“1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 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.”
Saul was a zealous man for the teachings of his fathers. He had been schooled in the scriptures by Gamaliel, a well-respected expert on the Jewish law and traditions. Saul was dedicated to putting an end to those who taught that Jesus was the Messiah. He felt certain of his beliefs and stood true to them in every way.
What’s more, he apparently was in a position of some authority as he was granted special permission by the high priests to travel to Damascus, seeking out any people of the Way, (Christians), in order to bring them back to Jerusalem to be imprisoned. But his plans were about to change rather abruptly…
“3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 6 ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’”
In one moment, in the literal blink of an eye, Saul’s mission and his entire life changed! He was confronted by the Lord Jesus directly. “Saul, Saul,” asked the Savior “why do you persecute Me?” The incident knocked him right to the ground. It was then that the change in this passionate and aspiring Jewish authoritarian began to take place.
We can only imagine what must have been going through Saul’s mind at that moment. Was it fear? Was it confusion? Was it a poignant moment? Yes, it was all of these! But this was only the beginning for the man Saul.
With the help of the men traveling with him, Saul, now left blinded by the event, was led to Damascus, but with an entirely new thought process, along with a new mission.
“10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’
‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.
11 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. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’
13 ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’
15 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. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’”
So Saul was delivered to the house of Judas on Straight Street, blind, confused, and surely humbled by what he had been through. For three days he sat and prayed. He neither ate nor drank anything during that time.
He must have been reviewing his teachings of the law and piecing it together with all that he had seen and heard from Jesus during the Lord’s mission on earth. Perhaps he was frightened of more possible punishment, as not only had he blasphemed the name of the Lord, he had caused others to do so as well! What greater sin could one commit?
Finally, a rather tentative Ananias arrived as commanded by Jesus to attend to Saul. Although he was perhaps terror-stricken, the servant of God laid his hands on Saul and said he was the one whom Jesus had sent to restore his sight and fill him with the Holy Spirit.
In (VV.18-19), the scriptures say that immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He was immediately baptized into the body of Christ and then ate some food to regain his strength. After spending several days with the disciples in Damascus, the newly converted disciple began his new purpose…
“20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who caused havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.”
What a colossal turn of events! Gone was the Saul who traveled to the region of Damascus to hunt down and capture Christians and rid the city of anyone who preached in the name of Jesus Christ.
Now, he was one of those disciples of the Lord, proclaiming the Savior’s name as the Son of God and Messiah of the Jews! The “man with a plan” to destroy the Christian faith was now preaching its saving message in the synagogues. Of course the Jews in the city were confused by all of this change…they even plotted to kill Saul, (V.23).
But the Lord protected His servant; He had plans for him, as we have learned. He was to deliver the gospel message to the Gentiles. He was saved from death by the very disciples of Christ whom he sought to imprison, and perhaps even kill…
“23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.”
Eventually, Saul went to other places proclaiming the gospel of Christ…Jerusalem, Caesarea, and even his home city of Tarsus. As we know, Paul traveled extensively and was the author of about 21 of the 27 books of the New Testament.
So what can we take away from the story of the conversion of Saul? Certainly one very important lesson is this: Even when we think we are doing the will of God, we can’t trust our own feelings. God has a plan for us which will put us on the right path, if we will only accept it from Him!
Fellowship with God in prayer. Plan to use our gifts from the Lord and look for the opportunities to serve in His name.
He can and will use all people who believe in Him in one way or another…
Refs: ~Google~ biblegateway.com~