This post was inspired by the teaching I heard in church last Sunday and it impacted me so much I felt compelled to share it. We’ll pick up our journey through the book of John next Saturday.
Saul Encounters Jesus
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.
And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Saul is breathing threats and murder against Jesus’ followers. He’s already persecuted disciples of Jesus and now he’s prepared to make good on his threats with still more persecution in Damascus.
But his mission of destruction is interrupted when he encounters Jesus on the road.
And Jesus says to him, “. . . why are you persecuting me?”
He doesn’t say, “why are you persecuting my followers?”
Jesus says, “. . . why are you persecuting me?”
“Me,” Jesus says.
So when Saul persecutes Jesus’ followers, he persecutes Jesus.
What Happens To You, Happens To Jesus
We see Jesus communicate this same truth when he speaks of the final judgment in Matthew 25:34-40. Jesus says,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”
When You And I Encounter Jesus
I heard that in church and I thought that was pretty cool. I started thinking about the times I was misunderstood, or falsely accused, or disparaged, or denigrated. And I thought to myself, “That’s kind of amazing. When someone says something to me or about me, they’re saying those things to Jesus. Anything anyone does to me is done to Jesus.” From Jesus’ perspective, Jesus is on the receiving end of these “persecutions” too. That amazes me and encourages me.
But, there’s another truth present here. Speaking of the final judgment Jesus goes on to say that what people didn’t do for the least, they didn’t do for Jesus. (Matthew 25:41-46)
So here’s where I become concerned about my own behavior. While it’s encouraging to realize that whatever happens to me happens to Jesus, this truth works both ways. When I don’t love my fellow Christ followers well, I don’t love Jesus well. I can have a tendency to say things about my brother like “What an idiot.” Or, “He’s good for nothing.” Or, “What a fool.” And when I say those words to my brother, I’m saying those words to Jesus. Those words seem so inconsequential to me in the moment. But they’re not. When I say those words, or think those thoughts, or write that post on social media, I’m disparaging toward Jesus and that’s the last place I want to be.
Jesus says to me, “Kurt, Kurt, why do you persecute me?”
And Jesus says to you, “[Insert your name here, and here], why do you persecute me?”
In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus said,
“. . . whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
–Jesus Christ, Matthew 5:21-26
Later in that same chapter Jesus tells us to love our enemies. I need to do that. We all need to do that. And we need to love our fellow Christ followers too. And we need to love everyone in between.
And when we love our fellow Christ follower well, we love Jesus well.
This blog post was inspired by Chuck Bomar’s excellent teaching, Acts: Change, Trial, and Mission, Colossae Chruch Tigard, November 4, 2018