“Meanwhile Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.” Saul got permission from the high priest to go to Damascus and bring any followers of Jesus he found, back to Jerusalem in chains. This devoted Jew was serious about wiping out the group of Jesus followers to protect the Jewish faith. Saul was willing to kill for his cause and believed wholeheartedly that he was honoring God and protecting his faith. Because of Saul’s devotion to his cause, he had a reputation. People knew about the terrible things he did to believers and they were afraid of him. But God intervened.
When Saul was on his way to Damascus a light shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” Saul replied, “Who are you?”. Then the voice said, “ I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do”. The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his friends led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days.
When I read this passage, I can’t help but think about what it must have been like for him. It’s such an unbelievable story! Put yourself in Saul’s place. Think about taking off on a work trip with coworkers…traveling to another town to do your job and all of the sudden, you all hear a voice calling YOUR name but you don’t see anyone. Sounds terrifying, right? Saul is so scared he falls to the ground. Next the Voice asks, “Why you are persecuting Me”? While you are trying to figure out what is going on, you ask who the Voice is. The Voice tells you He is Jesus!!!… and when you go to stand up you realize that you have gone blind! Can you mentally put yourself in this space? Can you imagine the fear and the anxiety? How quickly do you accept the truth behind Jesus words? How do you reconcile in your mind, hearing from God himself that everything you have staked your life on is wrong? What do you think your friends would have said to you while you all continued on the journey with them holding your hands trying to keep you from falling or crashing into something? I don’t know how long it took them to get the rest of the way to Damascus but I bet every minute of that trip was intense, nerve-racking and super uncomfortable for all of them. I wish we had more explanation in this chapter about how the trip went, how they passed those three days, what was discussed, Saul’s thoughts as he worked through the 180 degree turn his heart had to make, and the change in his friends hearts. All we get is that God sent Ananias to Saul, and that Ananias laid his hands on Saul and told Saul that God sent him so that Saul would regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days and IMMEDIATELY began preaching about Jesus saying that He indeed is the Son of God.
I’m not really a “180 degree turn” type of girl. I like to think that if I was in Saul’s shoes I would have risen to the occasion and responded as quickly and committedly as Saul did. I’m not so sure I could have done what he did within the timetable he worked. I’m a slower processor and definitely slower to make lasting change than three days time. God chose Saul for his passion, commitment and the testimony his past made in the gospel of Jesus. Saul was the perfect person at this point in time to advance the truth of Jesus in the world. God’s choices and plans are perfect. We say that phrase often but this story paints a tangible picture in my mind of God’s perfection. I love that it shows us today that God had a plan over 2000 years ago to spread His message to all people so that we could know that same message today. I love seeing God’s work in Saul’s life that changed him, nearly instantly from a being a Christian killer to a person who lived the rest of his days preaching the truth of Jesus to the point of dying for his faith in Jesus. God is amazing, perfect and so devoted and in love with us that He goes to great lengths to get our attention and draw us to Him.