Acts of the Apostles 9
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and 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. 3Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8Saul 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. 9For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Saul – who “approved” of the stoning of Stephen, holding the coats of those throwing stones, has embarked on a vendetta against the followers of Jesus. He is so sure he is right! He is defending the faith! This is a heresy! Saul was a Pharisee, one who adhered strictly to the law; he had studied under the wise Pharisee Gamiliel, in Jerusalem. He had heard the impassioned speech of Stephen before he died, had heard Stephen’s words of forgiveness. Unmoved, he had begun this persecution. He asked the high priest for letters to the synagogue at Damascus, intending to persecute the Christians there. But God had other plans for Saul!
While traveling to Damascus, he is blinded by a brilliant light, and a voice speaks to him. Saul falls to the ground, and cries out, “Who are you, Lord?” And Jesus speaks to him, asks why he is persecuting him. Saul himself would claim that he met the Risen Christ in person that day, there on the road to Damascus, and his life was forever changed. Blinded, Saul had to be led on to Damascus. But this was a different man – he had learned that he could be wrong; his whole world view had changed, in a moment. Of course, we know Saul by his Roman name, Paul; he is the author of the letters making up much of the New Testament. God intended to use Saul, but he was having a hard time getting his attention! It took a visit from the Risen Christ to transform this man!
We can all be a bit too certain we are right. We can refuse to hear people, or even God, speaking to us, telling us we are wrong, or telling us to turn around. Sometimes it takes a wham, a blinding light, a brush with death, a life-transforming experience to get our attention.