Although chronologically out of order, it seems logical to keep all of our Pauline resurrection moments together. Yesterday we visited with Paul’s own account of encountering the Risen Christ, but Paul is laconic in his several citations of this life-changing moment. Today let’s let a master storyteller give us the moment from his own riveting accounts. Luke’s two-parter, Luke-Acts, was originally two distinct scrolls intended by Luke’s church to function as a full Christian origin primer; the gospel of course focuses upon the compassionate Christ while the Acts of the Apostles provides the Second Act of the Christian story. No less than three repetitions appear in Acts of this same history-changing moment, so Luke considered it worthy of multiple considerations. And so must we.
Luke’s original story takes place in Acts chapter 9. No doubt you know the story, but fiery Saul of Tarsus is marching from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest and present Jewish believers in Jesus for public trial and perhaps execution. He is flattened dead in his tracks by an iridescent brilliance so luminescent he collapses to the ground. While flat (sorry friends, no horse) he hears a voice querying him by name. Saul, Saul why do you persecute me? When Saul asks who is speaking, the voice thunders I am Jesus whom you persecute. Please note the (first person) present tense of the verb to be…I am. The voice does not speak about others being persecuted, only his own self. And the voice clearly states his identity is Jesus of Nazareth.
This moment not only literally blinds the young Pharisaic zealot, it throws him into life crisis. It is a complete mistake to call this, as history does, a conversion. It’s not! Saul had already dedicated utterly his entire life and enormous intellect, piety and character to Israel’s God, aligning his life so completely under Torah’s guiding hand he was more advanced than his peers in every respect. He fervently awaited the Messiah, but until that very moment never knew who the Messiah actually was. Luke’s gripping account is not conversion but completion for young Saul. Quite simply, so simple we might easily miss it, the Jesus whom Saul may not have even known about was resurrected, alive and also transfigured on the Damascene road just as He was on the Mount of the Transfiguration further west. As Jesus was dead for three days so Saul undergoes a death experience for three days also, neither eating nor drinking. When those scales fall from Saul’s eyes, he is still a zealot, still convicted by Israel’s God, still guided by the spirit of Torah…and he knows who the Messiah is. He knows the name of Jesus. And he knows Jesus is alive!
- Please take a moment to read Luke’s three distinctive Pauline resurrection accounts, all from Acts: Acts 9:1-19 cited above, and then with increasing detail Acts 22:4-16 and Acts 26:9-18. Note that Paul always uses this transforming experience for a particular reason in his teaching and writing.
- Note that Saul receives a life purpose, or a mission, during this completion encounter. What is his mission? What is your mission, your life purpose, your theological raison d’etre?!
- Have you had a moment of conversion or completion like Paul?! What’s your story about knowing that Jesus is Savior and Lord? Have you ever told anyone your story, and if not, would you?