Acts of the Apostles 22:1 – 21
”Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense that I now make before you.” 2When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet. Then he said: 3”I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. 4I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, 5as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. 6“While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. 7I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ 9Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’ 11Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus. 12“A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, 13came to me; and standing beside me, he said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him. 14Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; 15for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. 16And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’ 17“After I had returned to Jerusalem and while I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18and saw Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20And while the blood of your witness Stephen was shed, I myself was standing by, approving and keeping the coats of those who killed him.’ 21Then he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
Paul begins to speak to the people, in Hebrew. He had spoken to the tribune in educated Greek (there was also “common Greek” at the time), but to speak to the people he chooses Hebrew. And they listen. Luke gives a long narration of Paul’s speech; this time we know that Luke was probably present – the “we” passages include their arrival in Jerusalem. This speech, more than any of the others Luke quotes, is likely what he himself remembers. (No one was recording speeches word for word in those days; most of what Luke quotes would be a compilation of what people he interviews remember.)
Paul begins by telling his own story. This is always a good place to begin when we wish to witness to Christ – by telling our own story and how Christ has impacted our lives! Paul says that he was born in Tarsus, but brought up in Jerusalem, studying at the feet of Gamaliel. He tells about how he persecuted the followers of Jesus, because he was zealous for God. Don’t we always have to be careful about that? We can easily think that we are being zealous for God when it is our own will we are being zealous for! But Paul is saying, look folks, I see how zealous you are – I was just like that! But then something happened that changed my way of thinking. And then he tells about his Damascus Road experience, of how he saw the Risen Christ, and his life was changed! He tells about Ananias and the miracle of his restored eyesight, and how he was immediately baptized in the name of Jesus. He skips the time he spent in Damascus and in the desert, and cites an event we have not heard of before in Acts. He says that Christ came to him in a trance in the temple, telling him to go to the Gentiles. Paul tells his own story, and then he tells of his calling. Christ called him for a special purpose. He calls each of us for our own special purpose – are you listening?