Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus to destroy more of Christ’s followers. He was one of the Lord’s most aggressive, murderous enemies, but his evil intentions were about to backfire on him, for Jesus had another plan of incredible magnitude and import. Firstly, though, He had to convert Saul from violent persecutor to apostle and follower of Christ. How hard could that be?
Nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Approximately one to two years after His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus “met” Saul on the road to Damascus in a most unusual way. Acts 9:3-9 (NLT) describes the event as follows: As he [Saul] was nearing Damascus on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon him! He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?"
"Who are you, sir?" Saul asked.
And the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do."
The men with Saul stood speechless with surprise, for they heard the sound of someone's voice, but they saw no one! As Saul picked himself up off the ground, he found that he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days. And all that time he went without food and water.
Bible scholars believe an intensely bright light, like a super bolt of lightning, surrounded Saul and the men accompanying him. The glory of the Lord often appeared as brilliant light or fire, and it always commanded attention. (The glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified, Luke 2:9 says of the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth.) Just as looking directly into the sun or the intense light of a welding arc can affect the optic nerve and cause blindness, Saul suffered blindness from the intense, sudden light that day. The condition is called "gutta serena,” which is blindness caused by intense light when there is no actual eye defect present. His companions saw the light, too, and although they could hear Someone speaking, none of them could see who was talking. Only Saul was blinded, for he was the focus of the supernatural encounter.
After three days, Saul’s sight was restored when a believer named Ananias laid hands on him to be healed. In Albert Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, he writes, It is evident that there was a miracle in the healing of Saul. The "blindness" was the natural effect of the light. The "cure" was by miraculous power. This is evident because there were no means used that would naturally restore the sight. It may be remarked here that "gutta serena" has been regarded by physicians as one of the most incurable of diseases. Few cases are restored, and few remedies are efficacious.
Much happened in Saul’s heart before the healing came, for when he saw the blinding light and heard the voice of Jesus, he fell to the ground in fear and humility, mortified by the Presence of the Lord. Saul was painfully aware of his deep disdain for the Son of God, who was now singling him out and speaking to him. Instantly he was convicted in his heart of the many horrible acts he had done against the followers of Jesus and the blasphemies he had uttered against the Lord. Imagine the remorse he felt when Jesus said, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, the object of your contempt and scorn.”
In an instant, Saul was zapped by the Lord, surrounded by a blinding light and a thundering voice that pierced his soul. Hebrews 4:12 (NLT) explains what happened to him in that instant: For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. He was zapped, busted, and exposed before he knew what hit him!
That’s the impossible thing Jesus Christ can do in the human heart. The most wretched soul can be rescued, redeemed, and redirected on a Road to Damascus experience. The hardest heart, the meanest enemy, the foulest criminal can be changed in a moment when Jesus Christ shines His light on the sin-filled heart.
Saul the persecutor and savage murderer of Christ’s followers would become Paul the Apostle. Would you have trusted Saul-turned-Paul after he was zapped? I confess I’d probably have been skeptical and, quite frankly, still afraid of him, as Ananias was. "But Lord," exclaimed Ananias, "I've heard about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And we hear that he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest every believer in Damascus," (Acts 9:13).
The Lord spoke to Ananias about Saul saying, Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for me," (verses 15-16). God’s amazing forgiveness and mercy were extended to Saul, and Ananias was given specific instructions to find and pray for him. So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you may get your sight back and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Instantly something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward, he ate some food and was strengthened (Acts 9:17-19 NLT).
Maybe you weren’t zapped as dramatically as Saul when you came to a point of reality with Jesus. Maybe His still small voice very quietly whispered words of life into your heart and lifted you from heaviness and despair. The Lord has amazing ways to reach us. Whether He chooses to zap us, blast us with a thundering voice from heaven, or softly whisper words of life to us, He can change us instantly. He knows which method to employ with each and every soul.