Christ is risen!
There’s a TV show from the ’70’s that had a skit and it was always introduced with “Here comes the judge, here comes the judge…” I loved the show and the setup of this skit!
The truth is every good story has a great setup for an important character of the story and the Bible is no exception. When the book of Acts introduces St. Paul, it begins with his life as a great persecutor of the Church.
Look at our lesson in Acts 8:40; 9:1-19:
IN THOSE DAYS, Philip was found at Azotos, and passing on he preached the gospel to all the towns till he came to Caesarea. But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, ” I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.
St. Paul’s conversion story is dramatic and life changing for the then Saul of Tarsus. We say “so long” to St. Philip and his work with the Ethiopian eunuch and we are introduced to “Saul” as he is zealously hunting the early Christians whom he considers apostates from the Jewish faith. Saul has a direct confrontation with the risen Jesus as Saul is on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians there. And Saul is never the same again, thank God.
Saul’s conversion begins with a “great Light” from heaven that stops Saul in his tracks. His conversation with Jesus shows the great love the Lord has for this zealous but misguided man and Saul is directed to a “street called Straight” where Saul will hear the Gospel from a very wary Ananias. Saul is blinded by the Light at first but his humbled repentance and obedience to Christ sees his sight restored and all the Gentile world is going to have a champion Apostle to see even those who didn’t get the head start of being Jewish first hear the Good News.
But every conversion, no matter when and to whom it happens, is the same. The Light dawns in our hearts and we, not use to the brightness of God’s love for us, are arrested by Him. But this blindness gives way to insight as we obey the Good News and embrace the risen Lord!
Today, do you find your life filled with the Light? Yes, I know it’s hard at first, but if you will stick with it, the Light that blinds you with His glory gives way to the “scales” finally falling from your eyes and a clarity dawns that makes you Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Don’t miss this Sunday’s Faith Encouraged LIVE. My special guest will be Wesley J. Smith and we’ll talk about his new book “Culture of Death” and take your phone calls. That’s Sunday at 8 PM on AncientFaith.com.