So much happens in the readings from Acts this week that I hardly know where to start.
First, Stephen is stoned to death. This message of Jesus resurrected is really not going over well. As the stoning is going on, the bystanders place their coats at the feet of a man named Saul. Remember that name. We'll be seeing him again shortly.
As he dies, Stephen cries out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." I am amazed how often we see the events of Easter repeating. Prison doors opening, trials with threats of imprisonment and death, and forgiveness in the middle of a brutal and unwarranted killing. It's only just beginning.
This begins a period of intense persecution and causes many of the disciples to leave Jerusalem, go to other lands, and spread the good news of Jesus. The very thing meant to shut down the program caused it to be spread beyond anything that had been done before. It just keeps happening, doesn't it?
Not to be outdone, Saul also leaves Jerusalem with permission to arrest and return anyone who follows this Way, as the sect following Jesus is called. On his way, he is blinded and knocked down by a light. Jesus asks, "Why are you persecuting me?"
Saul is ordered to go to Damascus and wait for someone to come to him. He arrives in Damascus completely blind and does not eat or drink for three days. Three days in the dark with no nourishment. (Sound familiar? Keep watching as we go through Acts. The life and works of Jesus are reflected many times in the experiences of Peter, Paul, and the other disciples. The work Jesus did was passed on and continues, even into today. We haven't been left alone.)
Finally after the three days, a disciple Ananias is told to come to Saul and lay hands on him.
Can you believe the forgiveness Jesus demands?
Saul is about to enter a completely new life, but he can't do it without the touch of the ones he was persecuting. He will remain blind until he can be healed at their hands. It's astounding.
When Ananias lays hands on him, Saul regains his sight and is a changed man. No longer the persecutor, Saul (or as we know him - Paul) immediately goes out and starts telling everyone about Jesus. Now he sees, and the rest of his life will be spent helping others to see.
Photo: M Ratton