Theological reflection on the sufferings of Jesus may well begin with that scene in the Acts of the Apostles where Philip overhears the pilgrim from Ethiopia reading the Book of Isaiah. The passage that the pilgrim read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;/ And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,/ So he opened not his mouth./ In his humiliation his justice was taken away,/ And who will declare his generation?/ For his life is taken from the earth.”
The reader inquires of Philip, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then, says the Sacred Text, “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.”
It is surely instructive to observe that Philip, in preaching the gospel to the Ethiopian inquirer, begins with the sufferings of Jesus, the Word of the Cross. He speaks of the Lord as the Lamb of God, humiliated and slain for the sins of the world. Perhaps we may say that Philip, in his ministry to this man, was determined to know nothing but Jesus and him crucified. To this powerful man from the royal court of Ethiopia, Philip preached the weakness of God, which is stronger than men. With this cultured visitor from afar, he shared the foolishness of God, which is wiser than men.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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