Acts 9.10-19

Whilst Saul is without sightdisciple at Damascus named Ananias receives a vision of the Lord Jesus. Ananias is given this to do:

“Get up and go to the street called ‘Straight,’ and at Judas’ house look for a man from Tarsus named Saul. For he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him so that he may see again.”

(Acts 9.11-12, NET)

Ananias is sent to place his hands on Saul so that he may see again. Quite understandably Ananias is nervous: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man…“. Saul’s reputation certainly preceded him and Ananias is apprehensive about seeking him out. The Lord’s response is both prophetic and chilling in equal measure:

“Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

(Acts 9.15-16, NET)

Saul, we read, was chosen to carry the name of Jesus before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. The same Saul that was breathing threats and murder against the disciples was now going to take the very same message and proclaim it to all who hear him. The grace of God surely knows no bounds: here is Saul, spearheading the persecution of this new Way of living transformed and chosen to spearhead its expansion into new territories and people groups.

Along with the prophetic comes the serious: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name“. Saul would not have an easy ride as the herald of the Good News to the Gentiles (far from it) and, amazingly, Ananias knew all of this before Saul himself did.

After finding him, laying hands on him, and praying for him, something like scales fell from [Saul’s] eyes, and he regained his sight. He rises, is baptised, and his being born again is complete, both physically and spiritually. Saul is now the new creation that God wants Him to be, the new creation that would powerfully proclaim the Good News before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel

Acts 9.3-9

On his way to find and arrest those following the Way (Acts 9.1-2) Saul has a spectacular experience that makes him rethink his entire view of God and life. We read:

“As he was going along, approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” So he said, “Who are you, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting! But stand up and enter the city and you will be told what you must do.”

(Now the men who were traveling with him stood there speechless, because they heard the voice but saw no one.) So Saul got up from the ground, but although his eyes were open, he could see nothing. Leading him by the hand, his companions brought him into Damascus. For three days he could not see, and he neither ate nor drank anything”.

(Acts 9.3-9, NET)

In contrast to what many believed was possible in this place and at this time, Saul directly hears the voice of the Lord saying “Why are you persecuting me?“. He didn’t hear an echo, but the audible voice of God. Many artistic impressions of this moment have Saul falling from a horse but we read nothing of any animals and, as one Bible scholar put it, artists are not the best interpreters of Scripture where accuracy to the text is concerned.

The light that knocks Saul to the ground is the light surrounding the risen Lord Jesus (Revelation 1.16b-17) and Saul is told, in no uncertain terms, that by persecuting believers and the church he is actually persecuting Jesus Himself (v.4).

Saul is led, temporarily blinded, into Damascus and for three days he could not see, and he neither ate nor drank anything. No doubt a man of Saul’s zeal and fervency for God spent the three days struggling in prayer:

Am I doing the right thing?

If I am doing the right thing, why has this happened?

Why would the risen Jesus appear to me, does this mean the Way is actually true?

Scripture would have passed through His mind, all the predictions, prophecies, sacrificial systems, with Messianic threads picked up throughout. Could Jesus be the crescendo, the pinnacle, of them all? Saul knew what was being taught about Jesus (Acts 4.1-22, 7.1-60) and now he had the personal evidence to bring him to a point of decision.

For three days he could not see, and he neither ate nor drank anything.

For three days Saul had to process what had happened.

For three days Saul was preparing for a new life…three days to life.

Acts 9.1-2

The rollercoaster journey of Acts continues and we now see Saul for the first time since Acts 8.3. Whilst we have been learning of God’s work through Philip, 

“…Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he could bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem”.

(Acts 9.1-2, NET)

Interestingly, in 1990 an ossuary (bone box) was found in Jerusalem and inscribed with the name ‘Caiaphas’. It was dated to this period and many believe it is the same Caiaphas of the book of Acts, the high priest mentioned here. If so, then this would be the first person specifically named in the New Testament whose physical remains have been found ¹.

So, whilst God is working wonderful things through Philip, Saul was still breathing out threats to the church and even goes on a roughly one hundred and thirty mile journey to Damascus to find people who belonged to the Way.

The earliest name for what we would call Christianity was the Way. This is such a fitting description of the Christian life, isn’t it? The Christian life is more than a religious box to tick, more than a list of do’s and don’ts, more than a rigid framework in which we try to live. At the core, Christianity is a way of life. Christianity is accepting the truth about the world, about yourself, about God, and living out these truths.

Saul was enraged because he thought Christianity was wrong in what it taught. It did not compute with what Saul believed but as David Guzik wrote:

“…Christianity is more than a belief or a set of opinions or doctrines.

Following Jesus is a way of living as well as believing“.

(Enduring Word, emphasis added)

¹ –

Acts 8.32-40

Philip finds himself sitting with the Ethiopian and reading from Isaiah 53:

Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block,
like a sheep silent before her shearers,
he did not even open his mouth…”

(v.7, NET)

In seeking to explain (v.31) Philip began with this Scripture and told the eunuch the good news about Jesus. Rather than start with people, problems, or his own opinion, Philip started with the Scripture at hand and connected it to the good news about Jesus.

In response to hearing the Gospel, the Ethiopian official says “What prevents me from being baptised?” The chariot is stopped and Philip performs a roadside baptism and then, in another miraculous move of the Spirit, Philip is carried away and found himself at Azotus where he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea (cf. Acts 21.8).

All too often we come to the texts of Scripture and try to find things that we have to do for God. When we do, we are fundamentally coming to Christianity like a religion with rules to be followed. Inevitably, we will let ourselves and the Lord down because, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, we are disappointingly human in our own behaviour (1 Corinthians 3.4).

Rather, as Philip did, we ought to come to the text at hand (and all the pages of Scripture) and look for Jesus. If we look for ourselves we are sure to find ourselves; do this, don’t do that, avoid this, change that. But if we look for Jesus and the Gospel we are sure to find that too.

It is so important that we come to Scripture with a Christ-shaped lens. We know that each and every book of the Bible testifies to Him (John 5.39) and whether it be through promise, principle, or prophecy Jesus is there and as we see here with Philip and the eunuch, Jesus can be found beginning with this Scripture, whatever Scripture you are reading.