It’s a bit surreal for you. You have been friends, warriors, and comrades with this man for years. You both sat at the feet of Gamaliel. You competed with one another as you moved up the ranks within the tribe of Benjamin and the sect of Pharisees.
“Then Paul said, ‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison…’” (Acts 22:3-4 NLT)
You were together that day when you handed Saul the jacket of this man named Stephen who took the place of “one of them” – the ones called ‘The Way.’ I mean you both laughed out loud together as you recalled the words Stephen:
“As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.” (Acts 7:59-60 NLT)
Together you stormed into and out of houses, dragging people who loved this guy named Jesus into the streets to have your turn in torturing, placing them in prison, and maybe just maybe mentally competing with each other in who was the most zealous in carrying out your duty.
“Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them–both men and women–back to Jerusalem in chains.” (Acts 9:1-2 NLT)
Now you are in this courtroom standing a few rows back so as to not be seen by him, wondering what happened. You weren’t with him that day he was traveling on the road the locals call Damascus. Your lives have been separate yet you have heard of his carrying out the thunderous attacks against this people who really beLIeVE the Messiah has come. Sure, you have read about him for all of your life, but did you really believe this? For hundreds and hundreds of years there was no sign of a Savior coming. But today you watch and listen to a man you have trusted, who at times you even imitated, and you hear these words come out of his mouth.
“But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets. (Acts 24:14 NLT)
WHAT IN THE WORLD?!?! Did he, Saul who is saying his name is Paul now really say, “I follow the way?” You lean over and ask the person next to you, “Did he just say that he followed the Way?” “He did”…OH my, Saul is believing that the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Prince of Peace, the One who will obtain our righteous (acceptance) for us has come through Jesus. Oh my! Saul uh I mean Paul, my friend, is a brilliant man, he is not one to be duped, he knows the scriptures…we overheard that Jesus did in fact read
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.” (Isaiah 61:1-2 NLT)
After reading this Jesus told everyone that this scripture had been fulfilled. We laughed together nudging each other with the “YEAH RIGHT” jabs….I wonder if he started to believe then? Did I? And just faked it for acceptance?
What about now? What do I do with this? Here they come to take him away…unbelievable—look at that: He, Paul, has this air of confidence that is much different than when we operated on our own, the guards love him, asking him questions, you could tell the governor was even intrigued by his presence and confidence…it’s as if he has another engine, one where he is not fearful of anyone or anything. Wow, he really does beLIeVE…