Welcome back! We’ve made it to the end of our first week together, and I’m pretty excited about today’s passage. Today, we get introduced properly to Saul who we briefly met at the beginning of the week. Saul’s a very significant person in the New Testament, and we’re about to witness possibly the most famous conversion in church history.
Let’s get into it:
Acts 9:1-6 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Saul’s experience here on the the road to Damascus is a story that a lot of Christians would be rather familiar with. We first met Saul after the stoning of Stephen at the end of Acts 7 and beginning of chapter 8, where we learnt that Saul had approved of the killing of this follower of Jesus. What this tells us about Saul straight away is that he’s not a fan of the whole Christian movement that’s been taking root. At the beginning of chapter 8 we found that Saul was one of the persecutors who had forced Philip and other followers to flee Jerusalem. Here, we find that Saul has even gone so far as to seek support from the high priest of the synagogue for his cause. Are you getting the picture? Saul really doesn’t like Christians!
Now we see a very clear example of what is often referred to as ‘divine intervention’. (As a student I’ve often joked about needing ‘divine intervention’ when sitting an exam I haven’t studied for). But seriously, a light from heaven flashes around Saul, and he hears a voice speaking directly to him. It’s not just any voice, but the voice of Jesus. The very man he’s been persecuting people for believing in has revealed himself to Saul on this road.
The plot thickens!
9:7-12 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
I met a lady a few weeks ago who was telling me about laser eye surgery that she’d had. How when she had it she was completely blind for almost 8 days, but once her sight came back her vision has been perfect, she hasn’t needed glasses like she used to.
Saul has just had an encounter with Jesus, and he’s now found himself blind. He does not eat or drink anything while he’s blind. I imagine he would be rather confused, here are some of the thoughts I think he might be having; “I could see so clearly, I was on my way to Demascus, and then that light, and that Jesus guy who I was certain was a fake revealed himself, and now I can’t see anything!” He would be feeling rather disorientated and confused.
Now Ananias, a disciple of Jesus, receives a vision where he is told to go to Tarsus and restore the sight of Saul.
9:13-19 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Ananias had heard about Saul, he knew he was an enemy of the Christian church that was emerging in Jerusalem, that he was a man on a mission to destroy the church. I think it’s safe to assume that Ananias would have been rather hesitant when he received this message. But the Lord has told Ananias what to do, and he knows that for whatever reason Saul has been chosen to proclaim the message of Christ.
Ananias is obedient and he goes to where the vision told him to, and sure enough he finds Saul, and with the power of the Holy Spirit he is able to restore Saul’s sight. It’s pretty amazing isn’t it?
A bit like the lady I met who had laser surgery, Saul thought he could see before, but now he’s encountered Jesus, he was completely blinded and confused for a time, but now his sight has returned and he can see far more clearly than he ever has before. Now he’s baptised and this man who was only a few days ago an enemy of the gospel is now a believer (I know this story so well from having grown up in the church myslelf, but this part still gives me goose bumps, isn’t God great?).
To think about
Have you ever had an encounter like the one Saul had on the road to Damascus? Perhaps you may not have encountered Jesus in such a tangible way (and chances are you weren’t blinded for days on end afterwards), but have you ever had one of those moments where it was so undeniably obvious that you had an encounter, have you ever experienced divine intervention? How did you react?
If you haven’t, how do you think you would react if you encountered Jesus, what do you think he would say to you?
Or perhaps you’re Ananias in this story; have you been obedient when God has given you clear instructions about what you must do?
Well, that’s it for our first week together folks! Catch you next week. 🙂