As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?"
"Who are You, lord?" Saul asked. And the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!
Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone's voice but saw no one!
Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus.
He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink. (Acts 9:3-9)
Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord!" he replied.
The Lord said, "Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to Me right now.
I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again."
"But Lord," exclaimed Ananias, "I've heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem!
And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon Your name."
But the Lord said, "Go, for Saul is My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.
And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake.” Acts 9:10-16)
Saul, the one who vehemently opposed those who followed The Way, was destined to turn Jew and especially Gentile from darkness to light is momentary blind.
Ananias, the one chosen to open Saul’s eyes (figuratively speaking) was mortified at the thought of having to go and meet the one breathing death and destruction to all believers.
Has been ruthless in his opposition to those who follow this upstart preacher from Galilee who pretended to be the Messiah. He has bought into all the members of the Sanhedrin have said about Jesus. He watches Stephen die a martyr’s death while witnessing his Mose’s like response. It was clear the glory of God was present and he heard Stephen’s confession of faith and mostly surely felt indicted by Stephen’s comments. Yet that experience spurred Saul on to more violent responses against the believers. While he was on a mission to Damascus to persecute Christians (Christ followers) he encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. The encounter is reminiscent of Stephen’s encounter with the Glory Presence. Saul is blinded by the light emanating from the One who stands before him. So bright he cannot look directly at him. He hears a voice speaking to him. He hears Jesus tell him personally that by his persecution of Christians he is persecuting Jesus Himself. No one else can understand a word of what Saul himself is hearing. This must have been an intensely personal experience. Jesus appeared for Saul and no other. While all of that was happening and Jesus was telling Saul the significance of it all, Saul had his eyes closed. I suspect because of the blinding nature of the light. Now Luke tells us that he picked himself up off the ground and opened his eyes, no doubt expecting to see again. I believe the Glorious Presence of the Risen LORD had gone. But Saul was now blind. Imagine the emotions Saul must have been feeling at that moment.
Those with Saul have to lead him by the hand the rest of the way into Damascus and take him to Straight Street. Is there symbolism in the name of this street? In all probability Straight Street was the main street in Damascus which ran from East to West across the city. It was not perfectly straight but less crooked than the other streets. Saul is taken to Judas’ house at the western end of Straight Street. It is not likely that Judas was a traditional Jew and certainly not a member of this new Christian sect, the members of whom believed Jesus to be the Messiah they had been waiting for. Luke tells us Saul had been blind for three days before Ananias came to him. Imagine that. Saul must have taken in all that Jesus said to him and then opened his eyes expecting to see. But shock . . . horror, he couldn’t. Not only that but this state of blindness continued for three days. Imagine the thoughts going on in Saul’s head. I am sure he had come to the conclusion that he was now permanently blind. Jew's believed someone who had died could come back to life up to three days but after that their state was permanent. Saul had been blind now for three days, it seems inevitable that his state of blindness was now permanent. Did Saul equate his physical blindness with spiritual blindness. Was he sitting in his self imposed darkness pondering his plight and concluding that he had brought this on himself by his actions?
Do you recall the repetitions of the word “BEHOLD” I drew your attention to it in Bible Gemz 1500? We now we have another occurrence of the word. In the Greek of verse 9:11 we have the words - For, behold, he is praying. (LITV) Given all of the emotion of what Saul has been through, he was now pouring out his heart to God in prayer. Saul had been trained to prayer as part of his training to be a Pharisee. He knows all about the theory but now he is struck personally with the need to pray intensely about his current situation. Did he address any part of his prayer to Messiah Jesus whom he had met on the road? I don’t know but I do know that Saul had found a new zeal and focus to pray earnestly. Now heaven noticed Saul was praying. We are also told that Saul didn't eat or drink for the three days he was blind. I am sure he didn't much feel like eating. No doubt he was down in the depths of despair. But there is likely another dimension to this. All Pharisees were trained in the practice of focusing their attentiveness to the LORD by fasting and prayer in order to maintain their ability to focus on hearing from God. Is that perhaps the reason why Saul was not eating? Perhaps he was conducting a three day fast as he sought God. I don’t know but I like to ponder Paul’s position.
We are told Ananias was a believer in Jesus as Messiah and a believer in The Way. He was one of those whom Saul was hunting down. Ananias was an example of the reason Saul had come to Damascus to seek out people exactly like Ananias and drag them off to prison and worse. Luke’s description before us tell us the Lord appeared to Ananias in a vision, who immediately recognises who he is talking to and responds with the words, “Here I am Lord.” He was ready and waiting to hear from God. Only he had not suspected he would hear the words he did. "Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. Behold, he is praying.” Can you imagine hearing those words. You are ready and willing to serve God and please Him with your obedience and he tells you that! Anything else Lord but that. It makes me smile when I read those words. Clearly Ananias had honed his ability to hear from God and now God says that! Oh no Lord, surely you don’t mean that. "But Lord," exclaimed Ananias, "I've heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he was authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon Your name.” Please Lord anything but that. There is no doubt that Ananias must have heard the news from the believers who had fled Jerusalem after the killing of Stephen and headed to Damascus with their stories of what had happened. Can you just imagine them relaying the stories to the believers in Damascus? Embellished with all the gory details of what was happening and furthermore this persecution had the approval of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. No Lord, please not that. I will do anything but pleeeease choose someone else to go to Saul of Tarsus. Saul’s reputation had gone before him. Everyone knew who he was. The is the last person on earth Ananias wishes to meet. Imagine the emotions Ananias must have been feeling at this time.
I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again. Go, for Saul is My chosen instrument to take My message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake.”
I have have lots of questions related to Ananias’ reaction. In the course of this encounter with the Lord Ananias moves from being fearful to being emboldened to go to the one who is killing people like him. Was a part of the motivation that God would show Saul how much he had to suffer? I don’t know but I like to ponder Ananias’ position too. The reaction of these two is so typical of human reactions and it mirrors me too. It is worth thinking about for a period of time.
God will help you get where you're going, but He can't drive a parked car. Rick Godwin
You pray for answers but instead God gives you a promise, and a challenge. God wants to include you in the answer.
Better for Him to give you a seed then He makes you part of the answer.
Don't sit there uninvolved. Say yes Lord when He calls and go and do what He tells you. It will astound you what He will do in and through you. Ian