November Reading from The Message
Before Paul became an apostle, embarked on his missionary journeys, and wrote his letters to the early church, his name was Saul, and he was a disciple hunter. It was with arrest warrants in hand that Saul was blinded on his way to Damascus. This serves as a profound testament to God’s power and His willingness to save even those who may appear as clear enemies.
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.
3-4 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?”
5-6 He said, “Who are you, Master?”
“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
7-9 His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.
10 There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.”
“Yes, Master?” he answered.
11-12 “Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”
13-14 Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”
15-16 But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”
17-19 So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.
The Least Likely to Be God’s Representative
The story of Saul’s conversion comes as a sudden and surprising invasion of God’s activity in the person whom I think is the enemy, in the one individual I’ve given up on. This man from whom I expect the worst is the man about whom God said, “I have picked him as my personal representative” (Acts 9:15).
When we read the passage this way, it’s no longer a story about a conversion that happened to someone else a long time ago. It’s now a story about what God can do with the person I think is beyond God’s grace.
Look around you—look at the person you think is least likely to be your ally as you seek to serve God. Look at the person from whom you, with good reason, expect the worst. Now listen to what God may be saying about that person: “I have picked him (or her) as my personal representative.”
How does this change your view of that person? Your words to him or to her? Your actions toward him or toward her?
Happy Anniversary to The Message!
Celebrate the anniversary of The Message with this beautiful, feature-rich Bible- The Message Anniversary Edition. Learn how The Message was translated and shaped by the hand of a working pastor. Explore the timeline of its writing and the reflections of Eugene Peterson on a life of long obedience in the same direction.