Following the story about faith in John 20, we now have an account that is about provision. When our nets are empty (or our hearts or our plans or our bank accounts), who will provide for us? The gospel points us to Christ. – John P. Fairless
Whatever it is that we lack, Christ has not abandoned us—though we may not immediately recognize his presence in the day-to-day experiences of our lives. When faced with the evidence of our emptiness, we can choose one of two responses: we can acknowledge and face that lack, or we can lie to ourselves and say that we have what we need, even when we do not. In making the sometimes painful or embarrassing admission that we cannot help ourselves, we make it possible for help to reach us from any number of possible sources. Christ's loving provision is certainly not the least of these!
Finally, in one of the least noted lines of this story, there remains an intriguing hint of the role Jesus would have us play in our own well-being. “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught” is Christ's invitation to participation in the process. While Jesus is evidently completely capable of providing all that we need, he repeatedly reveals a predilection for asking us to assist ourselves, as well. We are not alone, and it is true that Jesus is all that we need. But it is also true that his invitation to follow him is a shared journey; part of the blessing is that we are allowed—and expected—to help bear the burden with him. – John P. Fairless
For those who are assigned this portion [Acts 9:1-6] for reading in worship, it is helpful to note the connection between the experience of Saul, as he is called to follow the risen Christ, and the other disciples. Notice that when Christ speaks to Saul on the way to Damascus, Saul responds with the question, “Who are you, Lord?” That really is the key to any response that a disciple must make. No one will truly follow Christ until they have settled the issue for themselves of who Jesus is.
Though this account of Saul's “conversion” is dramatic, he really receives no further or different instructions than any other disciple. He is called to obedience, and is expected to respond in faith. “Get up … you will be told what you are to do.” Like all other disciples, he really has nothing else to go on but Christ's call to “take up your cross and follow me.” – John P. Fairless
For those who wish to include the entire story of Saul’s/Paul’s experience on the Damascus road, the matter of obedience broadens to include the support given by the whole church to each individual. Ananias, in this case, is the church––sent to a dreaded foe who is to be made whole by the love extended even to the enemy. Saul’s eyesight (his vision, as it were) is turned and restored. He “sees” his enormous blindness about the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. He makes the same proclamation we heard from Thomas last Sunday.
[T]he shaping of [Paul’s] faith is like that of most of us who grew up in the faith. It is the story of ordinary folks who break the bread, tell the story and care for their neighbors, in the midst of what seems to be ordinary and uneventful. Except what springs from such a routine may not be a “Damascus Road” story, but the product of Christians such as you and me. That, my friends, is an extraordinary testimony. – Sara Webb Phillips
This reading from Revelation forms the language of the classic Hymn of Praise sung at the beginning of the liturgy. It serves to make the point that much of what is said and sung in worship in many of our churches is biblical language. We hear and say the word of God in many ways throughout the year in our assemblies, keeping its rhythms and images in our ears and on our lips, forming us in faith.
Sara Webb Phillips is a United Methodist minister serving North Springs UMC in Sandy Springs, Georgia.
John P. Fairless is senior minister of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Florida.
Homily Service 40, no. 5 (2007): 67-75.