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“Let the Scales Fall from Our Eyes” “Let the Scales Fall from Our Eyes”


"Saul, why do you persecute me?"
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“Let the Scales Fall from Our Eyes”

Posted on Sun, Apr 10, 2016

Acts 9:1-20

April 10, 2016

 

Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel Text: Acts 9:1-20 “Let the Scales Fall from Our Eyes”

The Conversion of Saul

9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5 He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ 7 The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ 11 The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ 13 But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ 15 But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul Preaches in Damascus

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’

 

 

We have truly been blessed by Paul’s writings and articulations about faith. Here are some examples:

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

 

1 Corinthians 2:4-5

…and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

 

2 Corinthians 8:9

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

 

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

Acts 19:11-12

God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

 

All wonderful quotes by the “apostle” Paul… We are encouraged, inspired and even given our spiritual direction through Paul. One of the most bedrock verses of the Lutheran Church, would be Ephesians 2:8, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

 

But before there this person we call, “Paul,” there was seemingly another person with the same body named, “Saul.” And, if you have been paying attention as to how and who God seems to work with in order to proclaim God’s grace, justice, mercy, glory, joy and love THROUGH, you shouldn't be surprised that this Saul isn’t the kind of persons humans would expect to be part of God’s amazing plan.

 

The reason is because this Paul we need for the sake of understanding our faith, has a great deal of blood on his hands.  

 

The first time we hear about Saul (7:58), Luke tells us that he was standing guard over the coats of those who would execute Stephen in brutal fashion. But he’s not just a passive witness, he “approved of their killing him” (8:1a). Moreover, Stephen’s is not the only Christian life whose taking he approved. As we move to chapter 8, Saul’s portrait as arch-persecutor is only enhanced as Acts recounts that “ravaging the church ... dragging off both men and women,” he shut them all behind bars. And then Luke turns to the impact of these persecutions; leaving us for a moment wondering what role this Saul might play in this story.

 

Paul was probably born around 10 CE in Tarsus. He was probably well off, highly educated and a great defender of the law and traditions of Israel, a Pharisee above Pharisees… He was also a protector of the people who had recently and enthusiastically began believing and therefore walking in the ways of Jesus, these people were called, “The People of The Way,” or as “the Followers of The Way.” The term “Christians” wasn't termed for the faithful, until the church in Antioch was established in Chapter 11:26. 

 

“The Way” is a powerful metaphor for Christian identity. Instead of being identified by a set of beliefs, these faithful communities were known by their character (their actions) in the world. Christian faith was a way of life and one that impelled individuals and communities to leave the safe confines of home and church to walk on the road God had set out. “The Way” suggests that faith is a living, active way of life.

 

Saul had a great deal of “head knowledge” about the Hebrew Scriptures, the meaning the law and the customs is Israel. He also understood the importance of the Temple System, and the importance of maintaining the Temple System for the sake of keeping the Pharisaic, Priest, Scribe and basic Jewish social structure and keeping it intact. The Temple was a system of keeping the Jewish society in line, and hardly resembled any kind of Spiritual endeavor of showing gratitude, or love for the grace of God. We aren’t sure, but I would suspect Saul understood the danger of the teachings of Jesus and the impact they were having on the average citizen of Jerusalem as so many were converting to a life of imitating, or walking in the Way of Jesus, rather than towing the line and living according to the well entrenched system that was handed down to them since the time of King David.

 

They may have thought their problems had gone when they did away with Jesus, but it seems that the message of Jesus has only grown stronger since his death, and “suspected” resurrection and ascension… Like Jesus, these “followers of The Way” were also viewed as a threat to the status quo and needed to be destroyed… this was the job Saul seemed to relish.

 

Now, Saul had his papers and was on his way to Damascus to arrest more of these followers of The Way, and drag them back to Jerusalem to be dealt with… but along the way, Jesus (THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD) confronts him in a blinding light and says, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

 

We are to believe that the mind of Saul doesn't believe in Jesus, yet with Saul’s response, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ it appears that the heart of Saul has known Jesus all along.

 

Jesus confirms Saul’s heart knowledge with the reply, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

 

Jesus has much work for Saul, and notice there is no explanation for Saul from Jesus about this sudden change of agenda and Jesus simply says, “6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” It is as if Jesus is saying, “Stop looking confused and helpless, get off your dusty but and get to Damascus, I have someone there for you to meet... Get up!” 

 

I can only imagine what is going on in Saul’s mind. Up to today, he has always been in control but now he is helpless, blind and confused. It is not surprising that FOR THREE DAYS, he remained silent and neither ate or drank anything.

