EASTER CHANGES US!

Acts 9:1-19a (CSB) Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest 2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 “Who are You, Lord?” he said. “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied. 6 “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink. 10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Here I am, Lord!” he said. 11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so he can regain his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!” 17 So Ananias left and entered the house. Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

In the name of Jesus Christ, whose resurrection changes us for eternity, dear Christian friends,

Two weeks ago, many of you changed your Sunday routine by attending worship at a different time (by the way, if this happens again, for a summer perhaps, remember that you managed two weeks ago and can manage again). Some of you ladies donned dresses even though you usually don’t and some of you guys put on a jacket and tie when that is not your usual attire. Many of you ate your breakfast here instead of at home or at a restaurant. All who were here saw and smelled many more flowers up front than normal, heard brass and bell and string instruments offer uplifting music, and came in darkness but left in light.

What was it two weeks ago that changed your Sunday routine? It was, of course, Easter. What is Easter? It is the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord!

Easter— that is the good news of Jesus’ resurrection— changes us! On one Sunday in spring each year, it changes our regular routine, but it does so much more than that. It changes our deserved damnation due to our sins into bountiful blessings due to our Savior God. It changes our hopeless existence into a hope-filled eternity. It changes our selfish motivation into sanctified motions. EASTER CHANGES US!

Easter, or the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, also changed Saul to the Apostle Paul, changed him from being a persecutor of Christians to a proclaimer of Christ, from sinner to sinner-saint, from condemned to a child of God. Listen as we make our way through today’s reading: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Saul was a forerunner of today’s atheist or today’s ISIS in that he wanted every Christian caught, captured and condemned. He did not know Jesus as the way (Jn 14:6) to heaven, so he did not support those who belonged to the Way. He saw them as a threat to his own Jewish way of life and his Pharasaic philosophy of work-righteousness.

You and I began life’s journey in a similar way to Saul— antagonist of the Almighty, enemy of every Christian. Already in our mother’s womb, we were sinful. From the time of our birth, we were enemies of God. We were unable to comprehend God’s love and forgiveness and unwilling to try. We were blind to the blessings of God’s grace. But, Easter changes us!

As [Saul] traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” “Who are You, Lord?” he said. “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. Then Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.

Saul’s physical blindness enacted on him by the one who sees all could serve as an illustration of his spiritual blindness. As his physical blindness made him dependent on those around him to lead and guide him, so his spiritual blindness made him dependent on God to lead and guide him to salvation. As his physical blindness left him unwilling to eat or drink, so his spiritual blindness left him unwilling to eat of the Bread of life which is Jesus or drink of the Water of life which Jesus provides.

Our spiritual blindness from birth made us unable to see God’s blessings of forgiveness, hope, joy, peace, etc. Only the Holy Spirit could bring us the ability to see— and enjoy— these things through Christian faith. Easter changes us!

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Here I am, Lord!” he said. “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so he can regain his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!”

God was intent on making Saul his friend even though he had the reputation of being God’s enemy. God wanted us to be his own as well even though everything about us by nature fought against the idea. Easter changes us!

So Ananias left and entered the house. Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Physical sight was restored to Saul, but better yet he was given eyes of faith to see Jesus as his risen Lord and Savior. His baptism filled him with the Holy Spirit and either brought him to saving faith or confirmed the faith he had been given on the road to Damascus. Not only did Saul now feel like eating, he also felt like devoting his life to Jesus, serving Jesus’ people and reaching out to those who needed to know Jesus.

Your baptism has greatly affected you as well. It washed you clean of your sins. It made you a child of God. It promised you the gift of heaven.

It moves you to devote your life to Jesus, serve his people and reach out to those who need to know Jesus. How are you doing in these matters? Are you faithfully attending worship? Are you loving your neighbor? Are you spreading the good news of Jesus?

It’s not easy, is it? Satan and the sinful world around you and the sinful nature inside you work hard to keep you from remembering your baptism and acting on these things. But Easter changes us!

Once unable to glorify Jesus, now we can praise Jesus! Once unmotivated to grow in our understanding of him, now we can learn his Word! Once unwilling to reach out with the good news of Jesus, now we can share his love with all!

As today, Cinco de Mayo, is a day of change for those of Mexican heritage, celebrating with events and festivals and parties as they recognize a significant national victory over France in Mexico’s war with them in 1862, so every Easter and every day is a day of change for us as Easter marks Jesus’ victory over Satan in the eternal war waged for the possession of our souls.

No longer did Saul belong to Satan after Jesus changed him. No longer are we children of the devil after Jesus changes us. We are followers of him who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). We are Jesus’ people because Easter changes us!


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