Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:35)
There may have been a time in America when you could assume that if someone was looking at a Bible passage that they would have some basic context and awareness to make sense of it. It’s possible that there was enough general Christian awareness for people to hear a bit of the gospel story and put it into some framework that made sense. But in 2017, those days are gone!
Studies today show that people are less religious than ever. That means that the way that religion organizes ideas and helps people experience and make sense of spiritual issues is less accessible than before. There is not a framework that people have enough confidence in to work out their issues within the context of a religious worldview.
Those same studies also show that people are still spiritually curious. They want to know about the Bible. They want to know who Jesus is and what he did. They are hungry to discover meaning and purpose for their lives. In other words, the core things that good religion provides are still human needs that people want. While people may not want the church – they still want some of what the church has. They do want to know how to make sense of God and life. And Jesus still intrigues most people!
So the world in which Philip spoke in the verse above is a lot like the world we live in today. Philip has been talking to an Ethiopian eunuch who worked in the queen’s court. The eunuch has a scroll from the prophet Isaiah that points to some things that help make sense of Jesus. But the eunuch doesn’t know much about Jesus and struggles to make sense of what he is reading. Philip asks him if he’d like help understanding it and gets a positive response. With an open door to share, Philip starts to explain Isaiah’s words and then makes the connection to Jesus. Eventually, the eunuch will believe and be baptized.
All of this started with a conversation between someone who believed Jesus mattered and someone who was open and curious. Like people today, the eunuch couldn’t put his concerns into the story of Jesus without some help. And also like people today, the eunuch was spiritually curious and open to learning more about how Jesus connected him to God and to a more enriched life.
Each of us can be that open door to a new way of seeing God. As we walk with others who are spiritually hungry, curious and open to hearing what we share, God’s Spirit will work in those conversations to share a message of hope and life.
In some ways the twenty-first century is a lot like the first century. More people don’t know much about Jesus than do. As times have changed, the Bible gives us a clearer look into the kind of church and people God is calling us to be today. Who knows – you may be the next person God uses to help someone understand the good news of God in Jesus Christ!