Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.
He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.
Today we are introduced to Saul the Pharisee. He loved God, and he loved his Jewish religion. Saul was a brilliant brilliant student of the famous Jewish Rabbi, Gamaliel. Saul was the model Jew. He would defend Judaism from what he saw as a false religion (Christianity) to the point of approving arrests and executions. He was a brilliant man. He enjoyed the luxury of also being a Roman citizen. Saul had it all. Christians trembled at the mere mention of his name. Saul wanted to see Christianity fail.
Saul wishes to go to Damascus to round up followers of “the Way”. “The Way” was the first name of the followers of Jesus. The Way had spread into Syria and Saul wanted to to go there and round them all up and drag them back to Jerusalem in chains to put them on trial and execute them. As we read, God had other plans for Saul. Bigger and better plans. We continue to read about how Jesus comes to Saul and asks him why is Saul persecuting Him? Hasn’t Jesus ascended to Heaven? How can Saul persecute Him then? Because believers are all part of the Body of Christ. We are all part of Jesus, and when one of us is persecuted, we all are, and so is our Lord.
Saul’s reputation had spread from Jerusalem to Damascus. Even Ananias had heard of him and was scared of him. But Jesus reassures him that He has called Saul to be a “chosen instrument”. Saul probably still isn’t comprehending all that has transpired and could probably still be in shock from being blinded. Ananias goes to him and explains the situation and Saul’s sight is restored and is baptized.
Next to the Resurrection this could very well be the biggest story of God turning lemons into lemonade. here you have a guy who doesn’t like Christians. He tries to arrest and kill them, is plotting against them, and BANG! God calls him to something else. God calls him to know Jesus and to become a follower of Jesus. The most brilliant and model Jew, is now a Christian. This was so unbelievable that the Jews in Jerusalem still feared him when he returned as a Christian. But it’s so ironic that God did not call Saul to preach to the Jews, but rather sent him out to preach to the Gentiles instead. God’s plans aren’t always our plans.
I am not the same man i was ten years ago. I am not the same man i was five years ago. I am not even the same man I was one year ago. I am not the same man I was yesterday, or even this morning. People change. People change and I have a tough time dealing with that and accepting that. We have a hard time accepting that people can change for the better when all too often we expect them to crash and burn, even looking forward to watching people fail. Saul wanted to see Christianity to fail. Instead he became a Christian himself. He changed. He turned away from who and what he was before all through the Grace of Jesus.
If you don’t think that you can’t change, think again. God want’s to work through your life. He wants you to turn away from your old self and start over for Him. He want’s you to change yourself even if you have to do it many times a day. If God can take a guy like Saul, the most brilliant and feared of Jews, and turn him into the most brilliant of Christians, He can do something and change something in you if you let Him.
Thought for the day: It’s never impossible to turn your life around for Jesus. Even if you have to do it multiple times a day. Jesus can turn a lemon like you and I into lemonade better than anyone. He called Saul, He’s calling you too.