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57 At this, they shrieked and covered their ears. Together, they charged at him, 58 threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses placed their coats in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 As they battered him with stones, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, accept my life!” 60 Falling to his knees, he shouted, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” Then he died.
8 1 Saul was in full agreement with Stephen’s murder.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still spewing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest, 2 seeking letters to the synagogues in Damascus. If he found persons who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, these letters would authorize him to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 During the journey, as he approached Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven encircled him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?”
5 Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus, whom you are harassing,” came the reply. 6 “Now get up and enter the city. You will be told what you must do.”
7 Those traveling with him stood there speechless; they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 After they picked Saul up from the ground, he opened his eyes but he couldn’t see. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind and neither ate nor drank anything.
10 In Damascus there was a certain disciple named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
He answered, “Yes, Lord.”
11 The Lord instructed him, “Go to Judas’ house on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias enter and put his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 Ananias countered, “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man. People say he has done horrible things to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 He’s here with authority from the chief priests to arrest everyone who calls on your name.”
15 The Lord replied, “Go! This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
17 Ananias went to the house. He placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord sent me—Jesus, who appeared to you on the way as you were coming here. He sent me so that you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly, flakes fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He got up and was baptized. 19 After eating, he regained his strength.
He stayed with the disciples in Damascus for several days. 20 Right away, he began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues. “He is God’s Son,” he declared.
As an ambitious young Pharisee, Saul hated the new Jesus faith. Eager to stamp out the message that Jesus was the Messiah, he was going to Damascus in Syria. Then, astonishingly, he met the risen Christ, who changed everything. Acts told that pivotal story three times (cf. Acts 22:1-16 and 26:12-20 as well as today’s passage). Soon Saul began using his Roman name, Paul (cf. Acts 13:9). He was now passionate and driven to share credibly that Jesus truly was, in fact, the Messiah.
Lord Jesus, when you astonished and changed Saul, he went on to change millions of lives by his preaching and writing. Give me a listening heart open to meet you as you reach out to me. Amen.
In today’s passage early Christians were referred to as members of “The Way.” I thought it might be interesting to “visit” with Mr. Willian Bohrd, a branding/marketing expert, to see how this early description of believers might be important for us today.
DL: Mr. Bohrd, thanks for your time. Why are brands/branding important?
Bill Bohrd: Please, call me Bill. Brands serve several important functions. It lets consumers know what to expect from your entity. It can distinguish you from your competitors. It develops consistency in performance & it clarifies your purpose. Finally, it develops instant recognition/familiarity & encourages loyalty.
DL: What might be some examples of successful branding?
Bill Bohrd: Oh, I’ve worked with a wide variety of companies in all sorts of industries:
DL: Do you think God uses branding?
Bill Bohrd: Absolutely & He is awesome at it. When Moses asks His name, God doesn’t give some long description. Instead He delivers a mysterious & powerful declaration, “I AM WHO I AM.” In this brief statement, God distinguishes Himself from all other gods, He emphasizes that He is constant & eternal, &, most importantly for us, that He is present. When Jesus echoes this assertion in His famous seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John, Jesus shows the continuity of the brand & adds some context to help us develop a better understanding of the character of God. This is branding at its best.
DL: What are your thoughts about the early Christian brand name, “The Way?”
Bill Bohrd: The early believers were called several names. They are referred to as saints on a few occasions, which simply meant consecrated to God. Then we read of them being called Nazarenes, referencing Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Not surprisingly, this label doesn’t seem to catch on, since Nazareth wasn’t a prominent city nor apparently well-respected as illustrated by the Disciple Nathanael’s awkward question, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (That has to be the worst “hot take” ever-–with those sports experts predicting the Chiefs wouldn’t even make the playoffs this year coming in a close second place.)
Then we read of them being called “The Way.” “The Way” is cited in Old Testament scriptures indicating a choice between the way of God or the way of Evil. In the New Testament, “The Way” seems to reference Jesus’ statement in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, & the life.” The famous teacher/couple-combo, Priscilla & Aquila, discuss “The Way of God,” Peter refers to the “Way of Christ” & the author of Hebrews says that Jesus’ sacrifice offers us a “new & living way.”
DL: By the way, “Christian” became a description for those belonging to Christ after Paul’s time teaching in Antioch. So, what does this idea of “The Way” mean for us today?
Bill Bohrd: I would submit it implies that there IS a defined pathway to God. He is not some distant deity, but rather He is a God who desperately desires a relationship with each & every one of us & has deliberately created a trail to allow us to draw closer to Him. We then have a choice to make: Will we seek the Way of God?
DL: Agreed. I would add that in our modern society full of wannabe influencers & persuaders we also need to decide WHO will be our Way. Is it someone hawking bottled water or the One offering us Living Water? Is it someone pushing trendy pastries or the One giving us the Bread of Life? Is it someone promising quick fixes to “a better you in 5 easy steps” or the One promising an eternal life of hope & love?
Bill Bohrd: Agreed. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try that new seafood restaurant, “The Codfather.” They made me a coupon offer I can’t refuse.
DL: Thanks for your time.