Acts 26:15

ESV And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
NIV "Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ " ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.
NASB And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
CSB "I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ "And the Lord replied: ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.
NLT ‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. 'And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.
KJV And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
NKJV So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

What does Acts 26:15 mean?

Paul is describing to Governor Festus and King Agrippa II why he has been under house arrest for the last two years. The Sanhedrin claims he defiled the temple, caused riots, and leads a cult (Acts 24:5–6). Paul explains it's because he believes in the resurrection of the dead. Specifically, because he preaches that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead (Acts 26:19–21).

During his defense, Paul gives a lengthy explanation of the context of his relationship with the Sanhedrin. He starts by describing his initial devotion to the legalistic Judaism of the Pharisees. Then he shows how devotion led him to violently persecute Jesus-followers in Jerusalem and Judea. Now, he recounts how, while traveling to Damascus to arrest Jewish Christians, Jesus intervened (Acts 26:4–14).

Paul had arrested numerous followers of Christ. He tried to force them to deny their faith. If they didn't, he voted that they should be executed. He says he was "enraged" with them (Acts 26:10–11). But Jesus claims Paul persecuted Him. This is consistent with Jesus' teaching during His earthly ministry. When describing the actions of those who follow Him, He said, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40). At the Last Supper, He said:
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours" (John 15:18–20).
Jesus doesn't say this to minimize the individual experiences of persecution His followers face. He says it to contextualize that persecution and to show that the violence is in response to Him. It's a rebellion against His authority, identity, and message. He is so involved in His followers' lives that when we act on His behalf, He feels on our behalf.

Paul experienced much persecution of his own, including being stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19). He knew Jesus was with him, even then.
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