Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jesus: focus of hate

And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."
Acts 9:4-5

Jesus not only identifies with the persecuted church, but is Himself the real focus of persecution. When wicked people attack the church and individual Christians, they are in fact attacking only Jesus. He receives the pains of persecution. He is the focus of persecuting hate. When someone hates on the church, they attack Jesus Himself.

As seen with Saul, Jesus can easily end that persecution suddenly and powerfully. With a bright light, a voice from heaven, and a sudden crippling blindness, Saul was incapacitated in his agenda of hate and murder. With one powerful, probing question, Saul is led to acknowledge Jesus as Lord.

Jesus would turn Saul completely around. He would go from being a persecutor of the gospel to its most influential preacher. With that experience, he would turn from persecuting the church to instead suffering persecution himself. He would change from hating Jesus to being hated because He so passionately served Jesus. He would suffer for Jesus' name. And even as Saul suffered, it would be Jesus Who would endure that suffering with and for him.

Perhaps one reason Saul was so fearless and focused on the gospel was that from his very conversion he knew it was Jesus Who bore the pain of persecution. If it is Jesus who bears the hate and rejection, Who feels the wounds of persecution, Who prevails against attacks against His church, then we as Christians need not fear. Nothing will be successful in usurping the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And any pain we know in following Jesus is borne by Him.

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