As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?”
“Who are You, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “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 companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.Acts 9:3-9
This is a remarkable account, made all the more remarkable when set in juxtaposition and in contrast to the threat Saul posed to the believers. What was going to happen? Luke has given us an account which sets Saul on a collision course with the believers, but even more with the Messiah Himself. Not that he realises it. What is going to happen about the inevitability of the persecution about to fall upon the believers. Not only that, but we have the thread of genuineness of those who come to follow The Way. Ananias and Sapphira along with Simon are examples of supposed followers but are proved to be insincere and filled with ulterior motives. Now in Saul, we are told of one who doesn’t want to join them but to destroy them and who is filled with zeal and passion of the wrong sort. Now what will happen. How secure are the believers given this new threat?
This encounter set before us is of extreme importance. We are all wondering what the outcome is going to be. That is the way in which Luke has constructed the story. It leaves us hanging on the edge of our seats so to speak. We who have read the Bible many times before know what is coming but many don’t. Think back to when you first read or heard this story.
- Did it fill you with wonder?
- Did it leave you in awe as to how God worked it out?
- Or did it leave you with more questions than answers?
Compare this story with the other two accounts of the same story.
Paul addressing the crowd on the steps of the Temple in Jerusalem
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’
And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’
And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’
But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus.”Acts 22:3-11
Paul addressing Agrippa in Caesarea
“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.”
“While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”Acts 26:9-20
Are there any questions which arise or are there no questions but only insights when you compare Luke’s summary with the other two accounts later in Acts? Share the questions or the insights with me if you wish.
Few things can destroy the unity of a church like gossip. Gossip tears apart unity and renders the church powerless.Anon
Gossip occurs when narrow minds and big mouths team up.Brian Houston
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.Henry David Thoreau
To go against the dominant thinking of your friends is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.Theodore H. White