1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
If yesterday showed us that Christ’s call to these early Christians to be Spirit-empowered witnesses propelled them to cross boundaries for the gospel to reach the ends of the earth, then in today’s reading we find that this movement and empowerment of the Spirit would also require them to cross one of the clearest lines, the most dearly demarcated boundaries of all: sometimes we are called to reach out to our enemies, the difficult people, the mean ones, the people we don’t like and who may, in turn, dislike us.
Saul was certainly enemy number one for these early Christians. Luke placed him at the site of Stephen’s execution--the first Christian to die for his belief in Jesus (Acts 8:1). Shortly after this Saul began an intense campaign of arresting and persecuting Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 8:3), and here in Acts 9 he extends that campaign to the city of Damascus (Acts 9:1-2). But something miraculous happens along the way: Saul finds out that he is not just an enemy of Jesus’ followers, he is an enemy of the risen Jesus himself (Acts 9:4-5)--the very same Jesus who prayed for and forgave his persecutors and executioners (“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”--Luke 23:34).
Still, we should not be surprised at the resistance of Ananias, the other key character in this story, when he is asked to go and minister to Saul (Acts 9:11-14). Who knew that saying yes to Jesus might mean learning to love and embrace your enemy and persecutor? But that’s the way of Jesus and the good news of the gospel to all of us former enemies of God: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10). Saul needed his blindness to be healed by the gospel, but so did Ananaias, and so do we.
How were you transformed from an enemy of Jesus to a friend of Jesus through the gospel?
What difficult person, what personal enemy number one might the Spirit be calling you to look at with gospel healed eyes?
Now, Lord, enable your servants through the empowerment of your Spirit to speak your word with great boldness. (taken from Acts 4:29)
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.