“Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus….And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized” (Act 9:8, 18).
Rabbi Saul was a Pharisee, the strictest sect of the Jews, and studied traditional Judaism at the feet of the venerated teacher Gamaliel (Acts 22:3, 26:4-5). He had seen Jesus of Nazareth in a hostile light, “according to the flesh” (2 Cor 5:16), as leading an apostate sect from his ancestral traditions of Judaism. To this he dedicated his life stamping out (Acts 22:4, 26:9; Gal. 1:13, 23).
Further, he totally supported the brutal stoning of Stephen, Jesus’ spokesman, as deserving the death of a blasphemer (Acts 9:1). Saul, like a wild zealot, viciously pursued Christians to put them in jail, to beat them, and to have them killed (Acts 8:3, 9:1).
Yet, as a rising star of Pharisaic Judaism, he was able to give it all up and count it as “rubbish” (Phil. 3:8). Why the dramatic change?
Paul saw who Jesus really is. When confronted with the risen Christ in all His glory, he was blinded. This was a stark object lesson that he had been blind to the truth of Jesus being the Christ of God. In the dark, what did he see? Jesus is the Christ of OT prophecy and the Head of the new Israel of God, the church. In confronting the living Son of God, he also saw he was completely wrong. He then saw that He needed to change, such that he needed a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And, glory to God, he did! Ananias offered him the gospel invitation: “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). How profound to see how God can radically change a sincere soul that is willing to accept the hard truth.
When the truth of the gospel shines upon our heart, our eyes are opened and we can be changed by the Lord, if we are willing to let Him show us the way. Paul was commissioned by Christ “… to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18). Faith in Christ gives us spiritual x-ray vision to see ourselves and what truly matters most in time and eternity.
Christ is the equal opportunity Savior, who is in the people changing business. Paul, who was blind but now could see, says to us: “for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). Don’t despair, thinking you can never change you bad habits! If the Lord can change a blind, rabid persecutor like Paul from His fiercest foe to His finest servant, then He can change any of us. We simply have to sincerely focus on the Lord Jesus Christ in humble faith, contrite repentance, and willing obedience (2 Cor 3:17-18)!
“Lord, what will you have me to do?” (Acts 22:10).