Subject: Redeemer Downtown Devotional: Fourth Sunday after Easter - May 6, 2012

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Mott Street Reflection - Photo by Elaine Tam

Fourth Sunday after Easter - May 6, 2012

These devotionals are to help you prepare for the Sunday
to come in the Christian calendar.*

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus,whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
Acts 9:1-22 (ESV)
The conversion of Paul (formerly Saul) represents one of the most dramatic transformations in all of the Bible. At the moment of conversion, he is “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord”, demonstrating active hostility both to the followers of Jesus and to Jesus Himself (“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”). After conversion, he is seen as “with the disciples at Damascus.” He moves from violent adversary to passionate advocate for Jesus, from spiritual blindness to true sight.

In seeing the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul has a vision of a life reality that would be utterly unimaginable from his previous experience of life. It was as if someone who had never seen before could suddenly see, or if a horse were to suddenly become a winged creature. It is a vision of life unfettered by the constraints of death. The results are immediately obvious. No longer someone who would seek to devour and destroy life, Paul now becomes a giver and instrument of new life in the lives of others.

The resurrection means not merely that there is life after death, but that there is an experience of life beyond death. Because death cannot ultimately destroy us, we no longer need to be self-protective, defensive, or fearful. It causes us to be courageous instead of afraid, humble instead of consumed with reputation, sacrificial instead of miserly in spirit.

Woven throughout this particular story, we see a recurrence of themes related to eyesight and light, and for good reason. For Paul and followers of “the Way”, the resurrection is not merely about the historical fact of an empty tomb, but a vision of a glorious Savior who has defeated death itself. It is more than something you can detect with your eyes, but something that has utterly captivated your heart. For Paul’s companions, they were able to hear the voice but they saw nothing, while Paul saw a blindingly glorious vision of boundless life. Is that what you see in the resurrection?

John C. Lin, Downtown Lead Pastor

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Collect** from The Book of Common Prayer

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