The “I AM” Claims of Jesus, 8, Title: The Most Consequential Claim, Text: Acts 9:5.

Series: The “I AM” Claims of Jesus, 8, Title: The Most Consequential Claim, Text: Acts 9:5.

INTRODUCTION

This passage is one of the greatest stories in the Bible. The Expositor’s Bible declares, “Next to the life and death and resurrection of our Lord, the conversion of St. Paul was the most important event the world, ever saw.” We are concerned here with how the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God identifies Himself in this passage. To explore this we consider the meeting, the man, and the message.

I THE MEETING

In Acts 9 we have the story of the conversion of Paul, the Apostle. The meeting is described in verses 1-5, Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest, and requested letters from him to the synagogue in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  So he said, “Who are you, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting! It is hard for thee to kick against the goads. Remember the Apostles were those who were with Jesus in His incarnation and this was a requirement. Thus I conclude with certainty that this was not a vision. The resurrected Lord who had appeared in the upper room and to the travelers on the Emmaus road now came physically to meet Paul, the last born of the Apostles, on the Damascus road. Paul actually says so in I Corinthians 15:33-8, For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. So we read the account in verses 3-6, As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Here is our last I Am statement, and some may ask why I call this a claim. Of course, He says He is Jesus, It’s His name. Please consider that this name was not chosen by human parents as usual. We read in Luke 1:26-32 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The name given means Yahweh saves. This coordinates perfectly with Isaiah’s prophecy in Chapter 7:13-17 of the book of Isaiah where it is written,  Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. Immanuel means God is with us. In Isaiah 7 the child is human eating the ordinary diet of infants, but He is also God. Yahweh saves.

II THE MAN

To understand the identification Jesus makes here we must understand with whom He is dealing. This is Saul. He is the greatest enemy of Christ’s people. He is the unique pursuer and persecutor of Christians. He thought he was battling the heretical followers of an unknown rabbi from Nazareth, a place from which, in his opinion, nothing good could come. He was fighting against a usurper who was not formally educated or recognized.  Like many of his fellow Pharisees he questioned how the “ignorant” son of an unknown carpenter from Galilee could possibly be or do the things He claimed. He was about to find out. We read the account in verses 1-5, Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.  As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” So he said, “Who are you, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting! The light from heaven came out of nowhere, It knocked Paul and those with him to the ground. They fell off their mounts. Paul is now confronted with the fact that Jesus is God. John Calvin writes, “When he adds, I am Jesus, let us remember that that voice sounded from heaven. Therefore it ought to have pierced the mind of Paul when he considered that he had made war against God hitherto. It ought to have brought him by and by to true submission, when he considered that he should not escape scot free, if he should continue rebellious against Him whose hand he could not escape … For although the godly be afraid and tremble at the seeing of God, yet it must needs be that Paul was far more afraid when as he perceived that the divine power of Christ was set full against him.” Paul was the scourge of the Christian fellowship. Everybody was afraid of him. As we read on in Acts we discover that the fellowship in Jerusalem had a hard time accepting him and probably would not have done so except for the intervention of Barnabas, who explained that Paul had already been a faithful witness in Damascus; so faithful in fact that he had to escape from the city secretly because of the persecution by the Jews who opposed him.

III THE MESSAGE

Now Saul has become Paul, the chief opponent has been radically changed, and he has been added to the apostolic founders of the Church. Thus he is given the same charge as the rest. We read the challenge to the remaining eleven in the great commission in Matthew 28:16-20, Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So in the same manner Jesus commissions Paul in Acts 9:15-20. He does it through a third party, Ananias, who has come in great fear to help the blinded man, and we read, But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  So Ananias departed and entered the house, placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, his strength returned. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “This man is the Son of God.” This, then, is the message that emerges from the meeting. That which is in the heart of our Lord is His gospel. Paul is an important choice mainly because he is an enemy. This will make him a more effective witness. The fiery persecutor becomes the fiery missionary, more abundant in his labors than all the rest. This is the message, “Make Jesus known.”  John Calvin comments.  “This place contains a most profitable doctrine, and the profit thereof is made manifold, for Christ shows what great account he makes of his gospel, when He pronounces that it is His cause, from which He will not be separated. Therefore he can no more refuse to defend the same than he can deny himself.  Secondly, the godly may gather great comfort by this, in that they hear that the Son of God is partner with them of the cross, when they suffer and labor for the testimony of the gospel, He bears some part of the burden in our person; he suffers together with us, as if the enemies of the gospel should wound us through his side.” Christ suffers whatever the faithful suffer at this day for the defense of the gospel, William Carey in India, Adoniram Judson in Burma, Eric Liddell in China, Nate Saint and Jim Elliot in South America, Hudson Taylor in China, David Livingstone in Africa, Samuel Moffat and Bruce Hunt in Korea, famous missionaries of the modern era all knew this and faced rejection and death for Jesus.

CONCLUSION

We sing of the matchless name of Jesus, a name above all others because Paul writes in Philippians 2:8-11, And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Remember how he tells Paul that he will suffer for his name’s sake? In the Bible the name stands for the person, but even more: this name contains the essence of the whole revealed purpose of God, which is, to bring praise to Himself because of His glorious grace. Yahweh saves!