The Baptism of All Believers
John 15:1-8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes[a] to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed[b] by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become[c] my disciples.
Good Morning! My name is Yonas and I am chariot driver for the royal palace of Candace. I serve the queen at her beckon call and am available as you say 24/7 to give her a ride. You have Uber, the queen has me. My family has been serving for many years in the palace, as many generations as I know. We do more than just drive the chariot. We also feed and groom all of the horses, clean and repair the chariots, train new horses to draw the chariots and just about anything else you can think of that has to do with the stables. Not only do we give the Queen a ride, but we also take those in her royal palace when she commands us.
It is because of one of those trips that I am here today, to tell you about one of the craziest things I had ever seen while serving her majesty. There is a man named Kaleb who is responsible for the entire treasury of Queen Candace. Now Kaleb is usually a pretty quiet guy and keeps to himself with his nose buried in the books of the Queen’s treasury. They say he is really good at numbers and most people just leave him be. Well, one day he went to the queen and asked if he could go to Jerusalem for the holiday called Yom Kippur, the most holy of days which means the day of atonement. He had never been and he wanted to offer sacrifices for himself and his family. It is not all that surprising that Kaleb was Jewish. There is mention of Ethiopians and Jewish people all the way back to Moses time. The great King Solomon married the Queen of Sheba and the prophet Isaiah wrote about the Ethiopians. So, the Queen commands me to take Kaleb to Jerusalem for a festival.
Now this is not a small endeavor. It takes almost a month to travel from the palace to Jerusalem. It is over 1500 miles as the crow flies. We have to go through the desert and then head east around the Mediterranean Sea until we can go north to get to Jerusalem. Some of the roads are treacherous and we have to stay out in the cold some nights because we can’t get from town to town where there is an inn. There is always the threat of robbers and wild animals. I had never been this far away so I was excited for the trip but was nervous for what might lay ahead.
Once we finally made it to Jerusalem the city was hopping like crazy. There were all kinds of animals in and around the streets being moved for the sacrifices at the temple. The streets were crowded not only with herds moving but also many vendors. Food vendors and people selling their hand-crafted wares. Of course, there were lots of trinket and things to mark that you had made the trip to Jerusalem. The closer you got to the temple the more the crowds were oppressive. You couldn’t walk with out bumping into someone.
Kaleb told me to take the chariot and horse back out the shepherd’s gate and just wait for him in the field. He said it might be a day or two before he could make the sacrifices so just make myself as comfortable as possible. Once I got the chariot out of the city I found several drivers who had hobbled the horses and were preparing their evening meals. They invited me to join then and I was so happy to be out of the massive crowds. We were sharing our stories about our jobs and the importance of the people we worked for when all of a sudden here came Kaleb.
He was walking with his head down and was carrying a large scroll. I asked him what he was doing and why he was back so soon? He said, “I will tell you later, let’s just get out of here right now!” So, we packed everything up and jumped back in the chariot. I asked him where we were going? And he said one word, “Home!” So off we went, and I could not figure it out. We had traveled for a month and made our way to the city of Jerusalem the greatest temple in all of Judea and we were only there a couple hours and were gone. When we stopped for the night Kaleb was silent had only bread and wine for dinner and went to sleep early. I just could not believe it, I had no idea what had happened and why we were leaving so soon. I didn’t sleep well that night and woke up before dawn to get the fire going and make breakfast.
Kelab woke up and ate in silence, but he did thank me for making breakfast but said we need to get going so we can back to the queen as soon as possible. We had been going down the road for a couple hours when I just had to find out what was going on? But I knew if I asked him directly he may just clam up and not talk. So, I said instead, hey what does that scroll say that you have there? He said, “it is a sacred scroll that contains the writings of the prophet Isaiah.” I said, “oh yeah, can you read it?” He said “sure but I don’t think I want to.” I said, “why not?” He replied, “well, l I bought it on the way to the temple but now I just don’t think I can read it after what happened.” I asked why what had happened? Kaleb said, “well it’s a long story.” I said well we have time so he began telling me what happened in Jerusalem.
