Come and See–sermon text version

fireworks1Imagine one single dandelion, white with its little helicopters just waiting to take off with the nearest breeze. Lawns and neighbors quake at the sight.

Imagine one person with the flu heading into your grocery store and walking up and down every aisle sneezing and touching everything he or she can find. Almost enough to make you not want to shop there until it’s been thoroughly disinfected.

Imagine one firework soaring high into the sky and exploding into a chrysanthemum so big it fills the entire night and makes everyone go


Those are the kinds of things that happen when…one…is scattered.

It is powerful and it brings about a response!

Now, if you take one church and send it out in scattered form with all its individuals preaching the word wherever they went like our Scriptures said last week and you know what? It’s a powerful thing!

Today, we’re continuing our adventures called the Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles by looking at…one…who was scattered.

This one wasn’t a top tier leader or one of the most powerful of the original disciples at first notice. But we should notice him more perhaps because he was a “Come and See” Disciple. Philip was the one chosen by Jesus and then John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote– Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathaniel responds in a negative fashion saying, John 1:46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.

Philip was going out…scattered…with the message “Come and see” long before he was scattered in persecution and went out as an evangelist with the simple message of Jesus. “Come and see,” Philip says.

The chapter of Acts that we’re looking at today has 3 basic vignettes, little scenes, like 3 acts in a play. All involve Philip going somewhere controversial with powerful results. I’d like to overview them first, kind of like it’s our trip itinerary and then I’ll go into detail.

  1. Philip is among the scattered and goes to Samaria—NOTE: unworthy Samaria–to preach the Word. It’s controversial to go there.
  2. Controversial scene 2 might be Philip is among the scattered and interacts with spiritual evil in the form of Simon the sorcerer whose motives are suspect. NOTE: he’s interacting with spiritual evil like New Age or Wicca or other religions would be in our day. Controversial!
  3. The final scene shows Philip being controversial by going to speak to the Ethiopian who was in a powerful and economic station above Philip and represented the ends of the earth as far as Philip knew. The Ethiopian was likely dark-skinned and Philip was Middle Eastern. The Ethiopian was an official with servants. Philip was just a regular guy. Our day of racial differences and economic injustices and even just economic differences, we look at Philip going to someone of a different race and station as somewhat controversial. It was no less controversial then.

Philip shares the gospel in all these controversial places.

Come and see Jesus, the One who breaks down all barriers of class and race and gender.

When is the last time you interacted with someone who not like yourself? Someone who doesn’t look like you…or think like you…or maybe someone whose socio-economic situation is not like yours?

It can be an uncomfortable experience, but that doesn’t make it wrong. It may be controversial, but one thing we all have in common is that we need Jesus.

Racine—at least from this outsider’s view—has pockets of different demographic categories. Each category seems to be an island unto itself with maybe a brave soul here or there that goes beyond the unspoken boundaries for sake of the Gospel. Maybe to hear it. Maybe to share it. I look at some of you and in my heart, I’m smiling. Because I know you’re here to come and see Jesus…even if on the surface you may be different than I am. I’m glad you’re here and I like that you’ve got a spirit that takes on a challenge.

fish shoalWhen Jesus calls us to be fishers of men, He doesn’t mean “keepers of the aquarium” who keep the pump and filter running and clean the algae and gunk off the walls and bottom of the tank.

Fishers of men go out and bring them in…often with no more complicated a message than “Come and See Jesus.”

We need to become scattered and hopefully it will not require persecution to get us to do it.

Hopefully, it’s more like those churches that have signs in the parking lot facing the church. “Your mission field starts here.” Outside the church.

Given the amount of text as we pick up our pace in Acts, I won’t read the entire passage of Acts 8, but I would encourage you to do so during the week. In fact, one of the reasons why I list next week’s preaching passage in the bulletin is so that you can read ahead and learn even more by priming the pump, so to speak.

When we last left off with our apostles, Stephen was dead, having been stoned to death for his angel face and powerful argument. Saul who is the same guy as the Apostle Paul—back when he was the arch-enemy of the Church—gave his approval to the angel-faced man being stoned to death. And then this evil Saul went from door to door in his fanatical desire to destroy the Church. He punished.   He imprisoned. He gave his approval and cast votes to have them killed. He was like ISIS in his obsession with killing Christians. He was like ISIS before ISIS was ISIS.

And so the Church scattered.

