Acts 26:9-18 (NLT) says, 9 “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. 10 Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
12 “One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. 13 About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
15 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 16 Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. 17 And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles 18 to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’
While he was addressing the king singularly concerning their ancestral “hope” in Acts 6:7, Paul addressed his question to the whole audience, which was mostly Gentile. He asked them why it was so incredible (literally, “unbelievable”) to any of them that God can raise the dead.
Since so much of the Jewish hope was tied to a belief that God raises people to continued life beyond this one, why were the Jews arguing with Paul about resurrection? The reason, of course, was one well-documented case of a certain resurrection that had been confirmed by hundreds of eyewitnesses. This had become the lifework of those who had been closest to the scene of this resurrection. In addition, many had already given their very lives for the cause – a cause whose whole credibility rested on the veracity of the resurrection of this one whom Paul was about to name.
Paul named himself as one who theoretically believed in the resurrection of the dead as a solidly educated Pharisee but who vigorously opposed the movement that believed in the resurrection of Jesus. He not only refused to believe that Jesus of Nazareth had been resurrected, he also thought he should do everything he could to oppose the movement.
With the authorization of the leading priests, Paul had captured believers in Jerusalem and sent them to prison. He even went so far as to cast his vote against Christians when they were condemned to death. Much of Paul’s work was done through the synagogues, where Paul found most of the Christians in the early days of the movement. This would remind Agrippa that the Christian movement had Jewish roots. In the synagogues Paul would have believers whipped in order to try to force them to curse Christ. Paul was so passionate, so violently opposed to those who knew Christ, that he hounded them in distant cities of foreign lands. He took his campaign of terror on the road, headed to Damascus.
About noon, Paul saw a light from heaven brighter than the sun, blazing around him and his traveling companions. The presence of this bright light from heaven is mentioned in all three accounts – in chapter 9 (the actual event), in chapter 22, and here. The voice from heaven is also central to all three accounts. The revealed word of the risen Christ to the apostle Paul is the centerpiece of the story. In Aramaic, Paul had been addressed and asked, “Why are you persecuting me?” Notice, as has been the case in every account, Jesus made it clear that Paul had not been persecuting heretics but, rather, Christ Himself .
One important addition to Christ’s words here is not included in either chapter 9 or 22. Paul added that Christ had said, “It is hard for you to fight against my will.” Paul’s passion and his conviction were commendable, but he was not headed in the direction that God wanted him to go.
Upon Paul’s inquiry as to the identity of the speaker, the voice answered: “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” The information to follow is also unique to this particular recounting of the Damascus road experience. From his prostrate position, Paul was commissioned by Christ Himself. He was to be Christ’s servant (1 Corinthians 4:1) and Christ’s witness (the ongoing theme of Acts predicted in Christ’s words in 1:8). Paul would tell the world about not only this experience at Damascus but also about the other times that Christ would appear to him. Paul was to be the recipient of a great deal of God’s “light” to both Jews and Gentiles.
When Jesus said, “I will protect you,” inherent in this statement was the promise of danger from which Paul would need protection. The two sources of the danger would be his own people (the Jews) and the Gentiles, in whose court he stood. Christ’s words of commission to Paul sound like the work predicted of the Messiah in places like Isaiah 35:5; 42:7, 16; 61:1. Paul was to turn many people from darkness to light, which he did (see 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:18; 5:8; Colossians 1:12-13). Paul was to be God’s instrument of turning Gentiles from the power of Satan to God, inviting them to receive forgiveness for their sins, which he did (13:38; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). Paul was also to offer Gentiles a place among God’s people (Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:12). Paul took every opportunity to remind his audience that the Gentiles had an equal share in God’s inheritance. This inheritance is the promise and blessing of the covenant that God made with Abraham (Ephesians 2:19; 1 Peter 1:3-4).
