Summary: This is the last sermon in the "A Journey To and From Easter." It looks at Saul of Tarsus and his encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus when he became the Apostle Paul. We look at this road being a road of confrontation, change, and challenge.
A Journey To and From Easter
“The Damascus Road”
Today we’re heading down our last road on our journey to and from Easter. We started on the Narrow Road, and then we took the Jerusalem Road followed by the Calvary Road that led us up to Easter. We then looked at the road to Emmaus that two of Jesus’ disciples took after the resurrection. And while all of them led in different directions, they all have the same destination, and that is, the risen Jesus Christ.
The same is true with this last road and the man we find traveling upon it. His name was Saul of Tarsus, and the road was the one leading towards Damascus.
Saul was born in the city of Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, which is located near Antioch in Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey. Saul was the son of a very prominent and wealthy Jewish family, and because Cilicia was a Roman colony, Saul could claim Roman citizenship.
Saul was a bright child, and was sent off to Jerusalem to study under noted Rabbi Gamaliel. He was instructed in all the laws and traditions of the Jewish faith, and was very zealous for it. In fact, he was advancing in Judaism to a far greater degree than his peers.
So Saul was born a Jew, grew up a Pharisee, held Roman citizenship, and lived and studied in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. Like the other religious leaders he probably expected that the enthusiasm and teachings that marked Jesus’ followers would soon die out with His death.
But that did not happen, instead not only did the believer’s enthusiasm grow, so did their numbers, and so Saul took action and persecuted them, putting them either in prison or death. It was at the stoning death of Stephen that we’re first introduced to Saul as he held the garments of those throwing the stones.
Soon Saul found himself going from synagogue to synagogue punishing those who believed, until they began to leave Jerusalem, but even this was not enough for him. He got letters from the chief priests and followed the believers wherever they went. And this is where we pick up our story as Saul was on the road to Damascus.
Read Acts 9:1-19
Saul was a man full of vinegar, that is, full of hatred and bitterness. He was on a mission, but not for God, nor was it a mission of mercy, rather it was a mission of punishment and pain.
He was on a mission to confront and get rid of all those who followed Jesus, those he described as belonging to “The Way.” In the Hebrew this means a person’s walk, or way and manner of life. In other words, Christians stood out wherever they were or in whatever situation they found themselves in.
These first followers of Jesus walked the talk; they lived as Jesus would have. Paul said,
“That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15 NKJV)
In other words, they stood out. So it really wasn’t hard for Saul to find them. They literally left a trail of new believers in their wake.