Another of Luke’s themes that we find in this weeks story is witness. Philip takes the passage from Isaiah that Simeon, the Ethiopian Eunuch is reading, and tells him ‘the good news about Jesus.’
Two weeks ago I wrote about the challenge of the idea of witness. We so often assume that to witness, to evangelize means to knock on doors, pass out pamphlets, or convince people of their sin, that we avoid the whole idea of being a witness altogether. But this weeks story brings us back once again to the assumption that those who follow Christ will indeed tell others about Christ. But how exactly do we do that?
There are a couple of aspects of being a witness for Christ in this story that are potentially challenging or us. Simeon connects to a passage in Isaiah, but doesn’t understand it. Philip arrives and helps him to understand cognitively why he connected to the passage intuitively. But some if not many of us, may not feel qualified to explain the scriptures to folks. It is difficult for adults to try to lean a new skill. We find experiencing a deficiency of skill unpleasant and so avoid it. Still, interpreting and applying scripture to life is a skill that we can learn and develop and it was a key aspect of Philip’s connection to Simeon. Another aspect of this story is that Philip could tell the story of Jesus to Simeon. Even those of us who have attended church all our lives may find summarizing the life of Jesus and its importance to us difficult, for many of the same reasons I have already mentioned. As I read this, I hear Philip simply sharing with Simeon what it is about Jesus that impacts Philip’s life and may impact positively Simeon’s. What is is that is important to you about the life of Jesus? How might his life connect to the experiences of people that you know?
Finally, and this is actually where I think we need to begin learning how to be witnesses, Philip listens to Simeon. As Simeon asks about the passage from Isaiah, in which God’s chosen is described as humiliated, I believe that Philip heard Simeon sharing his own experience. We have for so long focused on witnessing to others about Christ as telling the story of Jesus and explaining the Bible, that we have forgotten the importance of listening. Philip is able to tell Simeon about Jesus and explain the Bible to him, because first he listened. And that just may be a way for us to gain confidence in our ability to share the good news with others. Start by listening to the hopes and dreams, the discouragements and defeats, the doubts and fears of others. Just listen and let them know you care.
(To understand a bit better why I think Philip begins by listening to Simeon and also why Simeon identifies with the scripture passage from Isaiah, follow this link to Sunday's Sermon)