The great thing about teaching kids the Bible is how much you learn. I went into this lesson thinking about how I was going to tell you all about this one aspect, and then I was listening to an old Game Store Prophets podcast and realized something totally different.
Philip goes to Samaria
This story happens shortly after Stephen is martyred, as a matter of fact it says everyone left town because they were scared. There Philip teaches to the Samaritans and fulfills God’s commandment to go first to Jerusalem, then to Judea, then to Samaria. But the first part I want to focus on is a strange story about a man named Simon.
Simon was a magician, or as he’s usually called a mage. He sees the great power Philip and Peter have and after becoming a believer and seeing Peter pray over someone comes up to Peter and says, “How much do I have to pay for this power?”
Peter, being Peter, speaks first and says, “You can’t buy this crazy man, go away!” And that’s the last we hear of Simon in the Bible. Now church history says he goes elsewhere in the Roman empire and causes all sorts of other problems there, but that’s a different story.
Now, we’re going to switch tracks
Philip and the Ethiopian
The story suddenly switches tracts and talks about Philip heading back down to Jerusalem, and he meets a man in a chariot reading from Isaiah. Philip asks the man if he understands what he’s saying. The man’s response, “How can I? I don’t have anyone to explain it to me.”
Then Philip explains how Isaiah points to Jesus. The Ethiopian sees some water and says, “What’s to keep me from being baptized?” He is and that’s the last we hear of him in the Bible. Now church history says he went home to Ethiopia and founded the Ethiopian church.
Two men, two different responses to the Gospel
They both had very different responses to the Gospel. Simon looked at the Gospel and God’s work and saw a way to get power and money. And according to church history that’s what he did. He collected quite a collection of followers and some theorize he is where the tradition of Gnosticism comes from.
The Ethiopian, who we don’t even have a name for, recognized he needed salvation and asked for it. And according to church history he knew others needed that and shared his knowledge.
Those are two very different responses to the same message.
That’s what I taught the kids. Then I was listening to the podcast and was thinking about the difference in their attitude even more. The Ethiopian was incredibly humble. Amazingly humble. He was open to teaching and correction. Am I always open to teaching and correction? I don’t think so, I’d like to be, but I’m not always.
Which makes me kind of sad.
Philip and the Ethiopian activity
I had these great plans of making a paper chariot, or using some recyclables and doing that, but the kids have been extra squirrelly lately and that just was not going to happen.
Instead we did a Venn diagram. They kids took turns saying something from the story and the other two said if it happened to Simon the Mage, the Ethiopian, or both.
Everyone had fun adding their own observations, and after we’d gotten the most important ones, they happily took their chalk and started decorating the driveway. Our driveway is not quite covered in Minecraft drawings.
More resources for Philip and the Ethiopian
- Philip and the Ethiopian story and discussion questions
- Philip and the Ethiopian lesson
- Philip and the Ethiopian craft
- one more Philip and the Ethiopian craft
- fun video right down here, because it cracked me up