And he [Philip] rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. (Acts 8:27-28)
I had the distinct privilege of studying the Bible with some fifth graders this weekend. Our passage for exploration was the account of the Holy Spirit bringing Philip, the deacon, to an Ethiopian Eunuch. Each student took turns reading a verse at a time and inevitably struggled each time with the word “eunuch”. Once it was pronounced “eench”; another time “unch”; and a third time simply “ee-nutch”. All completely understandable and probably a mistake that even some adults would make because we so rarely use the word. My all time favorite pronunciation, however, was “unicorn”!
I had to fight back a giggle as I thought about what these youngsters were probably imagining. An Ethiopian Unicorn! A mythic creature that has adorned the walls of little girls’ rooms for years. In my mind’s eye, I see Philip, sent by the Holy Spirit, walking up to a chariot. With much surprise imprinted upon his face at the sight of a unicorn seated in a chariot, Philip proceeds to unpack all of Holy Scripture for him. There, on the road from Jerusalem to Ethiopia, Philip walked down to the river to Baptize the Ethiopian Unicorn! What a sight! What an imagination! What a fun group of kids we have!
I wonder how often we sit down to read the Bible, only to find ourselves having difficulty understanding. Think about it this way, Luke would not have included the point that the Ethiopian man was a eunuch unless it was important in understanding what was happening. The fact that this man was a eunuch at the time of the New Testament tells us some things about him. First, he had a prestigious place within the court of the Queen of Ethiopia. Having undergone castration, he was welcome in the presence of the queen, likely alone. This means he had the ear of the most influential person in the entire region!
Put this information now into the context of the story and all of a sudden it makes tremendous sense why the Holy Spirit would send his servant Philip not to a unicorn of Ethiopia, but to this highly prominent eunuch. Philip had the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with this man, who in turn shared the same Gospel with a nation through the queen!
Stories such as these are important because they demonstrate to us the great lengths the Lord will go in order to bring the wonderful message of salvation to the entire world! Jesus Christ came not for one people, but for all people! He came for you and me. Just as the message of freedom in Christ came to the Ethiopians through word of mouth, so has the report of Jesus’ resurrection spread to our neck of the woods.
To the chagrin of our fifth graders, there is no such thing as an Ethiopian Unicorn. But there was a high-ranking eunuch who became a Christian and shared the message of love and forgiveness in Christ with his people!
Dear Jesus, thank you for calling to faith an Ethiopian Eunuch, along with countless other men, women, and children throughout history. Thank you for calling me to faith! Amen.