People love to hear a shocking new scandal. A scandal will catch the attention of friends and neighbors and gossip will be shared pondering what could have possibly happened. It is hard to surprise anyone, with the incessant social media posts, tweets and photos. It seems like we always hear about the bad, shocking news scandal. Its hard to think of a heart-warming, sensational story. In the bible, Saul’s story is a shocking and amazing story of redemption.
Saul is fascinating. He was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples”. Yet, God chose him to share the good news about Jesus. God’s glory can shine through those who change the most, because of God’s goodness. The depths of God’s love for us, even when we are at our worst, is shocking and amazing.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.
–Acts 9:1 (NIV)
Saul was on a mission to take the Lord’s disciples as prisoners, when “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him”. Saul fell to the ground blind. The Lord spoke to Saul, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who are you? “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. There were three men with him, who were “speechless” that “they heard the sound but did not see anyone”. Saul listened and followed the Lord’s directions. He was blind for 3 days and did eat or drink anything.
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.”
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.
–Acts 9:3-9 (NIV)
Saul waited and prayed. The Lord answered his prayer and sent a disciple, named Ananias to restore Saul’s sight. The Lord even gave Ananias directions by using the street name “Straight Street”, which is an interesting street name based on the circumstances.
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.”
–Acts 9:11-12 (NIV)
Ananias was concerned about going to visit Saul, since Saul started out his journey “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” with the goal to “take them as prisoners”. The Lord proclaimed, ““Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
“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.
–Acts 9:13-15 (NIV)
The disciple Ananias listened to the Lord, even though he was concerned about going to Saul, based on his past reputation. Ananias says that Jesus sent him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so “that you may see again.” It is written that “something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again”. He was then baptized, and I believe he was filled with the Holy Spirit, since Jesus sent him “so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit”. The verse that says, so “that you may see again” means literally that he was no longer blind physically. I think it also means that he can see the goodness of the almighty God in his heart, so he is no longer spiritually blind, because he was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. God stopped Saul, made him listen. Saul chose to listen to God and pray.
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.
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
–Acts 9:17-19 (NIV)
Saul began preaching the gospel. The people were “astonished”. The shocked audience could not believe that Saul had changed for the better, “hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”. The people were “baffled” by the transformation of Saul. As he did God’s will and proclaimed the message, “Saul grew more and more powerful”. He was “proving that Jesus is the Messiah.”
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised 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?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
–Acts 9:19-22 New International Version (NIV)
The disciples were afraid of Saul, because they could not believe that he changed from wanting to take their lives, to wanting to preach for the Lord even if it meant sacrificing his life. When the Lord touched Saul’s heart, he made a shocking transformation, that “astonished” and “baffled” all those around him.
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
–Acts 9:26-27 (NIV)
If the Lord can transform Saul, what amazing things does the Lord have waiting for us?