As we continue our Easter Season Sermon Series on the Resurrection Stories, this week we inherit one that we frequently forget about: Paul's encounter with the Resurrected Christ on the Road to Damascus.
We tend to think of this story only as Paul's conversion story, but lets be honest: It is a resurrection story as well. The resurrected Christ (the very one that Paul is working against in persecuting the earliest believers) appears to Paul (then Saul) in a powerful vision that literally knocks him to the ground.
It is an incredible story, particularly because it is about more than Paul. Yes, it is about his conversion, but it also about the power of the resurrected Christ to change our lives AND it is about the reluctance of the followers of Christ to follow wherever Christ will lead us.
When Christ comes to Ananias, well, Ananias is incredibly quick to answer, "Here I am Lord" but none to quick to actually follow Christ's instructions to go and help Saul of Tarsus. You can practically hear him objecting, "Uh, Lord, I think you've made a mistake. That dude Saul is bad news and I'm not going anywhere near him."
Except, of course, that Ananias does eventually go. And when he does, he finds things just as the Resurrected Christ has told him. Saul has been thunderstruck, his life turned upside by his encounter, and he is literally blind to the world before him. Ananias finds Saul, calls out to him, witnesses the miracle that brings back Saul's sight, and sees that Saul is truly a changed man. Saul is baptized. Saul starts hanging out with the disciple (the very community he was seeking to destroy). Saul starts preaching and once he start, well, history is reshaped by his ministry.
It is an amazing story of resurrection and new life this week, and we'll celebrate it together at FCC Scottsdale this Sunday in worship!
Acts 9:1-22: The Conversion of Saul
Meanwhile 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.’The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul Preaches in Damascus
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ All who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’ Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.