4/25/16 A Messiah For The Samaritans

map jerusalem to samaria

After much prayer, some of the apostles decide to leave Jerusalem as well.  They want to travel to other cities and make sure that Jesus’ message is being taught correctly.  Some of the believers who have just fled the community in Jerusalem are brand new to this faith, and may not have all the right information to pass on.  Guided by the Holy Spirit, Philip travels to Samaria.  He begins to share Jesus’ message with the people there, heals those who are sick, and frees many from spiritual bondage by demons, the demons protesting in loud voices as they are driven out.  It seems that the threat against the church is working to their advantage, because all the scattered believers are spreading the word everywhere they go, reaching many more people than they did in Jerusalem.  The people of Samaria who listen to Philip and see the miracles he performs eagerly accept the gift Jesus offers.  In great joy, most of the people of the city are baptized.  One man in the city, however, is not overjoyed by all that is happening to the citizens.  His name is Simon, and he has been the great sorcerer of the city.  His amazing feats have made him famous, and revered by everyone in the city as a holy man of God.  But it isn’t God who gives Simon his abilities.  Simon, clouded by jealousy, does not hear the words Philip preaches.  He only sees the people turning from him to revere a new man.  “I will say that I believe as well, and be baptized.  Then maybe some of this new power will be mine and I can regain the admiration of the people,” Simon tells himself.  And so the man professes his faith in Jesus and is baptized.  The people are very excited at this, still believing Simon to be a holy man.  Word spreads quickly through the city and beyond, even reaching Jerusalem and the apostles there, that the people of Samaria have accepted Jesus’ gift of payment for their sins.  Peter and John decide to go personally and visit with these new believers.  They travel to Samaria and celebrate with the people, but quickly learn that they have not yet received the Holy Spirit.  So Peter and John, together with Philip, lay their hands upon the heads of the people and pray over them, asking God to send the Holy Spirit to them.  As joyful as the new believers were upon being baptized into the family of the Messiah, the gift of the Holy Spirit only increases that joy.  Simon, watching from the wings, sees the opportunity he has been waiting for.  “Ah, so it’s this Holy Spirit that gives them power,” he thinks.  He walks boldly up to the apostles and says, “Gentlemen, what sum would you accept to impart this Holy Spirit to me?  I would like to be able to call the Holy Spirit to others who request it of me by laying my hands on them as you have done with my fellow citizens.”  Peter straightens up and assesses this man.  “Sir, the gift of the Holy Spirit is just that, a gift.  It cannot be bought.  And if this is how you view the gift given to you when you accepted Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins, then you have not been saved, because you have not been honest.  If you are seeking to profit from salvation, then may you die with your money!  If you have any hope of saving your own life, you had better change your heart, turn away from your wicked desires, and plead with God to forgive you!  Your heart is poisoned by greed and dishonesty.”  Simon, a bit taken aback by Peter’s blunt and forceful reply, stands there speechless for a moment.  When he finally comes to his senses, he falls to his knees, takes Peter’s hand in his, and says, “Please, pray for me.  I am everything you said, and I don’t want to die in my sins.  Will you ask God to forgive me?”  Peter does just that, because he knows that Jesus is willing to forgive any sin if the person repents of it and humbly asks for forgiveness.  Peter, John, and Philip remain in the city for a few days, teaching the people, then travel on to other Samaritan villages, spreading Jesus’ message, healing, and releasing people from demons.

 

Acts 8:4-25, https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/files/2011/08/map-40-01.jpg

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