A monument should have risen in the desert. Saul of Tarsus, while on the road to Damascus, met the Christ he did not believe in. Not only was he changed, but the world itself also reeled under this desert encounter. Not only did Paul find peace for his life, but the world also benefited from the fervor and dedication of a man in love with God. Paul met Jesus on the Damascus road, and the world was never the same again – because Paul was forever changed. Paul had been a devout Jew, and there can be no question about his devotion to his religious tradition. But the question is: “How did the nature of his personal worship change after he met Jesus?” Before his conversion, Paul was undoubtedly committed to God, as well as to Judaism with all its attributes and traditions. He must have entered the temple with a deep love for God and fervor for all Jewish truths. So fervor was him, in fact, that he gave himself to the purpose of destroying Christianity. He believed God wanted Judaism to be unrivaled by any new “ism.” He must have surveyed the temple with pride, adored the Pentateuch, and kept the feasts and observances in utter sincerity. Then Paul met Jesus! Suddenly his adoration took on a very personal tone. From the beginning of his new life in Christ, he must have realized that he had finally discovered a way of worship that focused on truth, for truth resides in the person of Christ, the fountain of all truth. Now Paul began to worship in truth, and the result of that worship was a sweet peace that centered on Jesus. There can be no doubt that Christianity is a religion of relationships. Like Paul, we worship truth insofar as that truth adheres to the person of Christ and to his teaching. We were born again because we became related to Christ. We sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” not “What a Friend We Have in Doctrine.” We do not go to church to exalt the six rules of peace, the eight principles of grace, or even the Ten Commandments or meeting our friends and others. We are concerned with dogma only because Jesus has called us to God’s truth, to righteous living and to clear thinking. But our worship is reserved for God and God alone. When that attitude of worship is in place, we live and walk in an atmosphere of peace.
Luke 24:13-16, 30-35 (NLT) says, 13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus Himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing Him.
This event occurred on Sunday, the same day as the Resurrection. Two followers of Jesus were leaving Jerusalem and walking the seven miles to the village of Emmaus. Little is known of these disciples; one was named Cleopas (Luke 24:18), and the other was not one of the eleven disciples, as noted by Luke 4:33. During their walk, they were talking about everything that had happened.
The two men were deep in discussion as they walked along. Apparently a man walking in the same direction drew up beside them (they knew he had been in Jerusalem, Luke 24:18). This man was Jesus Himself, but they were kept from recognizing Him. In other appearances after the Resurrection, Jesus was also not recognized at first (John 20:14; 21:4). Here, God prevented these men from seeing Jesus until Jesus was ready to reveal himself to them (Luke 24:30-31). God’s divine sovereignty kept them from understanding until the full reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus could be understood.
In verses 30-35 says, “As they sat down to eat, He took the bread and blessed it. Then He broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And at that moment He disappeared! 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” [Jesus Appears to the Disciples.] 35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized Him as he was breaking the bread.”
Charles Spurgeon once said of the all-sufficiency of Christ, “Look to the Living One for life. Look to Jesus for all you need between the gate of hell and the gate of heaven,” In Jesus is the ultimate rule of peace.
In 1954, Oberlin College gave Theodore Steinway an honorary degree. At that time, Steinway Pianos had made and sold 342,000 pianos. If we multiply 342,000 (pianos) by 243 (strings in each instrument), and then multiply that number by 40,000 (the pounds of pressure exerted by the strings within each piano), we come to realize that the Steinway Piano Company was filling the world with tension. Yet Theodore Steinway was not given an honorary degree for creating tension in the world. He was given a degree of promoting harmony and beautiful music around the world. Theodore Steinway and his predecessors had created harmony and music out of tension.
Our Lord Jesus Christ walked along the road to Emmaus with two people who were staggering beneath an immense load of grief. Their hearts were heavy. There was enough tension within each of them to make even a Steinway Piano feel unstressed. Yet their testimony, upon reflection, was, “Were not heart burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).
When we discuss this passage, not much is made of the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ opened the Scriptures, yet how fundamental this is to our inner peace. If the resurrected Christ can bring Scripture into the life of the tormented, God’s Word might also serve as a part of our recipe of peace.