Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.(Philippians 3:12)
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.( Acts 9:1-8)
Saul, the Pharisee, and up and coming Rabbi, Lawyer and zealous defender of the faith of Israel, set out with full warrant of the High Priest, to Damascus, where word had it that there was among the Jews who dwelt there, a thriving congregation of the (Heretical) sect of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth.
His intention was to destroy the church, arrest as many of the leaders as possible, and bring back in chains as many of these apostate ‘Nazarenes’ as he could arrest, to Jerusalem. They would then be brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin, where they would be charged with blasphemy and false teaching, and either be compelled to deny Christ, or stoned to death, as Stephen was.
As Saul and his accompanying party neared Damascus around noon, He suddenly found himself in the midst of a blinding light, which brought the proud Pharisee to his knees along with the rest of His party. He then heard a voice speaking from the light, addressing him in his own language and asking him an unexpected question;
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.(Acts 22:14)
‘Why do you persecute me’? Who is this? It was obvious to Saul that this was a manifestation from heaven, Is this some Angel of God, speaking from the very Shekinah of His Holy presence? And of the second sentence,’It is hard for thee to kick against the Pricks’ , how true to Saul’s present experience!
Especially since the Stephen incident, Saul had been deeply conflicted. He had found no joy in his zealous service to God, because he knew something was wrong. Now the secrets of his heart were being revealed by this Holy being speaking from within the light.
Mustering up the courage to reply to the heavenly voice, Saul asked meekly, “Who are you Lord?“. The answer utterly stunned him,
“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”.
Try to imagine the paradigm shift in thinking this revelation demanded of Saul. Everything he thought he knew turns out to be wrong! ‘I am Jesus, whom you persecute’? The One Saul hated? Jesus was no heretic, and He isn’t dead either. Then it is true, that Jesus is risen from the dead! Even more so, Saul had asked, who are you Lord? Does this mean that Jesus is Lord?
Yet, how could the Lord be crucified? Wasn’t that the punishment reserved for the worst criminals, and according to Moses, for those accursed of God? Wasn’t Jesus, the crucified one actually proven to b a transgressor, accursed of God?
Perhaps at this point in his thoughts, the scripture in Isaiah’s prophecy came to the shattered Rabbi in full force,
…yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.( Isaiah 53)
We don’t know exactly when the “penny dropped” but it did, and he realized, that all this time he had been half right. Jesus of Nazareth, crucified as a blasphemer, derelicted of friend and lover and even God, was indeed cursed of God and afflicted, but not for his own sins but for ours, for Isaiah reveals that the Messiah would be unto us a sin offering, a God appointed substitute!
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.(Isaiah 53:10)
What does this say about Rabbi Saul of Tarsus? If this Jesus is Lord, then Saul was (and is) utterly wrong! Saul, the ‘expert’ authority on the scriptures, and the zealot for the name of God, the Hebrew of Hebrews, and Pharisee, dedicated to the total observance of the law, actually hated and had been fighting God all along!
In that very instant, such thoughts no doubt cascaded through Saul’s sharp mind, crushing him, breaking his heart as the realization of it all dawned upon him. Once again, and meekly He replied, to Jesus,
“What do you want me to do?”.
This time the Lord Jesus commanded him to continue on to the city, to await further instruction. Saul arose from the earth, but note the curious statement of scripture,
“…and when His eyes were open, He saw no man…” . Saul was physically blinded, but Jesus had opened his spiritual eyes. Previously when Saul was a zealous prosecutor, He could see physically, but was utterly blind spiritually. Unfortunately, Saul didn’t know he was blind, he thought he saw better than anyone! But Jesus revealed Himself to Him.
Thus did the Chief persecutor of the followers of Jesus, now submit to being led by the hand to Damascus, himself a helpless prisoner of Love, his mind reeling as he processed the new reality, the new way of seeing the recent past, and the implications of it all. The arrester, had been arrested!