Today’s reading also starts with Saul, but things in his life start to become a little different. On his way north to the next capital, city God stops him in his tracks. Saul is blinded and Jesus actually talks with him. Later, God sends Ananias to heal Saul’s eyes and share Jesus with him. Amazingly, Saul believes and is baptized!
Does this come as a surprise to you? Isn’t Saul the least likely candidate to follow Jesus? Saul was so driven in his anti-Jesus mission that it took Jesus confronting and blinding him to halt his persecution. It was almost like God was showing Saul that he was spiritually blind. Can you think of any people that would be least likely candidates for following Jesus? God does want them to experience life. Ask God what he wants you to do to reach them.
Before Saul was baptized, he was zealous in his persecution of the Way (one early label for followers of Jesus). After Saul’s baptism he remained zealous, but this time for Jesus as the Messiah (or "Christ", which means the king and deliverer expected by the Jewish people). God knew what he was doing with Saul.
While he was still in Damascus, a Jesus-follower called Barnabas took Saul to Jerusalem to be with the Apostles. God knew that Saul needed encouragement and teaching so he sent Joseph, called Barnabas (which means "Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36-37)) to encourage him. Peter, John and other apostles also taught Saul.
Does Saul’s rapid transition surprise you? He did go through a traumatic event with Jesus but he was also preaching a radically opposite message shortly thereafter. Saul didn’t do life halfheartedly; he was all in, all the time. As followers of Jesus we need to exhibit Saul’s determination.
After Saul leaves Jerusalem and heads to his hometown of Tarsus, things calm down. Peter gets the opportunity to see some of the saints (another name for people who follow Jesus) in the towns of Lydda and Joppa near the coast. While he's there, God uses him to heal a paralytic named Aeneas and raise a woman named Tabitha from the dead. In both of these places many people believed in Jesus.
What kinds of things does the word "saint" conjure up in your mind? Halo-capped holy people painted on ancient cathedral walls? Or people like Mother Theresa who changed the world through religious duty? The term "saint" is used throughout the New Testament of the Bible in reference to people who follow Jesus. Ever considered yourself a saint? If you follow Jesus, you’re a saint.
- Written for Verve by Mike Zimmerman