Let’s begin this journey by exercising our imaginations, because God is so very “other” than what we’re used to thinking about. Pretend with me, there’s an ancient group of people that have existed for thousands of years. They share an intimate bond, in a way that no one else can understand. You see, they are each – at some point – given a seed. This seed grows into a plant who’s magic is incredibly powerful. Through their plants, they can communicate with each other. Through their plants, they are given abilities beyond anything they could ever do on their own. Through their plants, they bring life where there was death, and light where there was darkness.
One day, a mysterious visitor comes to your door and whispers of these things. He takes your hand, and gently places a tiny seed in the middle of it, curling your fingers over it to keep it warm and safe. He tells you that you’ve been invited to join this ancient group of bringers of light and life. You’re overwhelmed by his message.
After he leaves, you immediately know what you’re going to do. You take the seed you’ve been given, and seal it in a solid transparent layer of UV-Protectant. You then place it in the center of a large glass display case and set the case in a prominent location in your living room. You start to tell everyone about the magical group of people you’re now connected to.
That would be pretty silly, wouldn’t it? But what I want to tell you, is that followers of Christ do this on a regular basis on a much grandeur scale.
Here’s a little bit of background for the passage we’ll be focusing on:
Back in Acts chapter 2 we have the coming of the Holy Spirit like never before at Pentecost, to the apostles. The movement of those following Christ began to grow, signs and wonders were being done by the apostles, and thousands more people were being baptized into the faith. They were baptized into the name of Jesus. Those who had been baptized were devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And as we read in Acts 2:47 – “Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
The miraculous acts of the apostles continued to get the attention of everyone around, and so as attention was being gained, they used those moments to call people to repentance for the way they had crucified and denied Jesus Christ. They preached the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and that we could share in such a resurrection.
Huge crowds of people loved what they were doing. Some religious leaders were not big fans and tried to quiet them. Some tried to benefit from what was happening, and ended up dead.
At one point there was so much going on, the apostles needed help keeping accounts to make sure widows were being taken care of. So seven men who were “of good standing, Full of the Spirit and wisdom” were chosen, including Stephen and Philip. Stephen ended up doing great work for the Lord, and when he was arrested he accused the religious leaders of missing out on what God was doing. He reminded them of the history of God’s people turning against him at Mount Sinai. He told them they were working against the Holy Spirit in the same way, and that they had betrayed & murdered the “Righteous One” the prophets had spoken of. They were so mad, they stoned Stephen, and Saul was pleased. Then Saul went on a crusade of finding followers of Jesus and punishing them.
The followers of Jesus, then, were forced to spread out into Judea and Samaria to escape imprisonment. (Does that sound familiar? Acts 1:8 talked about this. Apparently it didn’t depend on the apostles coming up with a strategic plan on how to reach these areas. Simply joining the activity of God, caught them up into a movement outward for all the world.) As those followers went, they were proclaiming the word. Scripture tells us that the apostles themselves were not scattered, but apparently Philip – who had been confirmed as having the Spirit, and blessed for ministry previously – had been scattered to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. They listened eagerly, and saw the signs that he accomplished. Great things were happening for the Kingdom coming.
In Samaria, there was a man named Simon, a sorcerer with a huge following. He saw the people following Philip, and all that was happening, and began to believe in the Messiah as well. After he was baptized in the name of Jesus with many others, he began to follow Philip constantly. Eventually, word of what was happening in Samaria reached the apostles, and that is where our passage picks up tomorrow…