Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch


The Holy Spirit sent Deacon Philip to meet a Eunuch in the service of Candice of Ethiopia, the mother of the reigning king. In Ethiopian society, she was responsible for taking care of day-to-day duties of the kingdom. Ethiopians believe she was the descendant of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. Many believe they are Jewish.

Eunuchs served as assistants for the royal family. They were often castrated so that they could be trusted to guard royal or noble women and provide physical care to kings and emperors. This man appears to have been the treasurer of Candice. He is devout and has been to worship at temple in Jerusalem. On his way home, the man is reading Isaiah 53, a detailed prophecy of the suffering and death of the Messiah. Puzzled by it, he invited Philip to explain the text to him. With this opening, Philip tells the man the good news that Jesus is the Man Isaiah prophesied. The man responded by asking to be baptized. When the Holy Spirit took Philip away, he rejoiced that salvation had come to him.

This new Christian became, in turn, the evangelist who brought the gospel to Ethiopia. A strong Eastern Orthodox  church was born and grew there. Called the Coptic Church, its members still thrive in Muslim Egypt to this day. This man was the first of many Christians to believe in Christ on the continent of Africa.

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

A Brief Hiatus

Today my son-in-law will receive a call into the Office of the Holy Ministry. The complications of that event, the normal busyness of the seminary as he and his classmates learn where the Lord is sending them and a few other complications make it impossible for me to write substinative posts for at least today and perhaps a few days. By the weekend, I hope to be back at it, taking up, appropriately, Holy Absolution and the Office of the Ministry. Stay tuned!

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Jesus is the Good Shepherd

God tells us He is our Shepherd. He tends his flock, leads them to green pastures and still waters, guards them from danger, dresses their wounds, carries their lambs and is always with them. (Isaiah 40:11) This imagery is so powerful that, in ancient times, Kings often compared themselves to shepherds as well.

In the Middle East, shepherds often build a common sheep pen for their town. They would build a wall to keep the sheep from wandering away and to keep wolves and other predators from attacking them. A watchman would guard the gate or door to the pen so that only shepherds could enter. This discouraged thieves. When a shepherd was ready to feed his sheep, he would go into the pen and call them by name. They recognized the voice of the man who cared for them and would follow. He’d take them to good, green pastures and nice, quiet waters. (Psalm 23) He would protect them from wild animals, often doing battle with them, as King David describes what he did as a young shepherd. He would risk his life to save his sheep. (1 Samuel 17:34-37)

Jesus is our Good Shepherd. (John 10:1-18) He calls us by name. He leads us, guides us, corrects us and comforts us with his word. He gives us living water to drink and washes us clean in the waters of Holy Baptism. He feeds us with his own body and blood in his own supper. He appoints assistant shepherds to help feed us, protect us and guide us. He gave his life for us, his sheep. He will be with us always, even to the end of time itself, when he will lead us home, where we will live in his house forever. A Good Shepherd indeed.

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

The Faith of Children

Another reason that Evangelicals reject infant baptism is they think faith is all about understanding and agreeing to a series of teachings about God, Jesus in particular, and how we are saved. Since infants and young Children have little ability to understand things intellectually. For Lutherans and the Holy Scriptures, faith is not an exercise of our reason, but a trust in God’s promises.

The problem with understanding faith this way is that even adults do not always have an ability to think, and, when they do, may still reject the Gospel. Lutheran theologians point out that we do not think when we sleep or in a coma. Sometimes disease can take from us our mind in old age or brain trauma. Yet such adults are not considered by anyone to have lost their faith.

On the contrary, Jesus and the Apostles tell us children do have faith. In fact, Jesus praises their ability to trust God. (Matthew 18:2-6, Mark 10:13-16) John the Baptist and Timothy believed in the womb (Luke 1:41-44, 2 Timothy 3:15) So, faith is all about trusting in God to save us and children are the most trusting of all people. Jesus does not urge children to become more like adults when it comes to faith. He urges adults to become more like children.

See also: Faith | What is Baptism? | Baptism Saves You | Who Should Be Baptized? | Is Baptism Necessary? | Baptized into Christ’s Body | The Church Has Always Baptized Infants | Children are Sinners, too

Children are Sinners, Too

On the surface, we might think that the Evangelical challenge to infant baptism is about the practice itself. If the objection was that simple, perhaps there would be much less passion in the debate.