 

Move onto the conversation between Jesus and Ananias. Jesus is asking Ananias to really step out of his comfort box and visit Saul in order to lay hands on him and heal him… The main issue is that EVERYONE who follows Jesus, even those in the far off city of Damascus know about Saul and know the results of coming face to face with Saul, it meant prison or death. Jesus is asking Ananias to heal the biggest threat to Jesus’ followers at that time. Imagine Jesus commanding you to visit the worst persecutor of Christians today, then commanding you to forgive him, comfort him and then without advance notice invite and escort him to a potluck here at Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church!!!

What would you do? This is exactly what Ananias was being asked to do!

 

What would you say back to Jesus? “Are kidding, Lord? He may kill me!” Jesus would only shrug and say… “So what?” Jesus has already ‘gone there’ for our sake…

 

But this is what the church is all about. As we have been forgiven and made new through the death and resurrection of Christ, the least we are called to do is to demonstrate hospitality, acceptance, mercy, and a healing welcome to all in the same way Christ has blessed us.

 

What is so amazing about today’s text is not only the amount of grace and faith Jesus shows in calling Saul to convert from being Saul the Bounty Hunter, to Paul the Apostle/Evangelist, as to the zeal Paul demonstrated in going out as he was commanded and articulate our grace based faith and the birthing of faith communities all over the region at that time. 

 

How might the story of this dramatic call on a dusty road to Damascus give us a new imagination?

 

Saul had head knowledge of the Law, customs and the Temple system, but he didn't have the heart knowledge about who God really was. In order to protect a system, his stature in society and even his income, it made no difference to him if people were killed to protect his interests. Not surprising, this kind of behavior still continues to this day. We see this when we see companies, governments or any other group, in order to protect their interests, their system, somebody’s profits, or just your own skin, people are labeled as “outsiders, misfits, aliens, or whatever” so that they can be justifiably sacrificed, removed, or regulated to the ‘outside’ of society. The character of “Saul” is very much alive and well even today.

 

Saul justified his hunt for the followers of The Way until the Light of Christ, confronted him on the road to Damascus.

 

Oh, how our world needs to be healed of our own blindness so that we can see the Light of Christ, and then boldly proclaimed and demonstrate God’s justice, forgiveness, grace, mercy, joy, love and even tolerance (such a pathetically weak word) to our very hard hearted world.

 

God intentionally chose a man with blood on his hands to be confronted, healed, forgiven and then commissioned to GO OUT to articulate and give an example of living in faith even if it demanded suffering and much hardship.

 

One last quote from Paul:

1 Corinthians 11:1

“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

 

Amen

April 10, 2016

 

Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel Text: Acts 9:1-20 “Let the Scales Fall from Our Eyes”

The Conversion of Saul

9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5 He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ 7 The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ 11 The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ 13 But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ 15 But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul Preaches in Damascus

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’

 

 

We have truly been blessed by Paul’s writings and articulations about faith. Here are some examples:

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

 

1 Corinthians 2:4-5

…and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

 

2 Corinthians 8:9

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

 

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

Acts 19:11-12

God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

 

All wonderful quotes by the “apostle” Paul… We are encouraged, inspired and even given our spiritual direction through Paul. One of the most bedrock verses of the Lutheran Church, would be Ephesians 2:8, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

 

But before there this person we call, “Paul,” there was seemingly another person with the same body named, “Saul.” And, if you have been paying attention as to how and who God seems to work with in order to proclaim God’s grace, justice, mercy, glory, joy and love THROUGH, you shouldn't be surprised that this Saul isn’t the kind of persons humans would expect to be part of God’s amazing plan.

 

The reason is because this Paul we need for the sake of understanding our faith, has a great deal of blood on his hands.  

 

The first time we hear about Saul (7:58), Luke tells us that he was standing guard over the coats of those who would execute Stephen in brutal fashion. But he’s not just a passive witness, he “approved of their killing him” (8:1a). Moreover, Stephen’s is not the only Christian life whose taking he approved. As we move to chapter 8, Saul’s portrait as arch-persecutor is only enhanced as Acts recounts that “ravaging the church ... dragging off both men and women,” he shut them all behind bars. And then Luke turns to the impact of these persecutions; leaving us for a moment wondering what role this Saul might play in this story.

 

Paul was probably born around 10 CE in Tarsus. He was probably well off, highly educated and a great defender of the law and traditions of Israel, a Pharisee above Pharisees… He was also a protector of the people who had recently and enthusiastically began believing and therefore walking in the ways of Jesus, these people were called, “The People of The Way,” or as “the Followers of The Way.” The term “Christians” wasn't termed for the faithful, until the church in Antioch was established in Chapter 11:26. 

