This week we hear the story of the conversion of Saul the persecutor of Jesus’ followers to Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.
We first meet Saul at the stoning death of Stephen in Acts 7:58. All we are told at that first meeting is that there was a young man named Saul present and that the witnesses to the stoning laid their coats at his feet. From here on we are told that Saul began to persecute the church, dragging off those who believed in Jesus to prison, as well as delivering threats and planning murder against the disciples.
Now, you can imagine that news of Saul’s persecution went ahead of him and that many who followed Jesus were scared for their lives.
But all of this stops when Saul is faced with the vision of Jesus confronting him with his actions. We call this Saul’s Damascus Road encounter with the Lord. It stopped him dead in his tracks, he lost his sight and was so traumatised that he didn’t eat or drink for 3 days. Saul had been told to wait in the city and so he waited.
Our next vision comes to a disciple named Ananias when the Lord speaks to him. Ananias is told to go and find Saul and to lay hands on him so that he might regain his sight. We are told that Ananias was not too keen to go and seek out this persecutor of Jesus’ followers, but eventually he does as he is requested.
I can imagine Ananias entering the house where Saul is rather slowly and probably keeping an eye out for the nearest exit should things go wrong. But Ananias didn’t need a quick exit. All was as he was told, he found Saul, he laid his hands on him and immediately Saul regained his sight. Saul becomes Paul, the symbol of a complete change of heart and action and becomes the hope of the Gentiles and all others who hear of Christ from him. Paul throws himself into sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with even more enthusiasm as he had when he was persecuting Christ’s followers.
Our Thursday night Bible Study spent some time looking at dreams and visions not that long ago. That lead to conversations about personal experiences of dreams and vision and what they can tell us, what we think about them, and have we experienced them.
As products of this day and age, the prospect of having visions, let alone believe that they are real, is laughed at. But how does God talk to you? How do you discern just what you are being called to? Do we actually give the stories of God’s presence coming in a dream or vision any credibility? I think we should. I’ve experienced what I would call visions from God, and they have filled me with hope and wonder, as well as few good directions.
How about you?