Eastertide 3C, Sunday, April 14, 2013
*Eastertide is the season between the Easter Vigil and the Day of Pentecost, during Eastertide, or “The Season After Easter,” usually replace the Old Testament reading in the Lectionary with a reading from Acts instead. This tradition dates back to at least the Fifth Century, when it was mentioned in the writings of Augustine.
The Conversion of Saul
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 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. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Criticism of the New Perspectives on Paul Movement
John Dominic Crossan, in the recent Huffington Post piece titled “What Really Happened to Paul on the Road to Damascus?” questions the account of story of conversion presented in Acts. The traditional text states that Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, was traveling to Damascus to persecute followers of The Way (now known as Christians) when he was blinded by a vision of the risen Christ.
Crossan goes on to say that the conversion story is suspect because a Pharisee’s jurisdiction would have no power to cross Rome’s provincial borders. His article doesn’t consider the stance taken by the 1906 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia.
The Jewish Encyclopedia proffers that Saul was a Sadducee, and Luke mistakenly identified Saul of Tarsus as a Pharisee. The Sadducees would be more likely to oppose the nascent Christian movement because they did not subscribe to an idea of an afterlife or punishment after death. The Sadducees also represented the state and Judaism abroad and worked closely with the Romans. Their argument is that Paul should have been known as Saul the Sadducee. As a Roman citizen and Sadducee, Paul would be able to easily cross boarders and persecute members of Jewish communities elsewhere. At the time, The Way was a Jewish sect. Paul was actually the person that was responsible for taking the Gospel to non-Jewish people.
At first glance, Crossan’s argument seems to have merit, until you explore the possibility that the Jewish Encyclopedia puts forth that as a Roman citizen and Sadducee Saul would have the power and the mindset to track down followers of Jesus wherever they were in the Roman Empire.
Grace Bible College professor, Phillip Long, and developed Reading Acts from a Sunday evening services he led. It developed into a survey of Pauline Theology. In the last several decades the New Perspectives on Paul movement has been involved with the scholarly re-examination of Paul and what he said.
Several views of Paul’s Road To Damascus experience are examined in Long’s “Basics of the New Perspective: Was Paul ‘Converted’ to Christianity?” Critics that subscribe to the New Perspective say that the traditional view that Paul underwent a spiritual conversion comes from a post-Luther reading of Acts. Stendhal and Dunn say that it was not a “conversion” because Paul did not switch religions. They say that Paul still considered himself to be Jewish and believed he was merely spreading the zeal for ‘The Light” that he had as a Pharisee to the Gentiles. They believe that the experience is a “call” similar to the one that Isaiah received (Isaiah 6). The New Perspectives view is not unilateral, N.T. Wright still used the phrase “Paul’s Conversion.”
Long goes on to say the New Perspectives on Paul Movement’s view of Paul adapting The Law of Moses doesn’t fully depict how radically different Paul’s teaching is. Paul belief that Gentiles didn’t have to be circumcised was him fully embracing the fact that Jesus “fulfilled the law” (Matthew 5:17, Romans 8:3-4). The main problem the leaders of the church at Jerusalem had with Paul was they believed he was taking the Jewish commandment out of “The Way” (the first century name for Christianity).
Long concludes with the belief that one should probably consider Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus as a call and as a conversion. He says that the theophany to Paul was a unique experience in the history of salvation (soteriology).
When reading scriptures, or modern commentaries on scriptures, it is best to keep in mind the prayer for discernment from the Psalm 119:18- “Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law.”
God of victory over death,
your Son revealed himself again and again,
and convinced his followers of his glorious resurrection.
Grant that we may know his risen presence,
in love obediently feed his sheep,
and care for the lambs of his flock,
until we join the hosts of heaven in worshiping you and praising him
who is worthy of blessing and honor,
glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen.
- Conversion on the Way to Damascus, 1601 -Caravaggio