Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Problem of the Eunuch..

Tonight I saw someone wondering about something that I too wondered about many years ago.  You see I grew up in a church that taught people that Baptism was nothing more than a symbol.  It was kind of a public declaration, a promise ring of sorts, that you did when you were 'saved'.   You did it not because it did anything to you, but to show others that you were converted.   Not only was it only symbolic.. but you could do it as many times as you wanted, until you finally actually stuck with it.  Baptism was basically the same as saying, "Look at me, I am a Christian."

Tonight after reading some others asking themselves why get baptized then, why would Jesus command it? Etc if it were only a symbol... it struck me that there is a fatal flaw to the reasoning that it's just a symbol.  That flaw lies in the story of the the Ethiopian Eunuch in Chapter 8 of the book of Acts.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus.  And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?”  Acts 8:35-36

One has to ask themselves some logical questions and get logical answers.  That's what I love about being Catholic.  We reason things out (and people have been doing so for 2000 years.)  So what is going on here? Well the Eunuch has realized he needs someone to teach him about the Scriptures, and God sends someone along, an authority, to help him understand what he's reading.  After Philip explains it all to him, the Eunuch wants to be baptized.  Why is that a problem to 'symbolic' baptism? Well let's reason out why the Eunuch would want to do so, and why would he be excited by the prospect?

The Eunuch it says in a previous verse is had "come to Jerusalem to worship."   The Eunuch was not allowed in with the Jews, because he wasn't a Jew.  He was a gentile.  That posed a problem for the Eunuch because he was a God fearing man. The Gentiles, as you see from the image, were not allowed in the inner areas of the temple.  They could approach but not go inside.  Then the women were a little closer to God, then the men even closer, then the Priests actually in his presence.  So to 'get closer' to God, the Eunuch would have wanted to be a Jew.

There is a problem there.  He can't be a Jew.  Why not?  Well he lacks the proper equipment to be circumcised.   That means he can never become one of the children of God, one of the chosen race.  The Jewish people didn't see circumcision as just a symbol, they saw it as making you one of them.  Literally becoming one of God's people.  "I will be your God, and you will be my people."   Circumcision then was something the Eunuch would have wanted badly but could never do.  He would always be an outsider.  Always in the outer court of the Gentiles, never one of the 'in crowd.'

Why then would baptism seem like something he would want? Because he realizes that there is nothing preventing him from becoming part of the Body of Christ.  He doesn't say to Philip, hey thanks, I believe.  He rather says, "Here is water, let's do this!"   He's excited because God has just made a way for any man, not just the ones who are 'complete' in their body, but even those who have been disfigured can now become part of the family of God.  He can become of the Children of God now, via Baptism.  Baptism meant something to him, because it was more than a public confession.. it was a Sacrament!

More verses to read and study: Matthew 3:16; Matthew 28:19; Mark 1:8; Mark 16:16; John 3:5; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; Acts 8:36-38; Acts 11:16; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33; Acts 18:8; Acts 19:3-6; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:25-26; Col. 2:12; 1 Peter 3:20-21,