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God’s Word for You

Acts 8:5-8 Let me be there

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

5 Philip went down to a city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them.  6 And the crowds all paid close attention to him when they heard what he said and saw the signs he was doing.  7 For unclean spirits came out of many people who were possessed, crying with loud shrieks; and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.  8 So there was great joy in that city.

Since so many Christians from Jerusalem were driven away, especially, we presume, the Hellenistic or Greek Christians, there was no longer a need for the ministry of the seven men who had been chosen to assist the apostles. Stephen was martyred and buried, and now Philip left for the region of Samaria.

The city of Samaria is forty-two miles due north of Jerusalem. The city is located on a hill with a good view in all directions. It was first built as the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel by Omri (1 Kings 16:24). In the New Testament, the whole region that had once been Ephraim and Western Manasseh corresponds to “Samaria” in passages such as Luke 17:11; John 4:4-5, and the verses before us. The city of Samaria was renamed Sebaste (Greek for “Augustus”) in honor of Caesar. Since Luke says “a city of Samaria,” we should not assume that this was Samaria itself. It was probably another city in that region which Luke simply does not name.

Philip was performing miracles as well as preaching the gospel. The lame, the paralyzed, and even the demon-possessed were healed by this man. I have just presented these miracles in ascending order; for his own reasons, Luke lists them from seemingly greater to least. Perhaps Luke does this to emphasize the importance of every miracle and not just the “big” ones. Healing a bad fever is just as much a miracle as driving out a demon. Both miracles give God glory and attest to the truth of the message of the gospel.

The people of the city were excited to hear this message. They worshiped God, but they did this at their own temple on Mount Gerizim which had been expanded and beautified by Herod the Great in 30 BC. This temple is what the woman at the well was describing when she said to Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (John 4:20). To this, Jesus said, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know” (John 4:22). He had proclaimed the truth of who he was at that time, and now this city was still open to the Christians and to the arrival of Philip. The reaction was “great joy in that city.”

This phrase brings two things to mind. First, we are delighted that the gospel produced faith and joy, which we would expect. This delights our Father in heaven. But second, Luke’s words come almost directly from Jesus’ parable of the sower. Jesus said: “Those people who are on the rock are the ones who hear the word and receive it with joy, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away” (Luke 8:13). It is no sin to be new to the word of God, but the danger Jesus was warning about is that a new faith is a fragile faith. Those of us who have a tougher and more mature faith need to watch out for those who may need our help. Men with a mature faith need this caution: Not everyone needs us to solve their problems. Sometimes people, both men and women, just need someone to listen, and not someone to solve. Let the word of God do the labor and all of the heavy lifting. Olivia Newton-John was singing a secular love song, but her words still hold up:

    All I ask of you
    Is let me be there.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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