Sunday, September 30, 2007

Acts 9:1-31

Luke uses strong imagery to help us understand Saul. In 8:3 we see Saul "ravaging the church", and now, in 9:1, Luke writes that Saul was "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord." Saul went to the high priest in Jerusalem and asked if he could take care of the problem they had. He wanted to stop these followers of the Way more than anything.

As he was heading to Damascus, he had an encounter with Jesus, the One he was really persecuting. Jesus knocked Saul off his horse, blinded him, and told him to go into the city and he would then be told what to do. Jesus then spoke to Ananias, one of the followers of the Way. When Jesus told him His plan, Ananias questioned Him. Saul was very dangerous. Why would Jesus want him to welcome this murder in. Jesus' response was that Saul was His chosen instrument who would carry His name to the Gentiles.

Ananias found Saul exactly where Jesus had said he would be. He laid hands on him and prayed, causing him to regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. He was then baptized.

Saul stayed there for a few days, proclaiming in the synagogue that Jesus was the Christ. People were amazed because they knew who Saul was. After a few days, though, the Jews tried to kill him, but he escaped. Some time later he returned to Jerusalem. When he got there he went to see the disciples, but they were afraid. Apparently Jesus had not let them in on this turn of events. Barnabas, however, believed Saul's story and convinced the others to allow him in. Pretty soon the Jews in Jerusalem tried to kill Saul, so he was sent to Tarsus, where he was from.

The Jewish leaders had to be acting out of fear by this point. They had no idea what to do. All they knew now was that their prized pupil was now a member of this heretical sect.

Luke ends this section by saying, "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied" (9:31). This is a beautiful statement. Ever since Stephen was murdered, there was anything but peace. There was great fear, even among the leaders of the Way. But now Jesus had intervened and transformed the heart of the man at the center of that fear. Saul was now a follower of Jesus. Jesus had brought them peace. They were in awe of Jesus, and this led to a time of being built (maturity) up but also of reproduction. Fear never leads to maturity or reproduction, but peace and awe do.

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