“Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” So go the actual lyrics from the chorus of the song that everybody gets wrong.
According to a poll conducted by Spotify, it is the most misheard song of all time. The singers lisp, as well as the almost nonsensical rhymes that comprise it, lends itself to any one of a thousand interpretations.
Of course I am referring to Blinded by the Light, a song written by Bruce Springsteen about random, unrelated events in his life, which was later recorded and made famous by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.
But long before The Boss ever put pen to paper, there was a man truly blinded by the light, from which this saying has entered into our vernacular. That man is the author of Romans, who we’ve been taking a brief look at – The Apostle Paul.
To get the full story we have to rewind back almost 2,000 years, to the city of Jerusalem – approx. 35 A.D. The city has been in upheaval in recent days due to the seemingly overnight explosion of a religious group of “believers”, as they are called, who are claiming to follow one Jesus of Nazareth – a man who had recently been executed by crucifixion at the hands of the Roman authorities, but who his followers have said, has actually risen from the dead! A statement that would seem ridiculous on the surface, and yet born out as fact by the witness of hundreds of people who saw him alive in the days that followed his resurrection.
What’s more, many miracles, signs and wonders are being done at the hands of Jesus’ “Apostles” which means Sent Ones. (When you hear Apostle, think ambassador. These men were Jesus’ ambassadors, representing his kingdom to the people.)
So amazing growth is occurring among this group. As a matter of fact, 3,000 people become followers on day 1! Every day after that more people are added to their ranks.
Then, just a short time later, there is a miraculous healing of a beggar who was born lame and lived that way for over 40 years. He’s sitting there at the temple begging for money, and two of Jesus’ Apostles, Peter and John, notice him. “Look at us!” Peter says. The man looks, because he’s thinking “These guys are going to give me something.”
But imagine his surprise when Peter says “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Then he takes his right hand and helps him up, and simultaneously as he’s pulling him up something amazing is going on in this guys feet and ankles. Strength begins going into them and now he jumps to his feet.
Can you imagine the joy that’s going on in this man’s heart? Over 40 years his feet had no strength and suddenly in one moment – Baam! First he starts walking, but then he starts leaping! And all the while he is praising God with all his heart for this unexpected divine intervention. You can imagine the scene. It’s joyful chaos. People know this guy – they know he’s been like this since birth. So there’s almost a stampede – As they witness this they start running to Peter and John.
Peter explains that this happened not just because the man believed, but what the man believed “By faith in the name of Jesus,” he explains, “this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.”
And this incident triggers another explosion of growth. “But many who heard this message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.”
Well, you don’t have that kind of rapid growth, that kind of drastic change, without upsetting the proverbial apple cart, so to speak. In Jerusalem in 35 AD, just like in every other place and time in history, there is a power structure in place.
Rome is the political and military ruler of the land. However, the religious hierarchy of rulers, elders, and teachers of the law, aka the Sanhedrin, (the supreme council of the Jewish nation) hold a tremendous amount of authority over the people as well. But now this new group, which is outside the established religious order, is gaining momentum like a huge freight train gathering speed.
Even in its infancy, it is already showing it has the potential to wreak havoc on the social, religious, and political orders of the day.
To say they feel threatened is an understatement.
To say they are ready to squash this threat like a troublesome bug is far more accurate.
So they begin to attack it in a very interesting way. They attack it by attacking the name associated with it. They command Peter and John to not speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John have a choice to make. Do they obey these men, or obey God and continue sharing Jesus? They choose the latter, much to the chagrin of the council.
Later, as their jealousy continues to grow at the report of the miracles happening at the hands of the apostles, they are at the point of wanting to execute them all but are talked out of it, and instead flog them and let them go.
And so the momentum continues. As a matter of fact, it appears to be unstoppable, but right at its peak a man appears on the scene.
He’s probably the most zealous of all the religious leaders, and he has a deep burning hatred for this group that is coming to be known as “The Way”. He has a plan to stamp it out completely, and he has the will to make it happen.
This man is none other than Saul of Tarsus who would later become the Apostle Paul, and he is about to unleash an intense attack on this young movement.
TO BE CONTINUED