Summary: Sombody had to help with Saul’s conversion, Have you got the light of Jesus?
Got A Light?
I remember seeing in several old movies, when two Spies were to meet they would start with some seeming innocent conversation starter. That was to keep all around them from noticing that the planned meeting was happening, the microfilm passed or other instructions given.
One that was very common was Have you got a light? They would hold out a cigarette and there would be some interchange of pass phrases to confirm this was the right person.
Our scripture this morning starts with a unusual word “Meanwhile” We are starting in the middle of the story and picking up on a new set of circumstances. The book of Acts has places where there are other story lines going on at the same time. Like watching a movie and it jumps to another scene.
This scripture is picking up soon after the stoning of Stephen in Chapter 7. Chapter 8 gives the story of Philip and the sorcerer and the Ethiopian that he explains scripture to and baptizes.
Then in the beginning of Chapter 9, Meanwhile. We join Saul as he takes on the task of hunting down followers of the Way to take them to Jerusalem for a fair trial and a quick stoning.
The scripture describes his attitude:
“Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples”
That description does not sound like he was open to a change in attitude. It sounds like he held a burning anger against these followers of Jesus. He sounds prudjst and is obviously militant. So militant that he seems to be volunteering for the job and ready to expand it to other cities.
The followers of the Way had left Jerusalem in droves. Many were returning home after the Pentecost festival and they were sharing this message as they went. Others were simply running, trying to get away from the persecution.
Stephens’s death would have been a scary sign of what the Sanhedrin would do to get rid of these trouble makers.
Saul requested letters of introduction to the synagogues in Damascus. Which is 135 miles North East of Jerusalem.
SLIDE - map
Not easy straight Interstate miles, but the kind where you walk around the sea and the mountains.. Damascus is not even in Israel. It is in Syria. Saul wanted permission to head off to another country just to see if any followers of the Way were there so he could arrest and take them to Jerusalem.
That sounds pretty spiteful to me.
He gets his permission and probably funding and as he gets close to Damascus there is a bright light and a voice and Saul ends up blind, on the ground and is led into the city.
For Saul this experience where Jesus explains to him that he is harming and persecuting him opens his eyes in a new way. Saul learns that he has been wrong, that Jesus is who they said he was. The persecution of his followers was the persecution of God.
Folks, If you love your God so much that you would search out and harm people that you think were doing wrong, how do you think you would feel when you learn the truth. It was you that was wrong, you that blasphemed and went totally against God’s will. The Way was not a threat to the Jews but the fulfillment of Prophesy.
Paul saw the light and became a believer. But he was left in darkness. He did not know what to do. For 3 days he sat, depressed and wallowing in his personal failures. For 3 days he could do nothing except focus internally, through prayer and fasting. I wonder if he was praying for God to forgive him or to kill him. Maybe both.
Then the story changes directions. We learn that there are followers of the Way in the city and Jesus speaks to one of them. We learn that Ananias was there.
When Jesus speaks he responds “yes Lord”
11The 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. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight."
He is being told to go the rich part of town, to the house of Judas and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. Now until he got to the man from Tarsus part it was not all the big a deal.
Ananias seemed in touch with Jesus. He understood that Jesus was sending him to do something. But he shows some hesitation.
Lord, I have heard about this guy. He is… well…, he does not like anyone that has anything to do with you. He, well from what I have heard, he practically tore up Jerusalem looking for your saints. He abused and killed men and women.