As the gospel spreads in Samaria, Luke details a particularly notable conversion. “But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great”(Acts 8:9). Simon is a magician—claiming supernatural powers—and he has used these claims to captivate the people. The extent of his influence is impressive: “They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great.’ And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic”(Acts 8:10-11). A man dabbling in dark arts with tremendous influence and claims of greatness is a remarkably unlikely target for the gospel.
But something shocking happens. “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed”(Acts 8:12-13). As the city sees Philip’s miracles and believes in Jesus, so does Simon. Simon appears to be particularly drawn to the demonstrations of true power he sees in Philip. He is “amazed” by what he has seen and seems to want to learn the secrets of this power. As an advanced student of sleight of hand and pretense of power, he knows real miracles when he sees them.
The gospel sometimes shocks us, convincing and converting the most (seemingly) unlikely people. We can think of all kinds of reasons why Simon wouldn’t become a disciple—perhaps why it would even be a waste of time to preach to him—but we would be wrong. Jesus can reach anyone who is willing to hear him. He can reach us, no matter how far into sin we travel. And he can reach others, no matter how shocking their conversions would be.
One thing to think about: Have I ever seen Jesus change someone’s life in a way that surprised me?
One thing to pray for: Open-mindedness to teach to whomever I have the opportunity
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