At the beginning of today’s reading, Saul is breathing threats and murder. He is hunting followers of Christ to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Saul’s plan sounds eerily similar to Jesus’ warning to Simon Peter in John 21:18.) But Saul has an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that leaves him flat on the ground, losing his sight, and hearing Jesus ask, “Why do you persecute me?”
The scene quickly shifts to Ananias, a disciple and a follower of the Way, who has a vision in which Jesus directs him to find Saul and lay his hands on Saul to heal his eyes. Ananias knows Saul’s reputation and that Saul has the power to bind him and lead him away. But God has other plans for Saul. Ananias follows the vision and goes to Saul. Scales fall from Saul’s eyes, his vision is healed, he is baptized, and he recovers his strength.
The story of Saul and Ananias makes me think about contemporary stories of people who have walked into the face of danger, whether as part of civil rights struggles or encounters with hate groups. John Lewis led lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville as a young leader in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s; had his skull broken as he attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama; served in the final decades of his life as a member of the US Congress. In a letter published after he died in 2020, he spoke about the importance of “ordinary people with extraordinary vision” getting in what he called “good trouble.” I admire John Lewis’s courage, which was clearly driven by an extraordinary vision of justice for all God’s people. May this vision inspire us to work for peace and justice in our world.
God of justice, give us courage to get in “good trouble” to help bring about your vision of love and peace. Amen.
Saul is one of the primary obstacles to the early spread of Christianity. The death and resurrection of Jesus does not fit his paradigm for the Messiah, so it cannot be true. It takes a miraculous intervention by Christ himself to change his mind. Psalm 30 reminds us that the light will always chase the darkness. We experience true suffering and true loss, but God can turn our mourning into dancing in God’s own timing. In Revelation, John takes us to the throne room of God, where angels and creatures proclaim the glory of the Lamb of God who has defeated death and reigns forever. Returning to the Gospel of John, we read more about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, which here include a seaside breakfast and a quiz for Peter.
Read Acts 9:1-20. Jesus’ resurrection calls us to an embodied faith. How do you bear the gospel?
Read Psalm 30. Recall a specific time when you depended on God.
Read Revelation 5:11-14. Have you ever worshiped the Lamb with your whole body? What keeps you from falling down to worship God?
Read John 21:1-19. The author reminds us that Jesus calls us to be shepherds and sheep. Which role do you most often fill? How can you take on a new leadership role or allow others to lead you?
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