“The Blinding Reality of Jesus Christ”
August 16, 2020
THE BLINDING REALITY OF JESUS CHRIST
History was swirling around Saul and all of Jerusalem during the post-resurrection days. And those were maddening times for the Sanhedrin. Their attempt to silence the followers of Jesus by crucifying their Master had backfired, badly. Christianity flourished following Christ’s Resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2) The more they tried to stomp out the Way, the more it spread. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles were now setting Jerusalem aflame through their preaching.
The more the Apostles preached, the bigger the crowds got; and the bigger the crowds got the madder the Sanhedrin got. It was a never-ending circle that was really getting to Saul. By now, Saul was the Legal Counsel to the Sanhedrin. He couldn’t stand that The Way was flourishing. Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2) Saul had set out “in the Name of God” to destroy the Church that was being built in Jesus’ Name. Saul was the chief accuser, persecutor, and prosecutor of the Church.
Saul left the synagogue with every intention of dragging as many Christians off in chains to prison as he could. And if it came to executing the Christians, that would suit him just fine. As he walked along the road to Damascus, with orders in hand, and chains over his shoulder, he was suddenly confronted by a brilliant light. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. (Acts 9:3-5)
There are a lot of aspects to this meeting that could be studied, but I want to look particularly at the conversation between Saul and Jesus. I know that is the obvious spot to start, but it is also the most important.
Look at Acts 9:4 – He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Blinded by the brilliant light, Saul falls to the ground in fear, this powerful, ambitious Legal Counsel to the Sanhedrin was groveling on the ground in fear. Then he hears the voice of Jesus Christ asking why Saul has been persecuting Him. This is the important point; Jesus asks why Saul was persecuting HIM, not why he had been persecuting those who were following Him, those walking in the Way. What you must realize through this conversation is that as we follow Him, we are the Church, and we are the Body of Christ. That puts us back to the thought of Standing in the Shadow of the Almighty.
So, when Jesus answers Saul’s question, “Who are you, Lord?” (9:5) Christ replies, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” That is something very special for us to remember, as the Church, The Body of Christ. In the song, “How Beautiful,” Twila Paris talks about how beautiful the Body of Christ is. In the words, through the verses, she transitions from talking about the Body of Christ, the Man, to the Body of Christ, the Church.
In Acts 9:6 Jesus instructs Saul to get up and finish his trip into Damascus. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
So, Saul finishes his trip to Damascus, but under entirely different circumstances than he had planned. Have you ever set you sights too high only to get knocked down to size? You then spend your time trying to clear your head and find new goals. Saul was in a quandary. His first goal, arresting all the Christians in the world was gone. Now blind, what was he to do? He was blind, this previously powerful man had to be led around by the hand. He wound up in the corner of the room, in a heap, not eating, for three days. O, how the mighty do fall. The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So, they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. (Acts 9:7-9)
And the drama does not end on the Damascus Road. There was something going on behind the scenes that the travelers didn’t know anything about. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:10-16)
Many times, I have preached about the way God works in the background to answer our prayers. There can be things we pray about, and God is in the process of answering, but first He has to get someone else to act, to get all the pieces aligned.
Now, this is what was happening in the case of Saul and Ananias. In order for Saul to become the person God has in mind for him, God has to get some other things aligned in Damascus. Namely, getting Ananias, a follower of Christ, to approach Saul, the Christian persecutor, and help him. He’s to help the very man who was trying to put every Christian in chains. And look how it turns out.
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (Acts 9:17-19)
In the days to come Saul would rise to become Paul, (Acts 13:9) the most effective Evangelist and Church planter the world has ever seen. Paul goes through years of hardship, as we will see. We will read of Paul being stoned, stoned, shipwrecked, chained in prison, beaten with rods, and in danger from strangers as well as his own countrymen. (2 Corinthians 11:21-29)
The blinding light of Jesus Christ on the Damascus road is the most dramatic calling we will ever see. The better we understand the darkness of Saul’s past, the more we will understand Paul’s gratitude for God’s Grace.
And if you think about it, that could also apply to many of us… maybe even you.
Bostwick UMC 8/16/20
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