Acts 26:11-15
Acts 26:11 (KJB)
And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
Compelled - Forced or constrained
Mad - Furious or be enraged against someone
Strange Cities - Cities outside of Israel such as Damascus
Paul then continues his dealings with the Christians before his conversion. He had such a hatred for Jesus and Christians that he would hunt them down and punish them in the synagogue. He even attempted to get them to blaspheme the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was so enraged against them that he did not limit his persecution to Israel only but he would go to cities outside of Jerusalem, wherever he heard there was a group of Christians, he would attempt to wreak havoc on them and bring them back to Jerusalem to be tried and stoned. He was very zealous in his Judaism believing that he was doing God’s work but like Israel, he had zeal without knowledge. (Rom 10:2 KJV) For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. He lacked the knowledge of the ways of God and that the Father is only approached through the Son. This was misguided zeal.
Acts 26:12 (KJB)
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
Paul first of all shares his story of his violence against the church but now he begins to speak about his conversion. He had received permission and authority from the chief priests in Jerusalem to go to Damascus and search out the Christians and then bind them and bring them back. The reason the Jerusalem priests had the authority was because it was the center of Jewish culture and life. It was where the Sanhedrin resided and they were the ruling body of all the Jews, so when they wrote a letter or gave authorization for something, the ones receiving the letters were bound to obey.
Acts 26:13 (KJB)
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
Paul addresses the King specifically and tells him that while he was on the Damascus road, he had seen a light shine down from Heaven and it was so bright, that it had outshined the intensity of the midday sun. The midday sun in the Middle East is extremely intense and bright. It overshadowed Paul and also those who were traveling with him. Paul was on the open road and there was no way that anyone of earth could have produced a light that intense. King Agrippa knew the Hebrew Scriptures so he would have recognized this as the same glory which Moses saw. (Exo 40:35 KJV) And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Acts 26:14 (KJB)
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Pricks - Goads
The light was so intense that probably by trying to shield their eyes from it, they had all fallen to the ground plus they may have also been terrified by the light. Paul then goes on to say that he heard a voice speaking to him in the Hebrew tongue. Paul understood the voice and asked him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Jesus did not ask him why he was persecuting His followers because Jesus is very intimate with his children and when they are being persecuted, then He is being persecuted. Jesus identifies with every bit of persecution His children face. Now Jesus tells Paul that it is hard to kick against the pricks. This was a sharply pointed stick which was used to spur animals on and used in place of a whip. What Jesus was telling Paul basically was that it was hard and futile to kick against the goad which was Christianity. Paul was trying to eradicate it and Jesus was sending His children all over the place spreading the Gospel. It was futile for Paul to try and stop the spread because he could in no way do it. It would be like a person taking off their shoes and then kicking the goads of a cactus with the hopes that the cactus would move. What do you think a bare foot would look like after kicking the sharp spiked goads of a cactus? This is what Jesus was telling Paul that his efforts were futile.
Acts 26:15 (KJB)
And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
Since Paul had known that the light had come from Heaven, he than asks the question of who was it but he uses the term “Lord.” What the Lord said to Paul must have surprised King Agrippa as much as it did Paul. Paul was out to destroy the church and everything associated with “Jesus of Nazareth” and now Paul is being spoken to by the very one he loathed and refused to believe was alive. Jesus once again emphasizes the fact that Paul was persecuting Him. When Paul was pursuing the people of Christ, he was pursuing Christ Himself.