In the Gospels, Jesus often went through Samaria when travelling between Jerusalem to Galilee. On several occasions he had encounters with the Samaritans and sometimes spent time with them. One occasion is in John 4 when he heeded their request to stay and teach. As a result, some said, “we know that this is indeed the saviour of the world” (verse 42). The Samarians were ready for the Gospel harvest. Jesus commissioned his disciples, as he was about to ascend to heaven. They were to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

At first preaching was concentrated on Jerusalem until Stephen was killed, but, as we read today in Acts 8, after “his execution … they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (verse 1). Philip made a particular effort to preach in Samaria (verse 5). “And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said … and saw the signs that he did … so there was much joy …” (verses 6,8).

“When they believed Philip as he preached the good news about the kingdom of God, they were baptised … now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God they sent to them Peter and John” (verses 12,14). And for us, only in our generation, has the message really reached “the end of the earth”.

“Receive” is a key word encountered in Acts and apostolic writings. Chapter 11 starts, “Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God” (verse 1). When they believed what Philip preached, “they were baptised, both men and women”. It is one thing to read and to hear the message of the kingdom and that Christ’s is to return to establish it – but the vital thing is whether that message is received into the heart and mind.