Were you in a school play? Were you a lead role? Or maybe you were a supporting role? Perhaps a part of the crew?
If you ever go to a play or musical, you know that the lead roles get their picture in the program, along with usually a paragraph with their bio. But if you were a part of the supporting cast, or worked behind the scenes, maybe your name was one line in a program. Maybe you weren’t mentioned at all.
It is vital to remember this because in this week’s posts we’re going to talk about a man who would become one of the most important leaders in the church. He was in the lead role. While his story is amazing, we’re going to pay close attention to his supporting cast. We’ll meet a couple of them by name, but many of them are just listed as a group. So often in a story, we focus on the main characters, but the behind-the-scenes people are equally important, as will become readily apparent in our posts this week.
If you’d like to follow along, feel free to open a Bible to Acts 9. When we paused the Acts series a month ago, we had studied chapters 6 and 7, and the tragic killing of Stephen. In that story, the author of Acts introduced us to another man who quickly became the arch-enemy of the church. In chapter 7, verse 58, we read that while the Jews were stoning Stephen, they laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named, Saul. Just a few verses later, as Stephen dies, we read that Saul gives approval to Stephen’s death. That was only the beginning of his treachery.
As we continue reading in chapter 8, we learn that a great persecution breaks out against the church, causing most of the Christians in Jerusalem to flee for their lives. Specifically, take note of Acts chapter 8:3, where we read that Saul was fueling this persecution, dead set on destroying the church.
In rest of chapter 8 we learned how the church, led by the Holy Spirit, pursued the mission of Jesus beyond the walls of Jerusalem.
Today we come to chapter 9. Saul is back in the story, and he, too, is thinking beyond the walls of Jerusalem but for the opposite reason. While the Christians fled the city, trying to get away from him, look at what Saul is doing in verses 1-2.
Saul is laser-focused on destroying the followers of Jesus, so he mounts up a posse and heads to the city of Damascus with letters of verification from the high priest in Jerusalem, eager to round up Jesus’ followers and bring them as prisoners back to stand trial in Jerusalem.
On the road near Damascus, Saul is in for the surprise of his life. Look at verses 3-9.
This is a famous story that Saul will come back to many times, and for good reason. But our attention is on the supporting cast.
Look at verse 7. We don’t know anything about men in Saul’s posse, except that at the moment Jesus breaks into the scene, they heard the sound of voice, but they didn’t see anyone. Imagine their bewilderment! I wonder if they told their family and friends about this for years to come, as it would have been an astounding moment.
Rather than focus on whatever feelings of fear or terror they might have been experiencing at that moment, though, they are willing to sacrificially put that aside and act on their loyalty to Saul, because we learn they help Saul complete the basic mission Jesus gave him: Go to Damascus, get more instructions there.
Check back in for tomorrow’s post as we learn more about those instructions, and we meet our first nominee for best supporting actor in this story!