Summary: On the road to Damascus, Saul goes from "kicking against the goads" to "grasping for God."
I read an article some time ago about a woman who took her summer vacation to go back to her homeland to visit relatives. Her mother and Father, I believe had come over from Ireland, so she wanted to go back to visit relatives she had never met before. While she was there, she went to see her uncle – who was a sheep rancher.
While visiting with him, she walked into a barn and saw a young lamb with its leg in a splint. “Awwww, what happened?” she wanted to know. “Oh,” said the old shepherd, “he had a bad habit of running off, so yesterday, I broke his leg.”
Have you ever wanted to break someone’s leg? Well, there was a man who lived in during the time of the early church that a lot of people would have paid good money to be able to break his leg – perhaps both of them. His name was Saul. He was a menace to the early church. He was the young man who watched over the coats of the men who stoned Stephen in chapter 7. In chapter 8, we read; “But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
Then, as we open chapter 9, we are met with these words; “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
Saul, was a man who hated the church. He hated Jesus, he hated Christians and he hated anything that had to do with Christianity. Because of his hatred, he did everything within his power to destroy it. And that is his intent as he gets his arrest warrants and begins his trip to Damascus. Little did he know that his entire life was about to change.
This morning, for our Scripture reading, we read two stories about Paul’s encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.
We don’t know how far out of Jerusalem Saul and his entourage had traveled, but we do know that it was around mid-day when all of a sudden, a brilliant light flashed in all around Saul. It was so bright in fact, that he would say it was brighter than the sun. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice say, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
“Kicking against the Goads.” That is what Jesus said Saul was doing. But, what does that mean? What was wrong with Saul’s life, that Jesus would tell him that he was kicking against the goads.
I think most of us know what a goad is. Today, we call them prods and use electricity. But before the advent of the battery, a goad was a long sharp pointed stick used to move cattle. That Jesus would use the analogy, tells us that Saul was resisting God’s prodding, causing God to goad him even harder.
So, what was wrong with Saul’s life that God would say he was kicking against the goad?
First of all, there was a problem with Saul’s faith. You see, Saul had a religion – but he didn’t have a relationship.
Saul was a Jew. In fact, he was a teacher of Judaism. In Acts 23:6, we read – Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” Later, in Philippians 3, Paul would describe himself this way; “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless”.
The religion of Saul was an inherited religion. It was one he had learned from his father. He grew up in a Pharisee’s home. He was taught the life of a Pharisee as a child. As he got older, he sat under the teaching of Gamaliel, the most influential Jewish teacher of his day. It wasn’t long before Saul knew all of the laws and ordinances of Judaism. There was one problem, Saul knew Judaism, but he didn’t know God. That is the peril of an inherited religion.
A quick lesson here for us as parents. It is important that we teach our children the tenets of Christianity. It is important that we help them understand the morals and ethics that go with our faith. But it is far more important that we introduce our children to Jesus Christ. If our children grow up believing that Christianity means going to church every Sunday, learning all of the right songs, praying the right prayers and standing for the right things, then we are failing as parents. If our children equate Christianity with being against Abortion, Premarital Sex, Drugs and Alcohol, Rock music and all of the other taboos of our day, then again we have failed them. We don’t want our children to inherit our religion, we want our children to meet our Savior.