In Acts 9, Saul of Tarsus is journeying to Damascus to do what he loves to wake up in the morning for: persecute Christians. But in a life-changing encounter, the risen and exalted Lord Jesus speaks to him on the Damascus Road:
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he said (Acts 9:5).
Those words were shocking to Saul, for two reasons. First, he now realized that Jesus was not a dead false Messiah but the risen and exalted Messiah. Second, he learned that his actions against Christians were ultimately against Jesus himself.
Jesus takes persecution personally. While Saul was persecuting the church because of his zeal for the name of God, he had actually aligned himself against the purposes of God by persecuting the followers of the Messiah.
When people across the world persecute believers, Saul’s lesson on the Damascus Road needs to be relearned again and again: Jesus takes persecution personally, and aligning yourself against God is no safe place to be.