Acts 9: Hunter turned Hunted

Caravaggio's "Conversion on the Way to Damascus"

This is a very familiar chapter for many of us, I am sure.  Today, we see Saul turn to Paul, the hated hunter of Christians turn to a hunted Christian himself.  How does that happen?  By nothing less than a vision of the very presence of the resurrected Jesus himself.

What struck me in this chapter were the many words that all pertain to eyes and seeing.  The word “see” is used six times (9:7, 8, 9, 12, 17, 18).  The past tense “seen” or “saw” is used three more times (9:12, 27, 35).  Paul doesn’t just hear a voice, he has a “vision” (9:10, 12).  Paul’s eyes are mentioned twice (9:8, 18). Interestingly, even in the Peter and Dorcas story that follows Paul’s conversion, her eyes are mentioned (9:40), as are the words “weeping” and “showed” (9:39), both words connected with vision and eyes.  Ananias is told to “look” at Paul praying (9:17).  Three other vision related words show up here: “appeared” (9:17), “demonstrating” (9:22), and “watching” (9:24).

Of course, this is simply because this chapter is in part about Paul being blinded.  But it also seems the author is trying to make a larger point.  Saul the Pharisee was a very learned man.  He had an almost unparalleled passion and commitment.  He was willing to kill or be killed for his beliefs.  Surely, amongst his Jewish religious leader friends he was respected.  Why else were they laying their coats at his feet when they stoned Stephen (7:58)?  Why else was he a ringleader (9:1-2)?

And yet he was blind.  The physical blinding of Saul only paralleled the spiritual blindness he had in his heart.

By the end of the chapter, vision is restored to Saul’s physical eyes, but the scales fall off of his heart too and a new man is born — Paul.  And this new man gives the enlightened cry of a person who can see correctly:

“This [Jesus] really is the son of God!” (9:20).

What did you “see” anew today?

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12 thoughts on “Acts 9: Hunter turned Hunted

  1. Michael

    Recently a lot of events have transpired that have not been in my plan. I’m still trying to accept that God’s plan is better.

    Also, I have heard that Paul may have suffered from bad eyesight. I wondered if maybe the blindness may have had an effect.

  2. Good to hear from you, Michael. I am sorry things are not going according to plan. Those are harder times to sort through. And I know from experience that it is not automatically easy to accept that God’s plan is better just because it seems to be God’s plan. I will be praying for you today.

    Many scholars do think Paul suffered from bad eyesight during his Christian years. A few times he mentions writing with really big letters (yeah, like a second grader). Most of his letters were written down by others. He talks about a “thorn in the flesh” that was there to humble him, and at least a few scholars think that was his poor eyesight. It does seem more than coincidental that Paul was blinded then later suffered poor eyesight.

    One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, has a book called “The Wounded Healer.” His basic premise is that like Jesus (and we could include Paul here too), in order to prepare for a life that has the power to bring healing to others, we have to experience some woundedness ourselves. That will not be pleasant or even welcomed, but that the healer is that much more capable when he has been healed himself. Interesting thought.

    May you experience some sort of blessing today!

  3. Trent Williamson

    What jumped out at me today was the risk that Barnabas took in standing up for Saul. His reputation obviously struck fear into the hearts of all the disciples – so much so that they avoided contact with him at every turn. I love verses 26-30 in which Barnabas “took him and brought him to the apostles” and then stood up for him. How many times do we avoid people with bad reputations – fearing that it will somehow make us look bad? Barnabas plays a key role in legitimizing the conversion of Saul – stands up for him – takes him in – and basically stands in the gap that existed (for very understandable reasons) between the disciples and the new mission ordained by God. Barnabas was NOT afraid of Saul because his past – he was certain that God had a purpose for him. I wish we could see people with bad reputations in this way!

    Sadly – later in Acts Paul and Barnabas part ways because of a dispute about John Mark. It appears that once again Barnabas was standing in the gap for a brother who obviously had made a mistake. I don’t pretend to know who was right or wrong in this dispute – but Paul seems to have forgotten that had it not been for Barnabas standing up for him – he may not have been in the position to even question John Mark’s motives.

    Lord, make me more like Barnabas. Give me eyes to see EVERY person as having great potential to advance God’s Kingdom – not based on their past nor their reputations – but based on the reality that God can and use whomever He wants – whenever He wants – however He wants to advance His Kingdom!!

  4. Pat

    I saw anew verse 31. The Good News Bible says about the church: “Through the help of the Holy Spirit it was strengthened and grew in numbers as it lived in reverence for the Lord.” It wasn’t just the work of the apostles and disciples that the church grew as I have always thought. The Holy Spirit was alive and active.

    How very powerful the work of our Holy Spirit was back then—–and could be today if we allowed Him to fill us and work His work in today’s world.

    I was also impressed with Ananias, a believer in Damascus, who answered the vision with “Here I am, Lord,” who in spite of his misgivings listened and obeyed. It is obvious that he understands that Saul is going to be very important to the church when he addresses him as “Brother Saul.”

    And, finally, Ananias recognizes the power of the Holy Spirit and tells Saul that he will be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Saul immediately begins to follow the Spirit’s lead and never stops.

  5. Trent & Pat: Wonderful observations about Barnabas and Ananias! Such optimism, boldness, and obedience. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Melanie Semore

    Once again, I am seeing a radical transformation brought by the Holy Spirit. Saul, an extreme opposed of Christians becomes Paul, an extreme advocate for Christ–in a matter of days! May the Holy Spirit fill us, change us, and make us bold as he did the apostles, Stephen, and Paul!

  7. I miss a lot of reading, hope can catch up.

    v20 – I think this is first time that Jesus being preach openly as Son of God by Saul

    • Hifzan: Good to hear from you again! I was afraid we had lost you! I value your comments.

      You are exactly right that this is the first and only time in Acts that the phrase “son of God” is found. 7:56 called Jesus the “Son of Man” and 13:33 is talking about Jesus when it quotes Psalms 2 and says “You are my son.”

  8. “Get up and make your bed” – That would make my mother happy! 🙂

    I am struck by how much power there is in this chapter. Power of different kinds. Saul turns from murderer and persecutor to zealous preacher in a matter of days, and he is even willing to risk life and limb for this new Messiah. Barnabas is able to rescue Paul from rejection. The stories of Aeneas and Tabitha drip with miraculous power, of course.

    But then there is the power of coercion and intimidation coming from the Hellenist and Damascus Jews who seek Paul’s head.

    These are two very different kinds of power.

  9. I’m still struck by Barnabas and the power of his relationships. Barnabas’s embracing of Saul opens the door for Paul to be accepted by others. Whom do I need to embrace?

  10. Andy

    Verse 31: “And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit… ”

    The fear of the Lord is not a new concept for me to ponder. However, viewing the Holy Spirit as a “comfort” is. I often view the Holy Spirit as stirring or emboldening- but here it is described as a comfort, or Counsellor some would argue. When faced with outreach opportunities, or difficult circumstances- I pray I will focus on the comfort of the HS that is in me and with me. How comforting is it to know that God is in us, with us, and guiding us?

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