And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
What must Saul have thought when he heard those words: “I am Jesus”? Did his stomach drop? Did fear fill him? He was a God-fearing Jew, after all, a Pharisee of Pharisees. His religion was important to him. He was zealous for God, not ignorant of Him. But he did not know Jesus, and Jesus introduces Himself to Saul in a dramatic way. This wasn’t like calling out to some fishermen from the seashore as He had done with His other disciples. This was the full glory of Christ from heaven on high.
Saul had thought he was following the right path. He thought he was doing the right thing. Being here on the road to Damascus was evidence that Saul would do whatever he felt was necessary to be obedient to God. But Jesus was what was missing from his life, and with that piece missing, everything he was doing was in vain. But once he came to understand the reality of Jesus, once he truly knew Him and understood Him, he could never be the same and surely didn’t want to be. There was no turning back for Paul, only a dedicated and focused pursuit toward his new Lord and Savior.
There are a lot of things that we try to do in our lives that we think are the right things to do. They may even be religious things or things that make us feel like we are pleasing and obeying God. But the most important and necessary thing is to know Jesus—to truly know Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the one who unites us with the Father. Without Jesus being part of what we are doing, it is all in vain. Without Jesus being part of our lives, we’re not pleasing God at all.
All along, Paul had thought that by rejecting Jesus and persecuting His followers, he was on the right path. But he was actually defying and rebelling against the God he purported to serve. There are many things that we can do that we may think are pleasing God when we are actually living in rebellion to Him. There are things that seem like the good and right things to do that actually mean we are opposing the God we claim to be serving. But when we truly know Jesus as our Savior, He will lead us in the right way to do what is truly pleasing to our heavenly Father.