The church should be woke because Jesus was woke.
As I mentioned in the previous post, in the section of Acts we’re studying this week, Acts 8:4-40, we meet a man who had some fascinating encounters as he preached Jesus along the way, and his name was Philip. Today we’re going to learn how Jesus’ example and teaching of wokeness impacted Philip.
There was also a disciple of Jesus named Philip, but the Philip we read about here in Acts 8 is not one of the disciples. The Philip is Acts 8 a different man with the same name. He is Philip the deacon, sometimes called Philip the evangelist. Look back at Acts 6:5, and you’ll see that this Philip was one of the seven men chosen as a deacon or servant to help with the food distribution problem. Just as Stephen, who we studied last week, was not chosen because he was certified for handling food distribution, but for his maturity in Christ, Philip was also chosen because of his character, wisdom and example. Also just like Stephen, we’re going to see that Philip declared the good news about Jesus in word and deed. We’re also going to see how the Holy Spirit helped Philip get woke! (What is “wokeness”? Pause here and read the previous post to learn more.)
If you’d like, read Acts 8:5-8. To summarize it for you, Philip goes to an unnamed city in Samaria, proclaiming the good news about Jesus and doing miracles (exorcisms and healings), and a crowd formed.
There is so much of interest in these first few verses. First of all, Philip goes to Samaria, which was a major step, considering the animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus had not only told the disciples that they were to be his witnesses in Samaria, but also Jesus himself had gone there to minister many times, which was a radical move showing God’s heart.
This was such a radical move because the Jews and Samaritans hated each other for centuries. The history of their ethnic segregation goes back to the time when the nation of Israel had been divided in two, with the Kingdom of Israel in the north, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. Samaria was the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and Jerusalem was the capital of the southern Kingdom. As time went by, some Jews from the North intermarried with people from surrounding nations, creating a new ethnic group, the Samaritans, and by the time of Jesus and the early church, Samaria was a large territory right in the middle of the nation. Through the years, the Jews considered Samaritans impure and, because the Samaritans practiced an altered version of the OT Law, which the Jews considered a polluted version, they discriminated against the Samaritans.
Jews and Samaritans even led guerrilla or terrorist attacks against each other’s holy places over the years. They hated each other. So when Jesus ministered in Samaritan towns, it was a radical move toward ethnic and racial integration – towards love being shown to all people. His parable of the Good Samaritan was another example of how Jesus showed us God’s heart for all people. Now a few years later, Philip went to Samaria, and once again we learn that Christians are called to break racial, ethnic, and culture barriers for the mission of the Kingdom. God loves all. All are made in his image. Just as Jesus had been woke, embracing racial or ethnic diversity, so Philip was as well.
Keep that thought in mind, and take notice of the flow of activity through Philip’s combo of preaching the Gospel in both word and deed. The people: 1. Saw his miracles, 2. Paid close attention to what he said, 3. Many were healed, and 4. There was great joy.
The miracles caused people to pay attention to what Philip said, and gave them great joy, as of course there would be when people are getting healed and freed from oppression. What we see thus far from Philip was clearly a demonstration of the deeds of the gospel. Healings and exorcisms are signs of the Kingdom of God having victory over the forces of darkness. God’s Kingdom was at work here. Obviously through Philip’s ministry we see the deeds of the Gospel, but what about the words of the Gospel? Did the people decide to choose Christ as the one they wanted to live their lives following?
The author, Luke, doesn’t tell us just yet. Instead he reveals to us that someone in those crowds in Samaria has been watching Philip’s ministry very intently. Was it Saul, who had been rounding up the Christians and throwing them in jail? No. Was it one of Saul’s henchmen, there to spy on the Christian movement? No. It was a guy named Simon, who was a sorcerer! It is not often in the Bible that something like sorcery occurs, especially in the New Testament, so what is going on here?
Check back to the next post to learn more!