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What happened after Jesus met Saul

November 10, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Acts 9:20-25, 28-30, Galatians 1:11-12, 15-23, 2:1-2

Acts 9
20 Right away, he began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues. “He is God’s Son,” he declared.
21 Everyone who heard him was baffled. They questioned each other, “Isn’t he the one who was wreaking havoc among those in Jerusalem who called on this name? Hadn’t he come here to take those same people as prisoners to the chief priests?”
22 But Saul grew stronger and stronger. He confused the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
23 After this had gone on for some time, the Jews hatched a plot to kill Saul. 24 However, he found out about their scheme. They were keeping watch at the city gates around the clock so they could assassinate him. 25 But his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the city wall.

28 After this, Saul moved freely among the disciples in Jerusalem and was speaking with confidence in the name of the Lord. 29 He got into debates with the Greek-speaking Jews as well, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the family of believers learned about this, they escorted him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Galatians 1
11 Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the gospel I preached isn’t human in origin. 12 I didn’t receive it or learn it from a human. It came through a revelation from Jesus Christ.

15 But God had set me apart from birth and called me through his grace. He was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might preach about him to the Gentiles. I didn’t immediately consult with any human being. 17 I didn’t go up to Jerusalem to see the men who were apostles before me either, but I went away into Arabia and I returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I didn’t see any other of the apostles except James the brother of the Lord. 20 Before God, I’m not lying about the things that I’m writing to you! 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, 22 but I wasn’t known personally by the Christian churches in Judea. 23 They only heard a report about me: “The man who used to harass us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy.”

Galatians 2
1 Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, and I took Titus along also. 2 I went there because of a revelation, and I laid out the gospel that I preach to the Gentiles for them. But I did it privately with the influential leaders to make sure that I wouldn’t be working or that I hadn’t worked for nothing.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

As the apostle Paul wrote to Christians in the province of Galatia, he spoke of three years in Arabia and Damascus, and then a fourteen-year gap. It’s hard to exactly match those time periods in the way Luke told Paul’s story in Acts. (Luke did show the shift from the Hebrew “Saul” to the Greek name “Paul” in Acts 13:9.) “Some details of Paul’s story in Acts are difficult to reconcile chronologically with what we find in Paul’s letters. Precise dates in his life, therefore, are subject to debate.” *

  • Paul’s timeline in Galatians was secondary. “The troublemakers in Galatia have been putting it about that…. he’s twisted the message he was given by the ‘senior’ apostles, distorting it to make it easier for non-Jews to swallow.” ** Paul was clear that his preaching matched the core of the Jerusalem apostles’ message, though he didn’t learn it from them. Wright said, “Tragically, we still have ‘turf wars’ between churches.” ** Yes, we do! How can you not let “turf wars” distract from or obscure the essential heart of faith in Jesus?
  • Paul began to preach “right away” (Acts 9:20). Yet it took years (in Arabia, Tarsus, Damascus) to think through how his rabbinic Scripture learning fit with the stunning reality of meeting the risen Jesus before he could write master works like Galatians or Romans. Why are both the core good news about Jesus and careful thought and study of how to apply that faith vital to your Christian walk?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, in so many ways your truth is simple. But the world I live in, with all of its beauty and brokenness, raises many questions about how to apply your truth in my complicated life. Guide me as you guided the apostle Paul. Amen.

GPS Insights

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe and his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 and were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew and Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

Today’s passage is full of fascinating tidbits; let’s jump right in:

First off, Luke, unfortunately, paints the Jews with a broad brush implicating all Jews in this violent behavior against the Believers of the Way. This characterization has led to anti-Semitic behavior & teaching throughout the history of the church. However, realizing our current culture’s tendencies to impugn vast segments of the population with a 1-size-fits-all mentality, be it Jews, Palestinians, or us Chiefs’ fans, I’m willing to offer Luke the same grace we all badly need at times.

Aside: I was chatting with a clerk at Best Buy about whether all stereotypes are bad.  He disagreed saying, “Panasonic is so-so, but Sony is actually pretty solid.”

Someday, I’d like to create my own translation of the Bible to add background to episodes, like today’s scene of Paul being lowered over a city wall in a basket to escape the mob. Here’s my 1st draft: “Paul’s friend, Saul-Id, meets Paul at the top of the wall. Saul asks Paul how much he weighs. Paul hedges, “Um. 140. Tops.” Saul says he can handle it & tells Paul to get in the basket. As Paul is being gently lowered to the ground, we see Saul straining with all his might–sweating profusely & muscles bulging. Finally, Paul lands on the ground & escapes. Saul meets up with him at a pre-arranged meeting point & stares at Paul asking, “140? Really? What do you weigh when you put both feet on the scale?’” (I’m a tolerant man, but seriously… Editor.)

Just in today’s snippet, we have 2 instances of Paul being threatened with death & 2 scenes where Paul has to flee for his own safety. This has raised the puzzling question for me: With the constant attacks from the Roman authorities, the threats from the Jewish leaders, & even the hostile debates within the community of Believers, why did Paul keep going? 

My personal theory, which has not been vetted, comes down to one word: Gratitude. What if Paul’s entire pre-conversion life was spent trying to earn God’s love? What if Paul’s diligence in school & his eagerness to take on any task within the faith, was just Paul striving to atone & get right with God? What if he never quite felt “good enough” to be worthy of God’s love?

Then, we have Paul’s amazing epiphany on the road to Damascus & the gift of life-saving grace offered at some point after his visit with Ananias. For the 1st time in his life, Paul feels free from his past life of mistakes & sins & Paul actually believes he is worthy of being in the presence of God. I would suggest that this is why he could sing in the prison cell at midnight after a vicious beating & could boldly write that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). What a glorious day that must have been for Paul.

Interestingly, Martin Luther, of Protestant Reformation fame, was frustrated in his own faith walk because he, too, felt there weren’t enough sacrifices, enough prayers, or enough acts of fasting, to make him right with God. Then Martin Luther meditates on Paul’s Letter to the Romans (1:17 specifically) & realizes that one is not saved by works or effort but by faith & faith alone. (Methodist Trivia: John Wesley was also stymied trying to earn God’s love via spiritual disciplines until he hears Martin Luther’s introduction to Romans being read aloud in a Bible Small Group & famously “felt his heart strangely warmed.”)

What might all this mean for us today?  We are free from our sins of yesterday, solely because God so loved us that He offered is His one & only Son as a sacrifice on our behalf. There is not enough time in the day, not enough money in the world, & not enough acts of penitence we could make to get us right with God; except for the forgiveness freely given to us by a loving & generous God as we believe.

So now, out of gratitude for this jaw-dropping freedom, we, like Paul, need to get busy for His Kingdom. Maybe there was a Godly nudge we felt this week that we could act on, like joining a Bible Study, or filling multiple bags for Thanksgiving meals, or maybe we could dream really, really big & do something like help the Healing House fulfill Bobbi Jo’s vision of establishing an on-site medical clinic. The possibilities are endless.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to get back to work on my translation. Luke 1:8-12: “So, Zechariah is alone in the Temple focused on burning incense at the altar, when an Angel of the Lord appeared to him & said, “Boo!’” (Why me? Really–why me?… Editor.)

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Hamilton, Adam, The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul (p. 12). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition. Pastor Hamilton’s reconstruction of Paul’s life in chapter one of his book fits well with other scholarly work on the subject.
** Wright, N. T., Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.