Before I start talking about the meat about what I wish to discuss here for the next few weeks, I’d like for us to first go very quickly to a particular passage in Acts chapter 9 that introduces us to someone who was quite an interesting character in his time. We’ll do that through the lenses of Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” Translation that brings his situation down to a level where we can literally grab it off the bottom shelf and go.
Okay, campers–a little Cliff’s Note background fact-check about our friend Saul before we go much further. Let’s keep in mind that in the days he lived, he was actually born in a city named Tarsus where he by birthright not only was an actual son of the Jewish covenant with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but ALSO on top of it was a Roman citizen by birth that literally gave him carte blanche throughout the whole world at that time of history. In terms of the traditions of his fathers, he was a sort of a rockstar of his day. When people would hear that he was the direct principal disciple of the Jewish sage Gamaliel, oh–how people would talk about how he was really something. He was living the Jewish form of what we’d call today the highlife.
One day, he got an idea that he’d really prove his salt in terms of his true devotion to what he THOUGHT God wanted him to do. “…Persecuting those renegade wackos who STILL believed this nonsense about some guy named Yeshua/Yehoshua who actually blasphemeously claimed that he was actually the Messiah–the Son of God…I’ll show them just how off base and crazy they really are. Talk about folks that need to go to the insane asylum NOW–they are prime candidates for it for sure!” He managed to convince his bosses in the Sanhedrin and others in the Jewish hierarchy of his plan to drag those renegades over in Damascus and help dispose of them once and for all, got the paperwork and other materials necessary to do what he needed to, and got to trucking as fast as he could towards Damascus. BUT THEN–as they say, a funny thing happened on the forum for our friend Paul. Acts chapter 9 in The Message Translation picks up the story from there:
9 1-2 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
3-4 He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
5-6 He said, “Who are you, Master?” “I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
7-9 His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.
10 There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.” “Yes, Master?” he answered.
11-12 “Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”
13-14 Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”
15-16 But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”
17-19 So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.
More about our friend Saul/Paul next time…Until next time (as He allows), see ya at the CROSSroads–
CoyRH At The Crossroads