Online Bible Commentary
A Broken Man
Acts 22:1 "Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now." 2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: 3 "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, 5 as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' 8 So I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.' 9 And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. 10 So I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.' 11 And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. (NKJV)
The time is 57 A.D. Paul and his travel party, including Luke, has returned to Jerusalem after completing his third and final missionary journey. Paul’s reputation as an opponent of Judaism has grown after his three missionary journeys.
Paul is recognized in the temple and dragged out by the Jews. The Jews are in the process of beating him when he is rescued by Roman soldiers stationed at the garrison, a fortress on the temple mount. Paul asks to speak to his Jewish opponents and his wish is granted.
He begins his defense and speaks in Aramaic, a dialect of Hebrew which is the language of the common people (vv. 1-2a). When the mob hears him speaking in their language they realize that he is one of them and he gains their attention (v. 2b).
In Paul’s apologetic he describes himself as a good Jew. He was born a Jew and studied at the feet of the renowned Jewish teacher Gamaliel (v. 3a). He was brought up to fully obey the Jewish scriptures and was “zealous” in following Judaism (v. 3b). He was obedient to the High Priest and the Sanhedrin in becoming the greatest persecutor of Christians (vv. 4-5).
But then, one day, he was struck down by a bright light from Heaven, a light even brighter than the noon day sun (v. 6). Paul fell to the ground and heard the voice of Jesus saying “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me” (vv. 7-8)?
Paul’s travelling companions saw the light and heard the sound but could not understand the words being spoken (v. 9 and Acts 9:7). Paul then asked Jesus “What shall I do, Lord” (v. 10a). Jesus replied “Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do” (v. 10b). So Paul, helpless, blind and broken, was “led by hand” by his travel companions into the city of Damascus.
So Paul paints a picture of himself as he was some 23 years ago. He was struck down by the Lord on the road to Damascus and rendered blind and helpless. He had lived a life of fighting against the true God and His representatives…and God had had enough.
All that Paul had worked for to be a good religious person was in vain. He had nowhere to turn and no one to turn to. His world had been turned upside down. He had hit rock bottom. He was a broken man.
All that was left for Paul was complete submission to the true God. So he did. He asked “What shall I do, Lord”, and the Lord told him.
When we reach the end of our rope, when there is nowhere else to turn, our reaction is everything. We have made mistakes to get where we are and we must not compound our mistakes.
When Job reached the end of his rope his wife suggested that he curse God and die (Job 2:9). Those kinds of people are always around. Turning away from God is the worst possible thing we can do.
Instead, like Paul, we should turn towards God, realizing that He is our only solution. We should submit fully to Him, like Paul. And, when we do, He will pull us up from drowning just as Jesus did for Peter on the Sea of Galilee (Mt. 14:31).