The Goads

“I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’

And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:13-18 KJV)

So began the momentous conversion from Saul the persecutor to Paul the apostle.

Saul was blind for 3 days. His release from blindness, both physical and spiritual, was brought about by his conversion through Ananias, a believer in the Damascus church that he had intended to destroy.

This would not have been the first encounter between Saul and Jesus. It is highly likely that Saul’s zeal in persecuting Christians was his attempt to overcome the first seeds of doubt in his own faith sown over months as the Jewish leaders heard and challenged Jesus’ teachings in the temple courtyard and the marketplace.

The brilliant argument put up by Stephen which led to his death by stoning drove yet another wedge into Saul’s belief in his faith.       And so he went on an all-out rampage to destroy Christ’s followers – even requesting a commission from the High Priest for this Damascus assignment to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial.

Jesus knew right well what state of mind Saul was in. Saul was in turmoil: the foundations of his faith, as a disciple of the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel, were under threat. Hence Christ’s reference to ‘kicking against the goads’ (pricks of conscience). Saul’s behavior in attacking the church was going to cause him greater pain even though he didn’t realize it. He wasn’t fighting against people, he was fighting against God.

He was the author of his own discomfort.

We bring about our own troubles by wrong beliefs and wrong behavior – the whole Bible (especially the Old Testament) is evidence of that. But God knows how to use evil to bring about good outcomes. Paul’s story is one of the greatest examples.

As one of the most highly educated men of his age, with dual citizenship and at least 3 languages, Paul became the main initiator of God’s purpose to bring Christianity to the Gentiles, and in the process wrote letters to the Gentile churches in Asia Minor, Greece and Italy, that form approx 28% of the New Testament.

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The Spirit of Man

candle-icon“The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts of his being. ” Proverbs 20:27.

The word ‘spirit’ here is from the literal Hebrew word `breath’; and it refers to that ‘breath of life’ which God breathed into mankind in the person of Adam (Genesis 2:7)…   It is the equivalent of conscience, God’s lamp, that searches out the innermost recesses of a man’s heart.   This is a very important verse.  It stands alone in the Old Testament in its affirmation that the Divine element in human life is the conscience.”  (Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible).

Jesus referred to this scripture when speaking to His disciples not long after He chose them.  The reference in Matthew 5:14-16 is encapsulated in a statement of the special nature of the disciples, whom He likens to the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  It also occurs in Mark 4:21, again as part of His explanation to the disciples of the parables He had taught to the multitude.


In both of these renditions of the event, Jesus uses the simile from Proverbs to show the importance not only of walking in the spirit, but of doing so openly.  For, as He says in Matthew 5:16:  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.”

And in Mark 4:22 He concludes: “For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed;  nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”


How many people light candles and then hide them away?

This work is part of an ongoing series in a style inspired by the art of New Zealand painter, Colin McCahon – now recognized as one of NZ’s foremost artists of all time.  McCahon painted over a period of 45 years, his work being mainly Christian subjects and powerful landscapes.  One of the identifying elements of his style was the use of text (scripture), mostly as a primary element of the works, especially so towards the end of his life.

Obviously, with the paintings in this series, fitting at least part of the text  and an image into a 8″x8″ or 12″x12″ space requires some thought and brevity of expression, while remaining true to the essence of what Jesus said.  These works are the result of a directive from The Father: “Paint My Son’s Words.”

From the same series, see also “Out of The Heart“, and “Wonderful Counselor“.

Artwork and Products available in my Damascus Road Gallery. Or click on the images.

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I Am The Way

the-way-iconJesus spoke these words to His disciples at the Last Supper in answer to a question put by Thomas:

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.'”    (John 14: 5-7)

One can picture Jesus, knowing full well what was ahead of Him, trying to explain to His disciples so that after the event they would have some understanding and comfort, but not wishing to go into details “for the prince of this world is coming.”  (John 14:30)  He had to keep His focus on the Father for the events ahead.  Nevertheless, His  loving, servant nature shines forth in these last, sad hours, from the washing of His disciples’ feet to His final prayer of stewardship in the Garden of Gethsemene.


Artwork and design by Patricia Howitt.  Click on the images or view artworks and products at my Damascus Road Gallery.


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