FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.
This intriguing story of how Paul was apprehended by Jesus on the road to Damascus is one of my favorites. It is a scene that is replicated over and over today as Jesus continues to act in our lives.1Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" 5And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do." 7The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.
Select your wording carefully. Most people scan their emails very quickly. Keep your paragraphs to seven lines or less.
8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11And the Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight." 13But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Your saints at Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name." 15But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." 17So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; 19and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, 20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." 21All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" 22But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
Paul had a role in life-to persecute the followers of the Way. The Way believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. Paul was a believer in the Messiah. He was looking for the Messiah, the Christ. He could have been called a Christian-a follower of the Christ, the Messiah. So, since he wasn't buying into the Messiahship of Jesus, he did all he could do to stop the efforts of the Way-the followers of Jesus. He saw this as his role in life and played it very well. In fact, he felt he was quite righteous about what he was doing. BUT JESUS APPREHENDED HIM. When Jesus comes into your life, He takes you out of your role or false-self and brings about a spirit of authenticity to you and your lifestyle. You can't cover up and play a role, when Jesus is leading out.
NOTE the words God spoke to Ananias about Paul. This is significant: "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear MY NAME before the GENTILES, KINGS, and the SONS OF ISRAEL, for I will show him how much he must suffer for MY NAME'S sake."
Four things stand out here to me: FIRST-It's all about the NAME OF JESUS. This was most important to the Lord-that Paul bear the NAME OF JESUS. This is what is most important for us today! We are not commanded to spread Christianity or any other religious system nor church membership, but only and primarily the NAME OF JESUS.
SECOND-Who was the target of Paul's ministry to be? NOTE it was the Gentiles, kings and the sons of Israel.
THIRD-The transformation of Paul, the persecutor of the people of Jesus, into Paul, the preacher of Jesus, was very dramatic and obvious. After spending several days with the disciples of Jesus who were in Damascus, he immediately began to proclaim the NAME OF JESUS in the synagogues. Even more than proclaiming Jesus, Paul was confidently proving that Jesus was the Messiah. The people were shocked!
FOURTH-A personal encounter with Jesus will change all that you are and all that you do.
I believe Jesus apprehended my life nearly 4 years ago as a seminary graduate and pastor. I had always loved Jesus and taught about Him in the ministry opportunities that were laid out for me. But this time there is a difference:
· Instead of being intent on teaching it properly and effectively, I am more intent on obeying Jesus. · Instead of doing, doing, doing as well as I can do, I am into being, being, being who Jesus has made me to be. · Instead of building the church of Jesus, I am disciplining myself to be the church of Jesus. · Instead of playing a role or wearing the mask that befits a religious position, I am bent on being real and authentic.
· Instead of trying to reach the masses with another "powerful" message, I am now more interested in investing my time with a few. · Instead of exercising my life over what "my" purpose is, I am exercising myself toward loving God with all my heart and loving my neighbors as myself. · Instead of deceiving myself into thinking I have some "messianic" touch to help people, I introduce them to the only one who can change their lives-JESUS. · Instead of just going to church, I am now practicing being the church in every gathering of believers in His name.
· Instead of frantically trying to change the world by Wednesday noon, I now understand that the call of Jesus on my life is a call into His rest. · Instead of making disciples out of Christians, I see that the best potential disciples are made out of non-Christians. · Instead of hanging out with the religious crowd, I am hanging out with revolutionaries. · Instead of doing life as the Lone Ranger, I am now doing life with a few others.
· Instead of counting the variety of churches in the world, I now see there is only one church-the church of Jesus. · Instead of doing things my way for Jesus, I am now waiting on Jesus to lead out with His orders and opportunities-to do things His way in His time.
I see the lesson here of Paul's encounter with Jesus in this way: When Jesus apprehends you on your way to becoming a righteous Christian, He will transform you into becoming a stubborn follower of Him in order to lift up His NAME. HIS NAME IS JESUS.