And they preached the Gospel wherever they went. Philip is a case in point. In Acts 8:4-6, Philip ends up in Samaria, which was a very controversial place to proclaim Christ. The Samaritans were viewed as low-lifes by faithful Jews and they’d go miles out of their way to avoid walking through Samaritan territory because they were viewed as “that bad!” When Jesus is talking with a 5x married Samaritan woman at a well in the middle of the day and turns her into an evangelist, Jesus raises more than a few eyebrows. Ill-repute, female, and Samaritan—that’s 3 strikes against her, but she goes back to her town and says, John 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” The Scriptures don’t say specifically that Philip was among the disciples in that story of John 4, but I wonder if Philip had been among those going into town to buy food and returned to see Jesus doing something controversial and the woman with her Come and see the Christ ministry prepared the way.

So when Philip is scattered, he goes to Samaria. Good enough for Jesus. Good enough for Philip and so he goes and proclaims the Christ. People believe. They pay close attention. They even see him doing miraculous signs and when they see the healing going on, there is great joy in the city.

Scattered Philip. Controversial Samaria. Proclaim the Christ. Healing and Joy abound!

Sometimes I get discouraged. I share the Good News a lot. I talk about Jesus and God never has given me the chance to pray with someone to receive Christ. I’m kind of like #24.

priestAt one point a young preacher went into a jail to do ministry and there was a hardened criminal there. The young preacher shared the Gospel with him and when the criminal prayed to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior, he turned to the young man and said, “Don’t go getting a big head. You’re number 25.” There were 24 others before him who prepared the way ahead of him.

I’m chronically #22-24.

Oh how I wish I were 25…in so many ways!

But Philip is #25 a lot with his Come and See Ministry in Controversial Places.

If Samaria with its low-lifes is controversial Place #1, Place #2 is with spiritual evil. This is not something I would recommend for those who are new believers in Jesus or whose knowledge of the Scriptures is spotty at best. Spiritual evil is nothing to mess with.

Chalk me up to being a total kook, but I remember a time when we lived in MN I went to a lecture on Intelligent Design. It was actually a debate between someone who was a well-known atheist and a guy who was fairly well-known for articulating Intelligent Design. I walked in to the lecture hall and had a really weird feeling. Being in a place with that many God-haters was strange. I felt oppressed. Sorry to say the Intelligent Design guy came across as far less intelligent compared to the godless wonder. I went home and took a shower because it felt like evil got into my skin. When I went to sleep that night I woke up in the middle of the night gasping for air and screaming which of course freaked my husband out. I told him that I could feel in my nightmare that demons were shoving plastic wrappings down my throat to silence me and to suffocate me. I was unable to breathe which is why I screamed. Really weird. I know. To this day, I strongly believe that the demonic can be on or in people and things. And that we go wrong by either believing there’s a devil under every rock or by diminishing spiritual evil to mere fantasy.

Philip, as a longtime disciple of Jesus and very familiar with the Scriptures, encounters Simon the sorcerer in Samaria. Simon was a showman and people loved to see his magic. But when Philip comes in performing actual miracles and preaching Christ, Simon only sees competition. So he watches the crowds who used to follow Simon as the “Great Power” now following Philip preaching the Christ and he wants his crowds back. He feels like if he can only harness the power that Philip has by believing and being baptized, if only he can purchase it with money, then he’ll get his crowds back.

Philip is preaching and baptizing in controversial Samaria with powerful results and the disciples Peter and John come to verify what’s going on. Lots of good and evidence that the Great Commission from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria is happening, but then there’s Simon.

It doesn’t take long for Philip and Peter and John to recognize a phony baloney plastic banana when they see one. What was the tell-tale sign with Simon? How can we tell he did not have a pure heart or motive?

Verse 19. Acts 8:19 [Simon] said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Wrong answer. You lose. Peter answers (v 20-23), “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

Acts 8:24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.”

Sorry. It needs to be Simon says. Peter praying isn’t going to do it. Simon, YOU need to repent. You need to pray. But Peter knows he’s too far gone. And we remember this story of Simon even if we never heard it by the existence of the word “simony” in our dictionary which refers to trying to buy forgiveness, benefits or religious office with money. And now you know!

Controversial Samaria. Controversial Simon. And now Philip is minding his own business, when he gets instruction. The spiritual realm not only contains evil, but praise God: It also contains good!! An angel of the Lord tells Philip “Go south…” And who does Philip see there? An official of the Ethiopians, an important official in charge of the treasury of Queen Candace. He was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah. Isn’t that what you’d do if you were sitting in your chariot?

