It is hard for me to imagine the Ethiopian eunuch without thinking of a few eunuch scenes in Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1. One doesn’t just run into eunuchs these days, but they were a part of life in Philip’s time. The one Philip met on the road was no common eunuch. His sacrifice was a key to his success as a ranking official in Queen Candace’s court. He was on his way back from worship in Jerusalem, with a copy of Isaiah as well as a head full of questions. The questions were getting down into his heart as well. Philip, sensitive to the Spirit, moved in close with a great question of his own, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Luke reports here that Philip “proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.” The account moves from there to the water of baptism and ends with Philip in yet another region in proclamation of the good news he couldn’t keep quiet.
Last week took us through the valley of the shadow of death to the eternal house of the Lord, but this week we go back a chapter in which the psalmist gives reasons for his and his nation’s praise. One day, things will get better for him and for them. Even the “poor will eat and be satisfied.” Nations of the world, though they seemed so far from it, would one day bow and worship the God of Israel. Future generations will know of how great their God is because it will be proclaimed to them, much as it was told to the man from the nation of Ethiopia.
Abide. It is a word woven through John’s letter. It is actually not just woven, but becomes the most obvious point Jesus wanted to make to his disciples. It was not more important than love, but was the source of love. John wanted his readers to know that they could not love each other or their enemies if they were not abiding in the love God had created for them through the union of relationship with Jesus. One of the most powerful verses of Scripture is here in this text for Sunday, “We love because he first loved us.” That sentence alone could be the sermon.
Whatever John knew about abidance and love, he received from Jesus’ description of the vine and the branches. Many commentators on this text believe that Jesus was holding a vine or standing in a vineyard when he taught this beautiful truth. It was a truth of relationship, a matter of being. Life was to be lived in direct connection with God. They were to produce fruit, to provide the abundant crop of God’s love in their world. The produce, however, would come only as they abided in him. Apart from him, they would be like fruitless branches, withering in their own independence. The key to preaching this text for this Sunday, at least in urban and many suburban congregations, will be to explain the nature of such a relationship between branch and vine, getting at the significant and accessible union we have with God through Jesus.