Read: Acts 9:1-22
Last week, we looked at four incidents where Jesus spoke the name of a person, a city or even God two times and what we might learn from those vignettes. Our examples were Martha, Simon, Jerusalem and God. We have one sweet repeat for this week, and, this example, as was the case with the other ones has rich truth for our encouragement. This is special. Why? This time, Jesus spoke to one who did not yet belong to Him.
Saul, Saul-Acts 9:1-22 If we have read much in the New Testament, we know that this man Saul is the same one whom we most often think of as Paul. Paul the evangelist who rarely allowed circumstances to defeat him. Paul the author of so many of the New Testament books. Paul who spoke to kings and powerful people; however, can we back the Bible bus up a bit and remember the man Saul whom Jesus addressed twice by name? We are told in the scriptures in several places that Saul hunted down those who loved Jesus, Acts 8:3; Acts 9:1-3; Acts 22:19-20. He even stood by and heartily approved of Stephen's stoning, Acts 7:58; Acts 8:1. On the day when Jesus repeated Saul's name, Saul was on his way to Damascus with all he needed to bring all the pain he could into the lives of those Jews who had received Jesus as their Messiah. In fact, Acts 9:1-2 states that Saul was still breathing out threats and murder against those who believed in Jesus. He had received written permission from the high priest to have any believers whom he discovered bound. Then they would be brought back to Jerusalem to be punished. Oh, but then it happened. Saul heard his name being called twice, and a question was asked. The question? “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul fell to the ground. Who was speaking to him?
It was Jesus, and Acts 22:8 and Acts 26:14 adds two sweet details. It was not only Jesus but Jesus of Nazareth Whom Saul was persecuting, and He spoke to Saul in the Hebrew language. Talk about a sweet repeat. This truth surely hit Saul right between the eyes. When Saul had Jesus' loved children beaten or imprisoned, though he didn't know it, he was persecuting Jesus. This same Jesus whom Saul had raged against was now questioning him in Hebrew. Jesus was meeting Saul right where he was. Saul now knew that he had been persecuting the Promised One, and there was only one question he had. ‘What should he do now?’
That was a good question, and Saul was indeed going to enter Damascus by Jesus' command; however, his arrival would look much different than Saul's initial plan. Can we imagine what it must have been like for this man who had been in charge when he opened his eyes and saw nothing? The man who was ready to bind believers had to instead be led by the hands into Damascus by others. God's plan for Saul's new life had begun. For three days, Saul was unable to see. He ate nothing. He waited for a new plan because the old one was surely no longer in place for him. Then as quickly as his blindness had begun, God sent a man to pray for Saul, and he was once again able to see.
How beautiful it must have been when Saul was baptized. The outward sign of His new life that began when Jesus called his name twice. Surely, Saul began his life at a full run. Can we imagine the confusion of those in Damascus who knew this man's fierceness that had been poured out against believers? Now he was confounding the unbelieving Jews by proving that Jesus was Messiah. Talk about a changed life that had a totally changed direction! Praise God for this sweet repeat and the truth that we have in our Bibles today because of this man's faithfulness to the Risen One!
How about us?
First, let's look at Jesus' words where He said that He felt the pain of His children's persecutions. What a good word for us. The Lord provided similar encouragement in Isaiah 63:9 and Zechariah 2:8 where He told Israel that when they hurt, He felt their pain. We can understand this by thinking of our own children. It affects us deeply when someone either blesses or harms our children, and God told both Israel and Saul that He has that same place within Himself for those of us who belong to Him. Hebrews 4:15-16 says that same thing in a slightly different way. No wonder when we talk with the Lord in prayer, we are comforted by the knowledge that our pain also touches Him.
Second, let's look again at how Jesus met Saul in His way and in His time. In a way that would probably not be suitable for anyone else, Jesus called out to Saul. How often I have thought of a loved one and wondered what kind of intervention it might take for him to bow the knee to the Savior. I have no idea, and I have no plan other than prayer and holding out truth to them when God gives the opportunity. However, this same Jesus Who called Saul's name twice has no such difficulties and lacks no plan. His knowledge is without limit, and His love for the ones we love is without end.
How do we know these things? Because the One Who created the universe and all that it contains also carried out an eternal plan to provide salvation. The One Who knows our quirks and idiosyncrasies will continue to call to those we love. Saul's sweet repeat is our reminder that Jesus has no shortage of loving plans especially crafted in His mind for those whom we love.
May this Easter be the time they truly come to know the One Who has risen indeed.