Acts 8:27 b This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”

This is a good point for a time out. They were not of the same race, of the same station in life, nor were they equally educated. The Ethiopian was the superior and privileged in every way…every way except one. Well, maybe two. We’re told the Ethiopian was a eunuch and Philip would go on to have daughters so maybe that’s a privilege Philip had. But the more important way in which the Ethiopian eunuch was missing something is that he didn’t know Jesus. And Philip did.

Notice that Philip didn’t make the opportunity happen.

He was just obedient to whatever God wanted him to do.

The angel says Go here and Philip goes. The Spirit says Go there and stay near the chariot and Philip goes. God doesn’t require that we make opportunities happen, pounding on the doors of total strangers and saying I’m here to tell you about Jesus. Slam! Door!

Where God calls, He has also prepared the way. The chariot was where it needed to be. The Ethiopian was reading about the Suffering Servant in Isaiah and was mulling over how it really didn’t compute. Philip had the key to understanding.

So Philip launches out of that and into a Come and See discussion and was clearly #25 and miraculously sees some water and at the suggestion of the Ethiopian, baptizes him.

And to conclude this bizarre story, Philip after coming up out of the water, Philip disappears. Poof! He vanishes. The Spirit of the Lord took Philip away only to have him show up at Azotus where he did more “Come and See” Ministry.

So what do I want you to take home from all this?

  1. Be willing to associate with people not like yourself. Today’s prejudged low-life is tomorrow’s forgiven brother or sister in Christ. Sure, it can be frightening moving out of our comfort zones. Sure, we might feel like we have nothing in common with them, but your mission field starts at the end of Plymouth’s property line and the neighboring community needs your Come and See ministry as much as anyone else.  I’m sure I’m somebody’s lowlife and I’m glad the ground is level at the foot of the Cross.
  2. Be careful when dealing with other religions and spiritual evils. It’s not for the novice or the faint-hearted. You can get yourself in a lot of trouble and spiritual danger. But if God allows you to come into contact with it, stick to the topic of Jesus and His Come and See Ministry and God will protect you. These people need Jesus too.
  3. Be aware also of the dangers of money and the desire to let money influence what we do. In the eyes of the Lord, money is useful for us so long as we don’t let it change us our Come and See Jesus Ministry to come and see dollar $ign$.
  4. We also need to be willing to let junior members like Philip be free to engage in new ways and controversial places of ministry even while senior members of spiritual maturity verify like Peter and John did. New ways aren’t automatically wrong. Churches that desire to remain in the 1700s will remain in the 1700s. New days require new means of reaching people in their own context. It’s like the Ethiopian needed context to understand. So do younger people who are the Church’s next generation. Without giving them a way of understanding and saying instead “No, you must come to the 1700s!” that church will never grow. We must follow the Spirit of God when He says “Go to the chariot and stay near.” Our worship services and our outreach must appeal first to visitors and our community and not demand that they come to our way of doing things.
  5. And finally, a word about prejudice. Leave the judging to God. Unless your job is as a judge. In which case, listen first to learn…which is what good judges do. Listen to the facts before arriving at a judgment. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” For all of us, take the time to learn from others without judging who they are or where they come from. Be willing to bring the Gospel to meet them where they are with all their life’s baggage. I have a difficult time with Christians who are their racial or economic identity first and Christian second. The blood of Christ is thicker than the blood of race or riches. To discriminate against someone because you believe they are more privileged than you or are less worthy than you are parallel evils. Leave the judging to God and just stick to the Come and See Jesus Ministry.

The world is filled with people who need to know Jesus. Some are in controversial places. Some are in our families and talking about Jesus with them is controversial and uncomfortable. Just remember that sometimes all we need to do is to say “Come and See” even when someone’s prejudice says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” When we wonder if anything good can come out of going into Samaria? Or interacting with those practicing atheism and New Age religion? Or can anything good come out of talking to someone who is black or white or female or male or divorced or in prison or on drugs or homeless or in prostitution?

It’s remarkably simple: Come and See Jesus. And yes, come just as you are. Let’s pray.

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on April 21, 2015

Social Networks: RSS Facebook Twitter Google Stumble Upon Digg Reddit

Leave a Reply