Stop Kicking Against the Goads!

This week we will be considering the power of the resurrection of Christ in our life.  For the Christian, the resurrection is of vital importance.  Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the Corinthians that if the resurrection did not happen, then everything in the Christian life is in vain.  There is only hope for us in the future if there is indeed a risen Christ. We should also consider, however, that the resurrection is not just something that gives us hope for the future, but it gives us great power in our life today. In a sense, there are two resurrections for the Christian.  We are raised from spiritual death and we will be raised physically on the final day.  Our resurrection is not something that we simply look forward to but we also live a resurrected life right now.  We have already in Christ gone from death to life (romans 6:4).  This is exactly what baptism indicates when believers visibly state that they have been crucified, buried and raised with Jesus.  We have gone from death to life and in baptism we are identifying visibly with all those who have also come to the saving knowledge of Christ through his death, burial and resurrection. We are new creations and belong to a new family.  

Paul had exactly this experience on the road to Damascus.  He was the Jew of Jews and the Hebrew of Hebrews. In his mind, he was an avid defender of the faith and a relentless observer of God’s law. But Paul was dead. He was a lifeless corpse as one who had rejected the resurrected Lord Jesus.  In his condition before Christ he had seen Christians proclaiming Jesus as the one who had vacated his tomb and ascended in triumphant victory over death and sin.  He hated every word of it and was happy to see Stephen lose his life for testifying of such blasphemy. I am sure that Paul was ever frustrated that the so-called dilemma of the empty tomb was never answered. At least not for him and at least not until he met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. 

I don’t know about you, but when I hear or see something that I do not like hearing or seeing, it’s like getting pricked with a sharp object - it stings.  We never go out of our way to stand in a pile of thistles. Hearing about the resurrected Lord was to Paul like being poked with a sharp object.  It was an annoyance to the degree that it must be eradicated.  Yet there is one more aspect to Paul’s annoyance.  He was the one in error. Therefore, every time Paul heard about the resurrection of Christ he was fighting a losing battle.  The sharp pricking objects were not going away and his wounds from them were only hurting more and more all the time.  He was in a spiral of destructive, and self-abusive error. We can all be like this. The longer we build up sin and anger the more it spirals into our own self harm and hopelessness. 

In Acts 26:14, Paul testified before Agrippa about his conversion experience.  He accounts that Jesus called out to him and said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” Jesus used a common saying that refers to oxen that kick against the sharp implements that are used to keep them in line. The more the oxen kick against them, the more it will hurt them until they comply. What an absolutely accurate picture of what sin does to us. It reminds me of the verse in Proverbs 13:15, “The way of the transgressor is hard.” It takes a resurrected new life to get out of such a deathly rut. 

That day on the road to Damascus the resurrected Christ raised Saul from the dead and gave him new life.  He got a new name, became a new creation, and had a new vocation as a preacher of the gospel.  This is something that happens to every single Christian.  We encounter the resurrected Lord. We trust in him alone, and we are crucified to this world and risen to new eternal life.  Even so, we all eagerly await the final resurrection when we will see him face to face and be given new bodies and live in perfection in a new creation. 

This has two messages for us.  Christians should live lives of utter gratitude, praise and obedience to the one who gave us life.  Christians should also be people who have utter compassion for a world that is kicking against the goads. We should desire to introduce people to the resurrected Christ.