God’s Word for You
Acts 8:32-35 That very passage of Scripture
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 20, 2020
32 Now the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading was this:
‘He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was denied justice.
Of his generation who will speak?
For his life is taken from the earth.’
34 The eunuch went on, saying to Philip, “I ask you, who is the prophet talking about—himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip spoke. Beginning with that very passage of Scripture, he told him the good news about Jesus.
The answer to the eunuch’s question, “Is it the prophet, or someone else?” is only a simple answer when one believes in Christ. Doctoral dissertations have been attempted on this question that failed completely. But a Sunday school child can answer: It was the Lord Jesus that Isaiah was talking about. The passage was Isaiah 53:7-8. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed God’s word to God’s people for sixty years or more (ca. 740-680 BC), and the great second part of his book, chapters 40-66, is a gospel proclamation about the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. Isaiah calls him the Servant of God (Isaiah 42:1, 49:5, 50:10, 53:11), and he describes the suffering of his servant in chapter 53.
Speaking from the perspective of a man who knew the gospel and the fulfillment of the prophecy, Stephen was easily able to explain about Jesus being led without resisting from his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane to the courts of the high priest and the governor. He explained Jesus’ silence toward his accusers (“he does not open his mouth”), and that Isaiah also used the same language as John the Baptist to describe Jesus as the sacrificial lamb for man’s sins: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Stephen explained that Jesus was denied justice; that Pontius Pilate actually declared him to be innocent three times over: “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:38), “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:4), and “As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 19:6). Even so, the Jews insisted that he be crucified anyway.
The second line of verse 33 is the second line of Isaiah 53:8, “Of (or “about”) his generation who will speak?” Either this is a comment about the vast, uncountable size of his “generation” (those who believe in him), or else it is one of two questions:
a, “Who from within his generation lamented his suffering?” or,
b, “Who from his generation gave a thought to his suffering?”
Each is a correct thought; each fits the text. Luther, with typical brilliance, has the insight to see that such a verse can point two ways at once that appear to be contrary: “Someone dying and yet enduring forever.”
The translation (the eunuch was reading the Greek Septuagint, not a Hebrew text) says: “In his humiliation….” Paul used similar language when he summarized the work of Christ: “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place” (Philippians 2:8-9). It is from these and other passages that we describe Jesus in two states during his lifetime: His humiliation and his exaltation. In his humiliation he gave up the full use of his glory, setting aside the full use of his power as God. He did this in order to be able to be put to death, in order to redeem us. In his exaltation, he took up his full power and glory once again, beginning with his descent into hell to proclaim his victory over the devil (Colossians 2:15; 1 Peter 3:19; cp. Jeremiah 50:31-32).
Philip explained how Jesus alone fulfilled all the prophecies about the Messiah in the Scriptures. No one else ever did so, and no one else ever can. I pray that any of us would have done as Philip did, and pointed the man to Christ. Faithful Christians in our generation are often timid. There are lots of people who are argumentative, opinionated, quick to judge, and quick to lash out—but even people who are hard to talk to need to hear the gospel. Pray for patience and strength when the moment comes, and remember that the Holy Spirit will give you what to say (Mark13:11). Most often, the words are something we heard only the Sunday before, which is one of a thousand good reasons to keep going to church week after week, without fail.
Pastor Timothy Smith