Gamaliel, a wise and revered teacher of the Law, instructed the Sanhedrin with the following words: “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: leave these men alone! Let them go! For it their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39 NIV) His speech persuaded the Sanhedrin. However, it did not persuade a young man, one of Gamaliel’s students, named Saul!
Saul chose the path of youthful passion over seasoned wisdom and began persecuting the disciples of Jesus. Just as Gamaliel predicted he found himself fighting against God! (Jesus called it “kicking against the goads!”) Jesus introduced himself to Saul one day as Saul was traveling to
Damascus to arrest disciples
and haul them to
for punishment. Blinded by a great light and confronted by a voice that said,
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” – Saul asked a life changing question:
“Who are you, Lord?” I am sure that he was not prepared for the answer to that
question! “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the
city and you will be told what you must do.” Jerusalem
For three days (!) Saul waited, refusing to eat or drink, trapped in a world of darkness with the knowledge that his mistaken believe that Jesus was a false prophet actually made him the false prophet! New truth surfaced new questions. Was Jesus as zealous to destroy his enemies as Saul? No wonder Saul was praying!
When Ananias told him that Jesus would both heal his blindness and fill him with the Holy Spirit, Saul learned a lot about grace! “Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” (Acts 9:18-19 NIV) Saul spent the rest of his life sharing the story of Jesus and his amazing grace that could save even “the chief of sinners!” Our world desperately needs to know that Jesus is offering, not the punishment that we truly deserve, but the renewal that he died to create! Amazing grace indeed…
- Kenny Payne