It’s been several weeks since I was last on a road trip. And most of the time, at least in the recent past, Janet has been with me. But not this time – I came down with a co-worker who lives in Carmel. Admittedly, I travel quite a bit without Janet, but usually it is by air and so it is a little weird to drive and not have her in the car next to me.
Anyway, I am about 4-1/2 hours southwest of Carmel in New Harmony, IN. I have several business meetings in the morning and it made sense to drive down today rather than wait and head out very early in the morning from home. So here I sit. I have been thinking about the “road” for several days. I remembered the poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”, and several other references to “roads.” But the reference that I just couldn’t get out of my head was the one about the conversion experience of Saul on the road to Damascus.
In case you are not familiar with it, this section of Scripture, in the book of Acts, has to do with the conversion experience of Paul. And you may have noticed what appears to be a typo – Saul, and then Paul – but it’s not a mistake. Before this dramatic conversion, perhaps the most striking one in the entire Bible, Saul was known as a very educated Jew from the city of Tarsus who was taught by one of the top teachers of his time – whose the name of Gamaliel. Saul’s training in the law was beyond reproach. He was the envy of the Jewish community. In fact, Saul was so revered that he actually became a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling elders of the Jewish people. In addition to everything else, Saul was a Roman citizen and held high standing in a community that was committed to the persecution of the followers of Jesus Christ.
It is possible, that as a contemporary of Jesus, Saul could have been present at the crucifixion of Jesus; and we are told in the 6th chapter of Acts that the members of the Sanhedrin were present at the stoning of Stephen – so Saul could have been there also. Anyway, Saul was in the process of heading to Damascus when he fell to the ground. A voice from heaven inquired as to why Saul persecuted Jesus and when Saul opened his eyes, he was blind! In fact, he had to be led to the city by those people who were travelling with him. He was visited by Ananias, a Christian who had been prompted by God to find Saul and restore his sight. Immediately upon the restoration of his sight, Saul began to preach that Jesus was, in fact, the Son of God.
It’s tough to realize how difficult this must have been for those Christ followers who were in the area. After all, Saul was known for his persecution of those who believed in Jesus and there was fear that Saul was still committed to the destruction of those who were committed to Christ. But Paul stayed in the area and immediately began to change the delivery of his message – from one of destruction to one of salvation.
In fact, we are told in the beginning of Galatians that Paul actually claimed apostolic position (being taught by Jesus Himself) after having spent three years with Jesus. It is quite clear that Jesus chose Paul to be His ambassador the the Gentile community. This is exceptionally important, and quite surprising, because Paul’s background and training would have made him the perfect voice of Jesus to the Jewish community. Yet that responsibility went to Peter, and to some extent, James, the half brother of Jesus.
This is another example of how God uses unlikely people in unlikely ways to spread the message of the Gospel. And I think that God still does that today. In fact, I consider myself of the prime examples. There wasn’t anybody less qualified that I to be chosen to be a pastor and teacher of the Bible. I, like Paul, am grateful that God chose me to help spread the message of the Good News throughout the corporate world – my chosen ministry field.
The verse this evening is the verse that tells us about the conversion experience of Saul. In Acts 9:7, we are told, “The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God has high hopes for you to also spread the Good News. I don’t know if your conversion experience was as memorable as Paul’s, but my prayer is that God will bless you abundantly as you go about His work in the world. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…