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).