Scripture: Acts 8:14-25
Key verses: (18-19) Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Reflection: The church is still very young when Philip heads to Samaria in this story. He had been selected by the original disciples to be one of a new group to serve as a deacon, caring for widows (6:5.) Later, it appears, he was sent out to share the gospel as it spread. We find him here preaching and healing in Jesus’ name to Samaritans, whom Jews had long disdained. One of those who was deeply affected by his ministry is Simon Magus, whom we met in yesterday’s devotion. Simon was a local magician, and quite popular in Samaria. He had a large following himself, and people said he had the power of God. When he hears Philip preach and sees him perform miracles, he is baptized, along with many others. He stays close to Philip after that and is amazed at the signs and miracles he sees.
Because so many were joining the Christian movement in Samaria, Peter and John come to town. They lay hands on the new converts and call on the Holy Spirit. Simon Magus is so impressed he offers Peter and John money, saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” Peter is appalled and says God’s gift is not for sale. He urges Simon Magus to repent, and pray for forgiveness. Simon asks Peter to pray for him to the Lord. And then we don’t hear any more about him in Scripture!
I would love to know what happened to Simon. There are legends and ancient writings about him outside of Scripture. Some say he could levitate, and in attempting to fly from a tall tower, he crashed to the ground and eventually died. I feel a little sorry for him. He was, after all, baptized and moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he just wanted to become a disciple himself and serve in Jesus’ name. Peter apparently saw in him only greed and the desire for personal power and gain. What’s our take-away from this story? Perhaps it is a call to recommit ourselves to a faith that wants only to be a vessel of God’s Holy Spirit, for the benefit of others, and for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Holy God, use me today as you will. Whatever love and mercy I can show to others, whatever of your gospel message I can embody, may it all be to your glory and not my own. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].