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Saul, the pharisee who agreed with Stephen being stoned, was breathing out murderous threats against Jesus’ followers. He wrongly thought that Jesus’ followers were trying to lead people away from God. So he did everything he could to try to stop Jesus’ followers. He helped arrest them and signed papers voting to have them killed.
One day Saul went to the high priest and said, “These followers of Jesus’ Way have spread out all over. Please, let me go to the city of Damascus and arrest everyone who believes in Jesus. I will bring them back here to Jerusalem as prisoners.”
The high priest agreed and said Saul could go. So Saul gathered up some soldiers and headed to Damascus with plans to arrest and hurt even more followers of Jesus’ Way.
As they traveled along, suddenly… whooooosh… a bright light from Heaven, brighter than the sun, flashed all around Saul. It was so bright he fell down on the ground. Then he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul… why are you hurting Me? Every time I prick you to try to get your attention, you just kick back at Me, making it harder on yourself.”
Saul heard the voice, but he didn’t know who was talking to him, so he replied, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the voice answered, “I’m Jesus. The one you are hurting. Stand up. Go into the town and there you will be told what to do.”
The other men with Saul were frozen with fright… because they heard the voice, but couldn’t see who was talking.
Saul obeyed the voice and got up off the ground. But something had happened! “I can’t see. I can’t see. Can someone help me?” Even though his eyes were open, he couldn’t see a thing. He was blind.
The men who were with him took Saul by the hand and helped him get to the town. When he got there, do you know what he did? He waited. For three days he waited, without being able to see, and he didn’t eat or drink anything.
What do you think Saul did while he waited? Do you think he got impatient and said, “How long do I have to wait? I waited a whole day already. I’m leaving.” No! Saul knew this was serious. He had been fighting against God.
Maybe Saul’s mind thought he was doing what was right by standing up for the Deal of Rules or something, but Saul was very, very wrong. And evidently God had been trying to get Saul’s attention to make him stop. Because the Lord’s voice had said to him, “Saul, it’s hard for you when you kick against My pricks.” That means that God was trying to lead Saul to the right path, but somehow Saul was being stubborn in his thinking and kicking back against the pricks God was giving.
And Saul was hurting a lot of people. Can you imagine how that would feel to Saul? Using all your energy to do what you thought was right, and then suddenly WHAM! — you find out you’re flat out wrong and had hurt those who were right. That probably felt devastatingly painful.
So Saul didn’t waste those three days he was waiting. He was surely praying and telling God how sorry he was.
Now in the town of Damascus there was a disciple of Jesus named Ananias. Jesus appeared to him in a vision and said, “Go to Straight Street and look for a man named Saul. He’s praying, and he has seen a vision of you coming. He’s expecting you.”
Ananias asked Jesus, “Lord, I’ve heard about this man, Saul, from many people. He has really been hurting Your saints in Jerusalem, and now he’s here to capture and imprison anyone who calls on Your name.”
But Jesus answered Ananias, “Go! I have chosen this man to be a tool for Me. He is the one I’m going to use to talk to the not-Jews and their kings, as well as the sons of Israel… I will show him how much he will hurt because of the work he will do for Me.“
Enough said. Ananias obeyed and off he went to find Saul.
Once he found the house where Saul was staying, he put his hands on Saul and said, “The Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road has sent me to you, so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Just then something like scales fell off of Saul’s eyes, and he could see again!
Saul didn’t waste a minute. He got up and was baptized right away.
He joined himself to Jesus’ followers who lived in Damascus and immediately got to work. He went into the religious places and declared to everyone there, “Jesus is the Son of God! Jesus is the Son of God!”
Everyone was so surprised, “What?! Isn’t this the same man who’s been hurting God’s Family in Jerusalem? Isn’t this the one who came here to arrest and hurt more followers of Jesus? Now look at him! What happened to him?!”
Saul’s Heaven-Seeing Eyes got clearer and clearer. He became stronger and more and more able to declare the Truth of God. He was startling, and stunning, and stupefying the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ, the Shining Rescuer! (Like we told you, the puzzle pieces that God had dropped to the Israelites all throughout history fit together perfectly — for anyone looking at it honestly.)
Some of the Jews and religious guys were not happy about this whole-new-changed life in Saul, so they started scheming up an evil plan. They kept a watch on the gates of the city, so that if Saul tried to leave, they could kill him.
But Saul found out about it, and one night some disciples helped him.
“Saul, Saul, we have a plan to keep you safe.” Then the disciples squished Saul down inside of a big basket! Then… very… carefully… they lowered the basket over the city wall. Saul escaped!
Saul then headed back to Jerusalem. But once he got there, the Jesus-followers there were afraid of Saul. He tried to join himself to them, to come into the Jesus-Life they shared together, but they stayed far away from him… because they thought he was just trying to get close to them so that he could hurt more of them, like he had already hurt so many of their Family.
There are a lot of Jesus-life lessons to learn from all this. Rather than me trying to explain them all to you, what if I just ask you some questions for you to think, think, think about?
Do you think it would have been hard to trust Saul after he’d hurt their Family?
Should they forgive him?
Do you think Saul should feel sorry for himself? “Nobody likes me, so I’ll just be quiet and do nothing.”
Or should Saul try to defend himself and say, “But I was tryyyyying to do the right thing, so you should forgive me. I’m not as bad as you think.”
But one man named Barnabas did believe Saul, so he brought him to Jesus’ special messengers. Barnabas told them the whole story of what happened to Saul on the road and how he’d been filled with the Holy Spirit.
After that Saul openly stuck like glue to the other followers in Jerusalem and started shouting out the Good News with dynamite Power.
He was letting everyone around know that he had been wrong before… and that Jesus IS the Messiah.
He was going toe-to-toe with the religious leaders (that means he was challenging them and answering every bit of wrong thinking on their part, and he wasn’t backing down) — so they wanted to kill him. When God’s Family found out Saul was in danger again, they decided to get him out of there. They snuck him out and got him back to his hometown of Tarsus.
After that, the Church had a time of peace and kept growing stronger — living in the fear of the Lord, given courage by the Holy Spirit, and increasing in numbers!