Today we saw Saul. He was on his way to Damascus. He had been given authority to persecute Christians there. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Saul. He was at the stoning of Stephen – being kind of a brown-noser; all he did was watch everyone else’s coats. He wanted to work his way to the top. He was zealous, and wanted to impress his boss and got the permission – wasn’t given it, but sought it.
He didn’t get what he bargained for. He met a surprise – he met Jesus. He was so lost, and so dead set on getting power that he was ignorant to the situation. "’Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’" Imagine the terror. Saul must have thought he was a deadman walking. Jesus takes a different route though. "But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."
Saul gets off. He might live. He’s struck physically blind to match his former spiritual blindness. And the Lord sends a pastor, Ananias, to console Saul and minister to him. Ananias speaks the words, "Receive the Holy Spirit," and the Word does what it says. Saul is healed of both physical and spiritual blindness.
He arises and goes with Pastor Ananias and is baptized, and there…Saul does die. We thought he might make it after all. He was in the midst of God and lived, but he couldn’t escape it – he dies. But that is not the end for Saul, because when he comes out of the font he’s a live again. Brought to new life in Jesus, not as persecuting Saul, but as preaching-the-Gospel Paul.
In St. Paul we see a picture of ourselves. We once were the Saul. Blind spiritually, on our way to our own Damascus, our own power grab. We wanted whatever it was that tickled our fancy: prestige among our peers, esteem from your elders, nice computer, ipod, cell-phone… We may not "overtly" persecute Jesus, but we ignore him, or don’t speak well of him. We can almost here our own name being called by Jesus, "…why do you persecute me?"
Then Jesus sends you a Pastor, too. And, through him, Jesus kills you. He kills the old Saul in you with the waters of Holy Baptism. You go to the font a Saul, but you leave a Paul. You leave clothed in Christ. You leave forgiven. You leave and the scales fall from your eyes, and you now can see Jesus not as a awful Lord, but as a friend, a brother. The same is true now. You come this week full of sins, and you go to your Pastor as a terrified Saul with the only image in your mind is of judging Jesus. But at Absolution, at the Altar you once again go a Saul, and leave a Paul. Redeemed, and forgiven. With a friend and brother Jesus, but also with a loving and caring Heavenly Father.