Monday, we gathered at Main Street Fitness in Ironwood to tell a Bible story. Donald had selected the conversion of Saul in Acts 9: 1-19 for this weeks story. This is a most wonderful story and, with our current preaching coming from Luke, the writing and style is familiar and warm.
Saul is ravaging the church. He is directly commissioned by those same Jerusalem leaders that Jesus had silenced in the Temple. Those same leaders that connived to have Jesus killed by the governor did not stop with Jesus, but commissioned Saul to enter synagogues, looking for people belonging to the Way.
We have biblical proof of people following to teaching and life of Jesus for freedom and calling it “the Way.” A traveling motif that captures the movement, the path, the direction of going with Jesus. Jesus offered himself as a new way of life and the same enemy opposed this freedom in Jesus, especially within their synagogues.
Jesus directly intercedes and blinds Saul, asking him, “…why are you persecuting me?” The people with Saul stood speechless, hearing the voice of Jesus asking Saul why he is persecuting him still. These same people brought a blinded Saul to Damascus over the period of three days. Interestingly and something I have frequently missed, Saul did a complete fast over those three days from both water and chow.
How I missed the fast Saul engaged in before his conversion after meeting Jesus, is something we need to identify and call out as believers. Fasting can bring a much more heightened sense of spirituality and strength to prayers, while opening a person up for greater communion with God. Is it any surprise, this great enemy of the church is about to become a great instrument of God’s to take the Gospel to the gentiles.
Ananias, a disciple in Damascus hears from God, asking him to rise and go to Saul, where he is supposed to heal Saul’s blindness. In Ananias mind, this is a death sentence, he does not know God has already cleared the way, but Jesus calms Ananias concerns by informing him that He will show Saul how much he will suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus. Which we know through Paul’s letters, he absolutely did suffer for the name of Jesus, but he maintained faith throughout and in weakness, was strong.
Ananias finds Saul and something like scales fall from Saul’s eyes and his sight was regained.. Saul rose and was baptized, broke his fast, and was strengthened.
Jesus is for all. Saul had killed. Saul attacked the church physically, verbally, and the people within in in a reign of terror and Jesus not only forgave his sins. Jesus commissioned him to go forward and preach the Gospel. This story shows God’s great mercy and willingness to use anyone willing to follow.
Christians also take a great lesson from Ananias. Ananias was faithful and listened and when God forgave Saul, Ananias does not hold onto the past and continue fearing and holding against Saul his past. Ananias accepts Saul is a new creation in Jesus and the past is the past and Jesus has wiped the slate clean.
We also see righteous judgment in this story as Saul suffers for the name he once persecuted. In the same way Saul terrorized followers, he is going to be terrorized, but Saul will remain true. Giving us another lesson in perseverance.