May 6, 2019
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
Last week we talked about Doubting Thomas. He wanted to see the scars in Jesus’ hands and feet before he would believe Jesus had risen from the tomb. This week we look at another of those New Testament figures that God needed to hit with a board across the head to make him believe. The man’s name is Saul, a staunch enemy of those who spread the story of Jesus’ resurrection and tried to disrupt the order of the synagogue and its teachings.
I expect most churches today would love to have Saul as one of their board members. He played by the rules. He lived up to the character people thought of when they thought of a religious person. He went to the synagogue regularly, not just on special holidays. He prayed often. He gave generously. He knew scripture. In fact, if history is correct, to be a student of Gamaliel, Saul would have recited whole books of the Old Testament just to be considered for his tutelage. Saul would have been a great churchman.
But Saul did not believe in the resurrection, and he was out to quell the rebellion in the Jewish community that did. He took with him a section of the Temple guard with papers from the chief priest and arrested as many of the members of this wayward sect as he could find. First in Jerusalem, then, when he started running short of prospective rebels there, he headed to Damascus where he heard one of the “Way’s” ringleaders had gone.
The troop moved fast and furious across the dusty hills toward the old Samaritan capital. Saul would root out this evil and kill it wherever it tried to hide. But something happened. Acts Chapter 9. Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."
Saul, the fire-breathing, perfect church board member of today figure of a man found himself face down in the dirt, blind, listening to the voice of Jesus, the one these rebels followed. The one who rose from the dead. Here he was talking to Saul, telling him to stop. Telling him he had a job for him to do.
Ouch! Talk about sudden guilt. All these months, Saul had gone around arresting followers of Jesus. They had been locked away and many killed. Saul knew their fate, but didn’t care. He was doing the right thing... he thought. He was stopping this rebel outbreak before they could cause harm against the Jewish community. Rome was looking for reasons to destroy the Jews, he had to stop this group or at least lay blame at their feet for all the ills going on in Israel so his people could be saved from the wrath of Rome.
But then he met Jesus. “Get up, go to Damascus, you will be told what to do.”
I’m not sure Saul was used to being told what to do. I think he was pretty headstrong and was used to telling other people what to do, not the other way around. But not this time. For three days, Saul saw only the darkness of his blinded eyes behind the scales God put in place. For three days he was entombed in his thoughts because he could see nothing else. For three days he prayed for God to help him see and understand what happened and why.
Then Ananias comes into the room with a little fear edging into his voice. “Saul, Jesus, the one you have been persecuting told me to come and lay hands on you so you can gain your sight again.” If I were Ananias, I’d have been a little fearful. What if Saul just gets angry at being blind for three days? What if he decides he wants to take out his blindness on me when he can finally see again? What if he really isn’t so blind after all? What if the dream wasn’t so accurate and I’m walking into a trap? No doubt Ananias had a lot of “what if’s” in his head, but his faith overcame them all and he when to the right street and the right house and asked for Saul. Then laid his hands on him and told him what was about to happen.
Great story isn’t it? Sometimes I think I could have more faith if I had an experience like Saul on the road to Damascus. But then again, I’m not sure I would. Have you ever thought about what it would be like? I’m not sure I’d want to be there. The bright light that blinds you and not knowing if you’ll ever see again. The person whose followers you’ve been killing shows up with that kind of power and knocks you to the ground. The person you think you are controlling suddenly takes absolute control over your life and turns you into one of those poor beggars you pass on the street everyday, not able to do anything without someone’s help to lead you along by the hand.
Then, in Damascus you hear a knock at the door and recognize the name at the introduction. “I’m Ananias…” and you miss the next few words because his name is at the top of the list of those you’ve come to take back to Jerusalem. He’s here. You’re blind. He knows why you came to Damascus. You are completely at his mercy. Then he lays his hands on your eyes.
No, I don’t think I would like going through what Saul went through in coming face to face with Jesus. I’m not sure my heart would stand the strain. I’m not sure I could trust the people or the circumstances the way Saul did, even then. Maybe he didn’t have much choice. Or maybe he thought death at the hands of one of these rebels would be better than being blind. Or maybe he began to see just a glimmer of truth in what Jesus told him. Who else but God could do the things he just witnessed.
Nope. I’m glad I can learn from Saul. I’m glad he changed his name to Paul and wrote so many letters to the churches of the first century. I’m glad he gave all that advice to Timothy and Titus and the members of those congregations to which he wrote. I’m glad he wrote about his suffering, his hope, his joy, his peace. But I’m glad I didn’t fill his shoes as he walked those roads across the empire.
His experience, though, causes me to pause and ask a question each of us must answer for ourselves. I have not been blinded on the road to Damascus, but do I believe in the risen Jesus? Do I know in my heart that the resurrection happened, just has Paul and John and the other gospel writers describe? Do I know that Jesus is not just some prophet who did some really good things and told some really good stories, but he is, in fact, God incarnate. God who put on human flesh, live among us, died for my sins, and rose from that borrowed tomb to prove he is who he says he is. Do I believe it, or is it just a lot of words?
I can tell you there’s a shrinking percentage of us who believe the story is true today. More and more are convinced it is just a story. What you believe makes a difference in how you approach life, death, and eternity. Here’s the problem many face. If Jesus’ words are not true, it doesn’t matter. How you live, what you believe, it doesn’t make any difference in the end, if Jesus’ words and his life is just a fairy tale. But if what he says is true. If the story is real. If when he says he is the only means of salvation, then what you believe makes all the difference in how you live and die and face eternity.
So there’s the question. What do you believe about him? Is he just a man or not? Is he God or not? Did he sacrifice himself for your forgiveness or not? Does he demand believe in him for salvation or not? What you believe matters. It did to Saul and it does to you and me. So what is it, true or false?
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.