9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Luke states in chapter 8 verse 1, when speaking about Stephen:
“And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”
In Chapter 8 verse 3 Luke notes:
“But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.”
This Scripture reading teaches that religious people can have an agenda diametrically opposed to Jesus’ agenda. Sometimes we can fool ourselves that our priorities are God’s priorities. We can despise other people and say God would never work that way, or through that person. He was even speaking out murderous threats and going to foreign cities to persecute Christians. These are some of Saul’s attitudes and actions before Jesus turned his life around as described in this passage. Saul made a completely wrong judgment. Saul thought he was helping God keep his religion pure. However, Jesus had a completely different view and asks Saul as described in Acts 9, verse 4:
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Why do godly Christian people suffer in persecution in the Book of Acts? Why does God tolerate corrupt authorities? These are some of the questions raised by this passage. In verse 4, Jesus feels the suffering of His people as His own suffering. Luke describes in chapter eight, the arrest, mistreatment and imprisonment by the Jewish authorities, of Christian believers. Jesus is telling Saul in verse four above, He personally feels the pain of His Church.
We would love for God to instantly justify the righteous and punish evildoers. In this passage, He does exactly this. He suddenly, startlingly and supernaturally reveals Himself. He rescues His church, which was meeting in various houses in Damascus, from Saul’s imminent persecution. He disempowers Saul from being a feared and powerful enemy of the church, to being a blinded, vulnerable, humbled and astounded man who needs help from others, as he can no longer even look after himself for the next three days.
Saul in verse 5, did not even know who was speaking to him. The bright light that revealed Jesus’s presence blinded Saul for the next three days. Jesus transformed this angry, competitive, proud, self-righteous Pharisee into a shocked, dumbfounded, humbled, and very vulnerable and blinded state. Luke states in verse 9, Saul is so shocked he neither eats or drinks for the next three days. We later learn that his whole life is turned around from this day forward by and for Jesus. Jesus has reached deeply into Saul’s life and changed him forever.
We can have confidence in Jesus and our Heavenly Father. He knows everything that is happening to us, He always sits on the throne over all authorities and principalities. Sometimes like in this passage, He intervenes suddenly and supernaturally. At other times He may allow difficult experiences to cause unjust suffering to His people. But even in this latter case, He shall make all things anew at the Final Reckoning on Judgment Day.
Notice, that God just did this by Himself. He didn’t need to wait for His church, or work through some pastor to rebuke Saul. Afterwards he chooses by His own Sovereign Will in verses 10-19 to involve a godly man called Ananias. God moves both without and with the involvement of His church. We can exercise faith in Him without fretting about evil people and their evil plans. No one ultimately can defeat Him. The doors that He opens no-one can close and the door that He closes no-one can open. See Revelation 3:7.
Suggested prayer: Dear Jesus, may we take the warning not to become self-righteous and proud like Saul. Give us discernment, revelation and “new wineskins” to join and support the move of God, the new wine of God over the church in our nation. We rejoice that You always sit on the throne and are never surprised. May we be reminded of the Sovereign Power that You alone wield over the nations of the earth. May we always put our hope in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.