Day 11 - Acts 9:1-31 - 40 Days in the Book of Acts
9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Here we learn a little more about Saul. His crusade to extinguish the Gospel of Jesus was so that it literally became his life's work. He lived and breathed to put Christians in jail. I know that it may be hard for some to understand, but believe me there are those who still carry that kind of passion today. But what is your passion? What makes you live and breathe? What do people know you for? You can have a passion for Christ as much as Saul had one against Him. Don't let those who would desire to extinguish the Gospel win. Here you see followers of Christ labeled as people of The Way. These people were following the way of salvation that Jesus had provided for them. They probably accepted their label willingly. As Saul and his traveling companions near Damascus, a bight light surrounded Saul. The verbiage here leads us to believe that it was a very bright light suddenly appeared around Saul (like a flash of lightning). Its not surprise to us that a light is used to get Sauls attention. How many times do you see light and God associated together. (A lot, if you don't know) Jesus now speaks to Saul and asks him, "Why are you persecuting me?" Remember that we, the church, are called the Body of Christ. What Saul was doing did effect Jesus. I know that at times we think that Jesus doesn't notice what we are going through - but He does. I also know that at times we think that Jesus isn't effected personally by what we go through - but He is. Saul asks the question, "Who are you, Lord?" The answer is quick, "I am Jesus!" Well, that was clear. (Now the KJV adds, "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." The reason for the deletion of this phrase from most translations is a choice by those who translate the Bible. You see, older manuscripts don't have this phrase, leading translators to believe that someone might have added this later.) Jesus tells Saul to rise and go to the city, someone will be along to tell him what to do. Later in Acts 26 we are going to discover more about this conversation between Saul and Jesus. His traveling companions heard a voice, but they saw no one. When Saul gets up, he is blind and they have to lead him the rest of the say into Damascus. For the next three days Saul neither ate nor drank. Some have supposed that he was fasting. Others have determined that he was in shock. Either way, what happened to him on this road has changed everything. His blindness now prevents him from being a spiritual leader (Remember the lame man couldn't enter the Temple to worship God - neither can Saul.) His blindness forces him to sit still and think about what he has done and what has happened. Has God ever put you in a position where you had to stop and think about what is going on in your life?
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 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.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. Ananias is a devout Jew who has placed his faith in Jesus. Jesus tells him what is going on and what he expects him to do. Now at this point, Ananias hesitates. Saul reputation has proceeded him and Ananias might be thinking that Jesus is sending him to his death. Jesus tells him a second time to go because, and this had to shock Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Well there you have it, now Ananias is completely confused. But - obedient. I don't know how many times I have followed the Spirits leading in matters that just didn't make any sense to me. But the one thing that I can say about ever situation - The Holy Spirit was always right. Ananias goes to Saul and prays for him. Immediately he could see again. That had to be a relief to Saul. But something else also happens. Maybe something that Saul wasn't expecting. Ananias prayed that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. Many people have fussed over whether or not Saul spoke in tongues here. Well the simple answer is yes. Luke does not repeat everything in every place. He expects his reader to understand that the Baptism he writes about in Acts 2 is the baptism he is speaking of right now. Saul is now baptized in water to identify with his new faith and ate a meal. Now understand that in a matter of three days Saul goes from being a murderous religious terrorist to all those who proclaim the name of Jesus as their Savior to being one of them. If that isn't a miracle, then I don't know what one is. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. 23 When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. So now instead of hunting down the people of The Way. He goes into the synagogue and proclaims his faith in Christ instead. The Bible says that the people were amazed. Probably a better way of understanding it was, "they were knocked out of their senses". It wasn't to long after he starts proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues that they religious leaders plot to kill him. Wow! The hunter becomes the hunted. He understands what he put other people through. As with Peter and Stephen, the presence of the Holy Spirit couldn't be refuted. His presentation of the Gospel could't be defeated. Get this! He has disciples! (Verse 25) Then they find a way to get him out of town before the religious leaders could get to him. 26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. When he arrives in Jerusalem he tried to join the church in worship. But this confused everyone so much that they thought it was a trap. However, there was one who choose to see past the man and embrace someone who had changed. Barnabas. Barnabas takes him to the Apostles and explains what has happened. From there he ministers in Jerusalem and even some of the Greek speaking Jews who lived in that area. Probably the same ones that had Stephen stoned, thus the reason why they wanted to kill him. So Saul is sent to Caesarea, but not because they were just trying to keep him from being killed. He is sent as a representative of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his home town, Tarsus.