The day had been satisfying but intense. Now Philip the evangelist, the missionary, one of the seven called to help the apostles in the process of ministering to others and declaring the word, was resting.
During the night his sleep was interrupted by an angel who had instructions from the Lord for him.
The angel spoke clearly and indicated where he should go, giving him some identifying characteristics of the place.
Philip had no doubts about the origin of the message. His response was equally clear; his action was a demonstration of his faith.
'And he arose and went;'
On his way along the indicated path, he would surely question himself as to the reason for this sudden trip. Nothing had been communicated about his purpose or goal, just to get up and go. Without doubt, he knew the voice, therefore, he didn't need to know more. The purpose would surely be clarified at the necessary time.
After several hours on a road which became less dangerous as the sunlight shone on it, he saw a caravan of travelers who, like him, descended from Jerusalem to Gaza.
The story in the scriptures gives us a brief but profound description of the person who led the caravan, regarding his character, his work, the reason for his trip, and more importantly as to what occupied his mind in the moment of his meeting with Philip.
This man had traveled more than 2000 miles along dangerous roads that brought him from his country in Ethiopia to the land of Jerusalem. The purpose of his trip probably mitigated in his mind the difficulties he would encounter along the way. This would in turn help him to keep his mind on the outcome he would attain in achieving his goal: he traveled to Jerusalem to worship.
It was not the first time that he made this journey; it was his 'annual worship trip to the city of Abraham'.
However, in this year of worship he found a city submerged in the sad but glorious events that occurred during the last Passover.
After worshiping in the Temple according to custom, he had begun his return to his homeland.
Perhaps the facts which were still spoken of in Jerusalem about Jesus, regarding his suffering at the hands of the Romans and his death on the cross, as well as the comments regarding his resurrection, had led him to read the writings of the prophet Isaiah, the which he sat reading aloud in his chariot.
It was at that moment that Philip received instructions from the angel to draw near to the Ethiopians chariot.
' And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
The Ethiopian's response: ' How can I, except some man should guide me?” arose from deep humility and revealed a sincere and intense desire to learn.
The Ethiopian must have felt something special when he heard Philip's voice and he didn't see a 'stranger' who was walking along the road. He possibly felt that this man had something he wanted, something he longed to obtain such that, though having authority and ability to command, he simply: '... desired Philip to come up and sit with him.'
After Philip sat next to this man, he read the passage that disturbed his mind again and asked him to explain what it meant; he asked for understanding.
“And the place of Scripture which he read was this,
He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
and like a lamb dumb before his shearer,
so opened he not his mouth:
In his humiliation his judgment was taken away:
and who shall declare his generation?
for his life is taken from the earth.”
“And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?”
Faced with such a powerful desire to learn and being guided by the spirit, ' Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.' He taught him as someone who truly understood the object of the verses.
He taught him about the premortal life of Jesus as the great Jehovah, about his miraculous birth in a manger in Bethlehem, as well as the testimony of angels and wise men regarding this wonderful event.
Surely, I also speak of his ministry, teachings and miracles, his triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the time of Easter, his lonely atonement in Gethsemane as well as his infamous judgment and painful agony on the cross. He taught about his glorious resurrection, and his ministering to the two apostles on the road to Emmaus, and surely the testimony of more than 500 people regarding that unique and momentous event, was not missing in his message.
The Doctrine of Christ, referring to principles and ordinances, was taught on this dusty road in the desert of Gaza.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, were taught with such power that this man, a Jew who was waiting for the Messiah was heard to say:
' See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?
Philip wanted to hear to what extent this good man had understood and believed in what he had been taught, and the answer he received was clear and direct:
'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'
This man, who a few hours earlier did not 'know' Jesus; after Philip 'opened his mouth'- confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world, the one who died and rose again, the one who provided for the remission of sins.
For Philip the answer was enough. This man's faith pierced the veil of ignorance. Uncertainty or concern was no longer seen on the face of the eunuch. Now, he knew!
“And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
There is much that we can learn and apply from these two wonderful men!
• Philip, a man who knew the scriptures, and was obedient to the instructions received, who was not afraid to open his mouth to teach.
• The Ethiopian who did not close his mind to the truths of the gospel which allowed him to receive the baptism of one who had the authority to administer it and receive the joy of acceptance.
We also learn that we are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us and that in due time, He will prepare His children to be guided as messengers with one who is humble to listen and who has been prepared to receive.
Paul's words came to my mind:
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
(Romans 10: 12-15)
How can I apply the story of these men of scripture in my daily life?
1. Think of someone you know would benefit from the gospel message (a family member, a neighbor, a fellow student or a coworker, etc.).
2. Pray for confirmation.
3. Take action. Start with the first on the list and do one of the following activities:
• share your testimony
• invite them to a Family Home Night or to Sunday meetings
• Provide them with a Book of Mormon
4. Regardless of your friend's reaction to your invitation, ask: Who do you know who would benefit from this message?”
Remember that the Lord is the Lord of the harvest and that He will guide you, just as He did with Philip, to the one who is being prepared to receive the message.
How can I, except some man should guide me?