Summary: Saul set out to destroy the church and instead found Jesus and himself.
I want to start this week with a list on names. Some of them you may know others you might not know.
Jane Fonda- an actor that some consider a traitor. During the Vietnam War, she went to North Vietnam and posed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery as if she was shooting at in-coming American planes. This photo earned her the name of “Hanoi Jane.”
Norma McCorvey aka Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade- Her lawsuit led to legalized abortion causing the death of over 55 million unborn children.
Harry Reems - A pornography star from the seventies that made 139 pornographic films.
Tex Watson- A radical who became a member of the Charles Manson family and assisted in killing seven people. He confessed to the murder of actress Sharon Tate who was eight and a half months pregnant.
David Berkowitz- A serial killer responsible for the death of six people and the wounding of seven others. He terrorized New York in 1976-77. He left notes mocking the police and only signed “son of Sam.”
Jeffery Dahmer - Another serial killer responsible for the death of 17 young men. And also a confessed cannibal.
All these people on this list have one thing in common. They claim to be born-again Christians. That would make each of them followers of Jesus.
Last week we witnessed the last healing that Jesus would do, apart from healing the slave that lost an ear in the Garden. He was on his way to Jerusalem when He passed by the blind beggar. The blind beggar recognized him as the Messiah and called out above the crowd. Jesus heard him and healed him.
Jesus would encounter a chief tax collector in Jericho. He was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. He would see Zacchaeus in a sycamore-fig tree and would invite himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. Because of this encounter, Zacchaeus made the discission to give half of his wealth to the poor and pay back four times what he had cheated people. With his wealth wiped out, Jesus declared, “Salvation has come to this house today.”
Leaving Jericho Jesus would visit his friend, Lazarus in Bethany. After they ate, Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume and anointed the feet of Jesus. He understood it was in preparation for his burial. With the crowds gathering to see Jesus the leading priests decided to have, Lazarus killed also.
Next would come his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. For the second time in his ministry, He would clear the temple of the moneychangers and vendors.
The Passover arrives and Jesus and his disciples have their last meal together. Soon He would be betrayed, arrested, tried, and crucified. He would be buried in a tomb but would rise from the dead three days later.
Two women at the tomb would see him. The remaining eleven Apostles would see him. Two followers on the road to Emmaus would see him. Over 500 of his followers at one time saw him. Finally, the eleven Apostles would see him ascend into heaven. However, there would be one more man in the scripture who would see Jesus on Earth.
The disciples are in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit ascends upon them. They are emboldened to preach the good news of Jesus and the church is born. Soon opposition arises. The Jewish council threatens Peter and John. They are commanded to stop preaching about Jesus. They of course refuse and the church continues to grow.
Soon we meet Stephen. He got into a debate with a group called the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, a conservative group of Jews from different locals. Because they were not able to win their debate, they accused Stephen of blaspheming Moses and God.
So Stephen was brought before the high council. He began to give them a history lesson on Abraham, Moses, King David, and Solomon. Then he accused them of betraying and murdering the Messiah, Jesus.
They became enraged, drug him outside the city, and began to stone him. They took off their coats so as not to be hindered and laid them at the feet of a young man. And to be sure that we understand that he is more than the coat check guy, the scripture informs us that he was a witness and in complete agreement with the murder of Stephen. This is our final character in the dirty dozen. His name is Saul.
Saul in Hebrew meant, “Asked for.” The first man named Saul in the Bible was made king of Israel against the wishes of God, hence he was “asked for.” Like King Saul, he was also from the tribe of Benjamin. This is how he described himself.
Philippians 3:5-6 “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.”