Monday, February 06, 2017

Monday Paul 7

from last week
After he received the letter from Pilate to Flaccus, Saul began the journey of about a week from Jerusalem to Damascus. He started by going down to Jericho. He had spent enough time spying out these Jesus-followers, that their stories filled his head.

So on the way to Jericho, he thought of that story about a man who was mugged on his way to Jericho, and how a Samaritan helped him along the way. He hated that story. Filthy Samaritan. The priest or Levite should have been the hero. But deep down he knew that as a Pharisee, he wouldn't have stopped to help the man either. It would have made him unclean. It repulsed him that Jesus made this ill-bred Samaritan with a skewed religion the hero of the story.

At the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea, he headed north. Here he saw the place where John the Baptist had baptized, the place where Jesus was baptized. He liked the call to repentance--at least calling other people to repent--but for him it should have been a call to keep the Law. On the other hand, he had never felt like he really needed to repent much, because he kept the Law so perfectly.

Three days later they reached the Sea of Galilee. Here he remembered stories of Jesus calming storms and calling followers. Jesus' followers believed that he had appeared to Peter here after his death. Preposterous, although Saul did believe in resurrection. He believed strongly in the resurrection of the righteous out of the grave when God restored the world. But it was supposed to happen all at once, not just one person out of order.

It took three more days to get to Damascus from the Sea of Galilee. Damascus had featured prominently in one of the founding documents of the Essene community, their "Covenant of Damascus." Some Essenes took the scroll literally and thought that the Messiah would establish his rule there. Saul had heard that at least one of Jesus' disciples, a particularly zealous one named Simon, had launched a mission in that area.

But the whole time he had this gnawing question inside. Could he be wrong about Jesus? It was hard to argue with the reports of miracles. Stephen had died with such confidence. How did Philip escape him so easily? What if God turned out to be gracious and compassionate, full of mercy. Isn't that even what Jonah and other passages said?

As they neared the city of Damascus, Saul suddenly was blinded by a bright light. He heard a voice: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He answered by asking, "Who are you, Lord?" But he knew the answer. It was Jesus. All his inner fears were released and he knew. He had been on the wrong side all along. Jesus in fact was the Lord!

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