“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
” ‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting’ ” (Acts 22:6-8, NLT).
As far as we know from the Scriptures, the apostle Paul (as the Pharisee Saul) never met Jesus during His ministry in Israel. And while this is something of an argument from silence, there were many times in the Acts narrative and in Paul’s teachings, debates and the defense of his apostolic ministry when the sharing of this significant experience in his journey would have added weight or a counterpoint to what he was writing or saying.
If it is true that Saul (soon to become Paul) had never met Jesus in life and, as a result, would not have been one of the leaders who sought to destroy Him, nor one who sat in judgment over Him, what could Jesus have meant when He confronted him with these words, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.”
Saul, in his persecutions, terror and murder, had no idea that there was another who was also experiencing the horror of his evil work, Jesus the Nazarene.
In this moment, Saul’s discovery confirms for all time that Jesus is keeping His promises to His people, the sheep of His pasture: ” ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them’ ” (Matt. 18:20, NKJV); ” ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ ” (Heb. 13:5); and “‘ I am with you always, even to the end of the age’ ” (Matt. 28:20).
Indeed, our Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (see Matt. 1:23)!
Jesus was with the first believers as they were persecuted and harmed, and He so closely identified with them that He said to Saul: “Why are you persecuting me? … I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.” To attack one of Jesus’ disciples is to attack Jesus Himself!
I shudder to think of the times as a believer that I have attacked my fellow believers using my words of suspicion, misrepresentation, gossip and anger. I’m grateful for the forgiveness I have received from those I have hurt, including Jesus, who felt the sting as well.
I’m also strengthened and encouraged. I think of all those times I knew I could get through a painful season if only Jesus were with me, and He was! Each time I would cry out to Jesus, hoping that He knew my heartache, fear and loss, and He did.
Amazingly, incredibly, Jesus is with us, suffering with us. Then, as the King of His kingdom, He helps us as One closer than a brother with all we need. With great power He heals, delivers and restores us for His glory!
By: Jim Scott, Foursquare vice president of global operations, director of Foursquare Missions International
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