Updated: Jul 22, 2020
by Samantha Shrauner
I was eight years old when I first got glasses. I remember feeling nervous to go to school with them for the first time, and how shy I felt when I showed them to my teacher. I remember picking frames I thought were pretty (looking back at pictures of the time, my sense of fashion was somewhat off-kilter). But my most vivid memory of getting glasses was seeing leaves on a tree. I marvelled at the detail that was now visible to me. I hadn’t noticed details disappearing; it was a gradual process as my vision got worse. But then I put on a pair of glasses, and realised what it was like to see the world with glorious clarity.
It’s easy for Christians to lose sight of who Jesus is. It isn’t that we forget everything; we don’t turn away or close our eyes completely. It’s more that our vision gets blurry. Instead of a sharp clear picture, we have a blurry Saviour in our minds who is vaguely comforting but without power or a sense of conviction. We don’t forget Jesus, but over time our understanding of him is less and less defined.
When we want to remember who Jesus is, it is best to start with remembering what he has done. A clear picture of Jesus’ attributes emerges when we call to mind Jesus’ actions. To keep Jesus at the front of your mind and your heart, return over and over again to what he has done in Scripture, in history, and in your own life. A clear and beautiful picture of Jesus emerges in Acts 9, where Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the apostle. This text highlights three key truths about who Jesus is, and shows how these truths have a tremendous impact on the people that God has called. From this passage we can see with clarity that Jesus has power, that Jesus brings salvation, and that Jesus is truth. When our vision of Jesus becomes blurry, see what he has done to remember who he is.
Jesus Has Power
1 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 flashed 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 travelling 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. Acts 9:1-9
At the beginning of Acts 9, Saul is a powerful and intimidating figure. He harbours violent intent against Christians and he carries the authority of the high priest to arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem. But Saul’s power is no match for the king of the universe. When God reveals his power, people take notice and the limit of their own power becomes painfully clear. Think about what it would take for something to knock you off your feet in public, in front of other people. Jesus appears and Saul falls to the ground. His sight is gone. Saul comes face to face with the Saviour who reigns in power.
Jesus reigns in power and will return in power. It can be easy to focus on Jesus’ humility and sacrifice and forget that he is the Lord who reigns over heaven and earth. Jesus holds the universe together (Colossians 1:17). Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus “is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of his nature, and upholds all things by the word of his power. When we think about Jesus, we must remember his glory and his power.
Honest reflection on who Jesus is should give us pause. It’s a sentiment that C. S. Lewis captures well in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Susan discovers that the great Aslan is a lion and asks in alarm if he is safe. “‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.’”(1) Saul met a Saviour who isn’t safe, but who is tremendously good. We can learn from Saul’s experience and remember that we serve a God full of power and glory. When Jesus seems small in your view, when the pressures of life or the thrill of temptation or the weight of suffering threaten to overwhelm you, turn to Scripture and read about Jesus’ power. Put the troubles and temptations into perspective by remembering who Jesus is. Come and see what Jesus has done to remember who Jesus is.
Jesus Brings Salvation
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 baptised; 19a and taking food, he was strengthened. Acts 9:10-19a
In verse 10 the focus of the story shifts from Saul to a Christian named Ananias. By seeing Saul’s conversion through Ananias’ eyes, we get a sense of the magnitude of what has happened. Since the day of Pentecost, thousands of people have heard the witness of the apostles and come to faith in Jesus. But Saul is no ordinary convert, or even someone who heard about Jesus and initially responded with indifference. Saul had actively sought to harm and destroy the church. Ananias responds with understandable hesitation, but God makes clear what he has done and will do in Saul’s life. God has made Saul a “chosen instrument” and has appointed Saul to preach the name of Jesus to many people. Remarkably, Saul’s ministry will include not only Israel but also the Gentiles.
