8:4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.
It's hard to imagine living through something like that - being hunted by the authorities just for what you believe. As they went house to house arresting believers many of them saw the writing on the wall and left the city before being captured. Luke tells us that those who fled "went everywhere" telling people about Jesus. To underscore exactly what he meant by 'everywhere' he tells us Philip went to the city of Samaria.
Samaria used to be the capital of Israel after the twelve tribes split. Jerusalem was the capital of Judah in the south and Samaria was the capital of Israel in the north. Israel was then taken over by the Assyrians and essentially assimilated into the Assyrians. They intermarried which was forbidden and those in Judah began calling them half breeds. Over time the relationship between the north and the South became as cold as ice. The region of Galilee which was loyal to God and to Judah was actually in the north. This was where Jesus grew up. I point this out because when Jews traveled back and forth from the north to the south and vice versa the quickest route was through Samaria but they usually traveled around them because the hatred was so deep.
When Luke tells us Philip went to Samaria to preach to them about Jesus that is huge.
We only have to look at the rising racial tensions in the United States to see how hard it is for walls of prejudice to come down. We tend to nurse wounds and breed hatred into successive generations. We segregate ourselves bases on colour, ethnicity, language etc... Time passes and the invisible walls get higher and thicker. Nothing but the realization that the same blood courses through all our veins can tear down the walls. For Philip it was Jesus who taught him that. It was Jesus who sat down by a well and offered hope to an outcast Samaritan woman hated by even her own people. It was Jesus who sharply rebuked James and John when they wanted to call down fire from heaven and burn up a Samaritan village. It was Jesus who told a story about what it meant to be a true neighbour and made the hero of the story a man from Samaria.
With Jesus there were no walls. All people were His people.
The man hunt in Jerusalem was a bad thing but it wasn't all bad. It's our nature to seek comfort. It's our nature to settle in. The persecution lead by Saul sent the thousands of Christ followers fleeing the city and the very thing Saul was trying extinguish in Jerusalem began to spread like a raging forest fire, even to the very heart of Samaria.
What was it Jesus said just before He left? "And you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
The spreading of the Good News had begun. God turned a bad situation into something beautiful. He's good at that. Remember it the next time something bad happens to you.