39 “And he gave orders to stop the chariot. (Driver, would you pull over in that parking spot.) Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, (Certainly a picture of baptism by immersion) the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.”
“He went on his way rejoicing.” He had met Jesus. He had come to know about Jesus for the first time. Jesus was the answer he was looking for. Jesus offered him everything he needed for life and eternity. Even though he was already wealthy he found in Jesus something wealth could never provide, a peace filled, healthy relationship with the God of the universe. And he willingly accepted what He offered and surrendered. And as a result he had something to be joyful about. He had a joy that would last him forever.
So, there seems to be only one thing left for me to do and that is to ask the question, is there anyone reading that that is ready to do as this man from Ethiopia did? You have heard the message of Jesus, maybe for the very first time, perhaps numerous times. But have you made a personal response to Him yet. Have you accepted Him as the one who paid your price for you, your Forgiver and Savior? Have you acknowledged your faith in Him and made a determination to turn from sin and to the father. And have you said, “Here is water, why shouldn’t I be baptized?”
If not, why not?
Some of the characters in the original Christmas story are wise men, or as some would prefer to call them, wise guys. They traveled from afar to find the Christ child. Their travel guide was a star, a very special star. It was no mere, normal star. A lot of people say that maybe the star they were following was some comet or supernova or asteroid. But there’s no star that ever preformed like this star. The Bible says it led them from the east directly to Jerusalem. It led them east. Then it turned south and went south to Bethlehem. No star does that. Then it settled right over the home where Jesus, Mary and Joseph were. I’ve never seen a star like that.
On top of that, we don’t have any indication from the Bible that anybody else ever saw the star. It doesn’t say that Herod or the people in Jerusalem saw the star. The only people, to our knowledge, that actually saw the star were the wise men. It was a special star, custom made. God often does this. All throughout history, God has used different kinds of instruments to get people’s attention. Whether it was opening the Red Sea, bring down manna from heaven, a pillar of fire by night or cloud by day. God has always done different kinds of signs. He always rewards genuine seekers with clues with a travel guide, a star.
Chances are, you have a star in your life. You may have just never recognized it. God put it there to bring you to Him. That star may be a book you’ve read or a person you know or an experience you’ve had or a TV show or a movie. It may be some event. It may be a church. I have no doubt that God has brought people across your path in order to be a travel guide to bring you to Him. It may be a believing parent or a believing wife or husband who is a believer, or a neighbor or friend or somebody at work or even a child. But God does not leave genuine seekers without a travel guide. He brings these people into our lives so we can see where He wants us to be headed.
So who’s the star in your life?
There are three possible reactions when God starts to guide your life and you start to realize, “Maybe God is talking to me and trying to guide me through this person, this book, whatever.” You can react like Herod did which was fear. He was afraid of being guided by God. Or you can react like the religious leaders did, be indifferent, be apathetic, be skeptical. Or you can react like the wise men did and that was celebrate. They rejoiced. They experienced the joy of being led by God.
Matthew 2:10 “And when they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” The original word literally means they jumped up and down with joy. They were ecstatic. They were joyful beyond belief. They couldn’t contain themselves. They were overwhelmed with joy.
If you’re a Christian, I want to challenge you sometime this Christmas season to thank God for the stars in your life. The travel guides, the clues. They may be people or they may be events. But thank God for the people or events that caused you to find Christ, that led you to the Savior. And rejoice with exceeding great joy for those people.
If you’re not a Christian, if you’re a seeker, you’re still on the way, I want to say to you, use the star, take advantage of it. Don’t just let it be there. Let it lead you to God to find the basic questions of life answered in your life. Use that star.