Three times the New Testament describes encounters with Jesus that took place at noon: his meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:6), his confrontation with Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:13), and his revelation to Peter at Joppa (Acts 10:9). These three scenes bear noteworthy resemblance to one another, I believe, well beyond the circumstance that they all occurred at the noon hour.
First, in each case, it is clear that these scenes are based on the personal testimony of the one whom Jesus encountered. It was of the nature of these meetings that only an actual witness could convey the stories to others. For instance, we know that Peter, when he returned to Jerusalem just a “few days” later (Acts 10:48), shared with the other apostles what he had recently seen and heard at Joppa (11:4–10). In his description of that event, Peter clearly believed that the “voice” addressing him (10:13,15; 11:7,9) was that of Jesus; he answered by calling him “Lord” (10:14; 11:8), the name that Peter uses to address Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (5:8; 12:41).
In the case of the encounter on the road to -Damascus, we are told that Saul described that scene at least three times: to the apostles at Jerusalem (9:27), to a violent mob at the temple some years later (22:1–21), and at his trial before Agrippa (26:12–18). Although Saul’s companions apparently saw a light of some sort (22:9; 26:13), it is not clear that they actually heard the message that he received (contrast 9:7 and 22:9). In any case, the newly converted Saul was the only credible witness.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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