ACTS 9: BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
To understand this chapter, you may need to go back to Acts 5:29-40. It was this man, Gamaliel (a Pharisee and teacher of the law, honoured by all the people), who trained Saul. As a product of this man’s training, Saul’s behaviour came from the knowledge base that he’d been given. But, based on a Pharisee’s knowledge of the sovereign command of God, Gamaliel told everyone to “…leave these men (these disciples of Jesus) alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God…”[a]
With a speech like that, I can’t see how he would have agreed to the men being flogged before they were let go. Nor can I imagine that, four chapter’s later, he would have given Saul (his prize pupil), a blessing to pursue and capture Followers of “The Way”, bringing them back to Jerusalem to be imprisoned. So our chapter today, begins with someone who is going against advice that his mentor had previously given. And so, it was on a bad footing, that Saul obtained letters from like-minded people in influential places, then set out on his zealous quest. [v1-2]
Amazingly enough though, Father God could see past Saul’s behaviour as he “breathed out murderous threats” against the Lord’s disciples. The Creator God had knitted Saul together in his mother’s womb.[b] He knew the blueprint design that Saul could one day become the Apostle Paul. A Pharisee descended from Pharisees – the ruling council[c] – Saul was brought up in Jerusalem and thoroughly trained in The Law under the best teacher. Then God stepped in, and turned his world upside-down. [v3-6] This now is the story of the one that God renamed, Paul…
As the one who had previously guarded the clothes of those who were stoning Stephen[d], Saul was at the top of the food chain. But a personal encounter with the Light of the World and a three-day bout of blindness [v7-9], along with a simple letter change to his name from Saul to Paul, brought an irreversible transformation to this man’s life.
With his life turned upside-down, Paul had become blinded by the light of the Creator God. Reduced to being led by the hand and relying on the mercy of those around him, Paul was taken to his knees. But being brought to one’s knees is a common experience of many (if not all) who come in contact with Jesus – the One who was destined to “cause the falling and rising of many”.[e] Refusing now to eat, Paul spent all his time on prayer. He’d been taken back to ground zero, before he could be taken forward into his Maker’s plans for his life. [v9]
Another layer to this story comes with what is now known as “the Body of Christ” – Jesus Followers. Ananias is the first to be called into action and the task isn’t at all agreeable! [v10-16] This sets the pattern for the next 2,000 years for Jesus Followers. As the body under the head, they’re commanded to move, just as the central nervous system commands our limbs to move. The good news is that the Believer is serving the “light for revelation to the world”. The bad news is that He’s also “a sign that will be spoken against”![f]
The difference between the Creator and us, is that we can only go by what we know – which is gleaned from the present and past. Ananias can only see that he’s being thrown in the deep end when asked to heal a murderous religious bigot. Our Maker, on the other hand, finds us in the present and, knowing every part of our past, He can project our future. Paul’s Maker knew that He had a gem with Paul’s background. So, stepping into his present, He gave Paul a “bag of talents” with a completely different future.[g]
Now viewed with suspicion from every side [v26], and threatened with death twice [v23,29], Paul suffered the greatest humiliation of all as he knocked on his parent’s door back home in Tarsus. [v30] It should be clear to anyone reading this chapter that, being blinded by the Light, hearing the voice of Christ Himself, and getting a commission to help “save the world”, may well be the unravelling of your life as you once knew it!
What’s true is that no great playwright, will disclose the story’s end half-way through the Play. The best author’s will probably leave you utterly unaware until the last page, before unveiling how brilliantly things tie up together. This is the way Father God often works, as He reveals one stage in the journey at a time…
After a roller-coaster ride through every emotion imaginable, Paul would end up becoming the man entrusted with writing most of the New Testament instructions (the last third of our Maker’s Handbook for LIFE) under His New Covenant/agreement/contract with humanity. [v15-16] Apart from being sent to various parts of the Roman Empire from the rest of his life, Paul wrote letters of instruction and words of advice that would be translated into every language on earth and read the world over, for the next two thousand years! But that wouldn’t have helped a very confused young man, in today’s chapter, at what he thought would surely be the height of his career.
Paul may have been brought up with the text book answers for Life – like Zechariah’s prophecy: “… ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”[h] But like many of us since, it was through personal experience that Paul would later tell us, “…we live by faith, not by sight….”[i] It’s only when the Follower of The Way discovers that The Way is narrow and hard to find – just a Jesus predicted[j] – that Faith can become what it really is – Light – uncontainable, unquantifiable, untouchable light that we’re often blind to…
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for and confident assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients (the great men and women of Faith) were commended for.”[Hebrews 11:1-2]
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] Acts 5:38-39
[b] Psalm 139:13
[c] Acts 23:6
[d] Acts 7:58
[e] Luke 2:34-35
[f] Luke 2:32&34b
[g] Matthew 25:14-30
[h] Zechariah 4:6
[i] 2 Corinthians 5:7
[j] Matthew 7:13-14