This week we look at the story of Saul’s conversion and re-examine our own. Finding our faith within a group, within our church and our own personal stories can connect to the conversion of Saul, curious how? Read on!
Scripture: Acts 9:1-19a
1 Meanwhile 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 who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now 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. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul 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. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment 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 in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, 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 his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Background on the Text:
- From this point forward in Acts, the shift in the story is toward conversion of the Gentiles. Peter remains a central character until chapter 13, when Paul takes over.
- Luke will repeat this story twice more in Acts: 22:1-16, 26:9-18, with slight variations.
- Saul is mentioned previously in Acts: 7:58 and 60, in the story of the stoning of Stephen. “Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. “And Saul approved of their killing him.”
Exegesis (close reading) of the Text:
- There is evidence of the high priest giving letters of extradition to have fugitives brought to Jerusalem, but it is unclear if this was the case for the early Christians, as the story suggests.
- Saul was himself from Tarsus, outside Jerusalem, so familiar with the areas to which he would travel.
- “The Way” was the term for early Christianity.
- Saul sees a light and then hears a voice. Since the question is “Why do you persecute me?” a connection is made between Christ and the followers of Christ.
- Saul has a perfectly logical question, “Who are you, lord?” The word “Lord” is a term of address not the title given to Jesus.
- Jesus gives a straightforward answer with his name, and the fact that further instructions will be given, beyond, “Get up.”
- Saul would have been traveling with an entourage. These men hear the voice but don’t see anyone.
- Saul can no longer see. He is blinded by the experience, or perhaps his blindness now just manifests itself physically.
- He was brought to Damascus and spent three days, not eating or drinking.
- The story shifts focus to a disciple named Ananias. While Saul is blind, Ananias receives a vision. Pretty cute. When the Lord calls, Ananias gives the classic answer: “Here I am Lord.” Ananias gets told to go to Saul and lay hands on him to heal his blindness. But Saul’s reputation precedes him. Ananias is afraid.
- God tells Ananias that Saul has been chosen for the work ahead, and that Saul will have to suffer greatly for this work. This is something of a classic call story for a prophet: called, but reluctant to take up the work at first.
- Ananias goes to Saul, heals him and adds that he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. It works.
- Saul then is baptized, a sign of new life, and eats and regains his strength. In his own retelling of this story in Galatians, Saul says he went away at once to Arabia, and then returned to Damascus and began his ministry. This is not in Acts.
Questions the Text Asks of Us:
- What is your conversion story? When did it happen? Were you aware that you needed conversion? What were you converted from? What were you converted to?
- Saul is “blind” to The Way. What have we been blind to in our “conversion” to becoming the Coop?
- Are we ready to say “Here we are Lord?” Are we ready for the consequences of committing to Christ?