The passage that we come to today is rather intriguing because if the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes (Teachers of the Law) could not understand that it pointed to God’s Messiah and His salvific work, how would a foreigner who worshipped the Hebrew God?
Ac 8:32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “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. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
This was written under inspiration by the prophet Isaiah almost 800 years before the Lord Jesus became God incarnate. I am certain the eunuch did not just read this short passage. He might have read the complete text from Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12. I wondered why this specific passage alerted the eunuch’s attention.
1) Let’s attempt to understand the larger passage. To do this it would be wise to read more of what Isaiah prophesied:
Isa 53:2 He 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. 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. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 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. 6 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. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
This passage introduces the Messiah, who He was and what He was like, who we were are and what we are like and what He would do for us … be our substitute sacrifice, die … yet also rise to life again. The eunuch in Acts 8:32-33 can’t understand Isaiah 53:7-8. Why did this passage jump out at him? He follows through with another question:
Ac 8:34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”
It is because of this question that I feel he had read the whole passage and I am certain he understands the substitution and the sacrificial nature of what will happen but is it because of the willing, submissive, not retaliatory nature that he is puzzled. Normally when we face aggression, violence or hurt we respond to defend or protect ourselves. This one spoken of in Isaiah 53 does not. Why would he not?
2) Questions are an evangelists great friends. There was the passage. There was the eunuch and there was the concern … “help me understand?” When placed into this context it is far easier to evangelize because permission is granted! So:
Ac 8:35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
Having a starting place … the passage not understood, Philip could easily contextualize the eunuch’s concern with the full Isaiah passage and then apply it to the arrest, beating, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus as per the oral Gospel of the day. As John the Baptist put it:
Jn 1:29 “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Philip’s Master, the Lord Jesus used the exact same strategy. You might recall reading of how the risen Jesus met up with two disciples walking on the “Emmaus Road”. They were all confused about Jesus’ death and burial because they had hoped He would be the Messiah. He engaged them:
Lk 24:17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Their grief and bereavement was visible They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
Now read Jesus’ response
Lk 24:25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Like with the eunuch, this led to their salvation. We live at a time of easy believism. This is a tool of the enemy of the Gospel. People hear an inadequate message of Jesus and make commitments without having a clear understanding of why God promised a Messiah, how He came, how He lived and taught, the reason for His execution and burial on the day before the Passover which was on the Sabbath Day and why He needed to rise on the third day according to the Scriptures. Often there is no understanding of the meaning of His meritorious substitutional sacrifice of Himself at Calvary and how faith in His Blood Sacrifice averts the wrath of God bringing about reconciliation with God, justification and adoption into God’s Forever Family. Free salvation by faith coupled to the need for holiness, blamelessness and sacrificial service are also not understood.
Thank You, Lord, that you grant understanding and that within the context of the Gospel, a soul surrenders to a lifetime of love and service to King Jesus Christ. Amen.