SAUL MOVES TO CENTRE STAGE
“All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
“He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?’
“He said, ‘Who are you, Master?’
“‘I am Jesus, the One you are hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.'” Acts 9:1-6 (The Message).
Poor Saul! He had no chance against Jesus. All his intentions to do as much damage to the church as he could, went up in a puff of smoke when he came face to face with his opponent.
Saul’s passage into the kingdom was a stormy one. Unlike the other apostles, he was not given an opportunity to spend time with the Master, size Him up and reach his own conclusion about Him. Only a once-off, terrifying encounter with the glorified Lord would be enough to change his mind and his direction for the rest of his life.
Saul was a religious fanatic, a Pharisee and a rabbi trained under the best rabbis of his day. He was of the same persuasion as those who crucified Jesus and stoned Stephen. He was not the sort of material for a humble and obedient disciple in that state of mind. When Jesus chose His disciples to understudy Him and to continue His mission, He studiously avoided the religious types because they were the ones most difficult to convince.
But Jesus needed Saul. He had the qualities of a great champion. His superior mind and knowledge of the Scriptures had great potential for being a leader, even of those who lived with and followed Him. Only a personal meeting would convince the man that He was the Son of God.
Jesus waited until Saul had reached his destination.
By this time Saul had built up such a head of steam that he was ready to take on every person who dared admit to being part of this new “Way”. A blinding flash of light, a voice like thunder, and Saul finally got the message! Jesus was in charge, not Saul. He thought he had enough authority and power to stamp out what offended him, in the name of God, but he had taken on more than he had bargained for. He had pitted his puny strength against the Lord of glory and lost! It was time to lay down his arms.
Jesus always deals with people as unique individuals. He knows just what stands between us and Him and how to expose the core of our hearts. For the rich young ruler it was his money, for Peter it was his self-sufficiency and for Saul it was his religion.
What is in the centre of your being that takes the place of Jesus? He wants nothing less than all of you. From a self-righteous, over-zealous religious bigot, in one blinding flash of revelation, Saul became Paul, the love-slave of Jesus.
“But whatever was for my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own…” Philippians 3:-9a (NIV).