In this passage, Acts 22:7, we see the moment when Saul, soon to be, Paul, is confronted with the full force of the Truth that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God. It was the moment when his whole world got turned upside-down. His zealotry for his Jewish faith, his whole intellectual and emotional life, came up against the unbreakable fortress of the Truth that is Jesus. This zealous man, this man of faith, so convinced of his own righteousness, who had been a willing and active persecutor of any who followed the Way, was suddenly and powerfully knocked off of his high horse, and would never be the same again.
Such moments can not, and will not, be denied. The conversion of Paul is one of the more dramatic moments in all of Scripture. It reveals so much about Jesus and about Paul, all of which is instructive for those of us who call ourselves Christians. Jesus knew Paul. He knew Paul’s strengths, his intellectual prowess, his courage and conviction. He chose Paul, purposefully, just as he chooses each one of us purposefully. He knew that Paul’s skills, his character, his inner strength, were exactly what the infant Church needed. And Jesus loved Paul, just as he loves us. Jesus loved Paul enough to confront him directly with the error of his thinking and his ways. He was not gentle with Paul. He knew what it would take to get Paul’s attention. But he knew, too, that the gifts Paul possessed, would be the very gifts that would make him the great Apostle to the Gentiles that he needed.
Saul, the convinced and convicted persecutor of those he believed to be apostates, came face to face with God in a way that even he could never have imagined. Up to that point his faith was intellectual, born and bred at the feet of the great Pharisee, Gamaliel. He was a scholar and understood the history, and the theology of his Jewish faith like few others. But in this moment he was struck down, fell to the ground, before the person of Jesus. He could not see, blinded as he was by the Light of God, but he heard Jesus speak to him as clearly as any voice he had ever heard speaking to him in his entire life. This voice addressed him by name in a way so personal that its authority and its love could not be denied. The voice did not command. It did not condemn. It did not threaten. It simply asked, “Why do you persecute me?”
You see, in asking Saul this question, Jesus was addressing Saul as a free person, one who had the freedom to choose his response. Jesus’ question was a challenge, but it was offered in a tone of love. This must have struck Saul’s mind as powerfully as the Light that had knocked him off of his horse. Saul, humbled, responded fearfully, “Who are you, sir?” Then, imagine his surprise when he hears, “I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.” (verse 8) Let this response of Jesus strike us in the way it must have struck Saul. When Saul heard Jesus say “I AM,” he would have understood it in the way that Moses did on Mt. Sinai. God knows each one of us in the same, intimate, personal way as he did Saul. Then Saul asks, “What shall I do, sir?” What Jesus said to Saul, he says to us as well, “Get up and go to Damascus…,” that is, go to prayer, put away your self-righteousness, and listen humbly to, “what [God] has appointed [each one of us] to do.” (verse 10)
Lord, give us the grace of humility, so that we may no longer get caught up in riding our own high horse. Teach us to listen to your word, to hear what it is that you want us to do. Help us to see the wisdom of serving others, rather than having them bend to our own prideful will. We pray these things believing in the power of your most holy name, Jesus. Amen!
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