This is part two of our Valentine series. If you haven’t listened to part one or need a refresher go back and listen to it and then come on back here.
In Acts 26:14 Jesus is talking to Saul on the road to Damascus and says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” Here Jesus is making reference to an old Hebrew proverb that would have been understood by anyone that Saul would have told this story to later. A prick is a sharp point made out of metal or wood that you either attach to the front of a cart or on the end of a stick. So that when the livestock that’s pulling the cart kicks backwards they would kick the prick. The pricks would then motivate the animal to keep moving forward.
It was with that in mind that I titled part one of our Valentines series, “True Love Is A Prick.” This episodes title is, “Jesus Is A Prick.” I know, it’s kind of on the nose since we just read Acts 26:14 where Jesus literally calls himself that, but let’s put that aside, and let’s talk about Saul.
Saul was a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, which is in or around modern day Turkey, and he was raised in Jerusalem. He studied Jewish law under the Rabban Gamaliel (Ga-may-leel) The First. Saul was there at the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr. He was guarding the clothes of those that were participating in the stoning and he felt gratified by the death.
After the execution of Stephen, Saul was convinced that it was necessary to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. He went on a rampage, persecuting Christians and trying to destroy the early church, what they called the Way. He went door to door dragging off men and women who were followers of Christ and putting them in prison, If they escaped him and ran he would pursue them, even to foreign cities. Saul was as bitter an enemy as any there was to believers, he petitioned the government against them, and he would beat any of them that he found in any synagogue and would try to force them to confess blasphemies against Christ.
Saul went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he traveled and was nearing Damascus at about noon, a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice speaking to him in Aramaic saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It’s hard to kick against the pricks.” Trembling with fear and astonished Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord? What would you have me do?” Jesus replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Get up on your feet, and go into the city. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, seeing the light and hearing a sound but seeing no one and not recognizing the words. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink. There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” “Here I am, Lord,” he replied. “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.” “Lord,” “Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. And after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For the next fourteen years Saul served on the leadership team of the church in Antioch when the Holy Spirit spoke to the leadership team in Acts 13:2 saying, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The two of them head off to Cyprus with Barnabas’ nephew John as their assistant and finally Saul fully embraces the calling that Jesus gave him on the road to Damascus and starts going by the name Paul. He goes on to define most of what we follow as the Christian faith and is given credit for writing about 48 percent of the New Testament.
Saul, this arrogant, blaspheming, persecutor of the early church was kicking against the pricks when he came face to face with the one he was truly persecuting and becomes the Apostle Paul. Not overnight mind you, it took fourteen years for that transformation to happen, but it was in Gods timing. If this man who hunted Christians, put them in prison, and was responsible for many of their deaths can go from such deep darkness to authoring almost half of the New Testament then with where you’ve come from, what can Jesus do in your heart; in your life?
We talked in part one about true love being a prick that pushes you forward in growth. There is no greater or truer love than what Jesus did when he died for us. Jesus has a truer love for you than you will ever find. Let that prick your heart to staying on the path you need to walk to become stronger and better; let it prick you into changing the world around you for the better.
Until next time…