I believe the real issues are deeper than that. For Lutherans, the emotion behind our defense of the baptism of infants comes from the assurance that our children are saved by baptism. For Evangelicals, the objection comes from their belief that children are not accountable for their sins until they can ask Jesus to be their personal savior and because they believe baptism is a human act of obedience. In short, they do not believe in original sin.

Original sin is the name theologians give to the teaching of Holy Scripture that all people are born as sinners and that that state is inherited from Adam and Eve, resulting from their first sin in Eden. The big problem that we have is less that we commit sins, than that we are conceived sinful. (Psalm 51:5)

Everyone, including children, are accountable to God for who they are and the sins they commit from the very beginning of their lives. (Romans 3:10-19) Every thought we have inclines to evil (Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21). These thoughts are the cause of all the sins we commit. (Matthew 15:17-20) Only by being born of water and the Spirit can we see God’s kingdom. That is why we baptize infants and children.

See also: Is Baptism Necessary? | Who should be baptized? | Baptism Saves You

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Peter and Jesus


St. Peter was a man of action. He was always eager to act, quick to speak and full of enthusiasm. He was as subtle as a loaded freight train. Tradition has it that the Evangelist John  Mark was his companion and that the Gospel of Mark was written to preserve his teaching and preaching of the gospel.  Mark’s famous favorite word “immediately” is a great motto for Peter.

Like most men of his age, Simon Peter had two names — one for use in Jewish circles — Simon bar Jonah (Simon, son of Jonah) — and one for use with the gentiles  — the nickname Jesus gave him, Peter (Little Rock). He was a partner in a successful fishing business in Capernaum with his brother Andrew, Zebedee and his sons James and John. Jesus called him early in his ministry and Peter would soon rise to be a leader for the disciples.

On Maundy Thursday, had Peter and John prepare the Passover meal. During the dinner, Jesus told His disciples that they would abandon Him and that St. Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed. Peter quickly swore he would rather die than betray his Lord. Later, during the trial before the High Priests, Peter denied he knew Jesus.

After Jesus rose from the dead, Peter began to change. Jesus appeared to Peter alone on Easter day. A few weeks later, Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Three times Peter said he did. Jesus showed He forgave Peter when He commanded Peter three times to feed God’s sheep. From then on, Peter was no longer a fisherman. He was now a pastor, “a shepherd,” to care for God’s people with God’s word and His sacraments.

Later, On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached to the crowd. Three thousand people were brought to faith and baptized that day. Peter went everywhere preaching, teaching, healing the sick and suffering for His Lord. According to tradition, he later helped to found the church in Rome and would die a martyr, crucified upside down.

See Also: The Day of Resurrection | Stay With Us, Lord, For it is Evening | Seeing is Believing

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com

Seeing is Believing

St. Thomas was a practical, down to earth man. Called “the Twin,” the few words we have from him were very direct. When Jesus was determined to go to Lazarus’ Tomb, not five miles from Jerusalem, Thomas said, “Let us also go and die with Him.” (John 11:16) When Jesus told the disciples at the Lord’s Supper that He was going to prepare a place for them, he asked, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) Subtle, Thomas was not. Loyal, strong and down to earth, he was.

When Jesus was crucified, Thomas had no doubt the Lord was dead. He knew every detail. He did not want it to be that way, but he was a realist. Jesus was gone — end of story. So when the other disciples told Thomas with joy, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas would have nothing of it. He had to see the wounds that marked Jesus to believe. Even seeing would not be enough. He had to touch the wounds. On something as important as the life of the Lord, Thomas would not be fooled.

All of this changed when Jesus appeared to him and the rest of the disciples the Sunday after Easter. Turning to Thomas, Jesus invited His hard-headed disciple to see for himself. “Stop doubting,” Jesus said, “and believe.” This was all Thomas needed. He dropped to his knees to worship Jesus. All he could say was, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus mildly rebukes him and then blesses us. “You have seen and believed,” Jesus said, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” It was enough for Thomas. According to church tradition, Thomas would go to India and establish a church there. To this day, a faith tradition of four million in India call themselves Thomas Christians.

And so it would be. Billions of people who did not see Jesus believed him and loved him. St. Peter said it best: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9) Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Allelujah!

The Day of Resurrection | Stay with Us, Lord, for it is Evening

©2018 Robert E. Smith. All rights reserved. Permission granted to copy, share and display freely for non-commercial purposes. Direct all other rights and permissions inquiries to cosmithb@gmail.com