Why are you persecuting me?
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” – Acts 9:4
1 Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men, and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;
4 and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
6 but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
In 2015, Ben Parr wrote Captivology, The Science of Capturing People’s Attention. It is based upon 21st-century research in psychology and neuroscience regarding the subject of Attention. Captivology explains how to obtain and retain attention.
Captivology explores seven psychological captivation triggers that facilitate gaining and retaining attention:
- Automaticity – activate the senses
- Framing – contextualize to appeal to your audience
- Disruption – break expectations
- Reward – create desire
- Reputation – establish credibility
- Mystery – leave things incomplete
- Acknowledgment – contribute to your audience’s identity
The Father uses various and diverse techniques to get our attention. Sometimes He is overt and appears and speaks in a dream, or vision, or via an angel. Rarely, He enters the space-time continuum and allows Himself to be seen. Saul was on his way with one thought on his mind to persecute the Jewish Christians who had accepted Christ as their Messiah. Saul was consumed by murderous intent. When Saul was traveling on the road to Damascus, how did the Father get Saul’s attention?
1 Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest.
2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them – both men and women – back to Jerusalem in chains.
The Father had a different plan which called for a major paradigm shift in Saul’s outlook and understanding. After the father got Saul’s attention in such an awesome way, he was never the same again. His former life, goals, and ambitions, were now just that. He did a 180° flip. Experiencing intense light and hearing the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ sent Saul crashing to the ground. He was dazed and disoriented.
But being steeped in the Scriptures, Saul was not unfamiliar with the Father’s interventions during the Old Testament period in just such a manner.
3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.
4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!
6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Saul had the presence of mind to recognize this was a divine visitation. He asked one simple question, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5).
The answer left him confused, perplexed, and speechless.
5 The voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”
6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The Lord initiated a wake-up call from the throne on high! He got Saul’s undivided attention and now had him exactly where he wanted him. The Lord had masterfully made use of the seven psychological captivation triggers.
Saul thought he clearly understood and knew what the Father wanted him to do. He thought he was doing the will of God. He was completely sincere. But he was sincerely wrong. It would be hard to imagine how these words must have struck Saul. They were a complete refutation of all that Saul had passionately believed before (Polhill).
There’s only one right thing to do when you are honored by a visitation from on high. Ask in your own words, “Lord what would you have your servant do”?
Saul didn’t have to ask any questions. The Father told him exactly what to do with additional instructions to come.
REFLECT & PRAY
Our god is an awesome God, He reigns from heaven above with wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God.
Father thank You that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen and ascended to heaven. Thank You that You got my attention.
Until the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus, he had no idea he was persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, all thought he was serving the Lord and doing his bidding by ridding the world of Christians.
Saul’s transformation was miraculously swift. Within a few days, he was speaking in synagogues telling the people that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Promised One, the Messiah of Israel (Acts 9:20).
Consider for a moment what Saul was mentally rehearsing. He was running through the wrong ideas that he embraced all his life. All of the enthusiasm that he had for persecuting the Jewish Christians was repurposed to the spread of the gospel. Saul was committed to teaching the truth. His writings became a significant part of the New Testament.
Were the confrontation, temporary blindness and disorientation, and humiliation worth it?
Of course, they were! Saul of Tarsus was no more. He had been replaced by Paul the apostle who took the gospel across the Roman world.
The Lord Jesus Christ transforms lives. Saul of Tarsus is exhibit A. He was a soulish man bent on destruction and persecution. Now he was an apostle, a teacher of the truth empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Most children of the King did not experience such dramatic, quick, and drastic transformation. Often it is a slow lifelong process. But the message is always the same.
“I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed
”Don’t delay in responding to the Lord when He makes a move to get your attention. Respond quickly and humbly, and listen for what He has to say to you” (Stanley).
© Dr. H 2022
One thought on “Why are you persecuting me?”
In C.S. Lewis’ children’s book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Coriakin the magician wistfully awaits the time when his foolish people can be governed by wisdom rather than “this rough magic”.
Today, Dr. H writes, “The Father had a different plan which called for a major paradigm shift in Saul’s outlook…”
Probably Saul could not have been persuaded by gentler reasonableness.
How amazing that the Father promises to continue His “paradigm shift” in my outlook! May I respond like Paul did!