From the beginning of Scripture God reaches out to a world that has rebelled against him and provides the means for reconciliation. At precisely the right time God sent a Saviour to provide the final atonement for sin. God extends salvation not only to those who are worthy but also to those who are profoundly unworthy. Darrell Bock argues that “Saul is the ultimate example of God’s initiative to save the enemy.” (2) Reflecting on his past, Paul will later write that he is the worst of sinners. God extends grace to the man who tried to exterminate the church, and God uses that man to bring the gospel to nations of people who have never worshipped the true God.
We know that Jesus saves. We repeat it to ourselves on a regular basis, and we know stories of people who have come from death to life. But there are seasons when it feels like Jesus has stopped saving, at least when it comes to people that we know and care about. In our best moments we dare to hope that Jesus will save those who seem the farthest from him, but in all honesty we aren’t sure Jesus could really save them. In the moments when we’re closer to despair than hope, remember the people that Jesus has brought to salvation. Read the book of Acts and see how God broke barriers to draw people to himself. Read stories from history and from the global church and marvel at the salvation that Jesus brings to people who once rejected him. Ask people their stories and remember again that Jesus is mighty to save. Not everyone will be saved, but Jesus can save anyone. When you feel like abandoning your hope in Jesus’ saving power, see what Jesus has done to remember who Jesus is.
Jesus is Truth
19b 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.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. Acts 19b-22
After a dramatic conversion, Saul immediately begins a dramatic ministry by preaching Jesus in the synagogues. To the amazement of those in Damascus, the man who sought to destroy the church has publicly identified with Jesus through baptism and by proclaiming him as the Son of God. What is more, Saul’s words cannot be dismissed as the ravings of a man who has had some sort of hallucination on the road. God used a supernatural encounter to bring Saul to faith, but the bedrock of Saul’s faith is not his experience but the truth of the gospel. Saul is able to demonstrate and prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel.
The Christian faith does not rest on subjective religious experiences but on the historical fact of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We say with Saul that Jesus is the Son of God because we affirm that these things actually happened, that Jesus actually came from God, and that we can actually have life in his name. Like Saul, we may have seen God work dramatically in our lives. We believe in a God who is active in the world, and making God’s work known brings him glory. But we mustn’t despair or doubt if we’ve never seen anything marvellous. The foundation stands firm; God has done every work necessary for salvation through Jesus the Christ.
Often though, our doubts don’t come because we expect a miracle and receive nothing. In the West we aren’t usually on the lookout for signs of power, but we do have an expectation of feeling Jesus’ close presence. When God feels far away, we wonder if our faith is real. Saul’s witness of Jesus and success in proving his identity demonstrates that our faith does not rest on how we feel. In every circumstance of life, Jesus is truth.
An argument based on history may make faith sound cold and clinical, but this doesn’t mean that we need to remove emotions from our Christian lives. Jesus invites us into relationship with himself, and we can bring any emotion before him in prayer. But the foundation of proof and history gives us a solid footing through the ups and downs of life. We all experience the ebb and flow of faith and doubt, but in every moment and season of life we can say with confidence that Jesus is truth. He really did die to save us and he God really did raise him from the dead. When doubt makes your picture of Jesus blurry and things don’t seem as clear as they once did, turn to Scripture and see what Jesus has done. Read the Old Testament and see how God prepared the way for a Saviour from the beginning. See what Jesus has done and remember again who Jesus is.
Our vision will go blurry from time to time. We will forget again, but God has given us his Word so that when we lose sight of Jesus we can bring things into focus again. As we see in Acts 9, we serve a God who has great power, who brings great salvation, and who has built a firm foundation of truth. Come and see who Jesus in the account of Saul’s conversion, how a man was brought to his knees by Jesus’ power, how he came from violent hostility to willing faith, and how he demonstrated with proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah. This is the God we serve and the Saviour who still has power, still saves, and is still unvarnished truth. When things go blurry, see what Jesus has done to remember who Jesus is.
C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, (London: Harper Collins, 1998), 87
Darrell Bock, Acts, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 350