An Ethiopian had traveled to Jerusalem to worship. He was reading his Bible on the way home. Philip, an evangelist, came running alongside his chariot and asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading. He did not, so he invited Philip to join him in the chariot. The Ethiopian was reading Isaiah 53. He asked Philip if Isaiah was speaking of himself or of someone else. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). Just what does it mean to preach Jesus?
Who He Is
Preaching Jesus begins with preaching who He is. We do not know whether the Ethiopian had ever heard of Jesus prior to this time. Philip explained that He is the one in view in the prophecy of Isaiah 53. He is the Christ or Messiah, which means “the anointed one,” a reference to Jesus’ reign as our king and priest.
Notice that preaching who Jesus is requires preaching the Scriptures, the Bible. Jesus is not a mythical character, nor is He whatever we imagine Him to be. He is a real, historical character. We can know Him only through the historical documents we call the New Testament, and to know Him we must take into account all that they say about Him.
What He Offers
Isaiah 53 depicts Jesus as a suffering servant, led as a sheep to the slaughter. It emphasizes that His suffering was for us:
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities,
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed” (v. 5).
Jesus offers salvation, forgiveness of sins. He died for us. His resurrection from the dead, also indicated in Isaiah 53 (vv. 10-12), is our assurance that He is who He said He was and that the Father accepted His atonement.
What He Requires
Preaching Jesus obviously includes preaching what Jesus requires of us in order to be saved. In response to Philip’s preaching the Ethiopian asked to be baptized. Philip told Him that if he believed with all his heart he could. The Ethiopian confessed his faith, and he was baptized then and there (vv. 36-38).
It is no surprise that Philip preached these requirements. They are exactly what Jesus had said to preach (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). Obviously there was much more to learn: “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). But this was a start.
The Ethiopian wanted to obey immediately when he heard Philip preaching Jesus. What is your response?