Summary: Saul’s conversion was a time of transition for him. It was a time of seeing Jesus and becoming like Him. We can take advantage of our transitions too ...
A new beginning
When Jesus enters our lives, everything changes.
Just ask Saul of Tarsus. He did such a complete turnaround that he was completely unrecognizable and baffling to everyone who knew him. Nether his old friends nor his old enemies could quite take in the change.
Arguably, Saul was at a point of transition in his own life.
• He had been a student of the Rabbi Gamaliel and was nearing an age when he could be recognized as a rabbi in his own right
• A new stream of teaching was arising, surrounding the followers of the Rabbi Jesus who had recently been condemned by the people he respected
• The appropriate response to this sect had been firmly established by the stoning of Stephen, so Saul had a clear direction on how to treat this sect, oddly enough, it was in direct opposition to his mentor
So Saul got official sanction and went after these followers of The Way. He arrested and deported them. He traveled to foreign cities to track them down. He personally signed their death warrants.
This event is extremely important to Saul. We can tell, because it appears three times in the book of Acts.
• A terrible mission of destruction in Damascus
• A flashing light that blinded him
• The voice of the one he opposed giving him transitional directions
• A wait in Damascus for Ananias to come and help him
• New vision and baptism
• A new purpose for his life
Saul was motivated by ambition, hatred and fanaticism. He was working toward the destruction of others and his own elevation. He was stepping on the heads of Christians on his way to eventually becoming a member of the ruling body of Jerusalem.
His life was defined by selfishness and animosity. He was well known and trusted by his superiors but feared by his enemies.
He was headed down a path that would certainly make his name well known. It had already begun. He was going to be a person of note and significance. Saul’s arrogance was firmly established in his own heart. He saw his own position as being one of prestige and importance. He was going to be a pharisee of pharisees.
Then a call of Jesus came on his life
• A light so powerful it knocked him off his feet
• A light so bright it blinded him
• Instructions so specific they could not be doubted
• A voice so compelling it demanded a response
I have often wished for an experience like Saul’s. I have wondered why God gave Saul a profound, physical experience that could be neither denied nor doubted. In my darker times, I doubt my faith and struggle with the substance of what I believe. It seems a little unfair that somebody like Saul could hear an audible voice of Christ and be compelled by measurable facts, while the rest of us must believe without the benefit of those proofs.
I still don’t know. I can only that God knows why He calls each of us the way He does. He knows what we need and meets us at that place. If Saul was so arrogant that he needed blinding lights and audible voices, I can only thank God that my own arrogance is not so well developed.
Whatever Saul’s encounter with Jesus, his belief was so cemented that it transcended religion and experience. For the next few days, it became the focus of his meditation.
• He was blind
• He fasted
• He waited
He allowed the voice that spoke to him from the light to be the guide in his actions until the whole meaning of the event became clear. When Ananias showed up:
• he prayed
• he was healed
• he was baptized and
• he was given the purpose of his new life
Immediately, Saul became a preacher. This should be qualified a bit. He was already a teacher of the Scriptures, now he developed a whole new interpretation for the Scriptures that he had been teaching all along. His new interpretation was centered on the idea that Jesus was the Messiah.
It also should be qualified in that by being a teacher, he did not assume leadership in the church. In fact, he was not trusted by anyone. The church distrusted him because he had come there to arrest and harm them. His old friends in the Sanhedrin distrusted him because he had gone to Damascus for a reason and then flipped over to the other side.
This is the nature of following the Way of Jesus
It transforms everything about your life. If you have made a decision to follow Jesus, everything becomes new. We tend to see the faith in terms of our own forgiveness and our assurance of eternal life, but there is much more to it than that.