Jump Start # 2879
Acts 8:26 “But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road).”
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I took the trip of a lifetime. We went to Israel. Some call it the “Holy lands.” Others refer to it as the Bible lands. Some vacations bring rest. Some bring excitement. This trip brought a depth to our understanding and our hearts. For the next several Jump Starts I want to share some reflections from our journey to Israel. As one of our guides expressed so well, the trip didn’t change how we viewed the Bible, but what it did was add color to what we already knew. To be on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, knowing that it was on that very sea that Jesus calmed a storm, told the disciples to lower their nets and they caught an incredible amount of fish is amazing. Seeing the cove where Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, the area where the demons entered the pigs and they rushed into the sea and realizing that 70% of Jesus’ ministry was based upon that one small area was truly amazing.
Since the covid pandemic we were one of the first tour groups back in Israel. Nearly every place we visited, we were the only ones there. Over and over we were told that normally there is more than an hour wait to get to some of the sights. For us, we walked right up with no one around but us. Shop owners and cafes and restaurants were so happy to see us. They took pictures of us and their infectious smiles touched our hearts.
The trip we took was with our brother in Christ, Barry Brittnell, as the tour guide. Many will recognized him from the Appian media films. If I was going to Israel, it would be with Barry. Powerful knowledge and insights. He knows the area, he understands the culture and he knows the word of God. With Barry was our local guide, Gus. Gus is great. I called him the ‘rock star.’ As we would be walking down a sidewalk, a car would stop, a driver would hop out and shake Gus’ hand. Everyone knew Gus and he knew the area. Kind, knowledgeable, and very protective of the twenty in our group. “Were you scared to be there?” some have asked. Not once. We were very safe and Gus and Barry watched over us like mother hens.
Ten days in Israel. Dan to Beersheba. Jerusalem. Jericho. Mt. Carmel. The valley where David fought Goliath. Capernaum. Bethlehem. Caesarea. Megiddo. Masada. Qumran. The Israeli museum. We stood in the remains of hilltop fortresses. He visited a first century synagogue, likely where Jesus taught. We were in the garden of Gethsemane. We saw the remains of Caiaphas’ home. We went down to the dungeon were Jesus likely was held. We walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel. We saw the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. We saw what a first century tomb would have looked like. We picked up rocks from the brook where David would have gathered his five stones as he went to meet Goliath. We saw valleys where Abraham walked through and where Gideon’s armies marched. We saw mountains where Moses would have been. So much history. So much Bible. As we worshipped one Sunday, we sang “Higher ground,” from the lowest place on the earth, the Dead Sea. Up early every morning and busy seeing things every day, indeed it was a trip of a lifetime.
One of the things that made an impression upon me was how small the sea of Galilee is. One can see across it. In my mind I thought it was much larger, like Lake Michigan. But, it’s not. And in one bay or cove, Jesus did so much of his teaching. And, all around the Sea of Galilee were small villages. This is where the people came from to hear Jesus. Common folks. Fishing communities. Hard working people. Lovers of God. These small communities were missing the massive crowds and the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem.
And, what a thought this is for us. Most of the Lord’s teachings was around the Sea of Galilee and among simple people. One would expect if Jesus really wanted to make a big splash in the world that He’d head to Rome, the capitol of the empire or at least spend most of His days in Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish faith. Instead, He remained around the small villages of Galilee.
Our verse today, which leads into the conversion of the Ethiopian illustrates this same principle that every person is valuable to God. Philip had been in Samaria preaching. Great crowds and great results. The word of God was growing quickly among the Samaritans. Yet, God pulled Philip away from that and had him go to a deserted road to talk to one person, the Ethiopian. The Ethiopian was as important as the Samaritans.
I’m thankful for this example. Sadly, I think I’d tell the Ethiopian that I was too busy to come meet him. Or, I would tell him to come up to Samaria. The work was exploding in Samaria and the Ethiopian was just one person. But that is not what happened.
Some lessons for us:
First, the Sunday sermon is heard by many people, but the Monday morning one on one conversation with one person can be more effective and do more good. There is a balance that one must see. Preaching to hundreds is important. It takes time to make a sermon right. But that face-to-face, one on one, conversation, where questions can be asked and one can say things freely and time can be devoted to looking up passages is hugely important. They are both important.
Second, some may feel that they are taking up valuable time that a busy preacher or shepherd has so little of. But actually they are not. It was important for Philip to sit in that chariot with the Ethiopian. It was important for the Ethiopian to have his questions answered. Certainly Philip was busy. But talking to the Ethiopian was just as important. One never bothers a busy Christian with a question to be answered or an ear to talk to.
Third, Jesus came for people just like you and I. We may walk down the street and no one recognizes us. We may have people mispronounce our names. We may feel like others are too busy for us, but God never is. Where did Jesus spend most of His time? Not in the big cities. Not with the movers and shakers of His time. Not with names that everyone knew. No, Jesus was with ordinary people, just like you and I. And, it was those ordinary people, who first believed in the Lord and who became the early backbone of those young congregations. I saw this recently in a place where I was a guest speaker. Moms and dads entering the building with little ones. Some old ones’ with walkers and canes. People that looked like they just got off of work. Families. Singles. Just a room filled with everyday people. No limos parked out front. No TV cameras waiting to catch a few faces. No red carpet. Common people who had a love for the Lord and a faith that could conquer kingdoms.
Around Galilee…around your town…around your neighborhood. Jesus loved each of them and is wanting to change each of them into His disciples.