Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:4-8)
There Was Great Joy
The city of Samaria was first established by Omri, king of Israel, during the days of the divided kingdom. It became the capital of the northern ten tribes and the central place of idolatrous worship under the influence of Ahab and Jezebel. Herod would fortify the city and call it Sebaste. When the persecution of the early church took a toll on the saints, many left Jerusalem. They went into the regions of Judea and Samaria (regional), preaching and teaching the gospel of Christ. Philip, the evangelist, traveled to the city of Samaria (35 miles north of Jerusalem) and preached Christ to them. The apostles had laid hands on Philip and six other men to minister to the needs of the widows in Jerusalem. Arriving at Samaria, Philip confirmed the word of Christ through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, casting out unclean spirits, healing those who were paralyzed or lame. The city filled with joy as the multitudes listened closely to the preaching of Philip, eager to know about the Christ. It was a time of revival in the city of Samaria.
Preaching the gospel in Samaria had its challenges. It is unclear whether Philip was sent to Samaria or took it upon himself to go to the city. Jews had no dealings with Samaritans and for a Jew to come into a Samaritan city to preach the gospel was a bold move. The apostles in Jerusalem were excited about the work of Philip in the city as later they would send Peter and John to pray with the people to receive the Holy Spirit. A popular sorcerer named Simon would also obey the gospel of Christ. The work of evangelism in Samaria was exciting. Luke notes that because of the preaching of the gospel, there was great joy in the city.
Philip took a bold step to go to Samaria and preach. This city could have been a hostile place for a Jew to visit, especially someone preaching the risen Christ. When the Lord sent Jonah to Nineveh to preach, the prophet was going to a Gentile city that could have been a hostile place for the preacher to be – but God had a plan. There was something in Nineveh that moved God’s heart to send Jonah and there were people in Samaria that needed to heart the gospel, so Philip went. There was great joy in the city of Samaria and that was remarkable.
The gospel has not changed from the days of Philip. It can still move hearts and bring joy to individuals, families, communities and even to cities. What is remarkable about Philip preaching in Samaria is the city was filled with joy, not just a few families. It would have been easy for the Jewish Christians sitting comfortably in Jerusalem to look at Samaria as a city that would be wasting time to preach and look for greener pastures in other places. Why go to a Samaritan city and preach the gospel? What would those Samaritan dogs know about grace, mercy, love and the compassion of God? Philip found a city ready for the gospel. Hungry hearts devoured the teaching of the risen Savior and many souls came to know the forgiving power of Jesus Christ. And all of this took place in the city of Samaria.
There are many cities of Samaria that need the gospel of Christ. Some are found next door. Others are found in undesirable parts of town. It would be remarkable to turn a city upside down with the preaching of the gospel. Trying to move hearts today with the gospel of Christ would face no greater challenge than what Philip faced the moment he arrived in the city of Samaria. He preached and souls responded. Not everyone found joy in the gospel. The ones who did, had their lives changed forever because a man came to Samaria. He came to their town, their community and their neighborhood. And there was great joy in that city.