- Acts of the Apostles 9:1-6 (7-20)
- Psalm 30
- Revelation 5:11-14
- John 21:1-19
John continues this week in sharing stories about the resurrection appearances of Jesus. However, if we jump to today’s New Testament reading, we realize that appearances were not just limited to the followers of Jesus. Saul of Tarsus could attest to that.
Saul, who was to become Paul, was one who took great pride in his ancestral heritage and practices (see Philippians 3:5). He initially persecuted those who followed Jesus because he saw their faith as an offense against Judaism (Acts 8:3). But after his conversion experience, this zeal was channeled into bringing others to Christ. His “follow me” took on a whole new meaning.
Paul’s conversion was a call from God similar to those of the Old Testament prophets. Acts records three separate accounts of Paul’s experience (9:1-19; 22:4-16; 26:9-18); while Paul recounts his own version in Galatians 1:13-14.
Like other Jews, Paul anticipated the coming of God’s Messiah, and his encounter with the Resurrected Jesus is a turning point, as he is charged with a new mission. “Breathing threats and murder agains the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), Paul secured the support of Caiaphas the High Priest to arrest members of the Christian community in Damascus and bring them to Jerusalem.
On the journey, Paul had a supernatural experience with lights from heaven and the voice of Jesus calling, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When Paul asked who was speaking, Jesus identified himself and ordered Paul to go to Damascus to be told what to do next. Paul’s fellow travelers were stunned because they heard a voice but saw no one, and Paul himself was stricken blind. He was led to Jerusalem, where for the next three days he waited sightless in the dark – like Jonah in the belly of the great fish or Jesus in the grave.
The Lord then appeared in a vision to a faithful disciple named Ananias, and told him to go to Paul. Because of Paul’s fearful reputation, Ananias was reluctant to go – until he Lord told him that Paul had been chosen to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Ananias went to Paul and laid hands on him, calling him “Brother Saul,” saying that Jesus had sent him so Paul’s sight might be restored, and so that he could receive the Holy Spirit. Immediately Paul was able to see again, as “something like scales fell from his eyes.” He was then baptized and soon thereafter began to proclaim in the synagogue that Jesus is the Son of God.
- What stands out for you in the story of the conversion of Paul?
- In what ways can you identify with his experience?
- What is the example he sets for us?
- How might the story of this dramatic call on a dusty road to Damascus give us a new imagination?
- The Transformation of Saul of Tarsus; to the Apostle Paul (eudoranachand.wordpress.com)
- Working Preacher
Image: The Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus as painted by Michelangelo.