I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. (Acts 26:17b-18)
The turnaround in Saul’s life was shocking. He was a strictly observant and well-educated Pharisaic Jew who saw the fledgling Christian Church as a threat to true religion. Saul did all he could to stamp out the flame of Christian faith by having followers of Jesus hauled off to jail. He even blessed the murder of Stephen with his approving presence (Acts 7:58). But then everything changed when, on the road to Damascus to round up more followers of Jesus, Saul had an encounter with the risen Jesus.
Something happens when human beings encounter what is divine. Throughout the Bible, when people encounter an angel of the Lord, or the Lord Himself, they are often overcome with awe and become profoundly aware of the depth of their sin. But then they are given new information, new status and new direction.
The new information that Saul received was that he was persecuting Jesus personally when he persecuted Jesus’ Church. The new status that Jesus gave to Saul was that of a servant and witness of Jesus. Saul’s slate of past sins were wiped clean and he was given an important role on the team of the One whom he had been fighting against. Jesus then sent Saul in a new direction. Instead of heading towards the Christian Church to destroy it, Jesus sent Saul out from the Church into the world to help save it.
It is hard to imagine a more radical transformation. With the great change came a new name as Saul became Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles and the writer of most of the New Testament.
Prior to His resurrection, Jesus’ divinity was present, but hidden. It was always there, but only those with the eyes of faith could see it. One day, everyone will see Jesus in all His glory and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (see Philippians 2:6-11). But in the meantime, Jesus has infused the holy and divine into this mean and coarse world to give us hope.
We meet holy Jesus in the pages of the Holy Bible where He gives us the new information that all our many sins are completely and totally forgiven by Him. We meet divine Jesus in the waters of Holy Baptism where He gives us the new status of being beloved, unconditionally accepted, children of God. We meet sacred Jesus in the bread and wine of Holy Communion where Jesus nourishes us with His Body and Blood and sends us in a new direction as His representatives to share His healing love with a broken, hurting and dying world.
Jesus has placed His holy and divine gifts all around you. The holy is among us.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the Holy Bible, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Please help me to see you in these precious gifts so I may be transformed by Your holiness. Amen.