There once was a man who had everything going for him. He was incredibly well educated, was "well bred", was on the "fast track" to positions of power and prestige and had one of those vibrant personalities that make a person very charismatic. In our current day, he most certainly would have been a Presidential candidate or a CEO of a major corporation. He did have one slight problem; he was VERY religious. In fact, he was in the very top tier of religious leaders of his time. That would tend to knock out any political aspirations.
When this man was around 27 years old, he was a spectator to an event he dearly wanted to be an active participant in, but couldn't, due to his age. Watching and yelling in full consent with all the others, this man witnessed first-hand, the "trial", the beatings, the torture and ultimately the crucifixion of the biggest troublemaker Israel had ever seen. Being who this young man was, he felt no sympathy for this scoundrel who dared call himself "the son of God". He felt no identification with someone who age wise, could easily have been his big brother. Indeed, he felt nothing but contempt and hatred for this weak excuse for a man,who wouldn't even stand up and defend himself.
To this young man, watching the entire judicial procedure involved with the trying and convicting of this heretic, was like watching some type of athletic event. He cheered wildly with each crack of the whip by the Roman guards. He yelled and screamed and clapped his hands in appreciation as this poor excuse for a man was mangled and beaten to the point he did not look human. He booed heartily when the initial announcement was made by Pilate of "not guilty". He screamed at the top of his lungs "crucify him, crucify him" along with the others in the crowd.
He, no doubt, hissed and probably spit upon this pathetic being as he trudged along the path to Golgotha. He jumped up and down with rage when this man could no longer carry his cross and someone was pulled from the crowd to carry it for him. He stood on the hill and watched the gruesome scene as this evil man got his final payment for the trouble he had brought to Israel and Jerusalem. When the man died, he smugly patted himself on the back, congratulating himself for being a part of this historic day.
About three years later, contrary to what the religious leaders had hoped for; although this man whom they crucified was no longer alive; his followers were multiplying like flies in Jerusalem. The whole city was being turned upside down by this new sect that claimed this crucified malefactor had been raised from the dead and was the true Messiah. Blasphemy, that's what that is, nothing but pure blasphemy, and these people must be stopped, this man said to himself.
Finally, the straw that broke the camel's back happened; this new group had succeeded in recruiting many of the priests to their new "faith". A group hatched a plan to pay witnesses a bribe to go to the Sanhedrin and lie about a certain leader of this new group named Stephen. These "false witnesses" so stirred up the ruling elders, they found this man and rushed him to justice immediately.
The false witnesses made their case that Stephen had spoken blasphemous words against the temple and the law. The high priest simply asked Stephen, "Are these things so?" Stephen then went into a long dissertation of the Old Testament giving a very well documented history lesson to people who knew this history like the back of their hands. Stephen then looked these rulers square in the eyes and said in Acts 7:51:
"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye."
After a few more "digs", the rulers had heard enough. They were "cut to the heart" and they "gnashed on him with their teeth". They were angrier than a swarm of hornets whose nest had been disturbed.
The rulers drug him outside the city to stone him. They stripped him of his outer garments and placed them at the feet of a young man named Saul. Greatly honored, he fully participated in the stoning of Stephen. This time, he was not just a spectator; he was an active and willing participant. In fact, it felt so good killing this heretic, Saul volunteered to become the leader of the "Gestapo" which sought out Christians, took them to death camps and slaughtered them. Saul was ruthless and he thoroughly enjoyed threatening, torturing and slaughtering the hapless followers of this false prophet Jesus.
One day, Saul desired and received letters to take to Damascus giving him permission to round up "Christians" and bring them bound to Jerusalem to be tried and put to death. On his way to Damascus, everything changed in an instant for Saul. Suddenly a light from heaven shined all around the caravan. Saul fell to earth and he heard a voice saying to him; "Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?" Saul was confused and asked who was speaking. Acts 9:5 says:
"I am Jesus, whom thou persecutes: it is hard for thee to kick against the ******."
This is a metaphor of an ox, which only drives the goad deeper by kicking against it. It expresses the vanity of all Saul's actions in trying to crush the Gospel, but it also displays the deeper wound which all these efforts inflicted upon him. The Lord Jesus Christ himself stops the dreaded Saul cold in his tracks and tells him that everything he is doing trying to destroy Christ's work was only driving the goad deeper into his own hide.
The purpose of telling this story is to drive home one simple point. When dealing with the topic of submission, there are few better examples than Saul. He was so hard and callused that it took the Lord Jesus himself to confront him. Jesus did not strike Saul with a lightning bolt, although Saul deserved it. Jesus did not yell and scream and beat Saul over the head with the "gospel". No, Jesus with great tenderness and love simply asked Saul a question he knew Saul could not and would not dare to answer.
When Jesus repeated his name by saying, "Saul, Saul"; it was in the same vein as earlier in his earthly ministry when he went to the home of Mary and Martha. Luke 10:40 says that Martha was "cumbered about much serving". She was trying so hard to please Jesus that she had worked herself into a tizzy. She proceeded to tell Jesus to make her sister Mary help her. It wasn't fair that she had left her to do all the work alone.
Jesus looked at Martha with great tenderness he simply said; "Martha, Martha, thou art careful (anxious) and troubled about many things." He did not yell at her nor did he go and yell at Mary. He simply observed, listened and spoke loving words of truth. This is what Jesus did with Saul. He had been observing Saul and knew what Saul was doing. He simply blinded Saul with the light and then spoke to him simple loving words of truth: "why are you persecuting ME?" He made it a personal issue with Saul. He didn't ask why he was persecuting the believers. He made Saul stop and immediately deal with the severity of his actions, that he was in truth, persecuting Jesus himself.
Saul could have stubbornly refused to listen. He could have blamed the whole thing on some "bad wine" or smelling too much camel hair. He could have tried to defend himself and seek to justify his behavior; yes, he could have done any of these things, but he didn't. He submitted to the Lord.
After Jesus tells Saul he was only driving the goad deeper into his hide by persecuting Him, Acts:6a describes Saul's response which displays his humble submission to Jesus;
"And he trembling and astonished said, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?'"
There it is in all its beauty and simplicity. Submission to the Lord is as simple as asking the Lord one question: "Lord, what do you want me to do?" Submission to the Lord is as simple as Isaiah saying; "here am I, send me." Submission to the Lord is as simple as Jesus saying in the garden; "not my will but thine be done." Submission to the Lord is as simple as Mary saying; "behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word." Submission to the Lord is simply saying "yes" to Him.
Submission does not have to be a "dirty" word. Abraham submitted to God and willingly gave up a life of ease for a vagabond's life. Jacob had to have a wrestling match with an angel before finally submitting, but he did. Moses had to overcome all his excuses for why he couldn't do what God called him to do, but he finally let the Lord win. Peter had to deal with a lifetime of instruction regarding Gentiles before he was willing to follow the Lord's lead and go to the house of Cornelius.
Saul had to put behind him the memories of all the believers he personally had killed. Saul had to lay aside the "glory road" the Pharisees had placed him on and take "the road less traveled" that Jesus met him on. In a moment of time, without knowing the significance of what he was doing, by saying what he said to Jesus on the road to Damascus; he made a decision of submission which would totally change the rest of his life. Profound decisions have a way of doing that, don't they?