Summary: One of the most dramatic encounters with Jesus occurred when Jesus no longer walked this earth.
One of the most dramatic encounters with Jesus occurred when Jesus no longer walked on this earth. It happened when a man named Saul met our Lord on the road to Damascus.
Who was Saul of Tarsus?
1. He was a faithful Jew. (Philippians 3:4-6) He was a member of the proud tribe of Benjamin, one of the two tribes that had remained faithful to King David. The first king of Israel, Saul, came from the tribe of Benjamin, and it was likely that Saul of Tarsus had been named for him.
2. He was a Pharisee, a member of the strictest sect of the Jews. The name Pharisee means “separated one,” and Saul was a member of this elitist group. As such he considered himself “faultless” in keeping the law.
3. He was a persecutor of the church. In Philippians 3, Paul says that this is a sign of the extreme zeal that he had for God. Paul went from house to house, arresting Christians. He was present when Stephen was stoned, consenting to this murder. He voted for the death penalty for believers in Christ. (Acts 26:10)
If you had been a Christian at that time, would you have gone to share the gospel with a man like Saul? Is that the kind of man you would want in your church? Is that the kind of man you would expect to be converted?
It was the kind of man that God chose.
We see in Acts 9 that Saul was headed for Damascus to arrest any Christians that he could there. As he traveled, Jesus appeared to him. Not as a ghost, but as a supernatural vision of the risen Lord. Saul did not know who Jesus was, but he knew he was the Lord.
Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul answered, “Who are you, Lord?” and the Lord replied, “I am Jesus.”
What a moment for Saul. Have you ever faced a moment like that, when you realize that everything you are doing is wrong? What a terrible feeling. If you do face a moment like that, I hope you will react like Saul, who was able to change his life in accordance with his new realization.
Let’s look at how Jesus dealt with Saul:
1. He appeared to him on the road. This was no second-hand account. It was a face-to-face encounter with the resurrected Savior.
2. He left him blind for three days. Now this may seem harsh to you. Yet can’t you see how this time of blindness gave Saul a chance to reflect on the truth, to search through the Scriptures in his mind and come to a realization of where he had gone wrong. I think this time of affliction, like many times of suffering, was actually a gift from God to help Saul transform his life.
3. He sent Ananias to teach him the truth. I fully believe this is something that God still does today: he uses his people to tell his story. God uses you and me to spread the good news. The heavens declare the glory of God, all nature proclaims the existence of a creator, but it is the servants of God who teach the gospel.
Ananias went to Saul, restored his sight, and baptized him into Christ.
What do we learn from the story of Saul?
1) We cannot blindly hold onto the religion of our fathers. Saul had been brought up in Jerusalem, studying with Gamaliel, one of the finest Jewish teachers. He could have said, “I was born under the Law and I will die under the Law.” But he didn’t. When he learned the truth, he obeyed that truth.
2) Sincerity and good conscience are not enough. In Acts 23:1, Saul, who was then known as Paul, states that he had lived his whole life in good conscience. And can anyone question the sincerity of a man like Saul? Yet these qualities, admirable thought they may be, are not enough to earn our salvation.
3) Fervor and zeal are not enough. We see people from other religions whose lives demonstrate the strength of their belief. Yet this fervor cannot save them, any more than their sincerity can. Terrible things have been done in the name of zeal, just as Saul did in his time. This is not a saving trait.
4) Confessing Jesus as Lord is not enough. Saul had no doubt that Jesus was Lord there on the road to Damascus. Yet that realization did not save him.
5) Praying to Jesus for salvation is not enough. Saul spent three days fasting and praying, yet when Ananias came to him, Ananias said, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16) Saul was still in sin. He had to hear the good news of Jesus and accept that good news.