Picture: Anton Repponen
Read Acts 9:1-6
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.” (NIV)
Talk about a sudden career change! Saul is making quite a name for himself as a persecutor of the early church. One of his great objectives is to nip in the bud this nonsense being spread about Jesus coming back to life. If this were to be so, then the integrity of the current religious leadership is ruined. If Jesus were alive then the leaders were wrong and these upstart Christians were right. That wouldn’t do at all.
And so it happened on the Damascus road that the very last person Saul expected to see confronted him. It was none other than Jesus, the one presumed dead and buried. Imagine Saul’s reaction when he was informed of this fact. In an instant, his world changed. Which is how it ought to be when any of us confront the living Jesus. It may not be as dramatic as the conversion of Saul, but we can’t meet the risen Jesus and be unchanged by it.
What can be overlooked is what Jesus says to Saul. He doesn’t ask Saul why he is persecuting the church or other Christians. He asks why Saul is persecuting him, Jesus. Which illustrates the closest of ties between Jesus and his church. Next time we are tempted to get stuck into the church (that is, the churches we don’t approve of), remember that it involves getting stuck into people in whom Jesus lives and for whom Jesus died. People who are his body.
No great problem in having our differences with fellow Christians and expressing them respectfully. But when we go on the attack to do damage, we are assaulting Jesus even if we mistakenly believe we are attacking in his name. May the risen Jesus cause us to see the light just as Saul did as he journeyed to Damascus.