10 May 2019
Saul was still breathing threats to slaughter the Lord’s disciples. He had gone to the high priest and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he could find.
Suddenly, while he was travelling to Damascus and just before he reached the city, there came a light from heaven all round him. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ he asked, and the voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me. Get up now and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.’ The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but even with his eyes wide open he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand. For three days he was without his sight, and took neither food nor drink.
A disciple called Ananias who lived in Damascus had a vision in which he heard the Lord say to him, ‘Ananias!’ When he replied, ‘Here I am, Lord’, the Lord said, ‘You must go to Straight Street and ask the house of Judas for someone called Saul, who comes from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying, having had a vision of a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to give him back his sight.’
When he heard that, Ananias said, ‘Lord, several people have told me about this man and all the harm he has been doing to your saints in Jerusalem. He has only come here because he holds a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name.’ The Lord replied, ‘You must go all the same, because this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before pagans and pagan kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he himself must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went. He entered the house, and at once laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on your way here so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately it was as though scales fell away from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. So he was baptised there and then, and after taking some food he regained his strength.
He began preaching in the synagogues, ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’
The Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’
He taught this doctrine at Capernaum, in the synagogue.
“this man is a chosen instrument of mine…”
If my father were alive today, he would be celebrating his 76th birthday in 5 days’ time. Sadly he passed away three years ago after battling a long illness. In his memory, I would like to share how our gracious Lord Jesus came into his life and gave him the peace that escaped him for so long.
My dad was not born a Christian. In fact, he shunned Christianity for the most part of his life. I liken his conversion to Saul’s conversion, every time I think about it. Growing up with him was not easy – he was distant and had a temper. We were all scared of him. If we wanted something, we would rather not ask and keep quiet than risk incurring his wrath and snorts of disapproval. We had an aunt and uncle who were, and still are, very faithful Christians. When they came from abroad to visit, they would make it a point to visit and the visit would ultimately end up with my uncle telling my dad about Jesus and Christianity. It was sometimes embarrassingly painful to watch as my dad would immediately lose interest and his gaze would dart elsewhere. Had smartphones been invented at the time, he would most definitely have diverted his attention there. He would sometimes ridicule and criticize some of our relations’ Christian faith, dismissing their attempts to preach to him as being overzealous. At a wedding once, the entire party stood up before the dinner to say grace, but my dad sat stoically in his chair, looking around with a smug smile on his face while the rest of us stood up out of respect. It was an uncomfortable scene to behold.
But then my dad fell sick. He had been ill before, and had a bypass when he was in his forties, but this was more serious. He had cancer. For weeks following his diagnosis and multiple hospital stays, he could not rest. He complained he felt uneasy inside, not at peace, even when he slept. By this time, my sister and I had both converted to follow Christ, and we, along with my brother, had all grown up and flown the nest. One day, I received a call from my mother: in a ‘desperate’ attempt to find peace, my father had wandered into my room and had picked up a spare Bible that I had left there and had started reading it. From thereon, his conversion was swift. My uncle and aunt visited again shortly after and were one of the first who witnessed this conversion. His demeanor changed and he sat patiently listening and asking questions. He started going to church. After my mum and him both got baptized, they become really active at church joining various ministries. Even his personality changed – he became happier and was always smiling and laughing, more approachable and loving. He wasn’t 100% cured of his old habits, but he became a much warmer person. He prayed every day, twice a day, sometimes more especially towards the end of his life. He meditated on God’s Word regularly, and where he would have crumbled before, his faith kept him going all the way to the end.
As in the case of Saul, God chose my dad as an instrument to show that He is Almighty and only He is capable of thawing a hardened heart. God saw my dad as worthy to be saved, and that he would be a testament of God’s love, even if my dad had shunned it for so many years. Every Easter, we are reminded that we have all been chosen and called by God, to be saved and loved by Him, to be a living testament of His love and abundant promises. It is up to us to live that faith and make the calling worth the while. If God can choose and convert my dad, what more are the promises that lie in store for us who have already been called and chosen by God?
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Father Almighty, I pray for my father, that he may enjoy eternal rest with You. We pray for all those who have yet to come to know You, that they may have their hearts thawed and experience the glory of God as Saul did.
Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for giving my dad to us when he was alive. He may not have been perfect, but he was as good a dad as he could have ever been. Thank you for the memories.