Reader: “May your money be destroyed with you”
Response: “for thinking God’s gift can be bought!”
Scripture: Acts 8:9-25
A man named Simon had been a sorcerer there for many years, amazing the people of Samaria and claiming to be someone great. Everyone, from the least to the greatest, often spoke of him as “the Great One—the Power of God.” They listened closely to him because for a long time he had astounded them with his magic.
But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized. Then Simon himself believed and was baptized. He began following Philip wherever he went, and he was amazed by the signs and great miracles Philip performed.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!”
But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”
“Pray to the Lord for me,” Simon exclaimed, “that these terrible things you’ve said won’t happen to me!”
After testifying and preaching the word of the Lord in Samaria, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem. And they stopped in many Samaritan villages along the way to preach the Good News.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Let’s stay with Philip another day and look at the passage that follows yesterday’s reading. Luke writes that Simon was a sorcerer. A sorcerer was a kind of flashy showman who was not quite above board. Magic, trickery, astrology, divination, fortune telling, and interpreting dreams were the fields of operation for such a person. And such was Simon. In addition, he had an exalted view of himself and a large and devoted following. His magical powers mesmerized the people who looked on him with awe. In a nutshell, Simon was all about Simon!
Then came Philip the Evangelist speaking the truth of God’s Kingdom, of Jesus Christ, and doing Holy Spirit-empowered genuine miracles. (You will notice that every miracle in the Bible, was never done for the effect or the “wow” factor, but rather to point to God’s power, God’s control, God’s Son, God’s provision, and so forth. It was never done for its own sake.) Many people responded to Philip’s preaching and were baptized. It is interesting to me that Simon, who dealt in the false world of a charlatan, recognized the truth when he ran into it. It may have been as simply as “This guy is better than me. I’m going to follow him and see how he’s pulling this off.” At any rate, he went through with the baptism and tailed Philip wherever he went. In his view, Philip had raised the miracle standards and had to find out how he did this.
The next part of the passage tells us a little bit about the fledgling Christian church. The disciples in Jerusalem heard about Philip’s success in Samaria and so two of the top leaders, Peter and John, went to Samaria to see for themselves what was happening and to pray that the new believers would receive the Holy Spirit. There is a most significant point being made here. Those people who had been baptized had been so in the name of the Lord Jesus―only. You’ll recall Jesus’ words at the end of the gospel of Matthew, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” ―one name, triune God. So Peter and John laid hands on the new converts who then received the Holy Spirit.
In seeing this happen before his eyes, Simon saw the source of the power that Philip had been exhibiting. Here was that same power again with Peter and John. He had finally found it! What would a person like Simon do? Offer money for the power. People give money for power, then and now. Simon, however, had run into Peter who spoke the truest words Simon had ever heard, “You are full of jealousy and are held captive by sin. Repent.” With careful reading it is not clear that Simon did in fact repent. He seemed more interested in avoiding the terrible consequences Peter had predicted than in changing his crooked ways.
The unfolding, growing, fledgling church was moving into new territories. Whereas, the Samaritans were the much hated half-breed Jews, during Jesus’ time, his encounter with the woman at the well and now, Peter and John coming to Samaria and preaching in various villages, was an astounding turnaround! The gospel was extended to all peoples. We must never assume that people who live in very “un-Christian” worlds are not interested in the truth. All people are searching. We must not be shy in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
Music: “Children Go Where I Send Thee” Spelman College Glee Club WOW!
God the Father, hidden in glory, we thank you that you have chosen to reveal yourself to us who, by ourselves, cannot find you. We thank you for Jesus Christ your Son, who came to reveal your love and to seek and to save the lost. Grant that we who have been found might with diligence speak forth your word to those who are still searching. May your love be evident in our demeanor, our words, and in our care and concern for others. We thank you for the work of the Holy Spirit, enabling your Church in all ages to grasp the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love and to worship you in the majesty of your being, one God in three Persons. ―Prayers for Sunday Services, p.108, adapted Daniel Sharp