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Everything else is just hype!

I think there’s more to the account Luke records in his story of Simon the magician (Acts 8:4-24), than is generally held.  We use the text to teach that the ability to do miraculous things came as a result of the apostles laying their hands on someone.  Or, we employ it to make a distinction between what Christians and unbelievers are told to do to be in a right relationship with God.  Of course, all of that is good, but it’s not Luke’s purpose in relating the story.  He has something quite different in mind. 

Luke’s concern is with the kingdom of God.  He uses the phrase 38 times in Luke-Acts. He begins Acts by telling Theophilus about Jesus’ forty days with the apostles after His resurrection in which He was “speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (1:3). He concludes with Paul under house arrest in Rome welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God (28:30-31).  Any time then we come across this phrase we should pay close attention to what is going on.
 
What is going on in 8:4ff, is that Luke is showing us how the kingdom radiated outwards from Jerusalem to Samaria like ripples on a pond (1:8).  He has documented the persecution of the Jerusalem church and how it forced all but the apostles to vacate the city (8:1,4). As a result, Philip is preaching and performing miracles --- casting out unclean spirits and healing those who are lame and paralyzed.  The people are paying “close attention” to what he has to say (v. 6), and he has something to say.  He is proclaiming the Messiah (v. 5), and bringing great joy to the city (v. 8). 
But there is another man in Samaria named Simon who seems to possess great power as well.  He’s been practicing “sorcery” in Samaria for some time and until the arrival of Philip, he had all but cornered the amazement market.  Luke tells us that,"All the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, 'This man is rightly called the Great Power of God,'” (v. 10). And poor Simon, he has nothing better to say so his message is that “he was someone great,” (v. 9).  What’s the saying . . . the person who’s all wrapped up in himself is usually overdressed? 
Exactly what Simon is doing and whether it involves anything supernatural or not seems open to debate but in the end it doesn’t really matter because what isn’t open is the truth that what Simon is doing doesn’t compare with the miracles Philip is performing.  Not only do Simon’s followers embrace his message concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,” (v. 12), Simon is baptized as well (v. 13).  We learn that the power behind the kingdom of God is real and no way resembles the mumbo jumbo, hocus pocus stuff of the world.

I suppose this does say something to astrology, Wicca, karma, or whatever other “powers” people dabble in.  Christ rules over everything (Ephesians 1:20-21; 1 Peter 3:20-21).   This last passage is of particular interest since it is expressed in the context of baptism.  By being baptized in the name of Jesus (under His authority), Simon would have been confessing His ultimate power over all. 

But I think this also says something to all of the wannabe powers of our culture --- the flash and hype that seems to draw people like a moth to a flame.  The latest technology, the loudest celebrity, whatever’s trending on Twitter, or wherever the crowds are gathering. Like the Samaritans did with Simon, we tend to raise up these up and attribute greatness to what doesn’t begin to merit the label.  And I think it’s as much a reflection upon us as the things we elevate. Our lack of spiritual depth causes us to drift in whatever direction the cultural winds are blowing. 

We need an anchored faith.  We need to understand the nature of the kingdom of God.  We need to see its transcending greatness and know that Jesus alone offers hope --- everything else is just hype!
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