Summary: On the Road to Damascus, Saul was forever changed
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." He answered, "Here I am, Lord." The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight."
But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."
So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God."
We continue today with the story of how the Holy Spirit shaped the early church. And there is no more dramatic way than this famous story of Saul.
As I was reading about this passage this week, I ran across a story about a leader in the church who was trying to tell the children about how Christians should act. He asked the kids, “Why would people look at me and think I’m a Christian?” They were silent, so he asked again. Again, none of the kids could come up with an answer. Finally, one small child looked up and answered, “Because they don’t know you.”
We do need to be careful what we ask kids in public, because they are very honest.
Back in the days when Saul was a leader in the church, he was one of those leaders who thought he knew everything. He ‘knew’ that Jesus was an imposter. He ‘knew” that the disciples were not only wrong but were endangering the peace with the Romans. He “knew” that the only good follower of Jesus was a dead follower of Jesus.
Wrapped in his own self-righteousness, he decided he was the one to do something about it, and he set about attacking everyone who was one of these insane followers. He wanted to cleanse the earth of such people. Filled with hatred, he set out to do it.
When we see someone like Saul, our immediate response is similar to his, we believe that those who go around with hate in their heart, attacking others in the temples, mosques, and churches, should themselves be put to death.
What is amazing isn’t that Saul exists, he will exist in every generation. We see that in those who choose to hate and kill others. Whether it is a gang, “Kill or be killed,” or a religious fanatic, or a student in a school who wants to make a name for themselves, people like Saul not only exist in our world today, but make the news almost every single day.
What amazes us is what the Holy Spirit had in mind … not only to change him, but to use him. This Angry young man would go on and establish 14 churches that are named in the New Testament, but he would write to them to encourage and instruct them. In so doing, 28% of our New Testament, in fact, the oldest writing from the New Testament all were written by Paul. More than 50,000 words are attributed to him, and these are only the letters that survived.