JESUS: Philip Interprets Scripture, by Mark G. Boyer

Reflections for Holy Week and Easter

Philip Interprets Scripture Mark G. Boyer

Scripture:The eunuch (a court official of Candace, queen of Ethiopia) asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet Isaiah say this: ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth,’ about himself or about someone else?”  Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.  As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water!  What is to prevent me from being baptized?”  He commanded the chariot to stop.  And Philip baptized him.  When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:34-39)

Reflection:

Another aspect of a spirituality of mission is witness through the interpretation of scripture.  Philip is the model for this.  After being prompted by an angel of the Lord to meet the chariot carrying the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip discovers him reading from a scroll the words of the prophet Isaiah from one of the suffering servants songs that describe the fate of Israel as God’s servant for remaining committed to the task.  Philip bears witness by telling the eunuch that the passage describes Jesus.  The eunuch’s question opens for Philip the possibility for catechesis, and he makes the most of it.  After accepting Philip’s witness, the eunuch is baptized, and Philip is removed from the scene like others before him.

This catechesis or interpretation of scripture by Philip is the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the principal motivator of witnessing in both Luke’s gospel and his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles.  The Spirit instructs Philip to approach the eunuch’s chariot.  The Spirit inspires Philip’s interpretation of Isaiah.  Once he has finished his interpretative mission, the Spirit snatches Philip away and sends him on the next stage of his mission.  As far as the author is concerned, the Acts of the Apostles represents the age of the Holy Spirit, the wind, air, breath of God that guides the church.

A good spirituality of mission acknowledges that it is the Holy Spirit who gets believers to where he wants them, fills them with words to be interpreted or spoken, and then moves them on when the encounter is finished.  This understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit demands openness on the part of believers.  Philip had to remain open to joining the eunuch’s chariot and interpreting the prophet Isaiah.  Likewise, modern believers must remain open to encounters in the grocery store, on the sidewalk, on vacation, on an airplane.  One does not know when the Spirit will prompt interpretation.  The cue is the question.  Once the eunuch asked Philip about Isaiah, Philip knew it was time for him to witness.

Journal/Meditation:Most recently, where and when have you been prompted by the Holy Spirit to be witness to Jesus through some type of interpretation?

Prayer:Come, Holy Spirit.  Guide my steps to those to whom you send me.  Fill my mouth with the words you desire I speak.  Grant that I may always witness to words and deeds of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Father in perfect Trinity, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

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