Pauls Conversion1 “Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” 2When they heard him speaking in their own language,a the silence was even greater.

3Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. 4And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. 5The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the Christians from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.

6“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. 7I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

8“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

“And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene,b the one you are persecuting.’ 9The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.

10“I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’

“And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’

Do you ever wonder how close the Lord is to you?  Read his words again.  He asks Saul (Paul) “why are you persecuting ME?”  Jesus identifies himself to Paul as “I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting“.  Paul was persecuting Jesus’ disciples, like you and me, but Jesus tells Paul he is persecuting Him.  

Think about what Jesus is saying and how it relates to us.  When we are ill, sad, tested, heart-broke…Jesus isn’t with us as a coach or a friend, he is so united with us that he is also one with our sufferings, joys, persecutions and successes.  Who else in your life is so close to you?  If a child is away at war, the parents are worried and stressed, but they are not actually wounded or killed.  Jesus is saying he is so one with his followers that he himself is persecuted through them. 

Lord, don’t let me just feel you near me, let me know you are me and I am you and we are in this together, forever and always.