A few years ago I visited King of Kings Community in Jerusalem (www.kkcj.org) during a trip to meet with international churches in Israel and Lebanon. At that church I met with Missions Pastor named Phil from New Zealand. This guy had some amazing stories to tell how God had used him in some real divine appointments. During the service I attended, he shared this testimony:
One day as Phil was praying for North Africa, considering if they should start a work there, he strongly felt the Holy Spirit saying that he should go book a ticket and fly there. He didn’t know clearly why or had any meetings lined up, just this sense that he should obey and go. With the approval of Wayne, the lead pastor, Phil bought a ticket to Cairo and left for Ben Gurion airport. To his pleasant surprise, his flight was full and his seat was upgraded to first class. That was a good start!
A little under dressed, Phil took his seat next to a suited up African man looking all business like. Soon after the plane had taken off, Phil noticed this man taking a brand new Bible from his briefcase, opening it up to somewhere in the middle, and start mumbling the words he was reading! That didn’t last long, though, because the man was shaking his head and put his Bible down. Clearly something was going on and it seemed that perhaps God had planned for Phil to meet this guy.
Like a good Kiwi, Phil took the direct approach and introduced himself to the man. The man in the suit told him his name (I can’t remember, some complicated African name) and said he was from Ethiopian. After some chit chat Phil learned that his new friend was in fact the Minister of Finance who directly reported to the Queen! Asking about family, the man said he didn’t have any family because his job wouldn’t allow for it. (Actually, Phil explained he heard stories that whoever works for the Queen of Ethiopia had to undergo surgery to ensure they couldn’t have a family! That way they’d be sure they wouldn’t have any issues with inappropriate relationships in the Royal family!)
Phil told the man that he is a pastor in Jerusalem and couldn’t help but see him reading the Bible. Did he understand what he was reading, Phil asked. The Ethiopian said he was really confused. He had journeyed to Jerusalem because he believed in the God and wanted to worship him there, but visiting the sites and shrines had only caused greater confusion. At one of the many chapels he had picked up this Bible, hoping to learn more about God, but it didn’t make much sense. He had opened it to the middle and it all seemed like riddles to him, in particular the passage he was just reading:
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
It said that the author was the prophet Isaiah, but he couldn’t figure out if he was writing about himself or about someone else. So, taking this divine opportunity, Phil started to explain from this passage about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since the flight was only one hour, Phil also quickly told the Ethiopian man about baptism, that all those who believe in Jesus and want to follow Him are dunked under water as a symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection and as a cleansing of their old life and rising up to start a new life. The Holy Spirit was so powerfully at work in this man’s heart that he immediately responded, “What can keep me from being baptized? I’m staying overnight at the Marriott in Cairo. Would you baptize me there?”
Phil couldn’t think of a reason not to baptize this man. In fact, he believed that this was exactly why God had told him to book this flight! So, going to the hotel, Phil baptized this man in the bathtub of his executive suite. Then the most amazing thing happened: as the man rose from the water laughing and shouting praises, Phil suddenly found himself back at home in Jerusalem! It was as if God had just beamed him up and transported him back to Israel!
I’ve heard a story before of this happening to an evangelist in Africa, but this was the first time I heard it from someone first person. It happened just like the story in the book of Acts chapter 8. O wait, this is the same story, I just put it into modern context and made up the parts about Pastor Phil (though I did visit that church). 🙂
But let’s say something like this were to happen to you, sitting next to someone in a plane who is reading the Bible and has questions about Jesus and why it is that He had to die. How would you explain it? Could you explain it? Do you want to know how to explain it?
Acts 8 doesn’t tell us how Philip explained the Good News about Jesus from this passage in Isaiah 53:7-9. Actually, I often wonder how they did this! The NT has several statements like this:
- and then Jesus explained about his suffering and resurrection starting with Moses and the prophets
- and then Paul told them about the Kingdom of God from the book of Moses and the prophets
- and then Apollos debated with the Jews from Scripture that Jesus is the Messiah
But none of these passages tell us how they did that! Wouldn’t you want to know and learn how? This is how I imagine Pastor Phil (or Philip) would have explained Isa. 53 to the Ethiopian Minister of Finance while seated next to him on his journey home…
By Jacob Bloemberg
PS: Although I did visit KKCJ, the rest of the story is just a modern twist on Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch!