Acts 8:26-40

Do you like reading books? I hope you do. But if you do, has anyone ever told you that reading books can be dangerous?

Well, obviously, in the past, people have got themselves into trouble because they’ve tried to read the wrong books—books that have been banned because they were considered “dangerous” for political, cultural or other reasons. But that is not the only reason that books can be dangerous. Because books can be a challenge to one’s lifestyle and one’s whole way of thinking too.

Take the story of an important official, traveling from Jerusalem to his home in Ethiopia—a distance of at least 2,500 kilometres. Now he was probably in a covered wagon drawn by oxen, and in need of something to pass away the time. So, what was he doing? He was reading a book. But not just any book, but one of the books of the Old Testament—the book of the prophet Isaiah. And although we don’t know how much of the book that he had read, we do know that he had read the part of the book that foretold the crucifixion of Jesus.

And what was the official’s response to what he read? Well he not only wanted someone to clarify what it meant—and Philip described Jesus sacrificing himself for the benefit of others—but he then insisted on being baptized. Talk about books being life changing.

Now the Christian faith teaches that only those who have lived perfect lives, who have not made one mistake, will inherit eternal life—which doesn’t sound too good for us. And, yet, the Christian faith also teaches that to get around this problem, God sent his Son to pay the price for our mistakes, so that those who believe in him can have their mistakes wiped clean.

And that is what the Ethiopian Eunuch finally understood as he read from the prophet Isaiah, as he talked to Philip, and as he stopped his wagon in order to be baptised. He understood that baptism was about acknowledging that we are totally dependent upon God for our eternal welfare, and that we need our record of mistakes washed clean.

Reading books, then, can not only be dangerous, but life changing. And there can be no more dangerous book to read than the bible—the handbook of the Christian faith. It certainly made a difference to the Ethiopian eunuch, and it should make a difference to us too.

Posted: 30th June 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis