January 25th 2009 Year B - Conversion of Paul
Acts 9:1 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. 3 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. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6 "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." 7 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. 10 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."17 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." 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
Jottings this week, no sermon...
Verses 4 and 5. Paul is persecuting the church, yet Jesus says Saul is persecuting Him. Jesus identifies so closely with believers that when someone harms them they harm him. This can apply to persecution, but also being nasty to another believer is being nasty to Jesus. See Matthew 25:40, also, for this teaching .
Saul is blinded physically to show his spiritual blindness. It is only when the Holy Spirit comes that this blindness disappears. In Acts, especially, the Holy Spirit is the mark/evidence of true faith, as well as the motivation for it.
We see God's sovereignty and choice, verse 15. Ananaias has to exercise great faith to ignore what he is being told and believe that God will change Saul. Jesus' authority is greater than any earthly one, verse 14. That God could change such a determined persecutor of the church into it's strongest advocate should encourage us that no-one is a hopeless case, and anyone can come to God.
God calls people in different ways, few of us get visions like Ananias of Saul. But God does call people and equip and empower them to minister for him. He doesn't call everyone to be an evangelist, like Saul. Some he calls to pray and support, like Ananias. What has God called and equipped you to do for him?
After spending time with the disciples Paul is able to prove to Jews that Jesus is the Christ empowered by the Spirit, presumably using the scriptures, see Luke 24:27. How can we prove that Jesus is the Christ in a culture where the sciptures are not the reference point for people, who do not understand what "Christ" means, other than in blasphemy?