Easter 6 – 4 Things About Saul
May 10, 2015
Saul is a young man – probably only in his 20’s
that day when he heads to Damascus.
He is what we might call a “rising star” among the Jewish leadership.
Not content to just go after the followers of Jesus who are around Jerusalem,
Saul asks for special permission
to go beyond Jerusalem and travel north to Damascus
and arrest those who have fled there.
Damascus is about 135 miles away.
Saul doesn’t have to go to Damascus.
No one orders him to go to Damascus.
Saul volunteers for the job.
Saul is so driven to “succeed” that he takes off for Damascus
just for the opportunity to arrest more followers of Jesus.
Saul has a plan; he has vision…
he sees himself as a future leader in the synagogue.
If he plays his cards right, he could be even a member of the Sanhedrin!
Drive isn’t necessarily a bad thing of course.
When someone is driven toward a goal,
we often say that they’re highly- motivated or a go-getter – good things!
Yet we also know people who are so driven, so singularly-focused, so competitive
that somehow they lose their integrity.
My beloved Tom Brady it seems
now joins the list of star athletes,
who will now have a different kind of star next their name:
an asterisk perhaps which reminds us
that they deflated the football,
or took steroids,
or were involved in blood doping.
But you know, God can use all parts of our story…
even the parts we’re ashamed of.
When Saul shares the message about the unconditional love of God,
perhaps the most convincing words he has about Jesus
are not words at all – but his very life story.
Saul had a life chasing after, arresting, and killing the followers of Jesus –
and then he became one of them.
Saul tells us that he isn’t a very good speaker,
(some scholars think that he spoke with a stutter),
but Saul could say with authenticity,
if you’re wondering what God can do,
look at me…
see what a difference Jesus has made in my life.
First thing we can learn from Saul?
God can use everything –
even the most shameful pieces of our lives.
Saul’s conversion is quite dramatic of course.
A light flashes around him,
and he hears a voice – “the Voice,” calling his name.
The Voice calls his name not just once, but twice..
Just like God called, “Abraham, Abraham,”
and “Moses, Moses!”
the Voice calls “Saul, Saul!”
And the Voice which turns out to be Jesus continues,
“Why are you persecuting me?”
Isn’t that interesting?
Saul wasn’t persecuting Jesus.
Jesus had already been crucified, risen, and ascended.
But Jesus says to Saul that
when you persecute my followers, you persecute me.
Second thing I hope we can remember about Saul?
When we someone is being persecuted; when someone is suffering….
Jesus is suffering too.
This story about Saul’s conversion is told more than once in the book of Acts.
It’s told 3 times.
As Saul tells it in the 26th chapter of Acts,
he says he sees the light and he hears the voice of Jesus saying,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? “
and Jesus adds something that sounds a bit odd,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?
It hurts you to kick against the goads.”
Maybe some of you know what a goad is,
but I didn’t.
A goad is a long, spiked stick.
It would be used to poke an ox to keep it moving forward.
Now if the ox kept going forward,
it wouldn’t hurt.
But if the ox decided to kick back,
the spikes in the goad would dig into him.
Jesus says to Saul,
“Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?
It hurts you to kick against the goads.”
Third thing I hope we’ll remember about Saul?
When we push back against what God is calling us to do – it can hurt.
Some of that hurt could be something like feeling shame.
But some of that hurt could feel more like yearning or longing,
or simply a nagging sense of restlessness,
the lack of a sense of purpose or meaning in our lives.
When we don’t follow God’s nudges…
when we kick back against the goad,
the goad continues to point us, push us to follow God’s leading.
Well at the same time that Jesus is goading Saul,
Jesus is goading someone else – a man by the name of Ananias.
Ananias lives in Damascus,
and he has a vision that he is to go to Judas’ house
on Straight Street in Damascus.
(And there really is a Straight Street in Damascus.
A chapel marks the place where these events are said to have taken place.)
The last thing I hope you’ll remember about Saul today?
I hope you’ll remember that Saul’s conversion isn’t complete with the voice.
Saul’s conversion also requires Ananias…
Can you imagine the impact it had on the world,
that Ananias was willing to go to Saul?
Ananias – whom we never hear from again in the Bible.
As a follower of Jesus, Ananias had every reason to be afraid of Saul,
and yet he’s willing to go to him, touch him, and Saul’s conversion is complete.
He asks to be baptized.
Ananias doesn’t convert Saul.
God converts Saul – but Ananias is the vehicle.
The last thing I hope we remember about Saul today?
Saul needed an Ananias to show him about Jesus.
It wasn’t the words Ananias used,
it was his actions – he dared to come to him, he dared to touch him, he dared to admit that he was a follower of Jesus.
So the 4 things once again:
- God can use all the pieces of our lives – even the painful pieces.
- When anyone is suffering – Jesus suffers.
- Not following God’s nudges hurts only us.
- God uses people like Ananias – people like us who dare to tell others about Jesus – through what we say and what we do.