But in that city there was a fellow named Simon who, in his previous practise of magic, had enthralled the entire Samaritan people, laying claim to great status for himself. All of them from the least to the greatest paid close attention to him since, as they said, "This man is what is called the Great Power of God." And that was (part of) their paying him the closest attention since for some time he had enthralled them with his magic. But when they came to belief, the good news as Philip had announced the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptised. And Simon also believed, associating with Philip after being baptised by him. And when he saw the signs and great works performed, it was he who enthralled. (Acts 8:9-13/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne)


BAPTISM: Simon the Sorcerer was among those baptised by Philip in Samaria. PICTURE: www.freeimages.com


Simon the magician was converted along with crowds of Samaritans. The signs and wonders that Philip performed had this man spell-bound.

What more can we say about this wonderful story? By building communities on an expectation that God will honour His promises, people make strong and enduring relationships. But as time goes by that holy expectation can wane. Instead of waiting faithfully, communities often stray and give special place to peculiar distractions. These eat away at a people's faith and their trust in God is corrupted.

So we can say that the Samaritans stood in need of Philip's proclamation of "good news". And, as it turned out, only the message of the coming of God's prophet had the power to dislodge Simon's magic from the parasitic place it had occupied in their lives. Then they would no longer have to play their part Simon's manipulative games compromising their faith in the God of Moses by their pagan astonishment, chanting at his tricks.

And so Philip's message confronted this self-proclaimed divine power-monger; and Simon was spellbound. The announcement of the "good news" turned these people from magic to faith in Jesus Christ. But might they still view the message as a new, more powerful, form of magic? If so this would have to change. Philip proclaimed "the Christ", the one Stephen had told the Council fulfilled Moses' prophecy,
"God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren just as he surely raised me up."

This was a promise held dear by the worshippers of God in Samaria. They built their lives upon it. They lived looking to the coming of God's prophet. But after the split between the northern and southern kingdoms, so many hundreds of years before, Samaria and Judah had taken separate paths.

Prior to Philip's visit, James and John had given expression to the deep enmity that was still there. But Philip's proclamation of "the Christ" had healed that historical rift. The people received the news with joy. Philip fulfilled Jesus' departing words "You shall be my witnesses in Samaria". When God's mercy comes, it comes in its fullness. Evil spirits are cast out, those with crippled bodies find they can walk freely again. The Christ had come, and those waiting for this Deliverer, the One who fulfilled God's promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, need wait no more. This was news indeed. And magic lost its power.

Persecution meant many fled Jerusalem. Philip is Luke's example of how God's Spirit helped those fleeing to pass on the message to all they met in their flight. Jesus had come to give life, life in all its abundance.

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