Saul’s “Jesus Encounter”

Scripture reading for November 9th: Acts 8-9

In today’s reading we have the account of the conversion of one of the most influential people in the early days of the church.  The first 11 chapters of Acts are primarily centered around the life of Peter and his ministry to the Jews around Jerusalem.  Chapter 9 gives the account of Saul, a zealous Pharisee, who was a persecutor of the early church and was bent on protecting Judaism and eliminating disciples of Jesus.  He is spoken of first as one who gave approval of those who stoned Stephen. (Acts 8:1)  An encounter with Jesus is what Saul needed to radically change his world-view!

“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.  He went to the high priest and asked 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.  As he neared Damascus, on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, Why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  So get up and go into the city and you will be told what you what you must do.” Acts 9:1-6

Saul had been hunting down disciples, having them arrested and in some cases put to death.  As he traveled on a mission to Damascus, the Lord met him personally.  The light of glory threw Saul to the ground and blinded him.  Jesus asked him a simple question.  The question reveals that when anyone persecutes one of Jesus’ followers, He feels it personally!  Saul was also addressed by first name.  Jesus knows each person by name and knows where they are and what they are doing.  He has plans for those who will be teachable and repent.

Thankfully, Saul repented during the period of blindness that lasted three days.  God sent a disciple named Ananias to lay hands on Saul to receive his sight back.  Ananias was initially afraid of Saul because of his reputation, but God revealed that Saul was His chosen instrument to reach the Gentiles.  (Acts 9:15-16) After he was healed and baptized, Saul began to preach the Gospel in the very synagogues that he had come initially to hunt Christians in!  What a difference an encounter with Jesus makes!

This man’s ministry is the subject of Acts 12-28, and he tells his testimony of this Jesus encounter several times.  Saul became the Apostle Paul who would be a great missionary to the Gentiles and write 13 New Testament books.  His “Jesus encounter” is still being talked and written about over 1900 years later!  Many other “sinners” have found Christ through his testimony!  What amazing love and grace is found in our Lord!

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