When has God interrupted your life for Christ’s mission?
This Week’s Passage: Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)
I. Establish the text
C. Other texts for Third Sunday of Easter (Year C)
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
1 – – Saul “breathed threats and murder against the disciples” since the stoning of Stephen.
Violence begets violence.
2 – – Has force ever been effective quelling belief?
3 – – How might some one from the first century react to Strobe lights? A Disco ball? The Dazzler?
4 – – In Saul’s time Christianity was a fringe sect of Judaism. The persecution he represented deepened that split. Today, in America, the biggest threat to the church comes from within, zealots who would persecute those on the fringe. How might God be transforming Christianity today?
5 – – Would we bow to the unknown when zapped out of our normal routine?
6 – – Saul who would have bound and led Christians, is now led. When has Christ redirected our lives?
7 – 8 – Saul’s support group hears the voice and effect Christ’s direction by leading him to the city where he would be told what to do.
9 – – “Without sight” might be a metaphor for without knowledge.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Requires a preface about Paul’s participation in stoning Stephen.
- The lectionary suggests stopping at v. 6.
- Continuing to verse 9 shows how Paul’s support group participated in God’s plan.
- Since few of us have suddenly been struck blind and many might relate to having been called to do something perceived as odious, we might better relate to Ananias. Hence the optional continuation to verse 20. Initially both Ananias and Paul have turned a blind eye to God working in the other. Through faith, each trusts and each sees. Can the hearer also open an eye to small things having a major impact? Ananias laid hands on a foe and the faith of billions awoke.
II. Literary Study.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
Acts 22:4-16 – Paul admits to having persecuted the Way, having bound and imprisoned men and women. The light shone (not flashed). His companions saw the light, but did not hear the voice, yet led him to Damascus. Ananias restored his sight and baptized. Later while praying he received direction to go to the Gentiles.
Acts 26:9-18 – Admits to casting votes for believers’ executions and provoking blasphemy. Bright light shone at noon and voice spoke in Hebrew. Voice tells Paul of his appointment to serve and testify so that Hebrews and Gentiles would turn from Satan, receive forgiveness, and a place among the sanctified. (No mention of Ananias.)
Galatians 1:13-17 – “Violently persecuted the church.” No mention of Damascus Road episode. Denied conferring with Ananias nor apostles at Jerusalem.
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
Saul is flipped from seeking to bind and lead to being led blind.
Christ appreciates Paul’s zeal but laments his direction.
Saul’s traveling companions serve as props.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of gravity: Christ flipped Saul from persecuting the church into its greatest evangelist.
- Emotional Center: A bolt out of the blue.
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- God chose to convert a violent persecutor rather than a committed follower. Are committed followers too meek to change the world?
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- This episode would be unbelievable, except that others have also had dramatic life-changing reversals.
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Robert W. Wall (“The Acts of the Apostles”, The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon, 2002.) comments that God did not seek to frighten Saul into obedience, but to reveal a plan of action, a plan that Saul was conditioned to receive, hence the ironic use of “Lord.” He also notes the parallel between Saul’s three days of blindness before his conversion with Jesus’ three days in the tomb prior to the resurrection. Wall reflects that Saul was converted to Jesus without repudiating his Jewish heritage.
William H. Willimon (Interpretation: Acts. JKP, 1988.) opines that Saul’s conversion dose not interrupt the story of Phillip, but fits within a series of conversion stories.
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher),
What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
God can and does interrupt our lives to further his kingdom.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?
Ask: What mission does God have for me?