By Walter Kim
1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
People of the Way
Saul expands his program of persecution from Jerusalem (8:1-3) to Damascus, in order to prevent the faith from spreading through the trade routes of this important city. With violent determination he hounds those of 'the Way'--a favorite name for followers of Jesus in Acts. The early believers understood that Jesus inaugurated a New Exodus. For this reason, all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) record the story of John the Baptist, who declares that "he is the voice of one calling in the desert, 'prepare the way of the Lord.'" Like the Israelites who were delivered from bondage in Egypt and brought through the desert to the Promised Land, so too are Christians delivered from the bondage of sin and Satan, and brought through the desert of this world into the Promised Land of faith in Christ. Therefore, we are pilgrims in this world, fully confident in our heavenly home and deeply rooted in Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Blinded by the Light
In addition to the name of ‘the Way,' the intimate identification between Christ and his followers is evident in Jesus' remarkable question, "Why do you persecute me?" Saul never actually harassed Jesus directly. Or did he? Christians are the body of Christ, and therefore Christ considers any persecution of believers as an actual persecution of himself. Our identification with Jesus as the Way is based in the more profound reality that Jesus has bound us to himself. We have been united with Christ. His death to sin becomes our death to sin; his resurrection to new life becomes our resurrection. The self-disclosure of Jesus is like the revelation of God in other passages of Scripture. Blinding light represents divine glory and the voice comes as the authoritative pronouncement of God (cf. Luke 9:28-36). God's invasion into our world through Christ is a revelation so gloriously good and true that it stuns Paul. It shocks his system even to blindness.
Do you see yourself as a part of God's grand narrative throughout Scripture? When you experience a desert period in your journey, remember that you are a pilgrim on the Way to your heavenly home. When you face temptation, affirm by faith the truth that you have died to sin and have been raised to new life, as surely as Christ himself.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."
O Lord, even in the parched lands, make our hearts leap for joy. Enable us to walk in your Way and to endure the tribulations that test our faith, knowing that the Lord Jesus has walked the Way before us. Bring us ever deeper into the mysteries of our union with Christ that we may reveal his glory more truly. Amen.
Dr. Walter Kim is the Minister of Adult Education at Park Street Church in Boston. He received his M.Div. from Regent University's School of Divinity and his Ph.D. in Near-Eastern Languages and Cultures from Harvard University.