I love the book of Acts. When Luke wrote it, he was careful to show the reader a diversity of people coming to faith in Christ. One of the most famous examples of this is in chapter 8 with the story of the Ethiopian eunuch. God leads Philip to leave his successful ministry in Samaria and encounter this man on a highway south of Jerusalem. Philip and this Ethiopian couldn’t be more different from one another, which is why God has to direct Philip to him. Why is God bringing Philip to meet this Ethiopian eunuch? To show us that the gospel is good news for the blemished.
Luke tells us that the Ethiopian man was on his way home from Jerusalem when Philip met him. He worked in the royal administration for the Ethiopian nation. Luke says that he was in charge of the treasury for the queen of Ethiopia. You can think of him as the “Minister of Finance.” In order to receive his post, he had to undergo castration. This procedure was a requirement to work for the royal family in many ancient societies.
So, the Ethiopian man was wealthy, educated, and very successful in his career. However, I cannot help but think that for all of his achievements he was still an empty man. He had become a worshipper of the God of the Jews in his search to find fulfillment. This must be why Philip encounters him on his way home from Jerusalem. Sadly, he was leaving in disappointment.
The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament barred anyone with a physical blemish from entering the temple. This included eunuchs who had accepted castration for service in their government. The law existed as an object lesson about the holiness of God. It did not mean that God doesn’t love eunuchs or others with physical blemishes. What it showed is that to receive access into the presence of God requires absolute perfection since God is holy.
The Ethiopian man had made the long journey from his home only to be denied entry to the temple. He stood outside of the temple as a blemished man. When Philip approached his chariot he heard the eunuch reading, “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth” (Is. 53:7-8).
It can’t be a coincidence that he was reading this passage when Philip met him. It is located right before Isaiah wrote, “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who... hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off” (Is. 56:3-5).
I can’t help but identify with this man. The truth is that we’re all spiritual eunuchs. Every person has the blemish of sin that prevents him or her from access into the presence of God. How will God make it possible for the blemished to find healing, restoration, and acceptance?
Isaiah was confident of the day to come when the blemished would be accepted by God because of the perfect lamb who was slaughtered on their behalf. Jesus was the truly spotless, unblemished man who deserved access into the presence of God. However, he received the punishment for our sin on the cross. He was denied the presence of God so that we could be accepted. God attributed to him our blemishes—our sin—so that by his substitution we might be attributed his perfection.
This is why Isaiah said that God would give a “monument and a name better than sons and daughters.” That means that God will provide us with a better status than any other legacy could give us. The perfection of Jesus Christ is that name. His righteousness covers our blemishes so that we can know and experience the love of God in the presence of God.
God lead Philip to that eunuch so that all of us who feel the shame of our sin could know that the gospel provides good news for the blemished. Are you struggling over the guilt of sin? Look to Jesus who willingly gave himself to cover your blemishes. Trust in his work to be your righteousness.