 

“The Way” is a powerful metaphor for Christian identity. Instead of being identified by a set of beliefs, these faithful communities were known by their character (their actions) in the world. Christian faith was a way of life and one that impelled individuals and communities to leave the safe confines of home and church to walk on the road God had set out. “The Way” suggests that faith is a living, active way of life.

 

Saul had a great deal of “head knowledge” about the Hebrew Scriptures, the meaning the law and the customs is Israel. He also understood the importance of the Temple System, and the importance of maintaining the Temple System for the sake of keeping the Pharisaic, Priest, Scribe and basic Jewish social structure and keeping it intact. The Temple was a system of keeping the Jewish society in line, and hardly resembled any kind of Spiritual endeavor of showing gratitude, or love for the grace of God. We aren’t sure, but I would suspect Saul understood the danger of the teachings of Jesus and the impact they were having on the average citizen of Jerusalem as so many were converting to a life of imitating, or walking in the Way of Jesus, rather than towing the line and living according to the well entrenched system that was handed down to them since the time of King David.

 

They may have thought their problems had gone when they did away with Jesus, but it seems that the message of Jesus has only grown stronger since his death, and “suspected” resurrection and ascension… Like Jesus, these “followers of The Way” were also viewed as a threat to the status quo and needed to be destroyed… this was the job Saul seemed to relish.

 

Now, Saul had his papers and was on his way to Damascus to arrest more of these followers of The Way, and drag them back to Jerusalem to be dealt with… but along the way, Jesus (THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD) confronts him in a blinding light and says, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

 

We are to believe that the mind of Saul doesn't believe in Jesus, yet with Saul’s response, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ it appears that the heart of Saul has known Jesus all along.

 

Jesus confirms Saul’s heart knowledge with the reply, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

 

Jesus has much work for Saul, and notice there is no explanation for Saul from Jesus about this sudden change of agenda and Jesus simply says, “6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” It is as if Jesus is saying, “Stop looking confused and helpless, get off your dusty but and get to Damascus, I have someone there for you to meet... Get up!” 

 

I can only imagine what is going on in Saul’s mind. Up to today, he has always been in control but now he is helpless, blind and confused. It is not surprising that FOR THREE DAYS, he remained silent and neither ate or drank anything.

 

Move onto the conversation between Jesus and Ananias. Jesus is asking Ananias to really step out of his comfort box and visit Saul in order to lay hands on him and heal him… The main issue is that EVERYONE who follows Jesus, even those in the far off city of Damascus know about Saul and know the results of coming face to face with Saul, it meant prison or death. Jesus is asking Ananias to heal the biggest threat to Jesus’ followers at that time. Imagine Jesus commanding you to visit the worst persecutor of Christians today, then commanding you to forgive him, comfort him and then without advance notice invite and escort him to a potluck here at Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church!!!

What would you do? This is exactly what Ananias was being asked to do!

 

What would you say back to Jesus? “Are kidding, Lord? He may kill me!” Jesus would only shrug and say… “So what?” Jesus has already ‘gone there’ for our sake…

 

But this is what the church is all about. As we have been forgiven and made new through the death and resurrection of Christ, the least we are called to do is to demonstrate hospitality, acceptance, mercy, and a healing welcome to all in the same way Christ has blessed us.

 

What is so amazing about today’s text is not only the amount of grace and faith Jesus shows in calling Saul to convert from being Saul the Bounty Hunter, to Paul the Apostle/Evangelist, as to the zeal Paul demonstrated in going out as he was commanded and articulate our grace based faith and the birthing of faith communities all over the region at that time. 

 

How might the story of this dramatic call on a dusty road to Damascus give us a new imagination?

 

Saul had head knowledge of the Law, customs and the Temple system, but he didn't have the heart knowledge about who God really was. In order to protect a system, his stature in society and even his income, it made no difference to him if people were killed to protect his interests. Not surprising, this kind of behavior still continues to this day. We see this when we see companies, governments or any other group, in order to protect their interests, their system, somebody’s profits, or just your own skin, people are labeled as “outsiders, misfits, aliens, or whatever” so that they can be justifiably sacrificed, removed, or regulated to the ‘outside’ of society. The character of “Saul” is very much alive and well even today.

 

Saul justified his hunt for the followers of The Way until the Light of Christ, confronted him on the road to Damascus.

 

Oh, how our world needs to be healed of our own blindness so that we can see the Light of Christ, and then boldly proclaimed and demonstrate God’s justice, forgiveness, grace, mercy, joy, love and even tolerance (such a pathetically weak word) to our very hard hearted world.

 

God intentionally chose a man with blood on his hands to be confronted, healed, forgiven and then commissioned to GO OUT to articulate and give an example of living in faith even if it demanded suffering and much hardship.

 

One last quote from Paul:

1 Corinthians 11:1

“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

 

Amen

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