Essay / Misc.

Jesus Speaks for Himself

Damascus road from 15th c french city of god Jesus Christ, risen and at the right hand of God, continues to speak for himself. The story of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, retold in Acts 26, shows this in two different ways.

He speaks for himself directly, personally, in red print if your Bible prints things that way. This is special informatioon provided here in Acts 26. From the versions of the same story told in Acts 9 and Acts 22, we would have thought Jesus said only a few words to Saul and left the rest of his instructions for later. Look at Acts 9:6: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” That’s all. But our version in Acts 26 gives a much fuller account of the direct, personal instructions Jesus gave Paul about his ministry to the Gentiles. This is Jesus’ project, and Jesus speaks for himself in commissioning his apostles.

But while you’re at Acts 9, follow the red ink trail to verse 10 and see how the story unfolds: Jesus (appearing in a vision) tells Ananias to go and meet with Saul, and gives him a message for Saul: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias goes to Saul, lays hands on him and prays, and Saul recovers his sight and receives the Holy Spirit.

Look how similar the message is regarding the gospel going to the gentiles: In Acts 9, Jesus tells Saul to go to the city where he will be told what to do, and he tells Ananias to tell Saul that he will be sent to the Gentiles. In Acts 26, Jesus tells Saul directly that he is sending Saul to the Gentiles. Ananias by Benjamin West Saul gets the message: “Go to the Gentiles.” In both cases, and in the combining of them that you get from a complete reading of the whole book of Acts, Jesus Christ is speaking for himself. Whether he says it personally, directly, and immediately on the road to Damascus, or whether he says it through Ananias, it is the word of God the Son.

Red print or black print, the risen Jesus says the same thing and speaks for himself. Who sends Paul to the Gentiles? Jesus Christ. Maybe through himself, maybe through Ananias, but either way he is speaking for himself.

I still am not sure why Jesus Christ appeared personally to Paul after ascending into heaven. The normal plan in the time after Christ’s ascension is that he works through the Holy Spirit. In fact, that point is underlined in the Damascus road story, since what God communicates through Ananias in Acts 9 is what Jesus Christ says directly in Acts 26. Jesus is fully capable of speaking for himself directly and in person. But he normally uses people to reach people, and has linked his message to particular humans in particular communities. I suppose you could ask Jesus to deal with you directly instead of through his church, but it’s significant that Jesus speaks for himself no less when he makes use of Ananias than when he appears directly. You should also be warned that when Jesus speaks for himself directly and personally, you can be knocked down and blinded. Personally, I prefer hearing Jesus speak for himself in his church.

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