Confronting Our Own Samaritans

Acts 8:4-25

The persecution the followers of Jesus faced was why the Gospel spread beyond Jerusalem! While it is never God’s will that anyone commits a sin, the sin of murder that the Sanhedrin committed against Stephen began the spread of the Gospel into Samaria. Of course, we remember Jesus’ last documented words from Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The apostles and new disciples had made a massive impact in Jerusalem and Judea, leading thousands into faith and a personal relationship with Jesus. They had faced opposition from Jewish leaders, but regular citizens were receptive to what they were saying. Or, at least, they weren’t against them. The favor the ordinary citizenry had for them continued. But, with the false accusations against, and the stoning of Stephen, that was changing.

Philip, who, along with Stephen, had been chosen to help with the administration tasks of the believers, went to Samaria.

Samaria was north of Jerusalem and south of Galilee, and we know that Jesus and His followers made several trips through Samaria. We know about the good Samaritan, and the woman Jesus met at the well was a Samaritan. We know that the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t get along. But why didn’t they get along?

Samaritans and Jews had a lot in common. They both believed that they, as descendants of Abraham, were God’s chosen people. As such, they both worshiped the one true God. They both acknowledged Moses as the prophet who received God’s law. But the similarities were not enough for the two peoples to forget centuries of differences and animosity.

The fourth chapter of Ezra tells us that after the Babylonian exile, the Samaritans were anxious to help rebuild the temple, but the Jews rejected their help. This rejection caused a complete split between the two. After this, the Samaritans did everything they could to slow the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. When the daughter of the governor of Samaria married the grandson of the high priest, Nehemiah made them leave Jerusalem. The governor, who worshiped Yahweh, built a temple on Mount Gerizim, which became the place where Samaritans worshiped.

The animosity between the two peoples was enormous and seemingly, insurmountable. This is why the parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well was so radical and why the Jewish leaders condemned them.

But the third place that Jesus said to take the Gospel was Samaria, and Philip, a Hellenistic Jew, went. While his Hellenistic upbringing made Philip more open to other cultures, he was still a Jew who would have realized that he was going to a place where Jews were not accepted. But he went because Jesus said to go.

Who are the Samaritans in your life? 

Everyone who is welcome at Christ’s table should be welcome at our own.

Sermon Audio

Sunday, September 18
Acts 8:4

“Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”

Lord, your word is right, and you are faithful in everything! (Psalm 33-4) You use everything that we go through to further your kingdom. Forgive us when we focus more on our problems than your plan. Help us speak of your greatness even as we go through troubles. May everything we go through bring us closer to you, and may all we say and do glorify you. In the name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.

Monday, September 19
Acts 8:5-8

“Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.”

Lord, we praise you; you do amazing things! (Psalm 72:18) Father, when we proclaim Christ, people listen. But, they also listen when we are silent. Instead of being quiet, Lord, help us praise you even when we are broken. Help us praise you even when we want to turn away. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

Tuesday, September 20
Acts 8:9-13

“Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.”

 Lord, we praise you! Only you can perform the great and awesome wonders we see! (Deuteronomy 10:21) Father, sometimes we get enamored with famous things and people and speak more praise for them than we do you. Forgive us. We thank you for the enjoyment that they bring but help us to never put them above you. In the name of The Holy One, Jesus, we pray,, we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, September 21
Acts 8:14-17

“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

 Father, in you, we place our trust! (Psalm 143:8) Lord, our baptism is not what saves us. Only through our faith in you can we receive your Spirit. Your Spirit living in us will guide us, teach us, and build our faith if we allow it. Help us to rely on and respond to the Holy Spirit in us. We pray this in the name of your Son and our Savior Jesus, Amen

Thursday, September 22
Acts 8:18-23

“When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter answered: May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.””

Father, we praise you for wisdom that can only come from you. (Job 28:12) Neither money nor possessions compare to faith; nothing but a relationship with Jesus can assure our salvation. Help us always remember that Jesus paid the ransom for us, and nothing we have can take his place. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen

Friday, September 23
Acts 8:24-25

“Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.”

Lord, we praise you for your compassion, mercy, and patience. (Exodus 34:6) Forgive us when we choose to judge instead of praying for those who fall to temptation. Thank you for the love you have for us and your Spirit that calls us back to you. Help us remember to keep other Christians in our prayers. Lord Jesus, we love you and pray this in your name, Amen.

Saturday, September 24

“Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.”

We join with your people across the earth in praise of you! Your love for us is vast, and you are faithful even when we are not. (Psalm 117) Lord, being the people you call us to be isn’t for sissies. It goes against our nature to praise when things are going wrong, and it can be hard to accept that your love cannot be bought. Forgive us for the times we failed you this week, and we ask that your Spirit continue to prompt us to reach others with the Gospel of Christ. Speak to us through your servant tomorrow, Lord. May their voice be yours. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.