Saul continued on his murderous way with the determined intent to not only destroy the perpetrators of this new religion, “the Way,” but also eliminate the challenge to historical and fundamental Judaism.
He would embark on a personal campaign to extinguish every trace of the followers of Jesus Christ who claimed that He was both Messiah and God.
What better course of action could there be than to nip it in the bud and ensure it died early in its tracks – before it could spread like leaven through dough? If successful he would have achieved a major victory and saved the world from a hideous deception.
With that in the forefront of his mind and having considered himself successful in Jerusalem, Saul turned his attention to Damascus. Armed with the appropriate letters he started his journey towards the extermination of Christianity.
There was never a doubt that what he was doing was best or any concerns that maybe what he was striving for was wrong. He was determined to keep Judaism pure.
As he rode along that day he must have felt very pleased with himself – the saviour of Judaism. Then it happened. Completely out of the blue came this lightning flash of light and Saul fell from his horse. Opening his eyes he discovered that he was blind. But that was not all – he heard a voice speaking to him and addressing him by name.
It was the voice of Ultimate Authority – it was the voice of none other than the very person whose followers he had set out to destroy – the voice of Jesus Christ!
The challenge was an interesting one – Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?
Not why are you persecuting the followers of The Way – but why persecute Me?
Jesus was identifying Himself with His followers – Saul was not just attacking them; he was attacking Jesus Christ – their Leader and Master.
Saul recognised something in the tone of the voice to know that he had met Someone who was all-powerful, the One before whom every knee would bow. He responded with a contrite – Who are you, Lord?
The Lord replied – I am Jesus. Wow! If there was ever a statement to eliminate discussion it is that. I am Jesus. There is never any place for a question or argument when you hear that statement. Every person on the face of the earth will be silenced by that statement. The only response that we can make is to bow and call Him, Lord.
We may feel we have all sorts of issues to raise with God. We may feel He has dealt us a hard life. We may feel He has let us down. We may feel He is uncaring and judgmental – but please let me assure you of this – once you hear His voice say – I am Jesus – as with everyone who has ever met Him in that way – you too will fall down before Him and call Him, Lord. The issues will become totally insignificant when you come face to face with Jesus.
As we read the rest of Saul’s life – and his name was changed to Paul through his encounter with the living Jesus – we realise that he was totally transformed. His passion for the Truth was the same. His vigorous defense of his beliefs was equal to his fervency for Judaism; however, his message was totally different. His motivation was redirected from himself and his own significance to that of being completely absorbed by his passion for everyone to know Jesus. To follow Jesus.
To know the overwhelming love of God, which had been demonstrated to him – the murderer of Christians – now forgiven and given life in a whole new dimension.
Paul was totally captivated by love – God’s love. He never forgot the extent of God’s forgiveness expressed to him through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. All his past forgiven and replaced by a bright and secure hope for the future – in Heaven with Jesus forever.