THE MAN WHO MADE HAVOC
Who Are You, Lord?
Following the martyrdom of Stephen, a man named Saul promotes the widespread persecution of the church in Jerusalem. Saul was determined to eradicate the followers of Jesus, and he was filled with hate and willing to commit violent acts against all who belong to the Way. To that end, he obtains letters from the high priest authorizing him to go into the Damascus synagogues and continue the search. Saul begins his march toward Damascus intent on destroying any who claim Jesus is the Christ and that he had risen from the dead. The entourage he travels with is intent on finding anyone that may have escaped persecution in Jerusalem. As Saul nears Damascus, a light from heaven shone around him. Saul falls to the ground blinded by a light that was brighter than the midday sun, and he hears a voice speaking. The question asked is why are you persecuting me? Saul has no idea who is talking to him, but he knows that this is not someone to be trifled with and he calls him Lord and inquires his identity. The voice is the voice of Jesus who declares that Saul is persecuting him personally. The church is the bride of Christ, and when Saul persecuted the church, he persecuted Jesus. Jesus tells Saul to rise and make his way to Damascus where he will be told what he should do. Saul's associates stand in silence because they can hear Jesus' voice, but they do not see anyone. Saul rises from the ground, but the light has left him trapped in darkness, and his men had to lead him into the city by the hand. Saul does not eat or drink anything for three days. Damascus was home to a disciple named Ananias, and the Lord called to him in a vision. The instructions were simple, go to the Straight street and find the house of Judas where inside you will find a man praying. By the way, his name is Saul of Tarsus, and I told him in a vision that you would be paying him a visit. Ananias reminds the Lord of the evil committed by this man to the saints in Jerusalem and explains to God that he is in Damascus with authority to arrest all who call on Jesus' name. The Lord does not discuss the details or address his concerns; he just commands Ananias to go because Saul is a chosen instrument to carry Jesus' name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. Saul will suffer for the sake of God's name. Ananias obeys, and when he enters the house, he finds Saul, calls him brother and lays his hands on him as he prays for him. Something like scales fell from Saul's eyes both figuratively and literally as he regains his sight. Saul rises again and is baptized. He finally eats some food and is strengthened. Saul gathers with the disciples in Damascus and proclaims Jesus in the synagogues declaring him to be the Son of God. The people are not sure what to make of this transformation and try to understand what has become of his mission. Saul increases and under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit he uses the Scripture that he is so familiar with to confound the Jews and prove that Jesus is the Christ. Saul was not the only zealot willing to kill any who claim Christ and not many days pass before a scheme is hatched to murder Saul. Saul learns of the plot and the disciples help him escape by night through an opening in the wall by lowering him in a basket.
The Church Multiplied
Saul returns to Jerusalem where he attempts to join the disciples. The disciples want nothing to do with Saul because they feared that this was an act. Barnabas personally brings Saul to the apostles and tells them the story of how Jesus appeared to this terrorist and saved him, called him, and gave him a mission. Barnabas explains how Saul preached body in Damascus and disputed with the Hellenists who tried to kill him. The brothers decided it was wise to send Saul to Tarsus for his safety. There has never been a time the Church was not persecuted, and the astounding thing is that the church multiplies under persecution.
Peter is engaged in itinerant ministry, and he makes his way to Lydda. He encounters a man named Aeneas who has been bedridden for eight years because of his paralysis. Peter tells Aeneas to rise and make his bed because Jesus is healing him. Aeneas stands, and all the residents can see that there is power in the name of Jesus because he is alive and they turned to the Lord. Not far away in Joppa, there is a disciple named Tabitha. The people testify to the evidence of grace in her life. Tabitha was generous and charitable, but she became ill and died. She was laid in an upper room, and word was sent to Peter to come without delay. Two men implore Peter to come to Joppa without delay. Peter obliges these men, and when they arrived, he was ushered into the upper room. Many widows stood there weeping and showing Peter the garments that Tabitha had made when she was with them. Peter clears the room, and he knelt down to pray. He turns to the body, and he commands Tabitha to arise. Tabitha opens her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. Peter offers his hand and presents her alive to those who are outside mourning. Word spread quickly, and many in Joppa believed in the Lord. Peter stays in Joppa for a while in the home of Simon, a tanner.
Things To Consider:
- Why do some people hate Jesus and Christians?
- How is the church persecuted today?
- What does the light have to do with Jesus?
- What does the metaphor of light and darkness represent?
- How does Jesus speak to unbelievers today?
- Why does Jesus say that persecuting the church is the same as persecuting him?
- Why does God sometimes ask us to do things that are uncomfortable or sometimes dangerous?
- How does Saul fit into God's plan?
- How do you see the evidence of Saul's faith?
- What is the purpose of miracles?