Saul of Tarsus is a great example of someone that came in conflict with the blinding light of Jesus. As an outstanding Pharisee with a strong sense of justice, he gave his life to defend the god of his understanding.
He sought out the cult followers of Jesus and punished them with a righteous vengeance. The religious leaders gave him authority to act as God’s cop, carrying a big stick.
As God’s punisher, he chased down these ‘Jesus hoodlums’ like a bounty hunter. That is, until the day he came face to face with Jesus. Listen as he recounts what happened on the day he met Jesus.
The man who thought he had so much light encountered a much brighter light that knocked him down. In the brighter light, he lost his own vision. Isn’t this what happens in the true light of Jesus? A true encounter stops you in your tracks and confronts everything you have said was most important. An encounter with Jesus calls for a new paradigm of reality. How then must we think about ourselves, about God and the world around us?
He claimed to love God, but had to ask who this blinding Lord was. He had a completely different opinion about Jesus of Nazareth who had been executed by the state and the mysterious and suspicious claims of fanatics claiming to have seen him alive again. Why so many claims by his followers? Surely every last one of them was bona fide crazy and a threat to both religion and government.
And now the answer, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
Jesus asks the man a pointed question, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Or as KJV says, ‘It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’
It may be that in conflict you have felt like kicking some pricks. But what is the prick or goad Jesus is talking about?
A goad was a stick tipped with a pointed piece of iron. Used to direct and guide livestock, a goad prodded them to pick up the pace if they slowed while plowing. Ancient farmers poked their livestock just enough to steer them in the right direction. Oxen that fought the goad, kicking against it, often injured themselves. The phrase became a proverb describing those who resist authority: anyone who challenged the gods was like an ox kicking against the goads. Paul, by persecuting Christians, had been challenging God’s authority, kicking against the goads.
In the paradigm shift that follows Saul’s encounter with Jesus we see a man with a changed mind. His previous method of punishing Christ followers had proven to be something that was hurting Saul. Why was he doing that?
Saul had to be blinded by a greater light and not regain his sight until Ananias was sent by God to bring healing to Saul. This is a Jesus follower coming to heal someone that would have oppressed him if given the opportunity.
Saul’s conflict with Jesus could not end if Saul insisted on maintaining his exclusive perspective on God. When our mindset is to punish, humiliate and prove wrong we end up hurting ourselves far more than the ones we oppress.