Read: Acts 9:1-19
Incomprehensible. Or perhaps unbelievable. The man named Saul was methodically and completely eliminating Christ-following disciples, gaining trust from synagogue to synagogue as he went along from town to town seeking and ridding the population of the cancer they defined as Christians. Suddenly, everything changed. These few verses attempt to capture what is perhaps the most significant event after the resurrection of Jesus in the course of history. Luke begins by telling us Saul is actively seeking to arrest Jesus followers and wraps up this section with his baptism. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around these events, but here goes!
Saul gains support from synagogues by getting official approval to seek and capture followers of “the Way,” early Christians.
so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Acts 9:2
Luke consistently inserts “men and women” within his narrative to remind us that gender is not a basis for judgment, though it’s men that are typically cast as the worst of the worst. Think about that for a minute.
Struck By Light
A light from heaven knocks Saul to the ground, those around him heard a sound but saw no one. Perhaps it was a clear, normal day going around arresting people when a mysterious light stops them in their tracks.
“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.” Acts 9:4-6
Blind Saul is helpless. The very One he is seeking to discredit spoke directly to him. In my imagination, my ears are ringing as the shell-shock event leaves me speechless. On the ground out of nowhere, now unable to see a thing while hearing the voice of the very man I’m trying to erase from the planet. For Saul, this was explosive! For those traveling with him, riding his coattails, this makes no sense. They lead him into Damascus to a house that is no doubt deep within the Jewish sector, inaccessible to Christ followers. For three days he did not eat or drink anything. This is a complete gamechanger.
One of those Saul was seeking, Ananias, there in Damascus hears the voice of Jesus telling him to heal Saul. Ananias is not being disobedient when he asks for clarification, he just wants to make sure he heard the message correctly. There’s no doubt in my mind that Saul was surrounded by layers of security. He was a man with a mission, climbing the Jewish ladder of fame. I’m sure he had a significant band of supporters that created a gauntlet for Ananias to traverse. Jesus tells 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. Acts 9:15-16
While the message is clear, it’s ridiculous! How can this Christian killer be Your instrument? But Ananias is faithful. There is no report of fear in his heart or mind as he does what Jesus commanded.
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. Acts 9:17
From hiding, through the band of Jewish followers, directly to his archenemy, Ananias does was he was told to do, says what he was told to say.
Lord, this is the kind of faith I pray for. Ananias heard You clearly because he was focused on You above all else. The message was not tainted with self-serving righteousness, he heard exactly what You said, even though it made absolutely no sense. These are the ears I long to have.
Saul is Baptized
For three days Saul replayed the event in his mind. No food. No drink. Just sounds and smells of his surroundings as he sat and contemplated what happened. When Ananias laid hands on him he knew this was real. It probably seemed like a nightmare, but the reality of the moment came crushing in just as the flash of light knocked him down.
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized Acts 9:18
His first reaction to regaining his sight is to be baptized! Wow! What a miraculous sequence of events. The weight of this moment is hard to express. The wretched history of our Jewish forefathers is captured in the Old Testament in stories we don’t like to read. The divided kingdom which led to captivity and annihilation was the result of kings following self-made gods. In Saul’s mind, he was trying to prevent this from happening again, he was completely justified and supported by wise men that were trying to preserve their way of life. Everything was in Saul’s favor.
He was justified by men, yet convicted by Jesus.
Lord, help me to seek Your face, hear Your voice, follow Your ways. I long to do this with a company of others who do the same but do not let us fall into the trap of pleasing ourselves over following your commands.