I was all excited to get to the temple he said when I noticed this booth that had these large scrolls in them. I went to see what they were and found that they were all books and stories about Yahweh and the people. Stories about Moses and David, Ruth and Esther. I was thrilled to see they even had one of my favorite prophet Isaiah who spoke about our people the Ethiopians. So, I bought this one here and it was quite expensive but the Word of God will always be with me. Then I went to the pens to buy my sacrifices. There were all kinds of sheep that were lined up and I was ready to pay the man and he said what are you doing? I said I have come to pay for these for the atonement sacrifice. The man said you can’t go into the temple. I asked why not and he told me that I was a eunuch a half man and I couldn’t even get into the court of gentiles. I was confused and angry about what he said so I went to the next booth and the next and they all told me the same thing. I never made it to the temple because they wouldn’t let me in because of my sexuality. I had no choice this was done to me when I was small child so I could serve the Queen. Many of us are like this but that does not mean we are less a person and I thought God loved me but maybe not now.
We rode together in silence for several miles when I finally said Kaleb would you read me some of the scroll you have there. He said sure why not, if you like it you can have it because I guess it will do me no good anymore. He opened the scroll and started reading and it was about the sacrifices of sheep and how God wanted the person to be clean not the sheep. When all of a sudden it seemed out of nowhere this guy comes running up next to the chariot. He asked Kaleb what he was doing? Kaleb told him what he was reading and the man asked if he knew what he was reading about? Kaleb said not really and the man asked if he could explain it to him?
Kaleb invited him into the chariot and learned that his name was Phillip. Now this Phillip must have been some kind of prophet because he began to explain how the scripture was talking about Jesus the Nazarene. He explained that Jesus was a great man who was the Messiah, God’s only son who came to teach about God’s love for everyone. Kaleb said, “even me because I am a eunuch.” Phillip said, “even you. Because he was silent like a lamb being led to slaughter the people in the church created so many rules that they beat him and crucified him but three days later he rose from the grave by the power of God and Jesus promised that we too would be raised from the dead to go with him.”
Phillip said, “it was like this saying Jesus used to say I am the vine and you are the branches. We can never get too far from the vine or we will die and not produce good fruit. But the farmer or God will keep pushing us and pruning us to bear good fruit for everyone. The vine or Jesus will provide all that we need if we will go and spread the message of God’s love for us. And that is what I am doing.”
Kaleb said, “what do I have to do to bear good fruit?” And Phillip said, believe in Jesus and be baptized.” Kaleb said, “even though I am a eunuch I can be baptized?” and Phillip said, “yes.” “Anyone who believes that Jesus is their Lord and Savior can be baptized there are no special rules.” Just then we came upon a small pond and Kaleb said, “what is to keep me then from being baptized over there”? And Phillip said, “nothing let’s go do it now.” They told me to stop the chariot and they jumped down into the pond. Phillip told Kaleb, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”, and then he put him under the water and brought him out. Kaleb was smiling from ear to ear when he came out of the water. And just then the man disappeared. I had never seen anything like it one minute he was there and the next he was gone just like that. When Kaleb climbed back in the chariot and we began to ride off he said I think that man was sent here by God to show me that we all are loved by God. I think those people in the church have too many rules some times. I think God wants all of us to be baptized and to believe in the name of Jesus as the Messiah. I can’t wait until we get back home and I can tell everyone about Jesus and his love for us. Jesus loves us all and no matter what happens in this life we can trust him. All who believe can be baptized and have life everlasting.
I will never forget that trip to Jerusalem, it changed my life, and I too became baptized by Kaleb, the court eunuch, and it was a wonderful moment. All who believe in Jesus can be baptized. All who are baptized know the love God has for each of us. By the power of the Holy Spirit I hope that you will bear good fruit and tell everyone about the Son of God who lived and died and rose from the dead so that we may be united in heaven again. Thanks for having me here today. Amen.