Acts 9 = Conversion of Saul
Bible Background: Great inroads and great obstacles pop up fast in Acts, as the witnesses of the risen Christ tell his story. Saul is one of those obstacles. We meet him as a “young man”, at the stoning of Stephen. We’ll learn he is a smart, dedicated, passionate Jew who believes his purpose in life is to root out early Christians from the faith community. Saul is ready for a fall!
Digging Deeper: 1. We don’t know if Saul is a self-appointed defender of traditional Judaism, or if he’s acting on the authority of the chief priests. He does seek their approval to go to Damascus (one of the oldest cities in the world!) and arrest Jews who have started to believe in Christ, and who therefore could be guilty of blaspheming God and damaging the faith.
2. On his way, Saul has a close encounter with the risen Christ, in the form of a blinding light, and a powerful voice. The question: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? is a reminder that the living Christ experiences the persecutions of believers.
3. It’s wonderful irony that Saul, who was used to calling the shots, is incapacitated; has to led by the hand, and will be told what to do! From confident, arrogant, and self-sure to helpless and dependent-thing can change fast!
4. Ananias also must undergo a ‘conversion’! He’s heard of Saul. Saul is a threat and an enemy. You want me to go to HIM, Lord? Well, yes, Ananias! He is a chosen instrument of mine. (He’ll soon find out!) And you are too! Ananias obeys and goes. He addresses this enemy as “brother”. He lays his hands on him (often an act for healing or for sharing the Holy Spirit in scripture.)
5. Saul doesn’t eat or drink for 3 days. Who does that remind you of? Jonah-in his “time out” in the belly of the fish? Jesus-in the tomb that won’t be able to hold him?
6. Saul becomes known as Paul on Acts 13, when he is sent out with Barnabas. The change of name is no big deal there, but typically in scripture-a new name suggests a new direction in life! Paul is certainly on a very different, life-giving and challenging pathway!
7. Who can you relate to more in this story? Do you read this with the self-certainty of Paul? A person of good intentions, and high commitment, but blinded by his insistence that he knew what God wants? Or Ananias: a disciple; but hesitant to risk his life; and then willing to trust God and obey?