The Road to Damascus
Here Scripture describes the encounter of a man filled with hatred, ambition and violence with the risen Jesus Christ.
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. 4 And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; 6 but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Anani′as. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Anani′as.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen a man named Anani′as come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Anani′as answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Anani′as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, 19 and took food and was strengthened.
Much could be said about this “chosen instrument” who would boldly carry Christ’s name into the Gentile world, overcoming every barrier whether from the outside pagan society or inside the Church itself, to proclaim the Gospel. Our focus, though, will be on Christ’s last sentence, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Consider the implications of this utterance. Christ is saying that suffering will be a hallmark of the Apostle Paul’s ministry. He is communicating this at the very beginning, so that Saul can make an informed consent to this condition of service. As we explore this Great Apostle’s suffering perhaps we will begin to understand why he would embrace such a fate with such joy and energy.
We seem to live with the goal of navigating our paths so as to skirt around the storms of suffering. The Apostle Paul, resolutely gripping Christ’s hand, drove straight towards the eye of hurricane after hurricane, until, having expended his all, he tasted the final victory.
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:54c-57